Common Sense Versus Intelligence

Some people have the ability to memorize large amounts of information but seem to lack the skill to understand common everyday social etiquette, pick up on innuendos or clues of their surroundings.

According to R. S. Maynard, “Common sense, I suggest, is that native practical intelligence by which men test truth of knowledge and the morality and prudence of action.”

I’ve known individuals who could spout off facts about various things like dead presidents, geological information or do complex mathematical calculations in their heads but didn't pick up on simple cues.

Don’t get me wrong, there are those that have both and when you find a man with practical intelligence as well as a high IQ you should have his babies but it does seem that many have one or the other and almost never both.

Which is more important?

I have common sense but lack the memorization skill. I know where to find information, I have lots of books at my disposal with the data I need but can’t contain it all in my little brain at once. When one bit of knowledge goes in; something else exits the back door. I need a larger memory card.

Whether being able to hold a lot of important facts at once is more important than being able to discern basic life skills has been up for debate for many centuries. Colleges certainly put more stake in the retention department otherwise we’d have more open book tests.

There are times I’d like to be able to add three digit mathematical equations in my head without a calculator; forget pad and pen, but that isn’t how I was made. I do however analyze my surroundings and notice things some people do not.

What is common sense?

Commons sense is having the ability to foresee an outcome. We don’t see the future but rather, consider the outcome of an action. You know if you pull a thread on a sweater it may unravel.

For instance if I see that every house on the west side of the street has two mail boxes I do not assume that the western neighbors all have two postage receptacles while the people across the street have none. Those of us with common sense will realize that the postal service wanted to only make one pass down the street therefore putting all boxes on one side. I know a very smart nurse that was taking my mail because she thought both mail boxes belonged to her. They were both in her yard.

Common sense is looking at our surroundings and noticing things that people who lack this skill won’t always see.

If I see a child with a red tongue I don’t assume he has an ailment and needs a physician. More than likely he’s been eating a lollipop or Popsicle.

Shopping malls are busier on the weekend after the first of the month and the fifteenth due to people getting paid but those with a more intellectual brain might not pick up on these things. If they see spread sheets showing these numbers and dates they might put the two together and figure it out but simply going to the mall and seeing large numbers of shoppers they might not get it at first.

I think knowing some practical intelligence information can be beneficial to a person’s health. For example, I know a very smart Engineer with two master’s degrees that didn’t realize tea had caffeine in it. He couldn’t sleep at night after having multiple refills of his favorite beverage but hadn’t put the two together. Eating out one evening I noticed this as he was complaining about insomnia.

What is intelligence?

Being able to absorb information, learning seems effortless for these people and they can retrieve data from their brains in a matter of seconds.

They have a high IQ or high intelligence quotient. Scoring high on SAT, ACT or any other mental test is their talent.

Some are smart enough to be a member of Mensa, a high IQ society.

Argument in favor of intelligence

They say as we age our common sense wanes so perhaps having intelligence is more important. Those with a wall full of college degrees can hire staff to help them in areas they are lacking so perhaps being able to memorize large quantities of information is a more worthy characteristic after all.

Then again with the invention of the smart phone those of us with minimal brain capacity can look up just about anything our little hearts desire at the flick of a screen, so the debate is still on.

This man is very funny.

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Comments 72 comments

Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I love this hub! Great debate. I love the examples you give, as well as the cartoon. The speaker is funny, too. Well done! Voted up and all the way across!

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

I live with some intelligent folks without a shred of common sense! The two definitely don't have to go hand in hand.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Victoria. That video made me smile.

Natashalh, I have yet to meet a person with both qualities. Most of us have one or the other.

Marsei profile image

Marsei 4 years ago from New Orleans


I totally loved this hub. I had an employee years ago whose IQ was off the charts. One day she had to roll up her car windows because of a downpour. When she walked back in the office drenched and dripping, she said: I forgot to take an umbrella. She was serious.

I like the hub a lot and voted up.


Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Marsei, that reminds me of a woman who couldn't get her keyless entry on her car to work. It never occurred to her to put her key in the keyhole until a maintenance man went out to help her. She is a psychologist. :o)

prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 4 years ago from Canada

Pamela, great hub! It is interesting that some people seem to have one or the other strength. I also enjoyed your examples which really illustrate your points.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Pamela....Thank you for writing a hub about my overly-intelligent (complete with degrees adorning the wall) husband, who will mount a smoke alarm above the oven.

But we love him anyway.

I would like just one nickel for every genius I know, who doesn't understand that you can't walk away from a self-propelled lawn mower!

UP +++

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

fpherj48, I'm married to one just like that. They do keep us amused.

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Pam....yes...we get to be the lucky ones! No shortage of laughter around here.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Very good! I knew someone who was a genius but could barely tie his shoes. Common sense is essential.

dmop profile image

dmop 4 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

This is so true, I know a few really smart people that just don't get the common aspects of things. Great article I gave it a vote up and interesting.

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Well done in pointing out the difference between intelligence and common sense.

I once worked with some one who had an IQ near 200 but couldn't understand why you still had to steer a car that was on auto-cruise. Lord, love a duck.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Phoenix, they are amusing, I get a kick out of them sometimes.

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Great piece of writing. It's common sense all the way for me. Without it all is lost, just look at what's happening in our nation.

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

great topic. I always discuss this with my kid. I am trying to develop his common

'cause the intelligence can always be attained by going to school

voted up as useful and interesting

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Pamela, yes i guess we all know someone who has either common sense or intelligence but not both.I like you have common sense which i rather have, and i to have trouble with memorizing information and end up losing something to remember something new. I may need to get a external brain to store important information that my God giving brain can no longer hold.

Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Kashmir, that's what books are good for otherwise I'd be in trouble.

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 4 years ago from Long Island, NY

I found your examples of common sense very interesting and true. Another one I've noticed I'll share with you...

When driving, I usually take my foot off the gas and coast when I see a red light up ahead. After all, why rush to it when I'll have to stop anyway.

But I often see other drivers race to a red light and then hit their breaks. I never could understand why they do that, but I realize now they simply have no common sense even though some of them may be intelligent.

They never consider why they need to replace their brakes so often or why they have poor gas mileage.

I found your hub very intriguing. People can survive tough times with intelligence or with common sense. They really don't need both. One will make up for the other. Voted up.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I know people like this. They are so intelligent but their common sense is not the best. It does make me feel a little sad for them. I love the Dilbert cartoon - funny!

kj force profile image

kj force 4 years ago from Florida

Pamela..loved the hub,Omg video hysterical. everything you wrote, so true. Being retired from Medicine,the stories I could tell. People can learn from a book, but, common sense appears to be a gift you are born with.

very insightful of you....

sergs_pogi profile image

sergs_pogi 4 years ago

For me, common sense is more important than sheer intelligence. The size of one's brain does not after all determine one's success in life, but instead on the size of one's heart!

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

Great Hub. I've met many an intelligent idiot who lacks common sense. Common sense allows you to take what you learn from the books and practically apply that information. My common sense isn't waning as I age, it grows as I learn. That's my take on it.

The Frog

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Glenn, common sense can help improve the life of our car as well as save us money.

KJ, I love that video too. He shows great common sense in getting through football when he didn't want to be there.

Prince, I still have quite a bit of commons sense and hopefully it will hold out many more years.

quicksand profile image

quicksand 4 years ago

I believe that common sense is something inbuilt that surfaces when the need arises, somewhat like an instinct.

The need often arising to utilize common sense could only sharpen this instinct, whereas the lack of opportunity to use common sense could only "weaken" it I guess.

Have you heard of this gentleman who cut a hole on his door to allow his cat easy access to his room?

When the cat had a kitten, he cut another hole, a smaller one, to enable the kitten too to enter and exit as often as he wished.

