Conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom is the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the public and/or by experts in a field.

Origin of the term

The term is often credited to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in his 1958 book The Affluent Society:[1]

It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the conventional wisdom.[2]

However, the term dates back to at least 1838.[3][n 1] Conventional wisdom was used in a number of other works prior to Galbraith, occasionally in a positive[4] or neutral[5] sense, but more often pejoratively.[6] However, previous authors used it as a synonym for 'commonplace knowledge'. Galbraith specifically prepended 'The' to the phrase to emphasize its uniqueness, and sharpened its meaning to narrow it to those commonplace beliefs that are also acceptable and comfortable to society, thus enhancing their ability to resist facts that might diminish them. He repeatedly referred to it throughout the text of The Affluent Society, invoking it to explain the high degree of resistance in academic economics to new ideas. For these reasons, he is usually credited with the invention and popularization of the phrase in modern usage.


Conventional wisdom is not necessarily true. It is additionally often seen as an obstacle to the acceptance of newly acquired information, to introducing new theories and explanations, and therefore operates as an obstacle that must be overcome by legitimate revisionism. This is to say, that despite new information to the contrary, conventional wisdom has a property analogous to inertia that opposes the introduction of contrary belief, sometimes to the point of absurd denial of the new information set by persons strongly holding an outdated (conventional) view. This inertia is due to conventional wisdom being made of ideas that are convenient, appealing and deeply assumed by the public, which hangs on to them even as they grow outdated. This inertia can last even after the paradigm has shifted between competing conventional idea sets.

The concept of conventional wisdom may also be applied or implied in a political sense, being closely related to the phenomenon of talking points. It is used pejoratively to refer to the idea that statements which are repeated over and over become conventional wisdom regardless of whether or not they are true.

In a more general sense, it is used to refer to the accepted truth about something which nearly no one would argue about, and so is used as a gauge (or well-spring) of normative behavior or belief, even within a professional context. One such example was conventional wisdom in 1950, even among most doctors, was that smoking was not particularly harmful to one's health. Conventional wisdom in 2011: it is. Another: It might be used in this manner discussing a technical matter such as the conventional wisdom was that a man would suffer fatal injuries if he experienced more than eighteen g-forces in an aerospace vehicle. (John Stapp shattered that myth by repeatedly withstanding far more in his research, peaking above 46 Gs).

Sometimes, people in society form conventional ideas about what other people in the past considered to be conventional wisdom. For example, take the following sentence: "It is widely believed that prior to Christopher Columbus people thought the world was flat, but in actuality, scholars of that time had long accepted that the earth is a sphere."

The above sentence is true; people today often think that Columbus discovered the world to be round, when in fact the world's roundness was already widely known by Columbus' time. However, if enough people read and believe the above sentence, the above sentence will eventually supplant the old belief (the old belief in past belief in a flat earth). The above sentence would become the new conventional wisdom. (Ironically, however, this would also turn the above sentence, the new conventional wisdom, into a false claim; because the new conventional wisdom would propose that people are confused about past beliefs in a way that they actually wouldn't be.)

Integration with scientific evidence

Evidence-based medicine is a deliberate effort to acknowledge expert opinion (conventional wisdom) and how it coexists with scientific data. Evidence-based medicine acknowledges that expert opinion is "evidence" and plays a role to fill the "gap between the kind of knowledge generated by clinical research studies and the kind of knowledge necessary to make the best decision for individual patients."[7]

See also


  1. ^ "It will be seen that we appeal, in such a case, neither to the records of legislation nor yet to the conventional wisdom of our forefathers."—(presumably) T. Frelinghuysen


  1. ^ E.g., Mark Leibovich, "A Scorecard on Conventional Wisdom", N.Y. Times (March 9, 2008).
  2. ^ John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (1958), chapter 2.
  3. ^ Warner, Henry Whiting (presumed author is Theodore Frelinghuysen) (1838). An inquiry into the moral and religious character of the American government. New York: Wiley and Putnam. p. 35.
  4. ^ E.g., 1 Nahum Capen, The History of Democracy (1874), page 477 ("millions of all classes alike are equally interested and protected by the practical judgment and conventional wisdom of ages").
  5. ^ E.g., "Shallow Theorists", American Educational Monthly 383 (Oct. 1866) ("What is the result? Just what conventional wisdom assumes it would be.").
  6. ^ E.g., Joseph Warren Beach, The Technique of Thomas Hardy (1922), page 152 ("He has not the colorless monotony of the business man who follows sure ways to success, who has conformed to every rule of conventional wisdom, and made himself as featureless as a potato field, as tame as an extinct volcano."); "Meditations", The Life (May 1905), page 224 ("in the end he fulfilled the promise of the Lord, and proved that conventional wisdom is short-sighted, narrow, and untrustworthy").
  7. ^ Tonelli, Mark R (January 2011). "Integrating Clinical Research Into Clinical Decision Making" (PDF). Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità. 47 (1): 26–30. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
1971–72 Louisiana gubernatorial election

