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Week 1: Critical Thinking – Your Virtual Tinfoil hat!
Is Critical Thinking Easy?
Yes, yes it is – in some situations.
In short, the less involved in an outcome, either financially, emotionally or otherwise, the easier you will find it to give an impartial and unbiased viewpoint.
However, the only topic you will have zero opinion on, is one you don’t know about. What do I mean by that?
If I asked you to pick one, A or B? You, in theory, would pick 50/50, A or B.
In fact, evidence suggests people usually opt for the first one presented if there is an arbitrary choice, or there is no other information to go on. 
However, you very rarely, if ever, will have had this type of choice. If you have, usually it is on purpose as the person giving it wants to withhold some information from you that may make you prefer one over the other. (A good critical thinker will at least ask for some clarification first!)
“Box A, or Box B, which do you choose? Box A has a live Black Widow Spider, and Box B has $1,000? You win the value of whichever box you pick.”
|One Spider. Mostly Harmless. Honest!|
|$1,000 in cash. Mostly useful. Honest!|
Based on this, if you trusted that the person was telling the truth, you would undoubtedly go for Box B. (Unless you really really like spiders).
If you really wanted to dive into thinking critically you may decide to examine more of the context of this question before answering.
(The is one of the reasons gameshows like ‘Deal or No Deal’ are so successful.)
If this was a gameshow based on circumventing the obvious, then you may rightly ask what is so obvious an option doing here. If you were given a chance to even the odds, you may ask for further clarifications.
The trick in this example is in the wording of the choice offered.
And that is the word – Value.
“Is there anything special about the Spider that would affect its value?”
or equally you could ask;
“Can I take the $1,000 in Box B and go spend it in a shop immediately?”
Again, these are things which are not immediately obvious. You would only normally be primed into asking them because you are in an obvious gameshow scenario. So, right now, Box B makes sense.
Assuming that the questions you ask get answered, it may again skew your opinion.
Let’s say the answers are:
“The spider is a rare Black Widow from the NYC zoo. It is valued at $5,000” and
“The $1,000 is made up of 100 photos of $10 bills, value $2.50”
Then, what is your most likely choice going to be?
You get the picture.
The ease in which we can think critically is directly proportional to how vested we are in the outcome.
Unfortunately, in life, things are not as simple as our fictional gameshow question above. Rarely do we get the key factor displayed as openly in the problem – however it is always the same. VALUE!
This is the main concept to hold in mind when doing this course. There is another nagging question however which I am sure an astute person such as yourself would have been plagued by over these past few paragraphs however..
And to answer these, we’ll give away the proverbial Farm! (I.e. I will tell you how things work at the back-side of many websites which offer you ‘free’ things!)
What is in it for you, the course author?
So, this gets us to one of the first questions that a good Critical thinker (or possibly anyone who has bought a used car) thinks, which is: what is the cost?
Cost more specifically can be looked at as:
- What is in it for me?
- What is in it for you?
Well, this course is free. Gratis. You pay nothing.
Isn’t that brilliant?!
So far, to get this, you have paid nothing.
You have done Nothing.
And you’re wrong!
In order to get access to this email course, you had to put in your email address so it could be emailed to your inbox. So, you have given your email address, that is the transaction. If you are viewing this on our website bigbraindrain.com you will be overawed with the subtle ad placements.
(You may not be even aware of it as so many sites online now have ad support)
You must be tired at this stage. As a mental break click on the pretty pictures directly below and buy several subscriptions! 🙂
So, in the interests of walking your though the mechanics, there are three questions a critical thinker might ask right now:
Why this is important?
What is in it for you?
If I want to change it, what can be done?
This is important.
One of the big concerns in today’s digital economy. You can happily participate in the Information revolution, but you don’t have to be taken for a ride by it. Many sites and services require your email address, (or sign-in by Social media like Facebook etc) in order to access the content. This is usually to give you a better service, but also so that you will come to like them for any future similar information.
What is in it for you – the provider?
