Learning to think

ana

The Living Force
In Thinking, Fast And Slow we expand our knowledge on the need to engage system2 in deliberated, effortful thinking.

As the author explains system2 is usually in a comfortable low-effort mode adopting the suggestions of System1 with little or no modification. My interest then was in discovering and put into practice system2 tools. But, Which are the tools and capabilities of system2?

For the descriptions of System2 in the book (when it is properly working it’s effortful, and deliberately controlled), it seems it has to do with the Prefrontal Cortex?


_http://70.32.73.82/brain-science/cool-brain-science/a-crash-course-in-neuroscience/prefrontal-cortex/
Functions of the Prefrontal Cortex

• attention span
• perseverance
• planning
• judgment
• impulse control
• organization
• self-monitoring and supervision
• problem solving
• critical thinking
• forward thinking
• learning from experience and mistakes
• ability to feel and express emotions
• influences the limbic system
• empathy
• internal supervisión

Problems Associated with the Prefrontal Cortex


• short attention span
• distractibility
• lack of perseverance
• impulse control problems
• hyperactivity
• chronic lateness, poor time management
• poor organization and planning
• procrastination
• unavailability of emotions
• misperceptions
• poor judgement
• trouble learning from experience
• short term memory problems
• social and test anxiety
• lying
• misperceptions

Seeing the benefits and magnificent skills of the Prefrontal Cortex I thought I could devote some space to expand on it even though it has been already mentioned in others threads for example here and here.

_http://70.32.73.82/brain-science/cool-brain-science/a-crash-course-in-neuroscience/prefrontal-cortex/

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the most evolved part of the brain. It occupies the front third of the brain, underneath the forehead. It is often divided into three sections: the dorsal lateral section (on the outside surface of the PFC), the inferior orbital section (on the front undersurface of the brain) and the cingulate gyrus (which runs through the middle of the frontal lobes). The cingulate gyrus, often considered as part of the limbic system, will be covered in its own chapter. The dorsal lateral and inferior orbital gyrus are often termed the executive control center of the brain and will be discussed together in this chapter. When necessary, I’ll distinguish what is known about their function.

Overall, the PFC is the part of the brain that watches, supervises, guides, directs and focuses your behavior. It contains “executive functions,” such as time management, judgment, impulse control, planning, organization and critical thinking. Our ability as a species to think, plan ahead, use time wisely and communicate with others is heavily influenced by this part of the brain. The PFC is responsible for behaviors that are necessary for you to be appropriate, goal directed, socially responsible and effective.

North Carolina neuropsychiatrist Thomas Gualtieri, MD succinctly summarized the human functions of the PFC, “.the capacity to formulate goals, to make plans for their execution, to carry them out in an effective way, and to change course and improvise in the face of obstacles or failure, and to do so successfully, in the absence of external direction or structure. The capacity of the individual to generate goals and to achieve them is considered to be an essential aspect of a mature and effective personality. It is not a social convention or an artifact of culture. It is hard wired in the construction of the prefrontal cortex and its connections.” (In The Neuropsychiatry of Personality Disorders, 1996, Edited by John Ratey. MD.)

The PFC helps you think about what you say or do before you say or do it (especially the inferior orbital PFC). The PFC helps you, in accordance with your experience, select actions between alternatives in social and work situations. For example, if you are having a disagreement with your spouse and you have good PFC function you are more likely to give a thoughtful response that helps the situation. If you have poor PFC function you are more likely to do or say something that will make the situation worse. Likewise, if you’re a check out clerk in a grocery store and a difficult, complaining person comes through your line (who has poor PFC function) and you have good PFC function you are more likely to keep quiet or give a thoughtful response that helps the situation. If you have poor PFC function you are more likely to do or say something that will inflame the situation. The PFC helps you problem solve, see ahead of a situation and, through experience, pick between the most helpful alternatives. Effectively playing a game such as chess requires good PFC function.

This is also the part of the brain that helps you learn from mistakes. Good PFC function doesn’t that mean you won’t make mistakes. Rather, it generally means you won’t make the same mistake over and over. You are able to learn from the past and apply its lessons. For example, a student with good PFC function is likely to learn that if he or she starts a long term project early, there is more time for research and less anxiety over getting it done. A student with decreased PFC function doesn’t learn from past frustrations and may tend to put everything off until the last minute. Poor PFC function tends to be involved in people who have trouble learning from experience. They tend to make repetitive mistakes. Their actions are not based on experience, but rather on the moment, and immediate wants and needs.

