Asking The Right Questions – A guide to critical thinking
Refrain from reverse logic, reasons then conclusions, not conclusions then supporting reasons
Find Supporting Reasons
- Ask Why?
Find ambiguity in reasons
- abstract terms
- multiple meanings
Find the value and descriptive assumptions
- Value assumpion: implicit preference for one value over another in a particular context (should be’s)
- Description assumption: beliefs about the way the world is, was or will be.
- Look for gap between conclusions and reason
Are there any reasoning fallacies?
- Ad Hominem – Personal attack
- Slippery Slope – This leads to that when procedures do not exist to prevent
- Searching for perfect solution
- Equivocation – a key word or phrase is used w/ tow or more meanings that don’t make sense
- Appeal to Popularity – Ad populum
- Appeal to Questionable Authority
- Appeal to Emotions
- Straw Person – attack point of view that doesn’t truly exist
- Either / Or – Assuming only two alternatives
- Wishful thinking – assuming that because we wish x to be true / false it is
- Explaining by naming – assuming because you have named something you have explained it
- Glittering Generality – using emotionally appealing virtue words
- Red Herring – An irrelevant topic introduced to divert attention from original issue
- Begging the question – an argument in which the conclusion is assumed in the reasoning
How good is the evidence?
- Appeals to authority
- Personal observation (group of 1)
- Research studies
- Case examples
Are there rival causes?
x has the effect of x leads to x influences x is linked to x deters x increases likelyhood x determines x is associated with
- The cause of a cause?
- Confusing causation with association tend to see events that go together as causing each other
- Confusion of cause and effect
- Neglect of a common cause – two events may be related by the effects of a common third factor
- Post hoc fallacy – assuming event b is caused by event a since it follows it
Are the statistics deceptive?
- Unknowable or biased statistics
- Confusing averages
- Mean Median Mode
- Statistics prove something other than conclusion
- Omitting information
- Risk statistics – 50% increase could be from 1 to 1.5%
What other significant info is missing?
- Common counter arguments – what arguments would someone who disagrees offer?
- Missing definitions – what if key terms defined differently?
- Missing value preferences or perspective – what would different mean?
- Origins of facts – what is the source?
- Procedure for gathering facts
- Alternative techniques to gather facts
- Missing or incomplete data
- Omitted effects, positive and negative short and long term
- Omission of prediction failures when special prediction skill advocated
What reasonable conclusions are possible?
- No dichotomous thinking
- More than two sides / options
- Using if to conditionals conclusion – I believe x if y
- Not all conclusions are equal!
Overcoming obstacles to critical thinking
- + Avoid group think
- + Listen to people you don’t like
- + Don’t rush to judgement (too impatient)
- – Personal experience is a sample size of one
- – Choice supportive bias
- – Belief in a just world
- – Stereotypes
- – Wishful thinking
- – Urge to simplicity
- – Belief persaverence is most
- – Availability Hueristic
- – Bias toward which is most available
- – Everyone believes they are better than average