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Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

You mean I might be smarter than I thought?

Posted by c. wagner on November 5, 2009

Wow. Research to back up what a lot of us have been thinking for years: Standardized tests pretty much just test one’s ability to take standardized tests.

But the tests fall down when it comes to measuring those abilities crucial to making good judgements in real-life situations. That’s because they are unable to assess things such as a person’s ability to critically weigh up information, or whether an individual can override the intuitive cognitive biases that can lead us astray.

Indeed, IQ scores have long been criticised as poor indicators of an individual’s all-round intelligence, as well as for their inability to predict how good a person will be in a particular profession. … Howard Gardner at the Harvard Graduate School of Education has been arguing – controversially – for more than 25 years that cognitive capacity is best understood in terms of multiple intelligences, covering mathematical, verbal, visual-spatial, physiological, naturalistic, self-reflective, social and musical aptitudes.

When faced with decisions in real life, folks tend to use intuitive thought. That is, they leap to conclusions rather than engaging their rationality. The researchers even have some advice on how to engage your reasoning.

CLEAR YOUR MIND Judgements can often be based on a piece of information you have recently had in mind, even if it is irrelevant. For example, bidding high at an auction after pondering the height of the tallest person in the room.

DON’T FALL FOUL OF SPIN We have an inclination to be strongly influenced by the way a problem is framed. For instance, people are more likely to spend a monetary award immediately if they are told it is a bonus, compared with a rebate.

DON’T LET EMOTIONS GET IN THE WAY They often interfere with our assessment of risk. One example is our natural reluctance to cut our losses on a falling investment because it might start rising again.

BE FACT BASED Don’t allow your beliefs and opinions to cloud your analysis.

THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES When considering how a course of action will make you feel, talk to someone who has been through a similar situation rather than try to imagine your future state of mind; run mental movies about how an option might play out.

LOOK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS SOLUTION Don’t accept the first thing that pops into your head.

Read the full article at New Scientist.

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What’s the difference between a scientist on TV and a magician?

Posted by c. wagner on October 27, 2009

In Voodoo Science, Robert Park makes an interesting point about science reports on TV:

If a stage magician pulls a rabbit from a hat, those in the audience may not know where the rabbit came from, but unless they’re hopelessly naive they know it isn’t magic. It’s a trick. And not a terribly difficult trick either, according to professional magicians. But how much easier it is to fool an audience with a complicated scientific apparatus. The television audience must accept on faith that the experiment is what the scientist says it is. It is as if, instead of pulling the rabbit out of the hat, the magician simply looks into the hat and assures the audience that the rabbit is there. [page 116]

Most viewers don’t have the background knowledge needed to sort fact from exaggeration (or outright impossibilities) in science reporting. They don’t even realize they should be looking in the hat for the rabbit.

What we should be doing is mentally strip-searching the magician and tearing apart the stage to find the rabbit.

With science on TV, sometimes there is a rabbit, sometimes it just looks like a rabbit, and sometimes there’s no rabbit at all.

Of course, the same is true with rabbits and stage magicians:

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