What should a course on critical thinking include?

What should a course on critical thinking include?

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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#21  Postby igorfrankensteen » Sep 11, 2014 11:51 am

Oh, and also film making. Just because people have heard of CGI and stuntmen, doesn't mean that they can't still be fooled by video that has simply been PRESENTED cleverly.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#22  Postby surreptitious57 » Sep 11, 2014 12:34 pm

The difference between evidence and proof

The false equivalence between popularity and truth

The manipulation of statistics to falsely determine something

Accepting that some questions may not have definitive answers to them

Avoiding emotional reasoning as a justification for rejecting or accepting something
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#23  Postby orpheus » Sep 11, 2014 1:55 pm

Mazille wrote:Maybe you could incorporate an insight into our inherent limitations of thought and perception, which can bias our understanding of the world. I did the gorilla experiment with a group of my students a couple of years ago and it worked like a charm. They were in their first semester of a social science-y discipline, though and knew next to nothing about anything, so it was rather easy to baffle and surprise them with it.


This gorilla experiment? If so, I can see why it worked so well — it's brilliant. It dramatically confronts one with the fallibility of one's own perceptions.

@Kasper G, I'd also recommend Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World, or at least excerpts from it. (The book is very good but unevenly edited. The students probably need not read the whole thing.)

Michael Shermer has already been mentioned. You might check out his book, Why People Believe Weird Things. I read it long ago. I seem to recall that it too was uneven, but the best bits might be very helpful.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#24  Postby igorfrankensteen » Sep 11, 2014 10:58 pm

The trick for this is that it's not WHAT people need to be taught, that's fairly obvious. The trick is, how to go about getting it all across.

Saying "teach critical thinking and skepticism" for example, sounds nice, but accomplishes nothing. You might as well end the class after standing up at the front of the room and saying

"Don't be butt-heads."
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#25  Postby murshid » Sep 12, 2014 10:51 am

orpheus wrote:@Kasper G, I'd also recommend Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World

An excellent suggestion. I'd also recommend "Believing Bullshit" by Stephen Law.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#26  Postby Alan B » Sep 12, 2014 12:39 pm

I think any course on critical thinking should include studies on how not to think critically. The creationist thought processes would be prime examples.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#27  Postby Nicko » Sep 13, 2014 2:31 am

igorfrankensteen wrote:The trick for this is that it's not WHAT people need to be taught, that's fairly obvious. The trick is, how to go about getting it all across.

Saying "teach critical thinking and skepticism" for example, sounds nice, but accomplishes nothing. You might as well end the class after standing up at the front of the room and saying

"Don't be butt-heads."


This is to misunderstand what a course in critical thinking should be about.

Too many people here seem to think it should be teaching "debunking" or refuting religion. Critical thinking is not about WHAT you think, but HOW to think. That is, processes rather than information.

What any course in thinking should avoid like the plague is attacking ideas that people have a strong emotional attachment to. Like religion.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#28  Postby quas » Sep 13, 2014 4:53 pm

igorfrankensteen wrote:I'd recommend a good section on SELLING THINGS. Specifically, you would want to directly address how sales techniques use emotion to overcome rationality, desire to overcome the will to be careful.

Another good element would be a course in Magic. How magic tricks are performed, especially including the fundamental of misdirection, and the way that magicians take advantage of an audience's existing myths and doubts.

One more requirement would be a solid grounding in how to conduct historical research. How to tell the difference between what someone SAYS happened, and what ACTUALLY happened. And, how to STOP a the point where you realize that you CAN'T prove that you know what actually happened.


These are all very good. For the magic section, you would have to dwell into a more specific sub-category like mentalism.
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those who think alike than those who think differently. -Nietzsche
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#29  Postby VK-machine » Sep 14, 2014 2:22 pm

Have a look at How We Know What Isn't So by Thomas Gilovich. You can preview it at google books. I think it may be exactly what you are looking for.


Looking at magic tricks is a good idea, IMHO. I don't know if it should be included in a course but I think it can make the course much more engaging while teaching a valuable lesson about human perception. We don't just see what is there but also what we think is there.
Cold reading plays with the same principle. What we think someone says may not be what someone really says. Cold reading deserves more attention because it is not just psychics who use it. Psychological profiles (notably the famous Rorschach-test)c may operate on the same principles. How many people know that the Rorschach test is bunk?
Ian Rowland's The full facts book on cold reading is entertaining. easy to read and quite eye-opening. At $25 it's a bit pricey, though.


I would definitively include something about testing a psychic claim. Some skeptical organizations conduct tests of psychic claims every now and then. Invariably people fail to do what they claim. And invariably they find some excuse. That is rational in a sense: If your powers have been reliable so far, you shouldn't change your opinion based on one failure. Rather you should look for what was different. Nevertheless, the fact that people who look just as sane as anyone, can be so closed to the obvious facts has an important lesson. Testimonials about miracles and the like are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VAasVXtCOI


What I think is a must to include is wrongful convictions. That's hugely relevant (unlike psychic or religious claims). Many of these are because people have false confidence in eyewitness testimony. Most people don't realize the limitations of human perception and memory.
There are some non-profits dedicated to the issue like the Innocence Project in the US. They have some information on the subject. It might be a good idea to contact them about material for the course.