He ... was one of the greatest scientists of all time ... Sir Isaac Newton!

Voted "up" and "interesting."

Theophanes profile image

Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

I must be a total bitch - I tend to become disinterested in people who don't have both qualities (although to be fair I still will be nice and talk to anyone.)

However, if forced to choose, I find common sense to be the more appealing characteristic. I mean look at "idiot savants," the musical ones can play tunes that the most trained of musicians ache to be able to accomplish, but they don't understand it. They don't feel it or know what it means to people... The disconnect is heart wrenching if you ask me. Besides this people who have common sense are able to look at new information and make a judgement on it. It doesn't really matter if they remember the exact details that led to that judgement, all that matters is that it was an educated process. I knew a girl once who could memorize a textbook cover to cover but could barely function at all in actual society and was completely incapable of making up her own mind, forming her own opinion, or putting anything together. She had facts but what good are facts when you can't logically string them together to do something with them?

Also that video was really funny. Thanks for the chuckle. I'll be voting your article up.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Quicksand, I didn't know that story about Sir Isaac Newton. Funny.

Theophanes, I prefer common sense but possibly because that is the one I have the most of.

Thanks for reading.

Daffy Duck profile image

Daffy Duck 4 years ago from Cornelius, Oregon

Have you ever watched "The Big Bang Theory"? Sheldon Cooper has an eidetic memory but lacks all of the social graces. His character is so funny.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Daffy, that is my favorite show. I'm pretty sure Sheldon has Asperger's and those people all miss social cues many of us take for granted. Great example of intelligence without common sense.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines

Enjoyed this hub. It would appear that "common sense" or "horse sense" is not so common :) We have on several occasion blurb out ourselves " Now why didn't I think of that!" when it took someone else to point out the obvious to us.:) Love the video, got some good laugh. Shared this hub in FB. Thank you.

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

Absolutely super Hub. I've often wondered if common sense doesn't boil down to being able to understand cause and effect? A Hub with great food for thought -- congrats and voted up! Best/Sis

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Thanks for sharing, SR. It doesn't seem to be very common these days.

Angela, I do believe cause and effect are a big part of common sense. The ability to see what the outcome of an action will be.

europewalker profile image

europewalker 4 years ago

Fantastic hub Pamela, as for myself I opt for common sense. I have known too many people without it. It baffles me, but then they are more intelligent than I am.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

They get by and learn to adapt without that ability but it is kind of scary.

gabgirl12 profile image

gabgirl12 4 years ago

Colleges put more stake on the retention department because teachers need to prove their students are learning. Many professors get paid by federal grants and can be audited.

Frankly I think common sense is a myth. For one because no one thinks 'exactly' alike. And not everyone is practical. My thinking is 'does this make sense to me?'. If for many it does...then it becomes 'common'. I think it would depend on the individual and group surroundings. Those things change, and what makes sense to others in one place, might not necessarily be the same for another group. Plus don't discount that people change. That doesn't mean overnight, but over time...

I'm not really looking for a man so I'm not sure if I could consider the IQ or common sense a factor, as much as how we get along.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Gabgirl, there are many ways to learn things as Albert Einstein has shown us. Some are good at memorization and do well on tests and some are not. Doesn't mean the person with a lower retention rate is less valuable and in many cases they solve problems the one with the higher IQ does not.

Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Thailand

Having spent a lot of time in Asia, I have to say that people from the US and UK are amazing when it comes to lacking common sense! lol (yes, I came from the UK too).

Over here, you are responsible for yourself and your actions (laws and governments don't tell you what to do or what is safe so much), without signs and instructions for everything ... some of what you see is almost unbelievable! ha ha

Voted up, interesting and shared.

Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

Great hub! I think the ultimate combination is considered wisdom. Having the knowledge AND the common sense to use it correctly!

@phoenix Seriously??? lmao ha ha ha... cruise control ain't autopilot! lmfao That's so awesome!

