Critical Thinking

A recent post on critical thinking from one of my favorite climate blogs.   In a nutshell there is:

  • Constantly check one’s views against evidence from the real world.
  • Think in terms of multiple, rather than single, causes.
  • Think in terms of the sizes of things, rather than only in terms of their direction.
  • Know many small things and pragmatically apply a “grab bag” of knowledge to make modest predictions about the world (as opposed to knowing one big thing and applying that to everything around)
  • Understand one’s own biases.

From a total different talk on a totally different topic, critical thinking is partly a skill-set and partly an attitude.  

What is interesting here is that this list conforms to most of the lessons that one draws from Bayes theorem.

Advertisements

About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Critical Thinking

  1. Steven Winsor says:

    To me, ‘critical thinking’ is a misnomer…a term used by pointy-headed educational ‘experts’ who think it can be taught. To me, it is ‘complexity thinking’, and it’s more a matter of an individual’s talent and intelligence than something that can be taught. I think trying to teach it for those without this talent is largely money and time wasted.

    • brianblais says:

      @steven: ‘complexity thinking’ – not at all. it really is critical thinking – how to think *critically* about things, as opposed to credulously. I think it can be taught, with some skills and some attitudes. I’ve seen some small progress with my students on some issues. Getting them to demand evidence for things, to think about how to *test* a claim that might be true but may not be, etc…

  2. Phil Cartier says:

    Critical thinking is more common sense than any structured technique. Or perhaps the points mentioned above are simply some facets of common sense.

    Critical Thinking- constantly check one’s views against evidence from the real world.
    Common Sense: Look both ways when crossing the street.

    Critical Thinking: Thinks in terms of multiple causes rather than only their direction.
    Common Sense: Analyze a problem and apply appropriate thinking to it.

    Critical Thinking: Know many small things and pragmatically apply a “grab bag” of knowledge to make modest predictions about the world (as opposed to knowing one big thing and applying that to everything around)

    Common Sense: When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Corrolary- don’t force it, get a bigger hammer.

    Critical Thinking: understand one’s own biases.
    Common Sense: Know thyself.

    • brianblais says:

      @phil: I agree with most of these summaries, however “Analyze a problem and apply appropriate thinking to it.” is a bit vague to me. the point is that there are multiple causes, and they have different magnitudes of effects. A summary would be “avoid black-and-white thinking”.

  3. Steven Winsor says:

    I agree…’avoid black-and-white’ thinking. Think of the people you’ve met…many who are quite intelligent. How many of them are guilty of ‘black-and-white’ thinking. Too many, I would guess. Makes one wonder what ‘critical thinking’ really is. What does ‘critical thinking’ mean? i think it’s an empty term. Better to describe it as ‘deep thinking’…dipping below the surface…considering all available data when arriving at a conclusion…avoiding bias (though virtually impossible as I’d think we’d all agree).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s