So, as a good critical thinker you ask what is in it for the author, and the author’s organisation – Brain Drain? (www.bigbraindrain.com) For us, we want to build an intelligent and informed audience across the globe, and to help build a platform for quality online education that is of real use to people. We would hope that some of those who subscribe to this course and participate in it may wish to write courses for us someday. Most will not want to, and that’s ok too.
We also hope that people who get this book participate in groups or on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/bigbraindrain/) and contribute as well as continually learn about, and perfect their critical thinking abilities.
At times, we come across comparable courses or other items of interest which we feel may benefit anyone who is interested in this area, either professionally, or personally. When we do, we may tag it onto the end of an email, or if it is really valuable, we will explain why it may be important. If someone uses the link to buy it, then we get a commission.
By us sending you the traps, tips and steps about critical thinking each week straight to your inbox so you can learn, practice and perfect as you go, we hope that you in turn recommend us to your colleagues and family members who you want to share this with.
If you want to change it, you can unsubscribe, at any time.
So, has the above answered all your questions?
No, of course not. It also represents a standard answer that you may get on an FAQ page from a service.
How about we focus again on the last key learning point – VALUE
What VALUE is in it for you – the provider?
Well, apart from the above – which is 100% true and correct, the value comes from numbers of people viewing the course. At some point a very very small number of the audience needs to purchase something, if not directly from us, from an organisation which we have an affiliation with.
So, how does this work?
On the numbers side, usually it is a 1 or 2% rate (Click-through rate). This means that whenever 100 people get an update email with something that may be of interest to everyone, only 1 possibly 2 of the people will actually look at buying something listed on the bottom, or in the middle of the text – and click on the link.
From those 1 or 2, they end up buying it about 25% of the time.
So, for us to make a single commission sale as an affiliate, about 400 people need to get an update email. If the email is too ‘commercial’, and doesn’t provide enough real value to those 400 people about half of them will hit ‘unsubscribe’ – and rightly so, so that the next time there are even less people to send information to.
The upshot of this, is that it is totally not in our interest – or the interest of any reputable information organisation – to spam anyone, or to send information over that people won’t find useful.
(It is the same for most reputable organisations, however not all organisations are reputable or care about their members.)
The term ‘affiliate’ is used when an organisation may refer on other people’s products in the view the someone buys one. When the purchase is made, the affiliate gets a commission. The commission usually varies from product or service to service. IF you sign up for something and you see the word ‘affiliate’ anywhere on the screen, or perhaps ‘carefully chosen partners’, you are going to be sent offers, at some stage. Whether you buy them is up to you, but if you do or don’t, using Critical Thinking Skills will benefit you.
The next question you will undoubtedly ask is, what’s in it for me?
Why don’t you just give me a video course, or the whole PDF of the course to read in a single sitting?
We will make the course available to Binge on, however, this is written by design to be consumed in small articles of video each week. The target reading or viewing time is based on how long it takes to drink a nice cup of coffee, or to visit the lavatory. (You can do both at the same time, but that is multi-tasking – which we don’t recommend, and we will cover as a pitfall later in the course!)
To make a lifelong change, you need to practice it. There are tonnes of courses, books, blogs etc. in the world all offering you the chance to buy them, and have the opportunity to learn Critical thinking. The problem is that once you put the book away, you may start using some of the techniques, but unless you have surrounded yourself with like-minded people who have also ready the book, and you commit as a group to follow through, then after a while you will cease to use them.
The only commitment we suggest is to review the short email you will be sent every week which will take 3-5 minutes, and then to think on it using the 1,2,3 method for the week until the next instalment.
That’s it. As I said, you are welcome and encouraged to participate in our online community for the course, but you don’t have to. We also have more in depth video explainers on each topic too if you prefer.
What is this 1,2,3 method?
I bet you thought that we picked the name only because it came up in a random domain name search!
The 1,2,3 method is a way to APPLY knowledge. It has various forms, and possibly you will have used it already in your daily life or when learning a new skill.
