Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is information presumed known within a specific group, aiding in effective communication and social cohesion. It varies by cultural, professional, and universal contexts, and is influenced by education, media, and social networks.


Common knowledge is information that is assumed to be known by all parties in a given situation or community.

Types of Common Knowledge

  • Cultural: Shared symbols, traditions, and norms within a community.
  • Professional: Jargon and shared practices within a particular field.
  • Universal: Basic facts or axioms understood by most human beings (e.g., the sky is blue).

Roles in Society

  • Social Cohesion: Facilitates communication and cooperation.
  • Conventional Wisdom: Functions as a base layer for discourse and decision-making.
  • Gatekeeping: Defines the boundaries of in-groups and out-groups based on what is known or understood.


  • False Consensus: Assumption that one’s beliefs or values are universally shared.
  • Groupthink: Suppression of dissent or individual thought to maintain a sense of common understanding.

Knowledge Asymmetry

  • Information Overload: Abundance of information can disrupt what is considered common knowledge.
  • Expertise Gap: Specialized knowledge becoming increasingly isolated from the general population.

Mechanisms of Formation

  • Education: Formal systems designed to disseminate a base layer of knowledge.
  • Media: Mass communication tools that shape and distribute information.
  • Social Networks: Peer-to-peer sharing and affirmation of information.

Implications for Global Perspective

  • Cultural Relativism: What is common knowledge in one culture may not be in another.
  • Globalization: The international spread of certain forms of common knowledge, often influenced by dominant cultures or ideologies.

Ethical Considerations

  • Misinformation: The propagation of false information, intentionally or unintentionally, can become common knowledge.
  • Access: Barriers to education and information affect what becomes common knowledge to different socioeconomic groups.

Technological Impact

  • Internet: Radically democratized the dissemination and acquisition of knowledge, altering what is “common.”
  • Big Data and Algorithms: Influence what information is most visible and thereby what is considered common knowledge.