The PFC is also involved with sustaining attention span (especially the dorsal lateral PFC). It helps you focus on important information while filtering out less significant thoughts and sensations. Attention span is required for short term memory and learning. The PFC, through its many connections within the brain, helps you keep on task and allows you to stay with a project until it is finished.

The PFC actually sends quieting signals to the limbic and sensory parts of the brain. When there is a need to focus, the PFC decreases the distracting input from other brain areas. It helps to inhibit or filter out distractions. When the PFC is underactive there is less of a filtering mechanism available and distractibility becomes common (this will be discussed in detail under attention deficit disorder).
The PFC is also the part of the brain that allows you to feel and express emotions; to feel happiness, sadness, joy, and love (especially the dorsal lateral PFC). It is different from the limbic system, which is a more primitive part of the brain. Even though the limbic system controls mood and libido, the prefrontal cortex is able to translate the feelings of the limbic system into recognizable feelings, emotions and words, such as love, passion or hate. Underactivity or damage in this part of the brain often leads to a decreased ability to express thoughts and feelings.

Thoughtfulness and impulse control is heavily influenced by the PFC. The ability to think through the consequences of behavior is essential to effective living, in nearly every aspect of human life. Common examples of the need for forethought include: choosing a good mate, interacting with customers, dealing with difficult children, spending money and driving on the freeway. Without proper function in this part of the brain it is difficult to act in consistent thoughtful ways and impulses can take over.

The PFC has many connections to the limbic system. It sends inhibitory messages that help keep it under control. It helps you “use your head along with your emotions.” When there is damage or underactivity in this part of the brain, especially on the left side, the PFC cannot appropriately inhibit the limbic system, causing an increased vulnerability to depression if the limbic system becomes overactive. A classic example of this problem occurs in people who have had left frontal lobe strokes. Sixty percent of patients with these strokes develop a major depression within a year.

When scientists study the prefrontal cortex with neuroimaging studies like SPECT, it is often done twice. Once in a resting state, and again during a concentration task. In evaluating brain function, it is important to look at a working brain. When the normal brain is challenged with a concentration task, such as math problems or sorting cards, the PFC increases in activity. Much like when you flex a muscle, the muscle produces more energy. In certain brain conditions, such as attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia, the prefrontal cortex decreases its activity in response to an intellectual challenge.

Problems of the PFC

Problems in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex often lead to decreased attention span, distractibility, impaired short term memory, decreased mental speed, apathy and decreased verbal expression. Problems in the inferior orbital cortex often lead to poor impulse control, mood control problems (due to its connects with the limbic system), decreased social skills and overall decreased control over behavior.

Overall, when there are problems in the PFC the organization of daily life becomes difficult and internal supervision goes awry. People with PFC problems often do things they later regret, exhibiting problems with impulse control. They also experience problems with attention span, distractibility, procrastination, poor judgment and problems expressing themselves. Test anxiety along with social anxiety also may be hallmarks of problems in the PFC. Situations that require concentration, impulse control and quick reactions are often hampered by PFC problems. Tests require concentration and the retrieval of information. Many people with PFC problems experience difficulties in test situations because they have trouble activating this part of the brain under stress, even if they have adequately prepared for the test. In a similar way, social situations require concentration, impulse control and dealing with uncertainty. Pfc deactivation often cause a person’s mind to “go blank” in conversation which lead to being uncomfortable in social situations.

There is more but so far it seems clear that the prefrontal cortex is a crucial element in our lives, for ours and others well being, just think for a minute of a good percentage of people in this world being able to do good use of it…

Ok so, I thought to start by studying one of the competences of the prefrontal cortex, Critical thinking, which I thought would be of great use to start training it. I started to wonder then about its real meaning, competences and effectiveness, and found this:

Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically. They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked.

They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies. They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking. They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason.

They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society. At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so.

They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others. They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement. They embody the Socratic principle: The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.

~ Linda Elder, September, 2007

I continued then searching more about what Dr.Linda Elder had to say about Critical thinking and found that She and Dr.Richard Paul had written some (in principle) very interesting books on the matter.

I am already half trough "The Art of Asking Essential Questions": _http://www.criticalthinking.org/store/products/the-art-of-asking-essential-questions/168 which I managed to find in Spanish, and must say that I’m fascinated by the amount of tools that we have available to put our minds to work, it is making me more aware of how Laura and Ark greatly use their minds, and how much effort it takes!

