Capstone

Abstract

I present my definition of how I conceptualize critical thinking based on what I have learned in Psych 700.  I follow with how this has influenced the way I look at and use media; how critical thinking is part of my professional practice and how I will use critical thinking in my studies.

Treatment

Critical thinking is a concept, a collection of skills, hence there is no singular definition, nor is there agreement on what skills best define critical thinking.  Scriven and Paul (2001) defined it as “skilfully conceptualising, applying, analysing, synthesising and/or evaluating information.”  One thing that makes defining exactly what critical thinking is it often depends on context.  Another group defines it as “the ability to think clearly and rationally.”  After reading a number of descriptions and thinking in terms of my own training, I would define critical thinking as analyzing the environment. 

Every individual has his/her own way of making sense of the world around, so the depth of analysis and how this information is used varies from person to person.  Context also affects how the information is utilized.  In some cases, analysis of the environment may mean deciding on an action to solve a problem.  It can also be used for understanding and evaluating other ideas, concepts or situations. 

Critical thinking should be based on rational observation and logical evaluation.  This is not always easy to accomplish.  People bring with them a history when they evaluate information.  This history may have led to the creation of preferences, biases, self-interests or other factors that may or may not be obvious in the thought process.

Many of the skills associate with critical thinking have been a part of my professional career.  Observation and data collection is a process that is required in behavior analysis.  Ongoing data collection and frequent evaluation of the information is necessary to determine that the course of action taken if the most appropriate.  I’ve dealt with numerous people incapable of understanding this process, preferring to do what feels right rather than what is most appropriate the situation.

I think the media can also be looked at with a similar critical eye.  Critical thinking related to media is often called media literacy.  All aspects of the media can be logically evaluated, what is harder to determine is its impact on individuals and whether this can be defined as good or bad.   Thanks to research, data collection and analysis, we know media can influence behavior.  What we need to look at now is how this influences behavior over long periods of time.

Critical thinking is an important part of research.  It allows us to evaluate both information we are presented with and how we present our own research to others.  Critical thinking will help me through my PhD study with looking at how I gather information presented by others.  I will evaluate this information based on my ability to find similar information provided by others and whether or not I can trust the information I have found.  I have to keep this in mind when presented my information to others.  How reliable am I?  Am I presenting it fairly?  Did I do my due diligence in making sure information I provide is logical, impartial and based on logical conclusions?

Conclusion

Critical thinking is a skill that can be applied in many contexts and situation.  Academically it allows us to explore and share ideas and information.  It helps us to progress by understanding the world around us and solve new and old problems.

References

 

Cheryl, L. R., & Barbara, J. B. (2009). Global Perspectives: Developing Media Literacy Skills to Advance Critical Thinking. Feminist Teacher, 19(2), 168-171. doi: 10.1353/ftr.0.0042

Cotter, E. M., & Tally, C. S. (2009). Do Critical Thinking Exercises Improve Critical Thinking Skills? Educational Research Quarterly, 33(2), 50-59.

Sperry, C. (2012). Teaching Critical Thinking through Media Literacy. Science Scope, 35(9), 56-60.

Thier, M. (2008). Media and Science: Developing Skepticism and Critical Thinking. Science Scope, 32(3), 20-23. Critical Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking

Critical Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved from Unilearning: http://unilearning.uow.edu.au/critical/

Critical Thinking Community. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/

opencourseware on critical thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved from Critical Thinking Web: http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php

The Baloney Detection Kit. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Work of Michael Shermer: http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/

 

 

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Web Bias

Abstract

I have written this entry to express my views on web bias.  It begins with an example of how misinformation is spread in today’s world and looks at the history of such misinformation.  What follows is how I plan to conduct research on using web related resources knowing that bias exists.

Development

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once quoted as saying, “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but will not rejoice in the death of one, not even my enemy.” This line was tweeted by an individual following the death of Osama Bin Laden because it expressed how she felt about the event.  A Facebook friend forwarded it, and an entertainer retweeted ii to his 1.6 million followers.  On that day, millions of people found comfort in MLK’s words.  Except, Martin Luther King, Jr. never said them, it was a mis-quote heard around the world. 

I use the example above to illustrate why it is important to confirm information.  Even in its short existence, social media has been responsible for the spreading of misinformation, as exampled by the numerous deaths of Jackie Chan.

Accidental misinformation is nothing new.  In 1948, the Chicago Tribune published Dewey Defeats Truman despite Truman’s victory in the election; in 1996, the media focused on Richard Jewell as the Atlanta Olympic bomber, which was determined he was not; and recently arrests in the Boston Marathon were incorrectly reported on the day the event occurred.  Purposeful misinformation has also occurred, particularly during the yellow journalism period. 

Incorrect information can be passed along for a number of reasons, intentional or not.  However, in an academic work, failure to confirm facts and check sources is unacceptable.  A good researcher confirms information and checks facts against more than one source and checks the source of the information.  This is where having databases like the ones available through the school library are great for research.  Peer reviewed journals are the best source of reliable information and being able to access a number of them helps confirm information.

