CT Free Lesson 2

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?

  1. 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. 
  2. 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?
  3. Rich people are happy.   
    • Why? Does money equal happiness? How do we define “happy”?
    • This one smells funny. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.