“A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices”- Edward R. Murrow

How true!

And how this quote changed me! because ever since I read it, I admit to start being more mindful of my thinking process.

I must disagree with Mr Murrow, though, because in my opinion “thinking” is a general term that could be specified into “analyzing”, “examining”, “criticizing”, “remembering”, “taking mental notes” and even “rearranging prejudices” (among others). For me, thinking is the mental activity that could be executed in various ways. This could be likened to when somebody mentions “exercise” and each one of the listeners would think “jogging” or “weight lifting” or any other form of physical exertion to stay fit.

Furthermore, rearranging prejudices could simply be a result of combining different forms of thinking. An observation had to have been made, followed by an analysis, then perhaps some memory searching and criticizing, to finally arrive at having one actual prejudice. This process has to have been repeated a number of times for a person to generate more than one prejudice, which he could then arrange and rearrange as he wishes.

Wouldn’t you agree? Rearranging prejudices could be considered thinking.

Nevertheless, I suppose that I “get” what the quote is supposed to mean: it warns us of our tendency to exercise more prejudice-creation than observation, examination and analysis. It’s easier, after all.

It implicitly recommends us to strike a balance among exercising different forms of thinking. Allowing ourselves to excessively fabricate prejudices will only lead us to the habit of rearranging them, instead of grabbing the opportunity to learn and discover something new, something perhaps even useful to us. If we stick to our analogue: should we spend most of our time creating prejudices, we would only be stretching one side of our bodies.

I read about how prejudices are formed and the first step is to form an opinion without sufficient knowledge. In fact, Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “prejudice as”

an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge

The problem with this is that we normally don’t have the access to “enough” knowledge which would allow us to form a non-prejudice. We can’t even know if the knowledge we possess is sufficient for all our intents and purposes.

So my conclusion? ALL OF US are in fact rearranging our prejudices whenever we “think”. At least now, pedants and know-it-alls could go down their high horse and not act all high and mighty. For we are all prone to bias. That’s humane, actually.

Sorry Mr Murrow…



  1. The Economist
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prejudice

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