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Critical Thinking

Thinking systematically about one's own thinking in order to improve it.

Three interraleted dimensions:

Analyze, Evaluate, Improve (or reconstruct)

Goals of critical thinking

Learn to critique your own thinking, Establish new habits of thought, Develop confidence in reason

Weak-sense vs. Strong-sense

Weak sense: Use of critical thinking to defend one's current beliefs
Makes no effort to consider viewpoints counter to one's own viewpoint
Strong sense: Commitment to evaluating all beliefs, especially one's own
Consistent pursuit of what is intellectually fair and just

Traits of a Critical Thinker

Intellectual humility
Intellectual courage
Intellectual empathy
Intellectual perserverance
Confidence in reason
Intellectual autonomy

Three functions of the mind

Thinking, feeling, wanting

The mind communicates three messages

Incidents happening in your life, Feelings about what's happening, Things to pursue or direct our energy toward

Thinking, feeling, and wanting interralate closely and dynamically

Wherever one is operative, the other are also present
Each continually influence the other two

Single difference

In analyzing causation, looking for a casual factor that is present in one situation but absent in another, similiar, situation
ex. Only those tourists who visited a given village were infected with a tropical disease; those who did not were disease free

Common factor

In analyzing causation, looking for a single shared factor
ex. Tourists infected with a tropical disease all took the same flight

Concomitant variation

In analyzing causation, looking for a pattern of variation between a possible cause and a possible effect
ex. Medical researchers expose laboratory animals to different strains of a topical microbe to see which are likely to cause sickness

Process of elimination

In analyzing causation, successively ruling out non-causal actors until one correct casual factor remains
ex. To figure out why tourists were sick, blood tests ruled out five different diseases and singled out one tropical microbe that was causing the sickness

Second-order thinking

Another term for critical thinking. It is first-order thinking (or ordinary thinking) that is consciously realized (i.e., analyzed, assessed, and improved). Term used by Paul and Elder.

Egocentrism

The tendency to view everything in relationship to oneself and to regard one's own opinions, values, or interests, as important.

Sophistry

The ability to win an argument regardless of flaws in its reasoning.

Weak-sense thinking

Thinking that does not consider counter viewpoints, that lacks fairmindedness and that uses critical thinking skills simply to defend current beliefs.

Sociocentrism

The assumption that one's own social group is inherently superior to all others.

Intellectual humility

Openness to the possibility that one's beliefs are mistaken and a willingness to reevaluate them in the face of new evidence or persuasive counterarguments. Term used by Paul and Elder.

Intellectual perserverance

The act of working one's way through intellectual complexities despite frustrations inherent in doing so. Term used by Paul and Elder.

Sterotype

A fixed or oversimplified conception of a person, group, or idea.

Intellectual cowardice

Fear of ideas or viewpoints that do not conform to one's own. Term used by Paul and Elder

Intellectual empathy

The act of routinely inhabiting the perspectives of others in order to genuinely understand them. Term used by Paul and Elder

Fair-mindedness

The commitment to consider all relevant opinions equally without regard to one's own sentiments or selfish interests.

Fallacies

Flaws or errors in reasoning which, when found in the premise of an argument, invalidate its conclusion.

Strong-sense thinking

Thinking that uses critical thinking skills to evaluate all beliefs, especially one's own, and that pursues what is intellectually fair and just.

The importance of questions

The process of questioning is the process of critical thinking
The Socratic method is a disciplined system of asking questions

Three categories of questions (Paul and Elder)

Questions of fact, preference, and judgment

Questions of fact

Evidence and reasoning within single system
--Only one correct answer

Questions of preference

Subjective choice
No judgement or assessment
--Many possible answers based on subjective preference

Questions of judgment

Evidence and reasoning within multiple systems
Competing answers
Reasoned judgment
--More than one answer, with some better than others

Strategic thinking

Two components
-Identification. Recognizing when your thinking is irrational or flawed.
-Intellectual action. Engaging and challenging your own thinking.