The Louisiana gubernatorial election of 1971–1972 was held in three rounds. The two Democratic Party primaries were held on November 6 and December 18, 1971. The general election was held on February 1, 1972, in which Edwin Edwards defeated Republican candidate David Treen to become Governor of Louisiana.

Early in the campaign, conventional wisdom of many political analysts predicted that the race's top candidates would be Gillis Long, Jimmie Davis, and C.C. "Taddy" Aycock. However, the two candidates to make the runoff, Edwin Edwards and J. Bennett Johnston, were relative newcomers to the Louisiana political scene.

1992 Democratic Party vice presidential candidate selection

This article lists those who were potential candidates for the Democratic nomination for Vice President of the United States in the 1992 election. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton won the 1992 Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and chose Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Jr. as his running mate on July 9, 1992. Clinton considered roughly forty different candidates for vice president, including those who did not hold elective office, but Clinton ultimately chose Gore, a two-term Senator who had previously run for president in 1988. Former Assistant Secretary of State Warren Christopher led Clinton's vice presidential selection team. In making the selection, Clinton emphasized Gore's experience with foreign policy and environmental issues. Clinton's choice of a fellow young southern centrist defied conventional wisdom, but the choice of Gore was well-received, and Gore made an effective surrogate on the campaign trail. The Clinton-Gore ticket ultimately defeated the Republican Bush-Quayle ticket and the independent Perot-Stockdale ticket, and the Clinton-Gore duo became the youngest ticket in history to win a presidential election.

99-year lease

A 99-year lease was, under historic common law, the longest possible term of a lease of real property. It is no longer the law in most common law jurisdictions today, yet 99-year leases continue to be common as a matter of business practice and conventional wisdom.

Area code 606

Area code 606 is a telephone area code serving the easternmost part of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Cities and towns in the area code include Ashland, Morehead, Hazard, Middlesboro, Somerset, London, Corbin, Paintsville, Pikeville and Maysville. Most of its service area lies within the Kentucky region known as the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. It runs along the entire length of the state's borders with Virginia and West Virginia.

It was created in 1954 as a split from area code 502, and originally covered the entire eastern half of Kentucky, as far west as Lexington and Northern Kentucky (the Kentucky side of the Cincinnati area). Notably, it was one of the first three area codes with "0" as the middle digit that was not assigned to an entire state; the others were area code 507 in Minnesota and area code 607 in New York.

In 1999, most of the northwestern portion of the old 606 territory, including Lexington and Northern Kentucky, split off as area code 859. Conventional wisdom suggested that Lexington and Northern Kentucky should have kept 606. Lexington was by far the largest city in the old area code, and together with Northern Kentucky accounted for almost two-thirds of its population. However, the rural portion of 606 is one of the poorest areas of the nation; 16 of the 100 poorest counties in the nation by median income are in 606. The Kentucky Public Service Commission and BellSouth (now part of AT&T), the dominant carrier in the area at the time, decided to let the rural portion retain 606 in order to spare residents and businesses in this notoriously impoverished area the expense and burden of having to change their numbers. Also, 859 on a standard telephone keypad can be translated into "UKY", a reference to the University of Kentucky, the state's flagship institution of higher learning, located in Lexington.

The 859 split left 606 as one of the most thinly populated area codes in the country. It is not currently projected to exhaust until 2046.

Area code 859

Area code 859 serves the city of Lexington and the central portion of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was created in a split from area code 606 in 1999.

Its service area encompasses the following Kentucky counties (the boundary closely, but not exactly, tracks county lines):

Boone County

Bourbon County

Boyle County

Campbell County

Clark County

Fayette County (coterminous with the city of Lexington)

Gallatin County

Garrard County

Grant County

Harrison County

Jessamine County

Kenton County

Madison County

Mercer County

Montgomery County

Nicholas County

Pendleton County

Washington County

Woodford CountyBy far the largest city in the 859 territory is Lexington. The next largest area is Northern Kentucky, the Kentucky portion of the Cincinnati metropolitan area. It includes smaller cities and towns such as Nicholasville, Richmond, Danville, Covington, Versailles, Florence, Mount Sterling and Winchester.