I use these terms, and very loose, non-binding language to describe how to do it, as once something feels forced, or like a chore, it stops being successful at creating long term change. Think of it like cramming for an exam. It goes into short term memory, you get your exam wrote, and then a week later most of the information has dissipated.
The three steps are:
3) Response (Action)
As adult learners, 99% of the time, simply being aware of something helps create a change in how we deal with it. Why do you think you see so many ‘Awareness’ events for difference causes. It is something that is a starting point for change.
The regular emails, videos and other information on Critical Thinking you will get from us will focus mainly on helping building your awareness of a particular Tip, Trap, or Opportunity around thinking Critically.
Once you are aware of something, it is zero benefit if you don’t recognise or pay attention to it when you see it. So, after each email or video in this series, we will ask you to pay attention during the coming week to see if you see instances of the behaviours or traps which we have brought your attention to in that week’s email.
3) Response (Action)
Once you have done the first two, the last step is to respond, or initiate action. Oftentimes the appropriate action and response is simply to do NOTHING!
However, there is a difference between choosing to remain silent, and not knowing what to do, or being scared silly!
Great, when do I start?
You already have.
This introduction and ground rules mail is designed to get your brain thinking in the right manner.
Remember the learning points from earlier in this lesson?
Here is a reminder.
So, the 1,2,3 steps for today, and the next week are:
Why did you click on this course?
What problem are you trying to solve?
How vested in the outcome are you?
If it is part of longer term career and professional improvement – great!
If you are hoping to find a way to deal with a short term problem, or win a debate at work, school, or university – then great. (You may want to Binge this course if you have left it to the last minute!)
If it is because you are feeling that you have reached a point in your life where you need to make a change, then take a moment to THINK – and understand why you feel this way.
Once you are aware of how much value you have put in doing this course, during the week, keep on the lookout for others putting weight or value onto decisions. It can easily be somone freaking out about too much, or too little milk in their coffee. You will usually notice. If someone is trying to make a decision on how to pay their rent that month, they are quite rightly very invested in the outcome. How do you see this influencing their decision making and thinking?
For the most part, simply do nothing. If asked for help, help. If appropriate, and you can, offer help. Just remember, that especially if someone is really vested in the outcome of a decision, and you are not – even though your advice may be factually and tactically correct – it may not be appreciated if your timing is wrong. When in doubt – keep silent, and at least do no harm!
Next week, we are going to start a run through of the main factors that cause us to shoot ourselves in the foot whenever we are presented with something new, or a differing fact or opinion.
Each week we will focus on one of these and ask you to try identify when you find yourself doing it, either in your work, school or home.
This will take a while, however we will focus on the factors that cause YOU to fall into a thinking trap, and those that cause GROUPS to fall into a trap.
Then, we will focus on the types of things and arguments people will often use to try shoot us when they want to negate our opinion, or close down any chance we have to disagree with them.
After this, we get into the home straight, and once we identify something that doesn’t sit right, evaluate it, discuss and disarm anyone who is supporting that view, we focus on how to reframe the discussion to get someone else to at least discuss with an open mind.
Once you get to know how this whole process works, and you become over time familiar with thinking along these lines, you will then find yourself being able to hold these discussions with friends, family, colleagues, enemies, online trolls, politicians, etc. easier.
But only if you practice.
If you just try to download everything at once, it is the same as going to one beginners Judo lesson and thinking you walk out as the Karate Kid.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lesson.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or even completely disagree, please either email us, or join the discussion on our Facebook Page.
We want to keep this course FREE, so please take 30 seconds and browse the course below that may help compliment what you will learn with us.
I have picked this one as it has a worldwide renowned teacher, and is a nice way to gently help someone start seeing things in a different light.
Thích Nhất Hạnh’s – Mindfulness Course
If that doesn’t float your boat, when you click on the link, it also recommends other learning possibilities – including how to make a good cup of tea or coffee, which is very handy if your chosen Response to a situation is to say nothing and do no harm. A nice tea or coffee usually helps!
Until next week – or if you are Binge-reading this, see you in a few seconds!