Critical thinking method?

Read any good books lately?
kayanco
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Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:39 pm

Hi guys,

Can you kindly recommend me a book on critical thinking:
Which has some kind of structure or steps (simple rules/heuristics) that can be followed. (to separate truth from falsehood, useful from useless/hype)

I have read books like, Thinking fast and slow, Predictably irrational, Nassim Taleb books, etc. So I know we have so many biases and often lack skepticism.

Recently psychology concepts like ego-depletion (Baumeister), priming (Bargh), have failed replication.
And then there are books like:
Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception
Brainwashed: Seductive Appeal of Neuroscience
Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America

which make me think that there are scams, cons, hype in all areas of life.
And on Amazon, there are numerous books on health, education, finance ... it seems impossible to decide which to pick, which to ignore.

So, I'm wondering if there's a book that teaches a systematic framework for critical thinking, de-biasing ourselve, to recognize the underlying structure of all this?

Thanks.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Matthew Ellard » Thu Mar 24, 2016 12:38 am

I think that Pyrrho the moderator is probably the best person to recommend a practical book on critical thinking. I haven't looked, but there may be some books on the topic in the Skeptic Society Internet shop.

I don't know if any book is going to give you what you want. "Critical thinking" can be seen as a set of rules, but there is cross over, as some of the rules end up in other disciplines, like auditing or science and medicine.

It is my personal opinion that the rules of critical thinking are very important, but the real skill is identifying the actual problem that you need to apply the rules to. That skill takes decades to develop.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Mar 24, 2016 6:58 am

I start with the dictionary. 8-) Defining exactly what the subject or issue at hand is critically important. Half the time, if you identify with specificity the actual question/issue/dispute, its cleared up right away. "We think with words, and flower with ideas." Critical thinking starts with critical definitions.

More general foundational approaches: logic as in Socrates and forward, emotions as in Freud and forward.

Courses on rhetoric and debating.

It unnerves me a bit you want a "cook book" to follow. Critical thinking requires a bit more flexibility as the enigma is always surrounded by riddles. I don't think any book/formula/approach/algorithm separates fact from fiction. Truth often is a social construct.

Blah, blah. What have you found lacking in what you have already read?
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:16 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote: ... What have you found lacking in what you have already read?


I haven't really found anything lacking, just that I don't really have a good way to apply those to real world situations.

For example, on Amazon, there are 100s of books on health, finance ... how do I pick the authentic ones from the inauthentic ones? What I've learned so far is that I can't trust my own subjective judgement, or things like which book is rated best selling or most reviews. So how do I decided.

Things like this.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Gord » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:23 am

Check into the individual authors. Especially see if their names pop up at sites like http://www.quackwatch.com/

You might be interested in reading something like The Little Black Book of Scams (that's the Canadian version, but there's at least one other version from Australia: http://www.accc.gov.au/publications/the ... k-of-scams )
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Fri Mar 25, 2016 4:28 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote: ... What have you found lacking in what you have already read?


Or another example, today I came across this video claiming "adding milk to tea can block its beneficial effects"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3KGv1J0qt4

I found myself disagreeing and disliking the video. BUT,

Having read some books like 'Thinking Fast and Slow', I know I'm biased because I myself drink tea with milk, and I can't trust my own judgment on this ... however, at the same time I also believe that I can't blindly trust the "expert" and the conclusion of the video (for various reasons).

BUT,

How do I go about taking a positive position, whether to accept the conclusion or reject it?


So in essence, I'm looking for a book, that can teach me some systematic method to make sense of videos/claims like these?

Thanks.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Gord » Sat Mar 26, 2016 1:18 am

I don't think a single book can help you make sense of such claims. Each claim needs to be looked into independently, and that will require you looking into the source information for that claim.

First of all, does tea even have a beneficial effect, and if so, how significant is it?

On the other hand, what's the harm in drinking tea without milk in it?

You can balance the strength of the claim vs. the potential harm caused by following its advice and decide for yourself whether its worth abstaining from milk in your tea, or if you need to find out more information regarding the health claims first.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby scrmbldggs » Sat Mar 26, 2016 2:16 am

I'll second Bobbo and say go with a dictionary. Here's one I find myself recommending often: The Skeptic's Dictionary. :-D

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat Mar 26, 2016 3:06 pm

kay: you are simply lumping WaaaaaaaaY too many issues under the rubric of critical thinking. Sounds like you want a single approach to identify the truth of dietary choices along with the best retirement plan?

Impossible.

Facts, values, desires, choices, consequences. Most things don't matter.