In science, the best way to confirm the validity of a resource is to replicate what is reported.  This has led to the confirmation and debunking of many published findings.  However, not everyone has the ability to do this.  Psychology, in particular, can have difficulty with this as no two people may respond the same way.

Generally, whenever I read something on the internet, the first thing I consider is “Are they trying to sell me something?”  It may not be a product, it may be an idea.  For example, a site may be an “Advertorial,” constructed to look like an objective e-zine but is meant to sell a product. 

The martinlutherking.org site is similar, but they are trying to sell an idea.  They present unflattering information, half-truth and misinformation in such a manner as to appear they do not have an agenda, but they are attempting to make you dislike Martin Luther King, Jr.  Of course, a site only presenting the positive information on someone could be accused of the same thing.

Sites like Wikipedia are a good resource, but again needs to be tempered by the fact that posters are often anonymous and may have certain interests.  Wikipedia has tried to improve its reliability by including references, and pointing out when a reference is lacking.  You may notice Wikipedia referenced several times below.

Snopes is a good resource for confirming whether or not information is true.  Snopes researches topics that are being presented as facts to determine if they really often.  They cite how they have come to the conclusion if the information is factual or not. 

Conclusion

Bias in information is not new.  There is very little that can be done to ensure all information is correct.  Good researchers corroborate facts, check the resources and when possible replicate what others have done.

References

Dewey Defeats Truman. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Defeats_Truman

Easley, J. (2013, April 17). CNN, the AP, and Fox News Get Boston Marathon Bombing Arrest Story Wrong . Retrieved from Politics USA: http://www.politicususa.com/2013/04/17/cnn-ap-arrest-boston-marathon-bombing-cbsnbc-arrest.html

Emery, D. (2013, August 2). ‘Jackie Chan Dead’ Hoax Spreads via Rogue Facebook App. Retrieved from About.com: http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2013/08/02/jackie-chan-dead-hoax-spreads-via-rogue-facebook-app.htm

Gross, D. (2011, May 4). MLK, Mark Twain quotes go viral — and are wrong. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/social.media/05/03/quotes.twain.mlk/index.html

Richard Jewell. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Jewell

Snopes reviews. (n.d.). Retrieved from Site Jabber: http://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.snopes.com

The Baloney Detection Kit. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Work of Michael Shermer: http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/

Thompson, K. (2011, January 16). White Supremacist Site MartinLutherKing.org Marks 12th Anniversary . Retrieved from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-thomson/white-supremacist-site-ma_b_809755.html

What is an Advertorial. (n.d.). Retrieved from Advertorial.org: http://www.advertorial.org/what-is-an-advertorial.html

Wikipedia Review. (10, April 29). Retrieved from CNET: http://reviews.cnet.com/general-reference/wikipedia/4505-3642_7-31563879.html

Yellow Journalism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism

 

A Definition of Critical Thinking

Abstract

In this writing, I present my perspectives on critical thinking.  I begin with my definition of critical thinking.  This is followed with information on how I reached this definition.  I then provide the reader with my thoughts on how media has influenced our critical thinking skills and qualities.

Development

“A man who will not reason about anything is no better than a vegetable.”  This is a quote from Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.E.  What this tells me is people were not better at reasoning and rationality 2400 years ago than they are today.  It also helps lead into my definition of critical thinking, which is the rational and evidence based problem solving.  Of course, thinking is different from doing, and sometimes the most logical answer to a problem is not a course of action that can be taken.

5th Century BC selfies were rather labor intensive

5th Century BC selfies were rather labor intensive

The Socratic Method highlighted on the Wikipedia reading, is the classical style of critical thinking.  I find myself agreeing with much in this form of information gathering. Socrates lived at a time when soothsayers and oracles were used to make decisions.  In his writings, he pointed out numerous times when the logical course of action was not taken and instead suggestions of a psychic were used.  In one such case, a general planned to retreat from a city knowing his forces were in trouble, but decided to stay because he was counseled by a soothsayer to do so.  The army was slaughtered.  If the rational course of action had been followed, the army would have survived.  Socrates defied the established ideas and urged rational and multi perspective evidence for decision making.  This did not work out well for him.

Based on the books I found, one can only be interested in critical thinking if they perceive themselves lacking in this ability.  I think most people feel they are critical thinkers; that they view and evaluate the world around them and reach conclusions based on rationality.  Of course rationality is often in the eye of the beholder.  (I tried finding a poll or something that quantified how people felt about their critical thinking skills, but wasn’t able to find one.  Add this to the list of things that I would like to study. But I believe that if you asked most people, they would say they have critical thinking skills). If people were truly as critical as they perceive themselves to be, we’d probably have much fewer infomercials.  

Including The Bachelor, there are 12 shows dedicated to finding Bigfoot,

Including The Bachelor, there are 12 shows dedicated to finding Bigfoot.

Today’s critical thinkers can find the evidence to support their points of view thanks to the media.  Fox news agree with your conclusions.  Of course if you don’t agree with them, you can tune into MSNBC, and they will tell you you’re right;  want evidence for ghosts, watch The SyFy Channel; believe in bigfoot, watch the History Channel.  Whatever conclusions you reach, there is someone willing to tell you you’re right, and that you should by his/her book.  Many of us mentioned asking others their opinions to judge our own bias, but if we surround ourselves with people who has the same bias, how can we judge ourselves.  And if everyone has the same bias, is it still a bias or group consensus?

