Intuitive Theories and Common Sense – How Are They Related?


Whether we readily admit it or not, we all have ‘intuitive theories’ about the world and our relationships. These theories derive greatly from our upbringing; how things were done in our families growing up, what we saw, what we learned, etc. Sometimes, unfortunately, these theories can clash with what most would consider to be common sense.

So, does someone who doesn’t seem to have a lot of that common sense automatically fall into a category of lesser intelligence? Not necessarily. Our intuitive theories aren’t always easy to get rid of, even if they’re incorrect by societal standards.

What Are Some Examples?

Intuitive thinking and common sense don’t often seem to go hand-in-hand. We gather our intuitive thoughts from childhood, and quickly hold onto them tightly. Unfortunately, they don’t always add up with scientific fact.

One popular example to consider is global warming. It may not make sense to us that ‘burning things’ could have that big of an impact on an entire planet. That’s our intuitive thinking. But, science suggests otherwise. Common sense suggests otherwise.

The interesting thing about intuitive theories is that many times as we get older, we begin to recognize that these thoughts are, in fact, incorrect. So, we give into science and psychology. We accept and admit the truth, because it makes more sense.

But, somewhere in the back of our minds, we never lose those initial thoughts, even if we know they are wrong. It’s hard to completely let go of the thoughts and theories that have been ingrained in us throughout our lives.

The Importance of Understanding Intuitive Theories

It’s absolutely important to understand intuitive theories in yourself, and in other people. It’s easy nowadays to find criticism in people for their beliefs and the things they might say that go directly against scientific and societal norms. Some may even consider it a psychological problem.

But, consider instead that these people might simply be basing their thoughts and opinions on their own intuitive theories? Of course, some of these theories might seem more outlandish than others. Science, for example, has a very strong opinion on the effects of global warming. A friend of yours may have a different opinion based on nothing but the theories they grew up with. They might be able to agree with science, but in the back of their mind, those thoughts will always linger.

Why is it important to pay attention to these theories in ourselves and our relationships? Because it allows us to see something in ourselves that others face on a daily basis as well.

The next time you think someone doesn’t have any ‘common sense’ when it comes to a particular topic, consider what their intuitive theories might be, and why they are in place. A good area to start is to look at some of your own intuitive theories, even if you do a good job at keeping them hidden most of the time.

The more we can understand these thoughts and theories within ourselves and others, the easier it can become to accept fact, dispel fiction, and have a more compassionate frame of mind when dealing with others and their personal beliefs and opinions.

Carolyn Ehrlich LCSW, CGP specializes in Relationship Counseling NYC. I increase your self- awareness and help you gain more insight into your inner-life. We’ll work together so you can get more out of every day and meet any challenge life throws at you.