What does conventional wisdom mean

Conventional wisdom - Conventional wisdom

The conventional wisdom or received opinion is the collection of ideas or statements that are generally accepted by the public and / or experts in a field. In religion this is known as Orthodoxy.

Origin of the term

The term is often attributed to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who wrote it in his 1958 book The Affluent Society used :

It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas that will be valued for acceptance at any given time, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I will refer to these ideas as the conventional wisdom from now on.

However, the term dates from at least 1838. Conventional wisdom was used in a number of other works before Galbraith, occasionally in a benevolent or neutral sense, but more often derogatory. However, earlier authors used it as a synonym for "everyday knowledge". Galbraith specifically prefixed the term with "The" to emphasize its uniqueness and sharpened its meaning to limit it to those everyday beliefs that are also acceptable and convenient for society to improve its ability to withstand fact that they could reduce. He referred throughout the text of the Affluent Society repeatedly and invoking it to explain the high resistance of academic economics to new ideas. For these reasons, he is usually credited with inventing and popularizing the term in modern parlance.


Conventional wisdom is not necessarily true. It is often viewed as an obstacle to the acceptance of new information and the introduction of new theories and explanations, an obstacle that legitimate revisionism must overcome. That is, conventional wisdom has a quality analogous to indolence, resisting the introduction of a contrary belief, sometimes to the point of absurd rejection of the new information or interpretation by those who hold a strongly outdated but conventional point of view. Because conventional wisdom is convenient, engaging, and deeply accepted by the public, this indolence can persist even after many experts and / or opinion leaders have moved to a new convention.

Conventional wisdom can be political and closely related to the phenomenon of the topics of conversation. The term is used pejoratively to indicate that consistently repeated statements become conventional wisdom, whether or not they are true.

More generally, it refers to the accepted truth that almost no one seems to dispute, and is therefore used as a measure (or source) of normative behavior or belief, even in a professional context. For example, the common wisdom in 1950, even among most doctors, was that tobacco smoking was not particularly harmful. The conventional wisdom today: it is. In a strict sense, the conventional wisdom in science and engineering was once that a man would suffer fatal injuries if he experienced more than eighteen G-Forces in an aerospace vehicle, but it is no longer so. (John Stapp repeatedly resisted much more in his research, peaking at over 46 Gs in 1954).

Sometimes the present conventional wisdom deals with past conventional wisdom. For example: "It is commonly believed that people before Christopher Columbus thought the world was flat, but in reality the scholars of that time had long accepted that the earth was a sphere." This sentence is true; However, if enough people read it and believed it, it would replace the old belief (in the prevailing flat earth view in Columbus' time) and become the new conventional wisdom. (Ironically, this shift would falsify the quoted sentence by falsely declaring that most people have a false belief in the past.)

Integration with scientific knowledge

Evidence-based medicine is a conscious effort to recognize the opinion of experts (conventional wisdom) and their coexistence with scientific data. Evidence-based medicine recognizes that expert opinion is "evidence" and plays a role in bridging the "gap between the type of knowledge generated by clinical research studies and the type of knowledge required to make the best decision for an individual Patient to meet, to close ".

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