And so, Has anyone read them or found other sources on Critical Thinking that can be useful?
 

Jones

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FOTCM Member
I did a search on critical thinking subject a while back and saved some sites to favourites that have critical thinking exercises and quizzes on them:

http://www.sjsu.edu/depts/itl/graphics/main.html

http://homeworktips.about.com/od/paperassignments/a/Critical-Thinking-Exercises.htm

Not being well versed in the subject, I don't know if they are good sources or not.
 

mb

The Living Force
There are many resources that might prove helpful, but I think that non-judgmental self-observation and practice, practice, practice are most important. Question what you read. Question your beliefs. Ask how you know things. Be aware of what you don't know. Question your own forum posts.

In order to question what you read, you need to be reading. Lots! From different points of view. You can find reading suggestions on the forum, but you should be coming up with your own as well.

I can say a few things about my own critical thinking efforts that may or may not resemble what others here have experienced. I grew up in a authoritarian submissive environment, where critical thinking was not a high priority. My father was an Air Force officer (but not a very successful one) and my mother just wanted to be told what to do, unambiguously.

I began to notice fairly early in life that my views on things would shift depending on what I was reading, and I realized that there was something wrong with that picture because the different views I adopted conflicted. I was sure that not everything I read was true, but somehow my reading material would often "capture" my thinking and send it in whatever direction (generally) that the author wanted to send it, if it was "well written." That observation was my biggest clue as to where I needed to start.

Unconsciously, though, other factors were at work that I could not tackle quite so directly. It was really only when I began reading the recommended books here in the forum on narcissism and narcissistic families that I started to get to the bottom of the problem. After that, questioning became more natural and effective. I had done it all my life, but it became a lot easier to do.

There was a lot more to it. 35 years of counseling (on and off). Esoteric training. It's impossible to say what exactly contributed, and there is always more to learn, and the possibility of lapses (otherwise known as "further learning opportunities"). Perhaps it all comes down to one thing, though: a genuine interest in discovering the truth and acting on it.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Here's a few resources someone could find useful. All have strengths and weaknesses. Also, all of these build on what Megan is talking about, while also filling in some details, I reckon.

[1] Critical Thinking: What Is It Good for? (In Fact, What Is It?)
The author adds the Worldview Dimension and the Values Dimension to the Skills Dimension and demonstrates, using another author's writing, why it's necessary to implement them in all critical thinking efforts.

...since it is so easy to misperceive reality, a critical thinker is disinclined to take things at face value, suspicious of certainties, not easily swayed by conventional (or unconventional) wisdom, and distrustful of the facades and ideologies that serve as the ubiquitous cosmetics of social life.
_http://www.csicop.org/si/show/critical_thinking_what_is_it_good_for_in_fact_what_is_it/


[2] Edward de Bono. Lateral thinking.
_http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lateral-Thinking-Creativity-Edward-Bono/dp/0141033088

From his website:

There are several ways of defining lateral thinking, ranging from the technical to the illustrative.

1. "You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper"

This means that trying harder in the same direction may not be as useful as changing direction. Effort in the same direction (approach) will not necessarily succeed.

2. "Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perceptions"

With logic you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. But what are those pieces? In most real life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organise the external world into the pieces we can then 'process'.

3. "The brain as a self-organising information system forms asymmetric patterns. In such systems there is a mathematical need for moving across patterns. The tools and processes of lateral thinking are designed to achieve such 'lateral' movement. The tools are based on an understanding of self-organising information systems."

This is a technical definition which depends on an understanding of self-organising information systems.

4. "In any self-organising system there is a need to escape from a local optimum in order to move towards a more global optimum. The techniques of lateral thinking, such as provocation, are designed to help that change."

This is another technical definition. It is important because it also defines the mathematical need for creativity.
_http://www.edwdebono.com/lateral.htm


A few Lateral Thinking Problems:
_http://www.folj.com/lateral/


Edward de Bono and An Explanation of the Brain as a System and the Creative Tool PO
Asgeir Hoem
_http://www.ilkeryoldas.com/creative-thethinkingblog.pdf


[3] The Liar: An essay in truth and circularity, by Jon Barwise and John Etchemendy, Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1987

10 page book review in pdf format:
_http://projecteuclid.org/DPubS/Repository/1.0/Disseminate?view=body&id=pdf_1&handle=euclid.bams/1183555025



[4] Neil M. Browne and Keeley M. Stuart. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking. Prentice Hall, 1994.

