Please Explain: Common Sense

Friday, September 16, 2011

Common sense seems simple enough, but it can be more complicated and less helpful that you would expect. Duncan J. Watts, sociologist and Yahoo! Principal Researcher, explains the benefits and limitations of common sense and looks closely at how common-sense reasoning can be misleading. His book Everything You Know Is Obvious once You Know the Answer draws on the latest scientific research and real-life examples to show how common sense attempts to predict, manage, and manipulate social and economic systems often fail, and looks at the implications in politics, business and everyday life.

If you have a question about common sense, or some examples of when it works and when it fails, call us at 646-829-3985, or leave a comment.


Duncan J. Watts

Comments [5]

Gary from Long Island

A statement was made during the discussion that we could not have used common sense to predict 9/11 is completely wrong. The 9/11 attack was obvious, Biden Laden had issued a fatwa saying he could not attack civilians - it was highlighted in the NY Times six months earlier on the International Journal section; they had attacked the WTC in 1993; on September 9th they had killed the leader of the Northern Alliance Massound; they had threatened to hijack a plane and send it into the Effiel Tower. The attack on the WTC was pretty obvious if we had used common sense. Please stop pushing the myth that we could not have predicted the attack - the issue is how we didn't predict the obvious and why our systems in place to protect us failed so poorly.

Sep. 16 2011 01:57 PM
John A.

Doesn't Obamas recent comment about how he and Boehner not understanding each other easily show this - that each of the two parties can have its own common sense and the two definitely can diverge.

Sep. 16 2011 01:53 PM
Tom from Long Island

My personal definition. The idea of common sense - is the misconception that apparently simple problems have a common/universal solution.

Sep. 16 2011 01:50 PM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Yes, we can say too that "book sense" MBA -style has failed us the last 15 years.

Common sense would say that 15 countries, with their own macro-economic policies and central banks cannot have a single, workable currency. The bankers said it would. So would credit default swaps.

Common sense backed with good engineering and good science can work - look at Steve Jobs and Apple.

Sep. 16 2011 01:49 PM
Danielle Jensen

until i learned otherwise i answered on a test that one could see more stars when there is a fullmoon-my reasoning being that the full moon provides more light with which to see. Of course the opposite is true but i thought my answer made more "sense". Now that i know better the correct answer makes more sense(i think!)

Sep. 16 2011 01:46 PM

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