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Thomas Hawkins

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Do we have an opinion about everything? If not, should we?

The ideas, questions and debates discussed here on the TED platform allow us to share opinions, answers and lots more.

What is it that makes us form an opinion? Is it something we do through choice? On what level of consciousness are opinions formed?

I chose the "Gotta Share" video as it was the last video I watched before I thought about this. Perhaps its the sharing with others that makes us opinionated? How we make our identity?


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    Apr 16 2013: I feel that for a lot of us, our opinions are the easiest way to "prove" to others that we're smart, likable, hip, or cool.

    PS: Please think I'm smart for saying so...and cool.
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      Apr 16 2013: Dear Chris,
      In my humble opinion, you appear to be a smart, likable, hip, and very cool person, who brings up a good point:>)

      I think/feel a lot of times, people want to share opinions to "prove" something to others. The challenge with that idea, often, is that opinions are subjective. Sometimes, the act of trying to "prove" something, becomes confrontational, because many times we cannot "prove" something that is subjective, and the other person may be wanting to "prove" their subjective idea as well. See what I mean?

      If a person gets lost in the idea of "proving" his/her subjective idea, the conversation simply goes around in circles. I think/feel it is important to recognize that our opinions, are not always shared by everyone, and to try to force that opinion onto others to appear to be smarter, does not always create the situation where strongly opinionated people are thought of as likable or cool.....what do you think about that?
      • Apr 18 2013: Well said, and your post script put a smile on my face, Chris!

        How fascinating this is, to ask opinions about opinions!

        It takes a certain degree of intellect to recognize an opinion, and it takes a certain degree of honesty to share one.
  • Apr 13 2013: Just wondering, isn't everything we say opinion? I mean, we don't really know anything for sure in this world. As soon as we 'define' something, that becomes our opinion.
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      Apr 14 2013: do you "know" how to swim? tie your shoes? read? is mathematics an opinion? you know more than you know... 8) opinions should be formed on a as-needed basis, as being overly opinionated is counter-productive to healthy communication. just my opinion...
      • Apr 18 2013: No, I do not know how to tie my shoes without a doubt neither do I know mathemathics will always work under any circumstances and neither do you!

        Because in maybe two thousand, maybe 50Billion years you will learn that mathematics only work in four Dimensions or I DON'T KNOW! ^^
        On another hand a mathemacian from some while ago might have made a mistake which has been adopted to the mathematic laws, because noone found it, because it occurs only under very special conditions, so it never happened yet, so math is as wrong as it is right for all I know. All the more important it is that you form your opinions on matter as precautionous as possible.
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          Apr 18 2013: well said, but that doesn't make mathematics an opinion. you seem to have missed the point. all information is relative, including god.
    • Apr 25 2013: Naah.. Mathematics and shoe tying techniques are not opinions (in my opinion). But you can have a strong opinion about mathematics or certain shoelace tying techniques. Opinion is tied with a personal appreciation,it's about your feelings.

      Opinions are not about the definition of the object (the car is red, 3m long, 4 wheels) it's about your subjective appreciation of the object (it's f**kin ugly, people who drive that kind of car are jerks, etc...).
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    Mar 30 2013: I don't think we can, practically speaking, have an opinion on everything, as we are limited in our ability to gather and process information. Many will choose to have well-considered opinions in fewer areas rather than weakly informed and considered decisions in a very large number.

    Beyond this, I don't think we should feel an imperative to express our opinions on every matter where we may have them.
  • Apr 25 2013: Interesting topic! I feel the urge to give my opinion here! :D

    I think that whenever we come across a new information. (We read a headline, see a advertisement, meet a new person) we kind of subconsciously make up a first opinion. We compare this new piece of information with the things we learned and experimented in the past and I feel like our brain automatically categorizes this information in order to store it and remember it.

    Then there is the opinion, more in the sense of belief. This is built slowly over time, it can evolve and mature (if we let it evolve and mature...) I feel this difference is important because too often, we hear something on a topic we never truly studied and immediately we turn our first opinion into a strong unfounded belief and we are already trying to shove it down some other guy's throat. And I'm mostly saying this as a reminder to myself here. Maybe it's the backside of the coin with freedom of speech and democracy; we all ended up having a very high opinion of our own opinions. Is a search on google and wikipedia enough to build an educated opinion on a subject? I don't think so.