From an Amazon review:
...helps readers understand the difference between blindly accepting information and critical analysis and synthesis. It teaches how to react rationally to alternate points of view and develop a foundation for making personal choices about what to accept and what to reject in what we see and hear. Focusing on the question-asking skills and techniques necessary for evaluating different types of evidence, this book addresses critical thinking as a generic skill with many applications while emphasizing values and moral reasoning as an integral part of critical thinking.

Caveat from a negative Amazon review:

[Students]come out spouting fallacies left and right, but not doing any real thinking for themselves or coming up with ideas.... The last chapter -- which actually talks about alternate solutions -- is way too short.
_http://www.kantakji.com/fiqh/files/research/t116.pdf

[5] Symbolic Logic by Lewis Carroll
Full text: _http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/28696
 

ana

The Living Force
Thanks for your responses :)

Yes Buddy, Lateral thinking is indeed interesting, problem I think is, that without a minimum experience and study, assessing the true values of a system, viewing it from all possible angles, and seeking the errors to form a good picture, you hardly can jump to another system of judgment and vision to integrate new (and most important) effective and operative ideas/solutions.


Buddy said:
[2] Edward de Bono. Lateral thinking.
_http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lateral-Thinking-Creativity-Edward-Bono/dp/0141033088

From his website:

4. "In any self-organising system there is a need to escape from a local optimum in order to move towards a more global optimum. The techniques of lateral thinking, such as provocation, are designed to help that change."

So more than escaping I think there is a need for a deep immersion in which you find the limits of the old system, and this, is what forces the mind to "Jump".

Can we access lateral thinking without critically thinking first?
Note that, to make use of Lateral thinking you need first to properly frame the problem within the initial system untill you reach an alternative view, otherwise we are just wishfully thinking, that is, only extracting eccentric ideas.

That’s why I'm interested in trying to learn how to effectively use critical thinking first, which may lead us then, to true creativity.
 

Laura

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Moderator
FOTCM Member
Laura said:
You can build will power, apparently:

How Focus Builds Brain Connections

Dr. David Perlmutter


Neurons develop a relationship that facilitates future coordinated activation as a response to being repeatedly stimulated.

This is how networks are constructed.

While it is quaint to consider the beauty of Tiger Woods’ golf swing as representing a pinnacle in the development of “muscle memory,” the real credit for his performance lies in the memory encoded in the neural networks in his brain that have been refined through years of practice.

But it takes more than simple repetition of a stimulation or activity to create the brain connections that lead to the formation of neural networks. Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, performed a series of experiments in the mid 1990s demonstrating the importance of attention in the formation of neural networks.

In one experiment he applied a tapping stimulus to the fingers of two groups of monkeys. Occasionally, the rhythm of the tapping would change. In one group, responding to the change in the tapping would result in a reward; a sip of juice. In the other monkeys, a change in the tapping did would not provide any reward, even if the monkeys responded to the change.

After six weeks, examination of the monkey’s brains revealed profound changes in the monkeys who, by virtue of being rewarded, paid close attention to the stimulus, waiting for the rhythm change.

Specifically, changes were recorded in the specific area of their brains that was involved in processing stimulation to the fingers. No such changes were observed in the monkeys who weren’t paying attention to the stimulus, despite the fact that the stimulus, the tapping on their fingers, was exactly the same.

Looking back on these results and considering the implications for humans, Dr. Merzenich remarked, ”Experience coupled with attention leads to physical changes in the structure and future functioning of the nervous system. This leaves us with a clear physiological fact…moment by moment we choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form on our material selves…” In essence, creating neural networks, and indeed the process of neuroplasticity, requires focused attention.

As Dispenza stated,”The key ingredient in making these neural connections…is focused attention. When we mentally attend to whatever we are learning, the brain can map the information on which we are focusing. On the other hand, when we don’t pay complete attention to what we are doing in the present moment, our brain activates a host of other synaptic networks that can distract it from its original attention. Without focused concentration brain connections are not made, and memory is not stored.”

And as Sharon Begley summarized in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “The discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without attention has important implications. If a skill becomes so routine you can do it on autopilot, practicing it will no longer change the brain. And if you take up mental exercises to keep your brain young, they will not be as effective if you become able to do them without paying much attention.”

So becoming mentally engaged with an activity is requisite for learning that activity. We can choose to strengthen those pathways that serve us in positive ways.