The numbers 859 spell out "UKY" on a standard keypad—a nod to Lexington being home of the University of Kentucky.

Conventional wisdom would have suggested that Lexington and Northern Kentucky would have retained 606 in the 1999 split. Lexington was by far the largest city in the old 606 territory, and it and Northern Kentucky accounted for two-thirds of the old 606's population. However, several counties in eastern Kentucky are among the poorest in the nation. The Kentucky Public Service Commission and BellSouth (now part of AT&T), then the region's main telephone carrier, decided to let the rural portion retain 606 in order to spare a notoriously impoverished area the added expense and burden of switching to a new area code.

Collar counties

The expression the collar counties is a colloquialism for the five counties of Illinois that border Chicago's Cook County. After Cook County, they are also the next five most populous counties in the state. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, there is no specifically known origin of the phrase, but it has been commonly used among policy makers, urban planners, and in the media. However, it also notes that as growth has spread beyond these counties, it may have lost some of its usefulness.The collar counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will) are tied to Chicago economically. However, like many other suburban areas in the United States, the collar counties have very different political leanings from the core city. Chicago has long been a Democratic stronghold, but the collar counties are known for being historically Republican strongholds, although they have recently become more politically diverse.

While the demographics of these suburban Chicago counties are fairly typical for American metropolitan areas, the term is apparently unique to this area. Also, because Cook County is so firmly entrenched in the Democratic column, and rural Downstate is overwhelmingly Republican, the collar counties are routinely cited as being the key to any statewide election. However, that conventional wisdom was challenged in 2010 as Democrat Pat Quinn won election as governor while only winning Cook, St. Clair, Jackson and Alexander counties. All five collar counties went Republican, so the key to winning that gubernatorial election was simply winning Cook County, but by a wide enough margin to overwhelm the rest of the state.While the term is often employed in political discussions, that is not its exclusive use. Barack Obama used the term in his speech before the Democratic National Convention in 2004.As of 2010 there are 3,143,257 people residing in the collar counties, nearly 25% of the population of Illinois.

Common knowledge

Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, such as science, literature, history, and entertainment. Often, common knowledge does not need to be cited. Common knowledge is distinct from general knowledge. The latter has been defined by differential psychologists as referring to "culturally valued knowledge communicated by a range of non-specialist media", and is considered an aspect of ability related to intelligence. Therefore, there are substantial individual differences in general knowledge as opposed to common knowledge.

In broader terms, common knowledge is used to refer to information that a reader would accept as valid, such as information that many users may know. As an example, this type of information may include the temperature in which water freezes or boils. To determine if information should be considered common knowledge, you can ask yourself who your audience is, are you able to assume they already have some familiarity with the topic, or will the information’s credibility come into question.

Many techniques have been developed in response to the question of distinguishing truth from fact in matters that have become "common knowledge". The scientific method is usually applied in cases involving phenomena associated with astronomy, mathematics, physics, and the general laws of nature. In legal settings, rules of evidence generally exclude hearsay (which may draw on "facts" someone believes to be "common knowledge").

"Conventional wisdom" is a similar term also referring to ostensibly pervasive knowledge or analysis.

Computer network operations

Computer Network Operations (CNO) is a broad term that has both military and civilian application. Conventional wisdom is that information is power, and more and more of the information necessary to make decisions is digitized and conveyed over an ever-expanding network of computers and other electronic devices. Computer network operations are deliberate actions taken to leverage and optimize these networks to improve human endeavor and enterprise or, in warfare, to gain information superiority and deny the enemy this enabling capability.

Contrarian investing

Contrarian Investing is an investment strategy that is characterized by purchasing and selling in contrast to the prevailing sentiment of the time.A contrarian believes that certain crowd behavior among investors can lead to exploitable mispricings in securities markets. For example, widespread pessimism about a stock can drive a price so low that it overstates the company's risks, and understates its prospects for returning to profitability. Identifying and purchasing such distressed stocks, and selling them after the company recovers, can lead to above-average gains. Conversely, widespread optimism can result in unjustifiably high valuations that will eventually lead to drops, when those high expectations don't pan out. Avoiding (or short-selling) investments in over-hyped investments reduces the risk of such drops. These general principles can apply whether the investment in question is an individual stock, an industry sector, or an entire market or any other asset class.

