Chapter 5 Outline

Chapter 5: Using Critical Thinking

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If you are alive, you will have to make choices. Some choices will require little thought such as what to eat or wear, but not all decisions will come so easy. Most decisions in your personal, educational and professional life must be well thought out and based on logic. This is called critical thinking.

I. Thinking Critically in Your Personal Life

The three areas in your personal life that will most likely require critical thinking are in problem solving, making judgments and making decisions.

a. Problem Solving. The reality is that life has problems and unexpected turns will arise. Some will require little effort while others will be more difficult to solve. How you view your problem makes a difference in how effectively you solve it. Use critical thinking and look at the problem as a growth opportunity.

i. Perform a root cause analysis. Find the root of the problem.

ii. Evaluate the available information. Analyze the information and look at the possible solutions. Distinguish facts from inferences.

iii. Effectively communicate your information to those connected to your problem. After identifying the problem, talk to about the problem and possible solution to those involved.

iv. Make an informed decision and act on it. People tend to struggle with decision making, procrastinating and avoiding the issue. Make the decision and follow through.

b. Making Judgments. Before you can make an accurate judgment, you must have the facts, but that’s not all.

i. Analyze the facts

ii. Evaluate the information

iii. Reflect on what you’ve learned

iv. Interpret the data

v. Draw inferences

vi. Explain your reasoning

vii. Act on your judgment

c. Information Overload. Everyday, our world overloads us with information through television, radio, billboards, etc., which are designed to capture our attention and cause us to make judgments. The way to making accurate judgments is analyzing information, arguments or positions for logical facts.

d. Socrates. Western thinking can be attributed to Socrates’ methods of teaching and problem solving. The Socratic Method focuses on problem solving through hypothesis. It’s important to recognize the difference of valid and fallacious thinking. A few of the following logical fallacies will help develop your ability to evaluate and use information.

i. No true Scotsman. This type of reasoning is called a circular argument.

1. John, a politician, never lies.

2. All true politicians are liars.

3. John must not be a true politician.

ii. The bandwagon fallacy. This is also known as the “everybody’s doing it” fallacy.

iii. The appeal to popularity. A widely held idea must be true. An “everybody knows that” situation.

iv. The genetics fallacy. An argument or proposition is rejected or accepted only on the basis of the source.

v. The appeal to tradition. This is the “we’ve always done it this way” idea; however, tradition can be a hindrance to progress.

e. Decision Making. Being able to look ahead and see the consequences that come with a decision is the basis of a critical thinker.

i. Have a strategy. This can help you feel less stressed when faced with a serious decision. Try using a “Franklin T” to evaluate the “pros” and “cons” of the situation.

ii. Think before you act. Take yourself out of the situation so that you don’t make a rash decision based on emotions.

iii. Conduct your due diligence. It is foolish to make a serious decision without doing research. Countless sources are available to perform research.

Critical thinking is crucial to develop in your personal life in order to save money, choose wisely, avoid negative consequences, be satisfied with what you have and recognize new opportunities as they arise.

II. Critical Thinking in Education

It is vital to develop critical thinking skills to survive the requirements of your academic major.

a. Use It or Lose It. Education is a two part process that involves not only a learning a fact but applying it.

b. Socratic Method. Socrates used a set of questions to engage his students in critical thinking instead of just teaching them. Examples of 11 questions are provided in the text, and four are written below.

i. How did you come to that conclusion?

ii. What is the source of your information?

iii. Why is this issue significant?

iv. What is an alternative explanation?

c. Academic Areas for Critical Thinking. Most college courses will require critical thinking skills. As the skills develop, the easier they will come. After graduation the learned skills will carry into your career.

i. Lectures

ii. Laboratories

iii. Homework

iv. Mathematical exercises

v. Term papers

vi. Essays

vii. Exams

III. Critical Thinking for Your Career

Throughout your career, you might be faced with situations in which you might not know exactly what to do. Machines are made by different manufacturers, which means there might be times when you are unfamiliar with the machinery. By thinking critically, you can make inferences based on a logical evaluation and come to a logical conclusion.

a. Intuition vs. Critical Thinking. With experience, it will be tempting to rely on intuition and instinct rather than critical thinking. Intuition should be used more in situations dealing with people, while technological situations require thinking critically to solve the problem.

i. Know the difference between fact and fiction

ii. Verify the source

iii. Check source for accuracy

iv. Don’t stop asking questions

v. Pride cometh before a fall

b. Check Your Ego at the Door, Please. Critical thinking must take place in the absence of personal wants, desires and opinions including biases, prejudices and stereotypes. Management is not exempt from making emotional decisions. Ad Hominem means attacking a person rather than their way of thinking. Employees and managers need to be on guard for the following cognitive biases:

i. Inertia. A person is unwilling to change thought patterns.

ii. Experiential limitations. Unwillingness to look beyond past experiences, hurts or rejections.

iii. Wishful thinking. Always choosing to view things in a positive light.

iv. Groupthink. Peer pressure to conform to the majority opinion.

v. Premature termination of evidence research. Tendency to accept the first likely explanation.

vi. Selective Evidence Search. Tendency to gather evidence that supports your bias.

Final Thoughts

Critical thinking skills can make or break a career. Critical thinkers advance in their professional lives. It is tempting to take the easy way out and look for the quickest solution, but it is always beneficial to go to the root cause and think critically. The following are a review of critical thinking:

a. Analyze the facts

b. Evaluate the details

c. Reflect on what you learned

d. Interpret the data

e. Draw inferences based on the data

f. Explain your conclusion

g. Act on your conclusion