And as we will see later on, this is the science that underlies our ability to choose to enhance our ability to connect with the divine energy field that permeates our existence. Moreover, the corollary of Dr. Hebb’s “neurons that fire together, wire together” thesis provides the understanding that neurons that don’t fire together may ultimately not remain wired together.

So activities need to be maintained if they if their neural networks are to remain functional. This may sound familiar and distressing, but the “glass full” aspect of this concept is that it allows for the disappearance of dysfunctional or detrimental networks when attention is directed away from them.

Research now demonstrates that just the mental aspect of an activity is enough to create the neural connections associated with learning it. In 1995, Dr. Pascuel-Leone conducted experiments in which he demonstrated changes in the brains of individuals only mentally practicing a piano exercise. These brain changes were virtually identical to those seen in subjects who actually physically practiced the instrument. These subjects demonstrated that the mere act of thinking about an activity imparted physical changes in the brain.

And it is this profound discovery that has become a focal point of unified interest in discourse amongst philosophers, scientists, and theologians alike. As Schwartz and Begley propose in their groundbreaking book, The Mind and the Brain,

“ … the time has come for science to confront the serious implications of the fact that directed, willed mental activity can clearly and systematically alter brain function; that the exertion of willful effort generates physical force that has the power to change how the brain works and even its physical structure. The result is directed neuroplasticity.”

David Perlmutter, M.D., FACN is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of nutritional influences in neurological disorders. A board-certified neurologist, Dr. Perlmutter is the author of bestselling books including Power Up Your Brain: The Neuroscience of Enlightenment and The Better Brain Book .



Dr. Perlmutter has appeared on 20/20, Larry King Live, CNN, Fox News, Fox and Friends , the Today show, The Oprah Show, and The Early Show on CBS. He serves as medical director of the Perlmutter Health Center in Florida and is an adjunct instructor at the Institute for Functional Medicine.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
[Side Note: added another reference to my previous post].


The point about focus in the reply above is well made and well placed on here, I think. I also see the monkey training as a reinforcement of the "do it again pleasure center" presented in the online Wave chapter on addiction.

Ana said:
Can we access lateral thinking without critically thinking first?

With respect to a specific problem that we are thinking about and having an objective (knowing 'why' we are even thinking about it), my sense is that we are to apply both critical and creative thinking on the same problem and that we can do it.

Maybe try thinking of lateral thinking in terms of "water Logic"? That's another presentation of de Bono's work. You've read posts where others use a phrase like "flow-on effect", or "knock-on effect"? I think that's what they mean, because just about the whole of "water logic" can be distilled into a single question to be asked: "Where does this lead to?", or "what does this lead to?"

So, as a whole, what we seem to be looking at so far might be described something like this:

The critical thinking or logical skill set defines the problem, sets it up and gets the logic right, whether it's an equation for a mathematical problem or proper form for a specific logical proposition. Basically, this skill set determines "what it is/what it is not". On a time line, or in a water flow, this would be the "present". For the past, we answer the question: "where did this come from"? For the future we ask: "where does this lead to"? Wherever or whenever we get stuck, we need to inject some creativity in the process to break up a few fixations to regain momentum or whatever we need, OSIT.


Ana said:
That’s why I'm interested in trying to learn how to effectively use critical thinking first, which may lead us then, to true creativity.

When you say "true creativity", what are you seeing in your mind's eye?

As an example for mixing logic and creativity in an overall structure, I'd point to Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass". As a story, the narrative is logical in that no matter what kind of crazy stuff is going on, one moment leads naturally to the next - the present situation, circumstance or event in the sequence leads to the next, and so on. As instructional material, the story is very creative. Young or old alike can gain an important lesson in pathology ("who is to be master") and logic (words having consistent and stable meanings) just by listening in on the conversation in chapter 6 involving Alice and Humpty Dumpty.

As an aside, to continue expanding the foundation for this topic, there's a couple more items of neuroscience I'd like to post and explain later. I'm exhausted ATM and need a good night's sleep.
 

kenlee

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Buddy said:
So, as a whole, what we seem to be looking at so far might be described something like this:

The critical thinking or logical skill set defines the problem, sets it up and gets the logic right, whether it's an equation for a mathematical problem or proper form for a specific logical proposition. Basically, this skill set determines "what it is/what it is not". On a time line, or in a water flow, this would be the "present". For the past, we answer the question: "where did this come from"? For the future we ask: "where does this lead to"? Wherever or whenever we get stuck, we need to inject some creativity in the process to break up a few fixations to regain momentum or whatever we need, OSIT.