Some contrarians have a permanent bear market view, while the majority of investors bet on the market going up. However, a contrarian does not necessarily have a negative view of the overall stock market, nor do they have to believe that it is always overvalued, or that the conventional wisdom is always wrong. Rather, a contrarian seeks opportunities to buy or sell specific investments when the majority of investors appear to be doing the opposite, to the point where that investment has become mispriced. While more "buy" candidates are likely to be identified during market declines (and vice versa), these opportunities can occur during periods when the overall market is generally rising or falling.

Conventional wisdom (disambiguation)

Conventional wisdom mey refer to:

Conventional wisdom, certain ideas or explanations that are generally accepted as true by the public

Conventional Wisdom, a song by Built to Spill from their 2006 album You in Reverse

"My Conventional Wisdom", an episode of Scrubs.

Hofstadter's law

Hofstadter's law is a self-referential adage, coined by Douglas Hofstadter in his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979) to describe the widely experienced difficulty of accurately estimating the time it will take to complete tasks of substantial complexity:

Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

The law is often cited by programmers in discussions of techniques to improve productivity, such as The Mythical Man-Month or extreme programming.Hofstadter introduced the law in connection with a discussion of chess-playing computers, which at the time were continually being beaten by top-level human players, despite outpacing humans in depth of recursive analysis. Conventional wisdom held that the strength of human players lay in their ability to focus on particular positions rather than follow every possible line of play to its ultimate conclusion. Hofstadter wrote:

Notably, that day did indeed come, when Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in 1997, which indicates that the Law of Accelerating Returns may take effect when the task is repeated, thus counteracting—and in some cases overpowering—Hofstadter's law.

New Jersey Attorney General

The attorney general of New Jersey is a member of the executive cabinet of the state and oversees the Department of Law and Public Safety. The office is appointed by the Governor of New Jersey, confirmed by the New Jersey Senate, and term limited. Under the provisions of the New Jersey State Constitution, the Attorney General serves a concurrent four-year term to the governor. Gurbir Grewal was nominated as Attorney General by Governor Phil Murphy. Grewal is the first Sikh attorney general in the United States.The conventional wisdom is that the Attorney General cannot be removed from office except "for cause" by the Governor or by way of legislative impeachment.It is fifth in the line of succession after the Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, President of the New Jersey Senate, and Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly. The Attorney General cannot also serve as the Lieutenant Governor.

Saw (saying)

A saw is an old saying or commonly repeated phrase or idea; a conventional wisdom. While "old saw" is a common phrase for "saw", some consider it a tautology.Among various synonyms for "saying", dictionaries from 18th century singled out "saw" as a vulgar, uneducated wisdom, often based in supersititions. This flavor is seen in the expressions "old women's saws" and "old wife's saws".

Scrubs (season 6)

The sixth season of the American comedy television series Scrubs premiered on NBC on November 30, 2006 and concluded on May 17, 2007 and consists of 22 episodes. The series moved to Thursdays at 9:00 pm as a part of NBC's Comedy Night Done Right. Guest stars in the sixth season included Keri Russell and Michael Weston. This season featured the series' musical episode, "My Musical".

Over the course of the season, J.D. and the other characters must mature to fill the different roles required of them. J.D., for instance, is cast in the role of expecting father since his girlfriend, Dr. Kim Briggs (Elizabeth Banks), is pregnant with his child. Turk and Carla become parents when Carla gives birth to their daughter, Isabella Turk. Elliot plans her wedding to Keith, although she and J.D. still harbor feelings for each other. Dr. Cox, as father of two children with Jordan, struggles to prevent his foul disposition from affecting his parenting. Important issues are touched upon, such as the importance of leadership, whether everything happens for a reason, and even death.

Secretary of State of New Jersey

The Secretary of State of New Jersey oversees the Department of State, which is one of the original state offices. The Secretary is responsible for overseeing artistic, cultural, and historical programs within the U.S. state of New Jersey, as well as volunteerism and community service projects within the state and is also the keeper of the Great Seal of the State. The Secretary is appointed by the Governor.

The department's agencies include the State Archives, the Division of Elections, the Division of Programs, the Business Action Center, the Red Tape Review commission, the Council on the Arts, the historical Commission, the Cultural Based Initiatives, the Center for Hispanic Research and Development, the Office for Planning Advocacy and the State Planning Commission. The Secretary of Higher Education, the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, the State Library and the Sports and Exposition Authority are in but not of the department.

