The False Prophet of Common Sense

“If you care about understanding something, then you need to study it, either learning from others’ experience or collecting the data yourself that would allow you to test the causal claim of your common sense theory. In the absence of data, we are all free to speculate, but it is worth reminding yourself that your speculation is exactly that; a flimsy common-sense story that is vulnerable to being blown over by a gust of actual evidence. The common-sense stories we tell to make sense of the world may be compelling, but they are not evidence.

This understanding is essential to taking our own common sense with the grain of salt that it deserves. What seems like common sense to us is, to a great extent, driven by intuition. And, as authors like Daniel Kahneman, Max Bazerman, Dan Ariely, Richard Thaler, and Cass Sunstein have written about so articulately, intuitive judgment is beset by biases. It is possible to train your intuition to improve its fidelity, but that requires substantial training, practice, and feedback. It is rare that life provides us with sufficient training, practice, and feedback. Without them, it is dangerous to place too much confidence in your common-sense intuitions.”

Why it’s easy to be overconfident in our intuitions: The False Prophet of Common Sense

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