    So back to your question: Do we have an opinion about everything? Yes a first opinion is automatically created in order to label and store information. I don't have scientific proof of this, but I feel that's how my brain works, my memories are very often bound to their appreciation somehow. Should we have an opinion about everything? Yes! But we should be ready to let this opinion evolve and make it mature as we learn about the opinions of others.
  • Apr 20 2013: Therein lays the problem with democracy itself, everyone regardless of ability, skill or experience, has an opinion.
  • Apr 18 2013: Interesting! Yesterday, I saw a 'conversation' happening on Facebook. Someone gave an opinion, which rubbed someone else the wrong way and felt attacked. Within minutes, a social-media brawl was going on!

    An opinion does say everything about our identity, and so it should! An opinion is personal, it's the way we express our thoughts and feelings towards anyone and anything! But, someone who is 'opinionated' is "conceitedly assertive and dogmatic in one's opinions" according to the dictionary, a very negative and destructive description, if you ask me.

    An opinion can be so quickly misinterpreted, when there should be nothing wrong with voicing how we feel. An opinion is never an attack, although it is too often perceived as one.
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    Apr 18 2013: Only about things we know nothing about.
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    Apr 14 2013: There's no rule about having opinions. It's not that we should, nor that we should not, have opinions. I guess, opinions are created as a response to something that stimulates one's mind. I think 'Interest' is perhaps the most basic cause which creates opinion. If one does not have interest in something, I don't see how one can have opinion in that thing. Other weaker cause might be when somebody asks you for your opinion about something which might not interest you so much. But if the asker is close enough to you or his//her question creates some stimulation in your mind, then you might make some efforts and start thinking about that not interesting//unfamiliar issue and then create some opinion.

    The other question you ask -- "On what level of consciousness are opinions formed?" -- is a terrific question.

    I think there's always sub-conscious elements or processes which affect our final opinion. What changes each particular case of creating an opinion I guess is the mutual balance between the conscious and sub-conscious elements. This balance is influenced among others by the issue discussed, our personality, mood, level of our knowledge about that particular issue, level of our self-awareness, level of our mind's lucidity and so on.

    I think there are quite a few talks at TED which touch this question from various directions, although they do not necessarily claim directly doing so.
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    Apr 8 2013: Do we have an opinion about everything?
    but it should be as easy as possible for us to get an informed opinion about anything.

    As for how oppinions are formed:
    It depends... you can form an opnion actively/explicitly. In such a case it is very conscious, and probably accompanied by searching behavior and attention towards things that relate with the topic of choice

    If you are asked about an opinion that you actually never thought about, you make a quick assesment of it in your brain (which will be very vulnarable to priming), and come up with an opinion that seems in line of your way of thinking.

    And often such opinions are formed implicitly, according to your environment (enculuration, socialisation), and probably according to our biological predisposisions (e.g.: we humans tend to avoid incest, and that has some clear biological roots)

    I know this answer is too short, but I guess you can find ways to inform yourself ;-)
  • Apr 8 2013: Hi Thomas,

    Nice topic. :-) I think that we are all unique beings and that's why our feelings, lives and thoughts are so different. That's the way it should be. I believe in people making the difference and expressing themselves, but properly and with respect.

    Many people confuse the term "opinionated" with "complainer" or "critic". I believe we are all entitled to our ideas and opinions and sharing them with the world, but always respecting each other's beliefs and ways of thinking. As long as there's tolerance and respect, opinions should be encouraged. As you said in your introduction: it's how we make our identity.
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    Apr 3 2013: As I grow older there are less and less stuff I have strong opinions about and in most cases I tend to keep them to myself. There are very few things (like racial and gender equality) only which I would fight for pretty hard... Most of the things are super-complicated so it is not so good to have strong opinions about them.
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      Apr 5 2013: Hey Tibor,

      Thanks for the contribution.
      I agree that certain topics will have priority over others in our lives, thus our opinions are likely to follow the same order.