The New Jersey Division of Archives and Records Management, sometimes referred to simply as the "State Archives", is the repository for all vital statistics, including marriage and divorce records and birth certificates, and also maintains a separate set of files for the registry of wills. The Secretary of State oversees the Division of Tourism which advertises and promotes New Jersey as a premier travel destination and the Division of Elections, and sets all tourism and election policy.

The Secretary is the Chief Elections Officer of New Jersey. Prior to April 1, 2008, the electoral division was under the New Jersey Attorney General. The Secretary of State is also the chair of the board of State Canvasser, which certifies election results for federal and state office elections and public questions.In New Jersey, registry of corporations is not the responsibility of the Secretary of State. The New Jersey Department of the Treasury is responsible for the maintenance of corporate records.

In New Jersey, the Secretary of State serves a term of office concurrent with that of the Governor. Although the conventional wisdom is that the Secretary of State cannot be removed from office except "for cause" by the Governor or by way of legislative impeachment, a recent law review article argues that the Governor does not have the authority to remove the Secretary of State "for cause," and this issue has not been tested.

The current Secretary of State is Tahesha Way.

Studebaker Electric

The Studebaker Electric was an automobile produced by the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company of South Bend, Indiana, a forerunner of the Studebaker Corporation. The battery-powered cars were sold from 1902 to 1912.

Studebaker entered into the automobile manufacturing field in 1898 when Frederick S. Fish, as chairman of the executive committee, persuaded the board to supply $4,000 for the development of an electric vehicle. However, lacking the board’s full support, the project yielded one car. The company did, however, enter into the field of producing bodies for electric taxis through Albert Augustus Pope’s Electric Vehicle Company.

Studebaker formally began production in earnest in 1902, and the company chose battery-powered electric vehicles because they were clean, easily recharged, and worked well in urban centers without need of refueling depots (gas stations).

Studebaker Electrics were available in a variety of body styles, many of which mimicked the bodies that it had long produced for its lucrative passenger carriage line. These included the Stanhope, Victoria, and Surrey. A four-passenger model was introduced in 1904.

Fish realized early on that Studebaker’s future did not rest in the limited electric car, but in the gasoline-powered automobile. Studebaker’s field of expertise was in body building and product distribution, not engine building. This realization led to the creation of the Studebaker-Garford automobile in 1904. The joint agreement worked well until 1909-1910 when Garford attempted to divert chassis to its own brand of automobile, and Studebaker, looking for an affordable car to sell entered into an agreement with the E-M-F Company of Detroit. E-M-F would build the entire car, which would then be distributed through Studebaker wagon dealers.

Still, Studebaker continued to build electric vehicles until Fish decided to begin the process of seizing control of E-M-F in 1909, which Studebaker completed by 1910.By 1912, it became conventional wisdom that the future lay in gasoline-powered engines rather than heavy, sluggish electrics, and the limited production of electric cars stopped. An official announcement from the newly re-incorporated Studebaker Corporation stated:

The production of electric automobiles at South Bend has ended. . . It has been conducted for nine years without much success, and ultimately the superiority of the gasoline car (is) apparent.

The Affluent Society

The Affluent Society is a 1958 (4th edition revised 1984) book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post–World War II United States was becoming wealthy in the private sector but remained poor in the public sector, lacking social and physical infrastructure, and perpetuating income disparities. The book sparked much public discussion at the time. It is also credited with popularizing the term "conventional wisdom". Many of the ideas presented were later expanded and refined in Galbraith's 1967 book, The New Industrial State.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called it his favorite on the subject of economics. The Modern Library placed the book at no. 46 on its list of the top 100 English-language non-fiction books of the 20th century.

Upset (competition)

An upset occurs in a competition, frequently in electoral politics or sports, when the party popularly expected to win (the favorite), either loses to or draws/ties a game with an underdog whom the majority expects to lose, defying the conventional wisdom.

The meaning of the word has sometimes been erroneously attributed to the surprising defeat of the horse Man o' War by the horse Upset (the loss was the only one in Man o' War's career); the term pre-dates that 1919 race by at least several decades. In its sports coverage immediately following Upset's victory, the Washington Post wrote, "One might make all sorts of puns about it being an upset."

Urban Institute

The Urban Institute is a Washington D.C.-based think tank that carries out economic and social policy research to "open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions". The institute receives funding from government contracts, foundations and private donors. The Urban Institute measures policy effects, compares options, shows which stakeholders get the most and least, tests conventional wisdom, reveals trends, and makes costs, benefits, and risks explicit. The Urban Institute has been referred to as "independent" and as "liberal".

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