In my other post for class this week, I mention Applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at hand as a positive quality of critical thinking.  But who has time for that on every subject.  The media has been nice enough to provide us what we need to know on a variety subjects.  Thanks to CSI, the average person has a complete understanding of police forensics, well they think they do.  The “CSI Effect” has helped people with their critical thinking when on juries.  Unfortunately, everything they know is wrong. 

csi-chart-memes-watching-csiCritical thinking skills have been eroded so effectively that people can’t see it disappearing.  Entertainment is confused for knowledge and evidence.

NIs Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis? is the title of an article published in January 2009.  The proposes that constant stimulus provided by technology—incessant television watching, game playing, internet activity, etc.—has decreased the amount of time we have for processing and reflection upon what we see and hear.  It is reflections and processing that is necessary for critical thinking.  I think technology and media can be as much a help as a hindrance, it all depends on what the user is willing to make time for.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to use critical thinking qualities when the evidence you use is flawed.  How do we teach kids and adults to be strong critical thinkers about the information media provides?  As we enter a more connected world, the ability to determine what is fact from opinion is a crucial skill.  I would like to see more explored on how technology and media can be used for this type of critical thinking.  Wouldn’t a video game based on critical thinking be awesome?  Probably not.  Technology can be used to get more information and perspectives, provided you have the skills necessary to discern true from what you want to be true.   

 “Many people would rather die than think—in fact, they do.”  Bertrand Russell.

References:

Considine, D. (n.d.). Critical Viewing and Critical Thinking Skills. Retrieved from Center for Media Literacy: http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/critical-viewing-and-critical-thinking-skills

Critical Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking

Critical Thinking Community. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/

Flew, A. (1998). How to Think Straight: An introduction to Critical Reasoning. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Heinrick, J. (2006). Everyone’s an Expert: The CSI Effect’s Negative. The Double Helix.

Johnson, P. (2012). Socretes: A Man for Our Times. New York: Penguin.

Los Angeles, University of California. (2009). Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?

Medical Shows Not Always Accurate. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Star: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/television/2010/02/15/medical_tv_shows_not_always_accurate.html

Starkey, L. (2004). Critical Thinking Skills Success. New York: Learning Express.

 

Human Behavior and Media

Media – n. (1) : a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment   (2)  : a surrounding or enveloping substance

My background is in the study behavior.  Once called behavior modification, the field is now generally referred to as Behavior Analysis, mostly for PR reasons. (I assume the name will change again when it becomes clear people don’t like being analyzed any more than they like being modified).  Behavior analysis tries understand how external forces (our environment) influence actions. The field prides itself on measurable observation, use of empirical data and training pigeons for battle.

The Pigeon Bomb, one of the greatest achievements by Behaviorists

The Pigeon Bomb, one of the greatest achievements by Behaviorists

Behavior Analysis has done little to understand what role the media, an enormous part of our environment, plays in our behavior as a species or as individuals.  I think this should be rectified.

As you can see from the definition above, media can cover a broad area and lends itself to a variety of interpretations.  Could a cave painting from 36,000 years ago be considered a form of media?

Message? Doodle? Status Update?

Message? Doodle? Status Update?

Personally, I believe it is.  Even if it was not conceived to communicate, it became a form of communication.  People placed messages on walls, pottery, fabric and many other media, leading to the use of paper and the creation of books.  For a very long time, all of these forms of communication were individually unique and had to be sought out.

There is no doubt to me the ability to communicate is the greatest asset of mankind.  Passing information from one person to another; from one continent to another; from one generation to another has allowed unimaginable progress.  It took 36,000 years to progress from cave paintings to printing press,

In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made his first tweet.

In 1450 Johannes Gutenberg made his first tweet.

but only 600 years to go from the printing press to the iPhone. What has motivated mankind to progress so rapidly with in this area?  That’s what I would like to better understand.

Media, once limited to static words and images on objects, has transformed into a moving, talking, dynamic collective consciousness.  We are able to carry a museum worth of images and information on a device available 24 hours a day.

A key to omniscience, omnipresence and Angry Birds

A key to omniscience, omnipresence and Angry Birds

Media now surrounds us; enveloping us in a bubble that influences what we think and how we act.  It informs us and entertains us.  It can show us the best way to work in current traffic conditions and let us travel to a galaxy far, far away in the span of a few minutes.  What can be delivered to us has changed not only in the last 10,000 but in the last 5 years.

What, no Xbox?

What, no Xbox?

The evolution of media greatly intrigues me.  How has media affected our behavior?  How have we affected how media is made and delivered?  Was the cave painter motivated by the same need to express him/herself that influences people to post videos on Youtube?  I think it can be argued, “Yes, the same need for attention through self-expression and attention was the motivational force.” I hope to better understand the relationship between our modern environment and our behavior.

It’s a beautiful thing, the Destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. . .After all, what justification is there for a word when you can omg, ttyl, brb or lmao.

–George Orwell, sort of