Now living in Vancouver, I can deliver a real critical thinking learning opportunity to Japanese. Just outside my house, I encounter critical thinking every day. I constantly hear the questions: Why? How? What do you mean? These are hallmarks of critical thinking.
We can think of critical thinking as an exercise for the mind. It requires a little effort and practice, similar to exercising the body. It is a process of thinking by ourselves and solving our own problems. That is critical thinking.
OK, now. Exercise time!
Let’s have some fun. Critical thinking relies on intuition, a gut feeling based on logic and experience. The study of critical thinking helps to sharpen our intuition.
Let’s try a snap judgement practice. In this exercise, we need to make a decision in a “snap”. Do the following statements sound good or “smell” funny?
- Some pigs have wings.
- What evidence did you use to judge this? Your sight? Experience?
- None of us have likely seen a pig with wings, so it feels safe to say this one sounds good.
- The sun will rise tomorrow.
- How do you know this one?
- The sun has always risen for many years, so this sounds good.
- Can we be sure?
- Rich people are happy.
- Why? Does money equal happiness? How do we define “happy”?
- This one smells funny.
- Expressing anger subsides anger.
- This one is tough to assess. To many of us, it sounds good. But let’s look at it closely: can I stop people from being angry if I show anger? Can someone stop my anger by being angry?
- When I tap my experience, this one smells funny.
- Indeed, research evidence shows that expressing anger increases anger, lowers self-esteem and fosters hostility and aggression.
- Parents are the most important influence in shaping a child’s personality.
- This one sounds good to a lot of us, but in fact, psychologists suggest that peers are more important (Judith Harris. “Nurture assumption” 1998).
- This example helps show us that intuition isn’t the end of critical thinking – it is just the beginning.
- It’s OK to make a mistake in intuition – we all do. However, we need to be careful about basing important decisions on intuition alone.