Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Myths About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking (rational thinking) is good thinking; it involves forming appropriate goals, goal optimization and forming evidence based beliefs. Two common myths associated with critical thinking are emotion prevents critical thinking and critical thinking is synonymous with formal logic.

Emotions may enhance instrumental rationality, or they may impede it. Emotions provide an approximation of the correct response.  If more accuracy than that is required, then a more precise type of analytic cognition will be required (Stanovich, 2009)  It is possible to rely too much on the emotions.  We can base responses on an approximation when what is really needed is a more precise type of analytic thought.  More often than not, processes of emotional regulation enhance rational thinking and behavior....

Myths About Rationality

Although many people feel (mistakenly or not) that they could do without the ability to solve textbook logic problems (which is why the caricatured view of rationality works to undercut its status), virtually no person wishes to eschew epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality, properly defined.  Virtually all people want their beliefs to be in some correspondence with reality, and they also want to act to maximize the achievement of their goals.  Psychologist Ken Manktelow has emphasized the practicality of both types of rationality by noting that they concern two critical things:  What is true and what to do.....

Formal Logic

Formal logic consists of different categories. It is concerned with evaluation of argument, often involving what are presumed to be  true premises that lead to a conclusion, that may or may not be valid. Logic isn't a complete system of thinking, as it is incomplete in evidence search; what matters is the construction of the argument. Categories of formal logic include: propositional, categorical, predicate and modal (Baron, 2008). Baron provides a discussion on logic and its various forms in his book - Thinking And Deciding 4th Edition (Baron, 2008). 

Critical Thinking

Educators, so-called evidence based practitioners and researchers  often pay lip service to the idea of teaching “critical thinking”.  But, when asked to define “critical thinking” answers are often weak and sometimes so ambiguous they are virtually worthless.  Common responses when asked to define critical thinking includes, “teaching them how to think”, “teaching them formal logic”, or “teaching them how to solve problems”.  They already know how to think; if they have a normal functioning working memory. When they are awake they are thinking about something. Logic is only a portion of what is needed to increase critical thinking, and teaching them how to solve problems is an ambiguous answer, that is context specific.  Stanovich argues, “that the superordinate goal we are actually trying to foster is that of rationality” (Stanovich, 2010, p.198). Critical thinking, as it is commonly referred, is a weak concept that lacks converging evidence. And, if measured at all, it is often measured in a subjective way, not susceptible to replication. Cognitive science, conceptualizes clearly and provides an array of measures of rational thinking tasks. The first comprehensive assessment was made public in 2016.      


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