Common sense
By Marilyn vos Savant, Parade magazine

Test your common sense
Take this test to learn how much 'common sense' you have. You may use only the information that appears in the question, and you must select one of the two choices given. Click answer for Marilyn's answer and explanation.

Question 1
You are about to cross a busy intersection as you walk home, but the walk light is out of order. What should you do?
       Cross with caution    or    Don't cross

Question 2
Tuna is your favorite food, and you love all varieties equally. Today, you find the fancy grade on sale at half-price; now it costs only a little bit more than the unfancy grade. You're always short of cash. What should you do?
       Buy the fancy kind    or   Buy the unfancy kind

Question 3
You should get a haircut before you go on a job interview tomorrow, but you don't have enough money. What should you do?
       Go to the interview    or   Reschedule the interview

Question 4
Your favorite shoes are wearing out. They can be repaired as good as new for $50. A new pair costs $100. What should you do?
       Repair the shoes    or   Buy a new pair

Question 5
You're looking for an apartment and find two that you can afford. One has a view of a park. The other has a view of a flashing neon sign. You love flashing neon signs. Which apartment should you rent?
       The one with the park view    or    The one with the view of the flashing neon sign

Common sense
Common sense is fundamental to happiness and important for success. According to Marilyn vos Savant, the term means good judgment that arises from no particular source of learning and is present in varying degrees from person to person, regardless of his/her intelligence. Consider how often we've heard, "He's smart, but he has no common sense". People are capable of all kinds of good thinking, but some just don't see what's right in front of their noses. Many different problems exist. Some people spend too much time thinking and too little time observing the real world. Life is not hypothetical. Other people give too much credibility to their feelings, not noticing that emotions are a poor measure of reality. Still others are constantly critical; they always look for a way to disagree. What they all have in common is neglecting to focus on the obvious.

Common sense is not a quality that "you either have or you don't." It can be developed, most easily when you're young and your parents and mentors can help. Young people learn lots of things from their peers, but common sense is usually not among them. When you're an adult, no one else can impose common sense on you; you must decide to develop it yourself. But of you realize that you don't have as much as you would like, take heart. That realization alone will help you begin to acquire common sense. Like learning to love, all you need is the desire.

How to develop common sense
• Read the front page of a newspaper every day, including the stories that don't interest you.
• Add more nonfiction books to your shopping cart, such as the biographies of famous explorers or inventors who had to handle myriad situations.
• Avoid the silliest sitcoms and reality shows (which should be called Unreality Shows) on television in favor of more documentaries - including those about serious people doing productive work.
• Take charge of practical planning for projects such as social gatherings, weekend visitors, and family vacations. Handle all details personally.
• Participate in conversations by listening and asking questions. Tap into other people's knowledge and common sense foundations.