Here's a talk about one such case: http://www.ted.com/talks/scott_fraser_t ... _testimony
I recommend it to everyone.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#30  Postby Nicko » Sep 15, 2014 9:39 am

VK-machine wrote:Have a look at How We Know What Isn't So by Thomas Gilovich. You can preview it at google books. I think it may be exactly what you are looking for.


Looking at magic tricks is a good idea, IMHO. I don't know if it should be included in a course but I think it can make the course much more engaging while teaching a valuable lesson about human perception. We don't just see what is there but also what we think is there.
Cold reading plays with the same principle. What we think someone says may not be what someone really says. Cold reading deserves more attention because it is not just psychics who use it. Psychological profiles (notably the famous Rorschach-test)c may operate on the same principles. How many people know that the Rorschach test is bunk?
Ian Rowland's The full facts book on cold reading is entertaining. easy to read and quite eye-opening. At $25 it's a bit pricey, though.


I would definitively include something about testing a psychic claim. Some skeptical organizations conduct tests of psychic claims every now and then. Invariably people fail to do what they claim. And invariably they find some excuse. That is rational in a sense: If your powers have been reliable so far, you shouldn't change your opinion based on one failure. Rather you should look for what was different. Nevertheless, the fact that people who look just as sane as anyone, can be so closed to the obvious facts has an important lesson. Testimonials about miracles and the like are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VAasVXtCOI


What I think is a must to include is wrongful convictions. That's hugely relevant (unlike psychic or religious claims). Many of these are because people have false confidence in eyewitness testimony. Most people don't realize the limitations of human perception and memory.
There are some non-profits dedicated to the issue like the Innocence Project in the US. They have some information on the subject. It might be a good idea to contact them about material for the course.

Here's a talk about one such case: http://www.ted.com/talks/scott_fraser_t ... _testimony
I recommend it to everyone.


These are all interesting topics - to me at least - but probably beyond the scope of a semester-long critical thinking course.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#31  Postby quas » Sep 16, 2014 3:27 pm

Zwaarddijk wrote:
quas wrote:One night stay in a locked up haunted premise would do the trick. Whoever loses his/her mind, fails the course.

Doesn't that say more about suggestibility and disposition than about ability for critical thinking?


That's very much true, but then again if you're actually critical then you'd probably find mundane explanations* for the weird experiences you might have. Hmmmm?

*Maybe not actual explanations, but *possible* explanations.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#32  Postby Zwaarddijk » Sep 16, 2014 4:31 pm

quas wrote:
Zwaarddijk wrote:
quas wrote:One night stay in a locked up haunted premise would do the trick. Whoever loses his/her mind, fails the course.

Doesn't that say more about suggestibility and disposition than about ability for critical thinking?


That's very much true, but then again if you're actually critical then you'd probably find mundane explanations* for the weird experiences you might have. Hmmmm?

*Maybe not actual explanations, but *possible* explanations.

Fear is a thing that easily might suspend any ability for rational thinking temporarily. So there's that.

Evolution has wired us not to think too much in times of perceived danger.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#33  Postby Spearthrower » Sep 21, 2014 11:31 am

I spent quite some time developing a course on this a couple of years back, but the course eventually didn't go ahead.

Some of the elements I included in no particular order:

Defining skepticism
Basic overview of epistemology - how can we 'know' something
Necessity of following evidence wherever it leads
Assessing the contributory factors to a claim
Identifying sources of bias - planes of reference
Review of neurology/psychology on cognitive bias
Uncovering unstated assumptions
Marshaling pertinent information
Constructing orders of precedence for problem-solving
Logic and precision of definitions
Correlation is not causation
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#34  Postby Spearthrower » Sep 21, 2014 11:42 am

igorfrankensteen wrote:The trick for this is that it's not WHAT people need to be taught, that's fairly obvious. The trick is, how to go about getting it all across.

Saying "teach critical thinking and skepticism" for example, sounds nice, but accomplishes nothing. You might as well end the class after standing up at the front of the room and saying

"Don't be butt-heads."



I couldn't speak for others, but my method of teaching would best be described as 'participation-heavy'.

The thrust of each topic would be elicited from the class by a clear, real life example - e.g. a salesman trying to sell cars and the class needing to ascertain how to evaluate the claims made.

Next up would be a short lecture to introduce the key controlling idea of the class - the academic portion.

Then there would be 'controlled practices' where people use the topic material in small groups to achieve a desired outcome.

Then there would be a wider or 'uncontrolled practice' where more general discussion could occur.

Finally, if relevant, some form of role play or class-created exposition would let the students forward their own way of explaining the topic and ensuring they've got the key messages.

Just to note that the term 'teaching' doesn't mean 'lecturing at'. Generally, teachers now use more participative techniques to ensure the class actually puts the mechanisms studied in the class into practice.
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Re: What should a course on critical thinking include?

#35  Postby orpheus » Sep 21, 2014 2:19 pm

How to Think About Weird Things by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughan

I knew there was another book I wanted to suggest. It was scratching at the back of my mind, but every time I tried to think of it, Shermer's similarly-titled one got in the way. Schick & Vaughan's book predates Shermer's be quite a long time. As I recall, it's very good. I used it in a series of college lectures I once gave about critical thinking.
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