      Here's a question for you... As you said that "most of the things are super-complicated so its not so good to have strong opinions about them" would that suggest IF you had a greater understanding of the topic you should have an opinion, or can you sit on the fence still with no opinion even though you have great understanding?
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        Apr 5 2013: If I had a greater understanding or felt very passionate about something I would express my opinion!
  • Mar 29 2013: Theres plenty of stuff, more than not, that's over my head here at TED that I would never consider an opinion on, let alone, comment on. Although all who are informed are not opinionated, all opinions should be at the least, somewhat informed.
  • Comment deleted

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      Apr 2 2013: Don, thank you.

      I am saddened to hear TED deletes your comments. I guess that would suggest that even if all of us do have opinions, some are perhaps not welcomed and/or even necessary, in the eyes of others. Ironically, this in itself is a catalyst for opinions!

      I can say that my needs are met by each post, and yours was a fine one indeed. If I may take you up on your last sentence and ask... where you "make a choice" is 1. where you decide to voice an opinion because you feel strongly about the topic, or 2. is it the choosing of the conversation because you discretely have an opinion on this topic?
  • Mar 29 2013: There is much more to be understood and discovered by enquiring deeply and seriously into the opinions of Others......The world is filled to the brim with opinions and beliefs that only Scratch the Surface of any attainable truth.......The shallowness of examination is not hard to see in this world.

    Entertain everything. Believe nothing
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      Apr 2 2013: Thanks Scott... I agree with you.

      Would it be fair to say that you believe that everyone does not have opinions about all topics? Yet, it is wise to listen to those who do have an opinion where your own is absent?
  • Apr 29 2013: opinions are just experiences condensed unto the limit of expressing them in words.

    if i have an opinion about someone - long hairs, cute chin, cat eyes - i have something in my memory to compare them with.

    if i have opinions about country and its politics, it is again from my memory of the government's contribution and negligence.

    opinions are not formed. it is more of a phenomenon to have an opinion. it is resultant of past experiences.

    now to try and form opinions about your questions:

    What is it that makes us form an opinion? the desire to express. until it is expressed, an opinion is just a point of view. when that point comes in public, it is called an opinion.

    Is it something we do through choice? yes. we choose to provide opinions for various reasons.

    On what level of consciousness are opinions formed? in the conscious level. subconscious and super conscious have no use of your opinions. subconscious brain learns through habit and super conscious brain is just energy. so forming views and expressing them as opinions is a purely conscious process.

    Perhaps its the sharing with others that makes us opinionated? absolutely. an opinion comes into existance when it is shared with others. within the limits of our mind, that view is called many things. but when expressed witht he intent to make heard, it becomes opinion.

    How we make our identity? this is a pretty much different question. identity is subject to identification with he surroundings, people around, associating, forming clusters of social units, etc. an identity is more of a definition of a person in social terms. after the identity formation is complete, one may start expressing opinions from past experience or points of views.

    hope it helped. :)
  • Apr 27 2013: Thank you for asking this important question.

    I don’t think we have to have an opinion about everything! What’s an opinion anyway? Accumulated knowledge or thoughts throughout a lifetime? Right or wrong thoughts? Which thought is considered right or wrong? How is an opinion created or adapted?

    Lets look at religions for example: Many groups believe in something they consider the truth and live it. A very simple question that comes up here is: Which belief is a true belief? They could all be untrue! Still millions of humans put their faith in something they consider the truth without knowing if it is!

    Our minds take all bits of information, true or false, and twist thoughts around them all the time. This could be considered insane! How important is all the stuff we know? What’s worth knowing and what’s just junk? How do we find out what we believe wasn't just given to us and is actually true? Any thought could be considered right and wrong from different viewpoints. I’ve read this next part a while ago and it seems to fit in here:

    The sun is rising every morning, which is true from one point of view, but someone could also say the sun never sets nor rises, which is also true, if you are in space above earth. This brings up the question: How credible is any thought, belief or opinion in it’s origin?