Identify as specifically as you can what you want to think about, read as much as you can whatever you can find on the subject, find out what works for you. simple. For me: tea is to be consumed for taste. Health has little to do with it, but boil water whenever you can't find clean water as in boiled tea or bottled beer.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:46 pm

Gord wrote: ... First of all, does tea even have a beneficial effect, and if so, how significant is it?
On the other hand, what's the harm in drinking tea without milk in it?...


See, that's exactly what I'm talking about. You made an excellent point. I was just "assuming" (without being aware) that there is some benefit in the first place, that's there for milk to neutralize :)

So I think your thinking seems more reasonable, i.e. first we need to establish, what is this benefit, and how big is it. Maybe it's not big enough that adding or not adding milk wouldn't matter much in the big picture.

That's way I want to improve my thinking.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Gord » Sat Mar 26, 2016 9:19 pm

Well then, I think the one rule to follow is, "question everything". Start with the very first thing, question it, then move on to the next thing even if you don't have the answer yet.

:heyup: Even that. Question what I just said. That's what I'm doing. If we question everything, then should we re-question it again if we encounter it a second time? What if we encounter it repeatedly? We need to accept some things unquestioningly at times, but I think it's important to always come back and question it again at some point.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Mar 27, 2016 8:03 am

"question everything" = aka (or at least an aspect of it) = define the words used to describe the subject.

I can't imagine a "thought process" directly applicable to the health benefit of tea vs tea plus milk that would be "directly" applicable to what kind of retirement planning to do. Depends on what "directly" means, I suppose. Health benefits of tea is I suppose more objective than retirement planning which is more variable.... even when knowing what you are talking about is central to both/all discussions.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Sun Mar 27, 2016 2:26 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:"question everything" = aka (or at least an aspect of it) = define the words used to describe the subject.


This advice by Gord and your earlier advice about defining sounds really good. Thanks.
Last year I might not even have understood it. But recently I read that when correlational or cross-sectional studies are reported, they say something like vitamin D “may” decrease ... or, eggs are "related" to ...

I would read this and think "causes". But now I realize that it's important to first know what is meant by words like may, associated with, etc.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Mar 27, 2016 2:35 pm

Well tay--thanks. I'll ask again: what did you find lacking in the books you have already read and mentioned? And regardless, then I'll add: keep reading. Keep reading until you gain satisfaction for all your questions you still feel motivated to ask.

Once satisfied, recognize but don't get hung up on you could still be wrong. Be open to revisiting settled issues when and if the interest to do so is present. EG: my own position on the health benefits of tea vs with milk. I've read so many health related articles going back and forth, I opt out and go with taste. Most of life will boil down to that.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Sun Mar 27, 2016 3:21 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:...what did you find lacking in the books you have already read and mentioned?


Nothing lacking really. In fact, these books helped me tremendously and educated me on cognitive biases, especially confirmation bias. In short, they took me from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence :)

For me, they've made me aware of a problem, but not really provided a coherent solution or a path to a solution. So I'm just trying to see if there's a ladder of books I can read to be a better thinker (like the saying, teach a man how to fish).

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:10 pm

Can someone please help me converge on a reading plan.

In my research I came up with several different types of books:

Logic books:
Concise Introduction to Logic
Rulebook for Arguments

Critical Thinking books:
Asking the Right Questions.
Critical Thinking, Richard Paul.
Thinking Critically, John Chaffee.
Thinking and Deciding, Jonathan Baron.
Think Smarter, Michael Kallet.

Philosophy books like:
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations
(I've read Stoic philosophy of Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius)

Gerd Gigerenzer (critic of Daniel kahneman) books on heuristics, risk, probabilities (around 6 books)

Propaganda:
The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard.
Propaganda, Edward Bernays.
Age of Propaganda.
Noam Chomsky books.

Other books like:
When Can You Trust the Experts, Daniel Willigham
Misbehavior of Markets.
Poor Charlie's Almanack, Seeking Wisdom (Peter Bevelin)
Michael Mauboussin books.

Any chance we can figure out a reading plan (to become better thinker)? What to read first, and what doesn't need to be read?

Would really appreciate your time and help!

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Gord » Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:55 pm

Haven't read any of them. If I were pushed for a vote, I'd go with one of these five:

kayanco wrote:Asking the Right Questions.

Seems to be well reviewed: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3943 ... er_reviews

Critical Thinking, Richard Paul.

Found an 8-page "miniature guide" for this one: https://www.criticalthinking.org/files/ ... _Tools.pdf

Thinking Critically, John Chaffee.

