Progress (You are here!)
Week 2: Critical Thinking – I KNEW IT!
Why Critical Thinking?
Like a lot of people, I get inundated with a wide variety of scary things on the internet. You can’t be too careful these days.
It pays to take precautions.
Change your passwords often (don’t use Passw0rd), block anyone who doesn’t agree with you on Facebook, and type at least one sentence in all capitals at least once a day.
“I Knew it!” – AKA: Confirming Evidence, Cherry Picking, Confirmation Bias.
Confirming Evidence is when we knowingly (or more commonly and worryingly unknowingly) seek out information that already confirms what we already believe, or think we know. It can also be the outright rejection of evidence that contradicts our existing view.
What are examples of this?
Yes, they exist. Have you personally been in a satellite to see first hand? No, so there!
If the Earth is round – EXPLAIN THIS?!
Not going to cause much damage unless you are in the globe selling business, or an airline pilot.
OR, more sinister…
‘Vaccines cause autism because the blogs and sites I read say it does.’
This is a LOT more concerning, and dangerous.
‘Ugh, there is that bitch again who teased me in school handing out food to the homeless. Cow!’
You get the idea.
So, you can do this knowingly and unknowingly.
When you knowingly catch yourself, it is relatively simple to prevent.
Just ask yourself if the evidence you are seeing now conforms with what you already believe.
If not, perhaps seek more information, or at least put a caveat on your existing belief, just suggest that perhaps things may have changed, or you may have been wrong.
If you see that girl handing out food to the homeless who teased you;
- You can either decide that perhaps she has changed, your opinion was wrong in the first place, or perhaps it is something else. You can go over and speak to her, maybe she greets you warmly and at some point apologises for her behaviour as a teenager, and you can both move past it;
- Or perhaps she says she can’t talk for long as her supervisor is watching her do her community service hours.
Either way, you can decide to get more information, or just note it to yourself, but the one thing you can’t do is ignore it, and pin steadfastly to your original position.
The same goes for information or ‘facts’ you see on social media, or in the news, or if you decide to use a religious book to justify any particular line of thinking or action.
If you pick out certain pieces and ignore others, then you are wilfully just trying to find evidence to support a position.
Lawyers certainly do it often, however, (hint: it’s their JOB!) – they know they are doing it, even when they may know for a fact that the person they are defending is guilty.
Its their job to use the law to help their client.
If you are doing the same to support a position, it is always best to acknowledge it to yourself at least.
Unconscious Confirmation Bias
However, very often we don’t know we are cherry picking evidence to suit ourselves, or our preconceived ideas. This can often be very sensitive when it comes to beliefs such as religion, politics, work ethics, upbringing, etc.
So, how do we recognise when, or if we are doing this?
Again, it is the first Step on 1,2,3: – AWARENESS!
If you find yourself feeling a very strong negative reaction when given a piece of new information, that is usually a warning sign that something you are holding as true may be challenged.
You may notice your heart beating slightly faster, you feel the urge to argue with the person (or the article you are reading).
It can also be noticed in the words your internal monologue tells yourself BEFORE you look at the new information – when just presented with the Headline.
Have you ever seen a link on Facebook and thought ‘Here we go, this will be bullshit!’, click on it, and then agree with yourself that it is bullshit.
(Note: This also applies to real Bullshit, which is where it gets tricky!)
How far into the article or video clip do you go before you reach that conclusion? Chances are that it is usually quite early. With the amount of information presented to us everyday from all directions, we need to be able to filter it quickly and efficiently in order to survive.
So, why is knowing this important?
Well, if you are able to recognise these signs yourself, it will help you understand how your subsequent reactions may arise.
Being able to recognise when someone is giving you information that is uncomfortable to you, and being able to stop your initial evidence bias kicking in allows you respond properly.
In short, it allows you to Change, Challenge or Ignore the information AND the person, persons or organisations giving that information at that time.
- Change: You can recognise if in fact this is new useful information, and you can decide to think on it.
- Challenge: You can look at the new information, and if it is, in fact something incorrect, or that you disagree with, it allows you put together a better rebuttal than what your initial reaction could come up with.
- Ignore: You can also recognise if someone is trying to ‘bait’ or troll you to see your response; and then deny them that luxury.
The key point however, is ‘at that time’.
Just because someone may disagree with one, or many things that is said by a person or organisation, doesn’t necessarily mean that forever and ever, that you will disagree with what they say. If new information comes around again, you still need to check for confirmation bias and make up your own mind.
So, the 1,2,3 steps for today, and the next week are:
Whenever you are talking with someone, or seeing something online or at work, and you get presented with new information that makes you:
- Uncomfortable, or you,
- consciously decide that it will be BS before you see it, or you,
- find yourself looking for Flaws or holes in the information,
Just recognise that you are doing it, and stop yourself for a moment, and ask yourself why you are doing it. Once you recognise what belief you are defending, it helps you respond.
Once you identify why you are feeling that way, you can choose your response!
You will find that the ones to ignore are pretty easy for the most part.
“I put milk in before coffee.”
“No, I always pour coffee first.”
“Charlatans! I prefer mine black.”
The tricky ones are where there is something you perceive of value at state:
“Bring your kid over to my house for a playdate! My son has measles so he can give it to yours too. We don’t vaccinate. Only natural.”
Remember, once you recognise what and why you are defending your opinion, it helps you respond better!
Next week, we are going to continue with a run through of the Anchoring Pitfall.
Of course, if you want to Binge – Click NEXT Page Below.