Critical thinkers tend to be both analytical and motivated, exhibiting both qualities to sort through the the flux of information these days. It seems everywhere we turn there’s some form of #fakenews or new conspiracy theory that everyone is subscribing to. How do we engage in a healthy debate with flat earthers, or attempt to convince a birther that, in fact, Barack Obama was born in the United States? Maybe some of these debates aren’t worth engaging in.
A wise man told me don’t argue with fools ‘Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who. -Jay Z
Here’s what you need to know about recent research on Critical Thinking:
- Critical thinking appears to be in short supply at a time we desperately need it. One of the proposed solutions to this issue is to incorporate more critical thinking into our education system.
- Critical thinking is more than just a skill set; you have to recognize when to apply it, do so effectively, and then know how to respond to the results.
- Understanding what makes a person effective at analyzing fake news and conspiracy theories has to take all of this into account. A small step toward that understanding comes from a recently released paper, which looks at how analytical thinking and motivated skepticism interact to make someone an effective critical thinker.
- The research identified two classes of individuals: those who valued their own engagement with critical thinking, and those who viewed it as a moral imperative that everyone engage in this sort of analysis.
- The work comes courtesy of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Tomas Ståhl and Jan-Willem van Prooijen at VU Amsterdam.
- In this new paper, Ståhl and van Prooijen look into how well this sort of critical thinking protects people from bizarre beliefs.
- Overall, a tendency for analytical thinking did provide consistent protection against conspiratorial thinking and other irrational beliefs, but only if it was accompanied by a belief in the value of critical thinking.
Willing but not able?
- The authors, however, acknowledge a limitation in their test for analytical thinking: it only tells whether a person approaches problems analytically—it says nothing about whether they’re any good about doing so.
- This showed that analytical ability was associated with lower levels of belief in conspiracies and the paranormal.
Overall, the authors conclude that their studies “provided support for the notion that skepticism toward paranormal and conspiracy beliefs requires sufficient analytic skills, as well as motivation to form beliefs based on logic and evidence.”
- It suggests that we need to accompany any education efforts with parallel efforts to make critical thinking seem valuable or fun, or it won’t end up being the default approach.