Not as well reviewed as Asking the Right Questions; seems to be long but basic: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1290 ... er_reviews

Thinking and Deciding, Jonathan Baron.

The reviewers gave it more stars than the people who didn't review it, hmmm: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2466 ... er_reviews

(and it's over 500 pages long?!)

Think Smarter, Michael Kallet.

Fewest reviews and lowest overall score of the five (3.72 stars out of 5): http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1855 ... er_reviews However, it might be the simplest to read and is referred to by one reviewer as an "intro to critical thinking".
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Mar 27, 2016 8:30 pm

kayanco wrote:
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:...what did you find lacking in the books you have already read and mentioned?


Nothing lacking really. In fact, these books helped me tremendously and educated me on cognitive biases, especially confirmation bias. In short, they took me from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence :)

For me, they've made me aware of a problem, but not really provided a coherent solution or a path to a solution. So I'm just trying to see if there's a ladder of books I can read to be a better thinker (like the saying, teach a man how to fish).

Ummmm..... you read a few books and made progress.

Sounds like......... you should read a few more.

All books worth the read. The bad ones teach you what is wrong.

I'm gonna guess you could in fact REREAD those seminal books as reading them should point you in the direction of most interest to you.............. unless.............. you are reading them for some kind of specific/definite ANSWER rather than reading them as a foundation to figure out your own answers.

Wisdom with only a very few exceptions takes more time of thought and reflection than most other activities. I don't have the time for it myself.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby kayanco » Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:24 pm

Thanks all who responded and guided me.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Tom Palven » Tue May 17, 2016 9:00 pm

kayanco wrote:Can someone please help me converge on a reading plan.


I like The True Believer by Eric Hoffer:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer

Also, just glancing at a list of logical fallacies might be of interest:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Matthew Ellard » Wed May 18, 2016 1:04 am

kayanco wrote:Thanks all who responded and guided me.


It's hard for the forum members to describe "the right way" to understand critical thinking, simply because everyone here came to adopt "critical thinking" through their own differing journey.

Some members here, come from systematic discipline based professions, that already adopted critical thinking tools, like science, accounting and engineering.

Some have simply noticed technical errors in TV science fiction movies and then started to think about "systematic debunking"

Some members were religious and woken up thinking "this doesn't make sense" and started that way.

I actually don't think there is any book that can teach critical thinking "in one go". I think that all the tools of critical thinking can be written down on three sheets of paper, however the real skill is application to the actual scenario in front of you.

In my law exams, we had the legislation and established case law open on our desks. We are then given a two paragraph real world scenario. We then have to apply all our "legal tools" to that real world scenario. If that takes six years of study and still half the undergraduates fail, then I think you can understand my point. No one book can prepare you to adopt and use critical thinking skill from day one.

However, every journey starts with one small step....so good luck with your endeavours.

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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Paul Anthony » Wed May 25, 2016 1:04 am

It may be difficult to recognize critical thinking in action. It is easier to identify what isn't critical thinking.

If you are emotional about the subject, you are probably not thinking critically. Likewise, if you hold any preconceived bias on the subject your thinking will be less than critical. If either condition exists, you must approach that subject with as much detachment as you can muster.

Most lies contain some kernels of truth. In order to evaluate what you hear or read, you must examine all of its parts, identifying that which is true and that which is not. Often, actual facts are presented but the conclusions drawn from the facts are faulty. If you're not sure, it can be helpful to seek opposing views. By reading both sides of the argument the truth sometimes becomes apparent. Also, pay close attention to your own reactions to what you read. Are you experiencing an emotional reaction? Stop that! LOL

In the book, Creating Your New life One Thought at a Time* there is a section that examines several topics that have divided our society (like abortion, cloning, immigration...) By presenting the most common arguments for and against each subject and examining each argument, the logical conclusion is usually that both sides are right...and wrong. The truth can be found somewhere in between. It is not a book about critical thinking, but it contains examples of how critical thinking can be applied to real-life situations.

*FULL DISCLOSURE: I wrote the book.
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Re: Critical thinking method?

Postby Angel » Sat Jul 23, 2016 3:49 pm

Learn to think for yourself.
I did and even though ( or maybe
because) I believe
in God ~ I am able to think
quite critically.
I tend to use books for reference
for those who read. I haven't come
across any that teach critical thinking
other than the bible. hehe
*~ •~*~•~*~•~*~•~*~•~*~•~*~•~*

First they hired me.
No they didn't .
Then they fired me.
Yep.
They by (?) I just walked away......


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