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Brett, I think much of that is due to lawsuits. People are afraid of getting sued so they post ridiculous signs that seem obvious to most of us.

DOM, hopefully I'll be wise one day.

tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Hi Pamela. This is fun read and intriguing too. If I may share, the pitch on the books reminds me of my grandpa telling me two things about books

1) Never believe the first book you read because many have been written on the same subject.

2) Memorize what the teacher wants and no more. Spend your time learning how to use the book

Thank you so much for sharing with us the insight, some know others don't. One thing Hubpages has taught me well, is that common does where common is. Kinda' like I would more than likely drive down the wrong side of the road in the UK. I don't have a cell much less a smart, I read minds everyday here and sometime there too. What is funny for me is I don't remember the info, yet can tell someone the signs of the trail that will get you there.

I hope I didn't venture too far, I am still amazed with this article, hitting close to home and other places. Again, emphatically I say thanks and have a great day.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Tsmog, I'm better with landmarks than road signs. I have trouble remembering highway names but then they are usually numbers and I trouble remembering numbers.

bryanbaldwin profile image

bryanbaldwin 4 years ago from Los Angeles

Emotional Intelligence VS. Intellectual Intelligence

yssubramanyam profile image

yssubramanyam 4 years ago from india, nellore. andhrapradesh

Common sense need presence of mind, intelligence is the quality of mind and has nothing to do with common sense. intelligence is enhanced with variety of teaching methods. common sense can not be taught. it is a gift by birth. many intelligent s faced failure due to lack of common sense. if individual is intelligent with common sense, he will be successful in life.

ishwaryaa22 profile image

ishwaryaa22 4 years ago from Chennai, India

A well-written hub! You presented your views very well! It is important for a person to have the right balance of common sense and intelligence as this would enable him/her to lead contented and successful life. Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Awesome and Interesting. Voted up and Socially Shared.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Thanks for reading, Ishwaryaa22.

bushraismail profile image

bushraismail 4 years ago from ASIA

Very nice hub. Great writing and greater comments.

Do you know the joke of......somebody killed nobody and common sense.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

No, Bushraismail, I haven't heard that joke.

Darkproxy profile image

Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

If you can't use intellegence correctly then why have it at all? I've been told that I have both of intelect and common sense, in comparison to my aunt she is really like a dictionary on almost everything math wise she never really seems to figure in the fiscal costs of buying things and renting things out over more than one month at a time.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Darkproxy, if you have some of each that is great. I have just enough intelligence to get by but mostly common sense.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I choose common sense over IQ - I think it gets you further in life. I enjoyed this article. Very good and very common sense.

Darkproxy profile image

Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

Balancing out both is an issue I mean have you ever had a time in your life where your common sense side got so pissed that you became a bit hard to follow?

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

No, can't say that I have, Darkproxy. I have had times when my heart got in the way of common sense but that is an altogether different situation.

Darkproxy profile image

Darkproxy 4 years ago from Ohio

yeah I sort of have that only it is with logic and intellegence one over powers the other.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

You must be one of those rare people that have an equal amount of both qualities.

yssubramanyam profile image

yssubramanyam 4 years ago from india, nellore. andhrapradesh

common senses is more seen when an individual has to take action to prevent incident or accident. it should not be lost at the time of danger or fear. it is mostly lost under the threat of danger. hence the high sensitive jobs like pilots needs common senses because he needs to take sharp decision under grave emergencies during flight. it is the common sense which works. a lovely hub.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Thanks, yssubramanyam. That's a good way to look at it. I certainly want a person with good common sense piloting the plane when I'm on board.

idigwebsites profile image

idigwebsites 4 years ago from United States

If someone is intelligent as well as having common sense, he or she can use them both in certain situations -- intelligently and sensibly. That kind of person will lead a good life. Great article all around. :)

carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

Terrific hub Pamela, a really interesting read...I concur with your thinking and thank goodness we have smart phones, right?...Voted UUAI & shared

pringoooals profile image

pringoooals 4 years ago from Edinburgh

Great praise for common sense in comments. For me the distinction between both of them is not that obvious. Looking at my own experience it all depends on the state of mind. If I keep thinking about something intensively I can do really stupid things which could be considered as lack of common sense but most of the time it doesn't happen. I don't really think this is something the one has or has not, it depends on the situation. Great choice of topic and great discussion though!

