How to Improve Critical Thinking

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How to Improve Critical Thinking
Being able to think critically is an essential skill. You need to wade through what everyone is saying and pick out the truth from the nonsense. Critical thinking isn't just for detecting fake news, however. You also need it to make accurate decisions. Should you buy a house or rent?


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Critical thinking...

...doesn’t happen because you’ve studied some abstract logical form and come to valid deductions.

 It happens because you know enough about how the world works to rule out certain...


The right way to improve critical thinking

  • Create contexts that enable smart decisions: recognize what you’re actually doing when you’re reasoning about things and use this knowledge to try to avoid making common mistakes
  • ...

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    Debating problems

    Many well-known problems of human reasoning disappear once you get a group of people together and let them talk about it.

    It's a good way to see your ideas refuted or let stronger idea...

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    Six levels of critical thinkers

    Six levels of critical thinkers

    Researchers identified six predictable levels of critical thinkers:

    • The unreflective thinker
    • The challenged thinker
    • The beginner thinker
    • The practicing think...

    The Unreflective Thinker

    These are people who don't reflect on thinking nor consider the consequences of not thinking. Their prejudices and misconceptions lead them.

    They do not consistently apply standards like accuracy, relevance, precision, and logic.

    The Challenged Thinker

    People at this intellectual stage are aware of the importance of thinking and know that the lack of thinking can result in major issues.

    • They acknowledge that their own mental processes might have many flaws but are unable to identify all the weaknesses.
    • They may spot some instances of their own self-deception.
    • They may have a sense that proper thinking involves navigating assumptions, inferences, and points of view, but only on a basic level.

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    We’re swayed by anecdotes

    We’re swayed by anecdotes
    Most of us are influenced more powerfully by personal testimony from a single person than by impersonal ratings or outcomes averaged across many people. This is the power of anecdote to dull our criti...

    We’re overconfident

    We overestimate our comprehension of the science. 

    Part of the problem seems to be that we infer our understanding of scientific text based on how well we have comprehended the language used. This “fluency bias” can also apply to science lectures when it is delivered by an engaging speaker.

    We’re seduced by graphs

    It doesn’t take a lot to dazzle the average newspaper or magazine reader using the superficial props of science, be that formulas, graphics or jargon. 

    One study found that participants were far more likely to support new evidence when it had a graphic visualisation of the correlational evidence than if they had read the same evidence without a graphic.

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    Think like Sherlock Holmes

    “What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

    "Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought...


    As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

     As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

    Pitfalls of the Untrained Brain

    Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

    • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
    • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

    To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

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