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.

 

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