Critical Thinking ………… in a sea of facts and pseudo facts

 

 

So one of my biggest gripes these days is the lack of critical thinking when encountering the “latest” studies/research.

Wikipedia defines critical thinking as:

Critical thinking is clear, reasoned thinking involving critique. Its details vary amongst those who define it. According to Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgement’s. During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned and well thought out/judged.[1] The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking , May 23, 2015

I prefer Critical thinking web’s definition:

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

  • understand the logical connections between ideas
  • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • solve problems systematically
  • identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself. – http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php , May 23, 2015

But what does this all mean?  My point, is that not all studies are equal, and the sources of the information on the web or at large need to be looked at with a critical eye. As to ascertain whether these “facts” are actually facts.

Personally, I break this down into several steps.

  1. Is it a peer reviewed publication? – Not all publications are equal
  2. What kind of study was it? – I have a preference for double blind studies, though depending on the data being collected this isn’t always possible.
  3. How large is the sample size? – Speaks to whether we can glean information for the population at large.
  4. What was the method for testing and measuring results? – A flawed experiment will result in flawed data.
  5. Does the author have any connection to the product they are testing? – Unfortunately bias can exist in situations where the Author could gain financially or otherwise from a particular outcome.

Beyond that, I’ve found a great handout from the University of Toronto on critical thinking you can find here .  I highly recommend taking a look at it.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

Critical Thinking_ AE

 

 

~Raj “The MD” Kutty

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One thought on “Critical Thinking ………… in a sea of facts and pseudo facts

  1. I’m not sure all people are created equal in this regard. People seem to be more products of popular prejudices and confirmation biases than of their own independent critical thought. The problem is that arguments both logical and reasonable can be constructed for almost any view from facts. Critical thinking must consider the unknown, it requires imagination and some people may simply lack the ability…

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