GlstngRosePetals profile image

GlstngRosePetals 4 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

Great hub! Its so true, it seems that the more education someone has the less common sense they possess. The cartoon says it all!! Awesome share Voted up and pushed all those buttons for you.

CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 4 years ago

It is a pity common sense is not very common! Loved the hub, thank your for taking the time. Up, interesting and useful

seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 3 years ago

Common sense is certainly a much underrated skill. Youngsters today seem to take much of what they read at face value. Many teachers report that these days students seem to have lost the skill of reading between the lines but are deemed intelligent in other areas.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

I fear too many forget to think for themselves and prefer to believe what they are told or often what they read. The brain is a muscle and when not exercised becomes lax.

Bedbugabscond profile image

Bedbugabscond 3 years ago from United States

I think you have to have a little of both. My good friend is a genius intellect wise. She has 3 degrees and just like the guy in the carton above. Still, even though she can get a job easily, holding it down is an issue because the lack of common sense causes so many issues.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Bedbugabscond, it's good to have some of each but I've noticed most people tend to have one or the other.

wilderness profile image

wilderness 3 years ago from Boise, Idaho

I think you do yourself a disfavor - "common sense" requires a great deal of prior learning and information.

The red tongue - your common sense tells you it probably isn't illness, but only because you have seen the results of a lollipop and remember that. If you had not already learned that bit of knowledge your common sense might well tell you the child is ill. Same with the mailbox - you already know that every house has a mailbox, somewhere, associated with it but never two such mailboxes. That information, coupled with a willingness and ability to correlate that information and use it, produces the right answer.

The biggest problem with using common sense is that we very often do not know where our "knowledge" came from or if it is actually true. All too often it is an old wives tale that we accepted as truth 20 years ago, but that never did have any real truth to it. Using that kind of "knowledge" will obviously result in common sense producing the wrong answer, but we don't catch on to that. We just go ahead and use the common sense answer as factual, when in truth it is nothing of the sort.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

That's true but I also think that common sense leads us to question old wive's tales and other beliefs instead of taking them for truth especially when they sound farfetched.

WalterPoon profile image

WalterPoon 3 years ago from Malaysia

Pamela, "intelligence" is more than absorbing data. Wikipedia says: "Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including, but not limited to, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, REASONING, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and PROBLEM SOLVING."

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that "common sense" is "sound and prudent JUDGMENT, based on a simple perception of the situation or facts".

I view "common sense" as part of "intelligence". You can't have one, without the other.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Interesting, Walter. I do think some have intelligence but lack common sense as well as vice versa.

annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

An interesting debate and one I've taken part in for years. I know several people who are real high-flyers but they've been unable to realise that their car 'broke down' due to lack of petrol rather than anything else more complicated, that a child with small fingers can extricate a string which is snagged and 'solve' the problem they've pondered for a minute or so. It seems that they think there's always a complicated answer! Common sense wins every time in my book; it benefits you in daily life and in social situations. However, we do need the 'boffins' to solve the mysteries of the universe etc. Great idea for a hub and well presented.

Pamela N Red profile image

Pamela N Red 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

Annart, my husband has a high IQ and I'm better at common sense so we make a good team. Perhaps we just need to pair up with someone that is our opposite and we'll get along just fine.

annart profile image

annart 3 years ago from SW England

That sounds like a great idea and it's logical that it should work!

pennyofheaven profile image

pennyofheaven 7 weeks ago from New Zealand

I enjoyed your hub. In my view, each and everyone of us possess both to a greater or lesser degree. What is interesting is that whichever one tends to dominate is still connected to that which lies latent within.

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