    Any belief can quickly turn into a dogma, law or regulation, but it can also disappear as quickly once a new level of understanding is reached! This shows the impermanent nature of a belief. So how do we know that any belief or opinion is more true than another? I have a feeling that there’s something that is more important than a belief or an opinion. This something might be the awareness in each and everyone that enables us to believe in something, the consciousness that is there before any thought. However, i "believe" it is “good” to believe in something even if it’s an untrue belief, because how else could we come to realize it’s falsity!?
    All the best
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    Apr 27 2013: opinions are created from the level of light you have obtained in this life. also the people who are present in the conversation will effect your opionion. because you love the people around you and if you speak from your heart what ever you do say will have things that the other person might be able to use in some way. we are all connected
  • Apr 24 2013: Maybe at some point in the future, I will choose my words like a great orator. But not today.

    Yeah, as long as you're paying attention, processing the info is an intrinsic process.
    But then there's the (conscious or unconscious) decision to even pay attention.
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    Apr 23 2013: "Really though, there are just too many issues out there to have opinions on everything. I only have so much brainspace!." On the contrary, I would say that your brain can store as much or as little as it chooses.

    When someone says anything you will have drawn an opinion from numerous things. What they said, how they said it, how they were standing when they said it, what their voice was like when they said it. Your opinion is yours, you have it, you draw it. Sometimes its just a case of picking the right time and moment to express it. Social etiquette dictates that more than anything. How you choose to act on that social etiquette defines you as a person I suppose but that might be a completely different question. I agree with Michael on this, more than anything. If more people were encouraged to speak their mind freely and not fear social downfall then I think people everywhere would be leading healthier, more stimulating lives. But then more social etiquette comes in to play. Apparent arrogance, the viability of sources, who said what and why...
    • Apr 24 2013: I get what you're saying. If I receive new information on a topic, I MUST make a decision about what to do with that info, and the metadata on context and situation. Even if I decide that it is not relevant to me, or I am not relevant to the topic, that is still my formulated opinion.
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        Apr 24 2013: Marvellous. However, unless I'm interpreting it wrong, I would have thought that MUST would not be the right word. Must leads me to think that there is a choice and that absorbing the information and processing it is a choice. I would have thought that it's just 'something' that happens. But yes, I would've thought that you're very right. Edit: Especially in the case of someone speaking to you. It would be like trying to 'unhear' music.
        • Apr 24 2013: Hi Henry and Kevin,
          I enjoyed reading your comments, and was especially struck by your comment, Henry, that not processing information while someone speaking to you is like 'unhearing' music. How right on that is! Music and speech evolved almost simultaneously, music is a form of communication that touches our intuition and emotion, where I like to think our opinions also originate.
  • Apr 20 2013: I do believe everyone has got an opinion on almost everything. even if its a mere thought or the travel of mind on what the thing could be.
    but, Ive faced a problem concerning this idea. its not always easy to speak up your mind, sometimes you just feel as if the room is there to attack you as soon as the idea is out. especially when its not in the fields of your expertise.
    Words are dangerous, they could give off the best idea about your identity or do the complete opposite
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    Apr 20 2013: The more I think of this, the more I am forced to share my opinion, *grins*.

    We should all start a new campaign towards everyone we meet, a campaign to encourage everyone to speak their minds no matter what it is, it's important since it's from each and every one of you.

    Opinions are the reason we have many forms of technology available, it's the reason we are a work in process civilized society, it's why we have innovation. Since without people freely sharing their minds we wouldn't have the variety of ideas that help evolve already existing ones. Think back to certain eras of history for that one.
  • Gord G 50+

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    Apr 20 2013: Yes! We have an opinion about everything. But everything doesn't care what we think. ;-)
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    Apr 19 2013: G'day Thomas

    No I don't have an opinion about everything & no we shouldn't either unless we know what we are talking about to some extent.

