Conventional Wisdom

We are often led to believe in certain form of cause and effect relation which we haven’t reasoned out ,we just take certain things for words for the way they are presented over and over again or coming from a wise person . It may be  or may not be true , I am talking about the power of information asymmetry (info/ knowledge confined to certain person) to deceive people in believing things which aren’t true. It is quite difficult to assimilate this thought in totality , for getting a more clear idea go through the  following  extract from  the best seller “Freakonomics” by  S D Levitt and Dubner which puts it quite beautifully what conventional  wisdom constitutes of and its potential to put us all in state of illusion.

”  It was John Kenneth Galbraith, the hyperliterate economic sage,  who coined the phrase “conventional wisdom.” He did not consider  it a compliment. “We associate truth with convenience,” he wrote,  “with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal  well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.” Economic and social behavior, Galbraith continued  “are complex, and to comprehend their character is mentally  tiring. Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.”  So the conventional wisdom in Galbraith’s view must be simple,  convenient, comfortable, and comforting—though not necessarily,  true. It would be silly to argue that the conventional wisdom is never true. But noticing where the conventional wisdom may be false—noticing, perhaps, the contrails of sloppy or self-interested thinking— is a nice place to start asking questions.

Advertising too is a brilliant tool for creating conventional wisdom. Listerine, for instance, was invented in the nineteenth century as a powerful surgical antiseptic. It was later sold, in distilled form, as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. But it wasn’t a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis”—a then obscure medical term for bad breath. Listerine’s new ads featured forlorn young women and men, eager for marriage but turned off by their mate’s rotten breath. “Can I be happy with him in spite of that?” one maiden asked herself. Until that time, bad breath was not conventionally considered such a catastrophe. But Listerine changed that. As the advertising scholar James B. Twitchell writes, “Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis.” In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million. “

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