Mill's Methods of Determining Causation

-English philosopher John Stuart Mill developed methods of determining causation
-Helpful when figuring out cause and effect

Which of the following is a question of judgment that requires critical thinking?

What is the most effective and safest way to design a roadway system to achieve efficiency?

The federal government is considering setting aside land for a new national monument. An employee in the govenor's office of the state where the monument may be designated is asked to research the possible economic impact of the designation.What critical thinking strategy should the employee use to clarify the issue?

Determine the main sources of potential information and begin research.

A city has recently built a new sports arena in a downtown urban area that already has parking problems. The residents of the downtown area where the sports areana has been built have proposed that the city issue the residents parking permits and designate the majority of the parking spaces in the area of the arena as "permit-parking only," so residents are not inconvenienced by the arean. What primary questions would the city want to ask to measure the implications of this solution?

Have we identified the negative implications of the proposed solution?
Have we identified the positive implications of the proposed solutions?
Have we considered all significant implications known at this time?
Have we identified the parties who could be affected by this solution and considered the implications to them?

In which of the following situations would it be most appropiate to apply critical thinking?

Determining the best way to design a college campus.

Sweeping generalizations

are based on one experience and generalized to a whole group.

Appeal to authority

type of argument in logic in which an expert or knowledgeable other is cited for the purpose of strengthening the argument

Elements of reasoning

Implications
Assumptions
Concepts
Point of view
Information
Questions
Purposes
Inference

Standards of critical thinking

Significance
Precision
Accuracy
Logic
Fairness
Depth
Breadth
Relevance
Clarity
Completeness

Which of the following statements about influence of assumptions within reasoning is correct?

All reasoning begins with assumptions because reasoning must take some things for granted.
A defective assumption can lead to defective reasoning.
Some assumptions are justifiable.

How might one go about reading a daily newspaper with as little influence from biased reporting as possible?

Deconstruct news stories and reconstruct them with alternative biases and slants.

Which are the following are elements of reasoning?

Evidence, Point of view, Assumptions

A journalist is preparing to write a story about the pros and cons of the new alcohol restriction proposals in the state. What is the legal first step in the process of analyzing the issue?

Clarify the question at issue

Strength or weakness: The study included all known food-related pathogens.

Strength. Most studies look only at the largest culprits.

Strenght or weakness: The person who conducted the study is a former Food and Drug Administration economist and an assistant professor of consumer science at Ohio State University.

Strength. The person has demonstrated expertise in the field.

Strength or weakness: The study included estimates of aggregate economic losses long-term pain and suffering losses and other "quality of life" losses.

Weakness: Although this may be a moral choice, the costs are difficult to calculate, which may compromise the findings.

Strength or weakness: The methodology followed principles used by economists a the FDA and USDA, the two primary food safety agencies.

Strength: This was used to migrate the compromise of using the estimates.

Strength or weakness:To mitigate the health-care costs uncertainties, the study employed confidence intervals and a sensitivity analysis.

Strength: This gives the methodology used credibility.

Strength or weakness: The primary objective of the study was to encourage policy makers to enact legislation that will increase food safety standards in the US.

Weakness: This gives the study a built-in bias.

Strength or weakness: The study includes costs at the aggregate level and pathogen-specific level broken out by state.

Strength: The level of detail adds to the strength of the study.

Strength or weakness: The outbreak data for produce does not distinguish between fresh, canned, and processed items.

Weakness: due to lack of specificity

Evidence or reasoning: Losing muscle mass due to aging may not be inevitable.

Reasoning

Evidence or reasoning: Muscle mass of those participants in the upper age groups was comparable to those in the lower age groups.

Evidence

Evidence or reasoning: There was little fat infiltration in the muscle of all participants.

Evidence

Evidence or reasoning: Reduced function may be caused by inactivity rather than aging.

Reasoning

Evidence or reasoning: The scientists noted a drop-off in leg muscle strength around age 60.

Evidence

Evidence or reasoning: Some activity is better than none.

