What Is “Common Sense” and How to Develop It?

What Is Common Sense and How to Develop It? - Fallacy in Logic

Common sense is a long-standing and widely used term, from modern times all the way to the 15th century.

Common sense is almost always viewed as a respected, sought-after quality. When someone is said to have it, it’s meant to indicate that the person possesses positive characteristics such as practicality, level-headedness, and sensibleness.

In this article, we’ll examine in more detail what it is, as well as how you can develop it.


The definition of common sense slightly varies, depending on the source. Keeping this in mind, we can define it as:

  • The ability to make sound judgments based on practical knowledge and reasonable perception of a situation.

It is typically considered to be developed through one’s life experiences, however, it’s also occasionally described as a natural ability.

For example, when someone warns an oncoming driver about a danger down the road by flashing their car lights, it could be said that they have common sense. Conversely, a person who tends to stand in front of opening train or bus doors before letting passengers out lacks it.

Is Common Sense…Common?

The concept of “common sense” is fundamentally contradictory: In reality, it’s not common at all. As such, when people talk about “common sense”, what they really mean is uncommon sense.

This is because the term refers to skills or insights that are mostly derived from people’s individual experiences, not ones that are available to anyone. Furthermore, the criteria for having “common sense” is debatable since it isn’t really based on criteria that are commonly agreed upon and highly applicable to various situations.

Can You Develop Common Sense?

As noted above, common sense is something that is mainly developed through personal experiences, rather than being the result of any formal training or practice.

That being said, the ability to make good judgments based on sound reasoning (in other words, being rational) can most certainly be developed. Here are some simple, yet important points you may consider:

Weigh Risks and Rewards

When facing a choice or decision, be sure to assess its possible consequences in terms of risks and rewards.

Being able to make decisions in which the risks outweigh the rewards, rather than vice versa, will more than likely yield satisfying results – especially when repeated over a long period of time.


Be skeptical and self-critical when needed; remember that anyone can be wrong, including you.

It’s a challenging task to re-evaluate and change your current beliefs, but often a necessary one that will save you from a lot of additional pain.

Take Others Into Account

Consider the other person’s viewpoint.

This is a highly beneficial skill when you are required to make choices that involve other people; it doesn’t only help you steer away from troubles, but also works towards your best interests by being helpful and respectful to others.

Act Based on What You Know

Sometimes the best course of action is inaction.

If you are unable to make a decision, then, instead of hoping that things will work out, seek more information and ask for advice or feedback until you are confident of how to proceed.

Go with Your Gut

In certain cases, it’s best to avoid overanalyzing things and pay close attention to your gut feeling (or, system 1 thinking).

For example, trusting our first impressions about other people is often the smartest bet.