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It ain’t necessarily so

A new book by a research scientist at Yahoo! shows us the follies of common sense

By Jay Elwes   July 2011

Everything is Obvious: *Once You Know The Answer by Duncan J Watts, (Atlantic Books, £18.99)

The principal idea of this dense, engaging book is that common sense can be more of a hindrance than a help. Many of the ideas that shape the way we look at the world, help us to address problems and account for societal change, are simply heuristics—they are the products of our common sense. Many of them are also grossly misleading.

To illustrate the point, the author, a research scientist at Yahoo!, describes an experiment performed in the mid-20th century by US sociologists. Subjects were…

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