Similarly, critical thinking isn’t just a single monolithic ability that reduces to abstract logical forms.
Instead it’s numerous facts, inferences, heuristics and context-specific abilities that must be built up through voluminous exposure to real situations.
Although there’s a risk of group think and conformity pressures, if you take a large and diverse enough group, you’re more likely to be exposed to the best reasoning, which will tend to win out over the majority opinion.
One of the biggest challenges to overcome in critical thinking is that you may not properly update your beliefs in the face of new evidence.
Therefore, reasoning about a decision in multiple moods, places and settings will give you the greatest variety of backdrops to reason about things.
How To Build Critical Thinking Skills
If the decision is the same each time, you’re can be more confident that you have the correct assessment.Given what we know about how reason works, there’s a few things you can do: Since reason tends to be more to justify than to generate the right judgement, one way to avoid making mistakes is to reason about the same problem in a lot of different contexts.The modular theory of mind says that rather than a single coordinated function, the brain consists of a lot of semi-autonomous modules that all “vote” their preferred action into the brain.The intelligence comes from throughout the brain, via mostly intuitive modules which are specific and trained through practice, rather than some mystical faculty that does critical thinking.If this theory is correct, then another reason critical thinking is hard to improve is that we’re mostly not coming up with more intelligent decisions when we think critically, but trying to create more appealing arguments for our positions (or more incisive attacks on the arguments of others).The argumentative theory of reason, which I covered in depth here, suggests that the seeming failure of many types of human reason are misinterpreted because they don’t recognize reason’s true function.Instead of a general-purpose way of making better decisions, reason is a faculty for generating explanations and evaluating those of others.The first problem was actually resolved over a hundred years ago by psychologists Edward Thorndike and Robert Woodworth.The popular view of learning of their day was the idea that human brains contained large, distinct “faculties” such as logic, memory and judgement, and that by practicing them on subjects, regardless of their relevance to the real world, would strengthen these faculties just like lifting weights in the gym improves your muscles.Critical thinking isn’t just for detecting fake news, however. This approach starts by teaching you some basic rules of logical deduction, modus ponens, some examples of fallacies and a whole bunch of Latin terminology that philosophers use. Each of these decisions is difficult and important, so being able to think critically about them can make a huge difference in your life.