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    Apr 18 2013: We can have opinion on everything if it does not harm any body. AND donot venture anywhere uninvited.
  • Dan F 50+

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    Apr 16 2013: Having opinions is characteristic of the thought process from the most sophisticated to the most superficial among us. The more open minded are likely the student types whom are encouraged to be open to learning by parent(s), or teachers, or other important influences and contacts.

    Adult life is full of decisions involving opinion driven situations. It is part of the aging and maturing process.

    Although each of us are expected and naturally tend to form opinions due to family influence, peer pressure, schooling, life experiences, etc., that fact does not need to preclude our individual ability to rethink any given opinion we may hold, no matter how strong.

    Perhaps this is the true beauty of living in a more free and open society.
  • Anh Le

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    Apr 16 2013: I would say "No, we don't have to". Personally I give opinions that I have certain knowledge about. If I am unsure, I'd prefer to stay with the "no opinion" mode. I also think sometimes the relevancy between "assumption" and "opinion". Because somebody tends to give opinion when they are not fully acknowledged about some specific topic, is it just an assumption or should it be considered as an opinion?
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    Apr 15 2013: I only make opions on things (I think) I know about.
    You shouldn't have an opinion if you don't know what you are talking about, I mean do I have an opinion on string theory?
    No, because I don't understand it.
    I feel that you should only voice an opinion if you "think" you have something worthwhile saying!
    Yet I must admit, I do have a habit on commenting everything which intrigues me! :)
    " On what level of consciousness are opinions formed". I would say opinions are mostly unconscious, yet this is just a pure hypothesis!
    Yet you must be willing to admit your wrong. (If you are!)
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      Apr 15 2013: Bernard,
      You and Thomas ask...."On what level of consciousness are opinions formed".?

      Why would opinions be "unconscious" Bernard? Perhaps if the person is living a life unconsciously?

      I suggest opinions are formed depending on how much information we are willing to consider from several levels of consciousness. The more mindfully aware we are, the more information we assimilate on different levels.....make any sense?
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        Apr 15 2013: Very simply because I don't believe as much free-will as we like to think!
        And the fact that so many things influence our decisions, which are out of awareness. I mean take the Stanley Millgram experiment (the obedience one!) if you did one set of conditions everybody would rebel, if you did another set of conditions (almost) everybody would be 100% obedient.
        So in that sense I am not sure I am in full control over my own opinions!
        "I suggest opinions are formed depending on how much information we are willing to consider from several levels of consciousness."
        That is another factor, how much information you have! And how you percieve that information, I mean how people can view the same event different ways. And you can usually find out why, with enough back ground information about them.
        "The more mindfully aware we are, the more information we assimilate on different levels.....make any sense?"
        I do agree. It's just I think we are thinking about this from two very different perspectives! You are thinking (I think! Correct me if I am wrong) that with more information, and an open mind you are more likley to choose opinions, which will be your own choice. And I am saying that you could determine all this if you knew what stimuli formed this opinion! Hope this makes sense as well!
        Kind regards,
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          Apr 18 2013: Dear Bernard,
          I have no desire to "correct" you, and I hope by now you understand that I do not judge opinions to be "wrong".....maybe different......not wrong.

          It appears that we agree with the idea that how much information we have and how we perceive the information influences opinions.

          To clarify..;...I believe all opinions are our choice....depending on how we assimilate, evaluate and accept information. You say...."I don't believe as much free-will as we like to think!"

          Perhaps that is a point we do not agree on. I believe, assuming we are functioning adults, that we are free to form opinions.
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      Apr 19 2013: can't have an opinion even if you stay at holiday inn?
  • Apr 9 2013: Very clever ideas, Zhao!

    "...I can only use my stick to measure your stick" is so true.

    And that is a good philosophical point you made: if our judgement is based on Universal Truth, is it still subjective opinion?

    My opinion is no, it did not come from us but was somehow revealed and given to us. So it remains Truth if it is preserved and communicated without modification. Like good copyrighters, we must then always be careful to state the source of our comments so that there is no confusion between preserved/revealed Universal Truth and changing subjective personal opinion. I will try to practice that. :-)

    "The Truth is..." vs. "But my undecided personal opinion is..."
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    Apr 8 2013: Yes and... yes.