Reasoning

Evidence or reasoning: The 70 year old athletes were as strong as the 60 year old athletes.

Evidence

You are a psychologist in private practice. How does your ability to use the elements of reasoning help you do your job?

It helps you make inferences about your clients.
--Inference is one of the elements of reasoning. A skilled reasoner will make inferences that follow from the evidence and reasoning presented.

In light of having many students in the classroom who do not seem well prepared in the basis of good writing, a writing instructor has decided to redevelop the curriculum for freshman composition for next semester. Which two questions should the teacher consider in order to employ the element of critical thinking in this problem?

What is the purpose of having good writing skills?
What steps have my colleagues locally and nationally taken to address the issue?

How could the standards of critical thinking to justify clergy priviledge, the much-discussed and controversial legal protection of the confidentiality between clergy and penitent?

The ethics regarding the practice of free religion are relevant in the creation of the legal policy.

Which two questions would a student ask to apply critical thinking principles to the study of information technology?

What are the main types of information that professionals in this field use?--Information is an element of reasoning
What are some of the main questions that professionals within this field ask?--All thinking raises questions

Which of the following problems has a solution that is widely accepted by experts?

What is the best medical approach for treating alcohol poisoning?

A charitable organization is suffering from decreased donations. The board of directors holds a meeting to address the problem; however, they cannot reach a consensus on how to address the problem.

What critical thinking strategy might they adopt to help them make a decision?

They make a decision to gather more evidence about the causes of their decreased donations.

A newspaper article spotlights three people who are on a waiting list to receive an organ donation. The article also urges readers to register for organ donation. What implications of the proposed solution need to be considered?

The financial impact of organ donation on health care costs.
The financial stability of the organ recipient.

In which of the following situations would critical thinking most appropriately apply?

Determining the best exercise to lose weight.

A motion in front of the city council in your city would increase the number of streetlights in your neighborhood. The neighbor to your south is appearing before the council to argue in favor of this motion. He would like your support. The neighbor to your north is appearing before the council to argue against this motion. She would also like your support. You have listened to both arguments from your neighbors and they both seem to make good points. You have decided to do a little research yourself before you reach a decision.

Which of the following sources would be relevant to the decision you are making?

A study showing the latest crime statistics in your neighborhood, which are broken out by "time of day."
The website of the state chapter of a national astronomy association, which always argues against additional lighting.
The minutes from prior city council meetings discussing the issue and leading up to tonight's vote.

You are driving a long distance between cities when you realize that your car makes a funny noise when you accelerate. As you drive, you listen for the noise at 20 mph, again at 40 mph, and again at 60 mph.

Which method of causation are you employing?

The concomitant variation method

Over the past five years, per capita consumption of fast food in America has risen consistently. This proves that Americans care less about their health now than they did five years ago.

What assumptions are present in this argument?

Fast food consumption is a key indicator of attitudes about health.
People who care about their health don't consume fast food.
Fast food is unhealthy.

In a history class, the professor begins the lecture on the first day with this statement: "Let's just assume that history matters."

How might you go about determining whether or not that assumption is valid?

Look for examples and other evidence that support or defy the assumption.

Which of the following are standards of critical thinking:

Clarity
Sufficiency

Which of the following are elements of reasoning?

Purpose
Question at issue
Inference

Strenght, Weakness, or Neutral: The study was conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families in conjunction with the American Association of University Women.

Neutral

Strenght, Weakness, or Neutral: The study accounted for factors that may effect pay including college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status and number of children, and still found a wage gap between men and women.

Strength

Strength, weakness, or neutral: The study looked at 111 occupations.

strength

Strenght, weakness, or neutral: The purpose of the study was to encourage employers and lawmakers to make changes to close the gender gap.

weakness

Strength, weakness, or neutral: The study was well cited and the sources included the U.S Dept of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the American Journal of Sociology among others.

strength

Strength, weakness, or neutral: The methodology for compensating for non-discrimination related factors was not adequately documented.

weakness

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