I think that between the critical thinking and creativity there has to be an emotional element there, resulting from a struggle of some kind which will reconcile the two so as to make a connection between them. I think that this emotional component is generated from a sincere desire to really know the answer to a burning question (from repeated asking) that one has been making efforts to think critically about (which also takes into consideration a consciousness and awareness of our own thinking processes which includes a knowledge of our prejudices, fixed attitudes, and so on on any given subject). So consciousness might be an important element here in making this connection and then one is more free to receive and 'see' the answer. But I think it's the result of a struggle and there must be an emotional component there to reconcile the creativity with the critical thinking.
 

ana

The Living Force
Buddy said:
Ana said:
Can we access lateral thinking without critically thinking first?

With respect to a specific problem that we are thinking about and having an objective (knowing 'why' we are even thinking about it), my sense is that we are to apply both critical and creative thinking on the same problem and that we can do it.

Maybe try thinking of lateral thinking in terms of "water Logic"? That's another presentation of de Bono's work. You've read posts where others use a phrase like "flow-on effect", or "knock-on effect"? I think that's what they mean, because just about the whole of "water logic" can be distilled into a single question to be asked: "Where does this lead to?", or "what does this lead to?"

So, as a whole, what we seem to be looking at so far might be described something like this:

The critical thinking or logical skill set defines the problem, sets it up and gets the logic right, whether it's an equation for a mathematical problem or proper form for a specific logical proposition. Basically, this skill set determines "what it is/what it is not". On a time line, or in a water flow, this would be the "present". For the past, we answer the question: "where did this come from"? For the future we ask: "where does this lead to"? Wherever or whenever we get stuck, we need to inject some creativity in the process to break up a few fixations to regain momentum or whatever we need, OSIT.

Bolded mine. I’m not denying the need for creative thinking, just saying that it is not possible without critically thinking first.



Buddy said:
Ana said:
That’s why I'm interested in trying to learn how to effectively use critical thinking first, which may lead us then, to true creativity.

When you say "true creativity", what are you seeing in your mind's eye?

Not seeing because I’m still learning about creativity but one think I use as starting point is that true creativity has to do with conscious participation and interaction with reality, which can only come with real knowledge, which can only come with objectivity, which can only come with true efforts, one of which is being able to apply critical thinking.

http://www.cassiopedia.org/glossary/YCYOR

The QFS applies this same idea to events at the human and cosmic scales. The quality of the observation influences the quality of the observed. In practical terms, the more clear or objective an observation is, the more the observer-observed system is ordered. If observation is heavily biased and does not agree with the reality, the system consisting of observer and observed is disordered and contradictory.

The QFS postulates that the manner in which masses of humanity observe their reality and what beliefs they hold about this reality influence the same reality. The more subjective the seeing, the more disordered the reality. A large scale example of this is the belief of many Americans in the demonstrable lies of government. The belief being in contradiction with facts contributes to chaos. In this way perceptions can influence reality.

The degree to which the quality of observation influences reality varies according to circumstance. The world goes through periods of stability and predictability, interrupted by brief phases of chaotic change. This is a natural process. The effect of the quality of observation on reality is greatest at moments of fluidity or chaos, where a small impulse can precipitate a large outcome.

The QFS postulates that this is the reason why a certain critical mass of esoterically developed people is required at times of chaotic change. If the structure of spacetime itself is in flux, the quality of observation brought by an esoterically evolved group can form a sort of crystallization core or pattern for a new reality.

The QFS does not subscribe to practices of magic or imposing one's will on reality by visualization or such techniques. These are considered as deliberate subjectivity, which if it has any effect at all is only likely to add to the psychic entropy and chaos of the environment. Creative action which contributes to increased order in the universe needs to be based on an objective reading of the universe, not on contradicting this universe.

Buddy said:
As an aside, to continue expanding the foundation for this topic, there's a couple more items of neuroscience I'd like to post and explain later. I'm exhausted ATM and need a good night's sleep.
Great! Thanks. And hope you sleep well and rest :)



By the way, along the lines of Laura's input, more on attention/focus:

http://www.informationphilosopher.com/solutions/philosophers/rand/

Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. It is a faculty that man has to exercise by choice. Thinking is not an automatic function. In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one's consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality — or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.

When man unfocuses his mind, he may be said to be conscious in a subhuman sense of the word, since he experiences sensations and perceptions. But in the sense of the word applicable to man — in the sense of a consciousness which is aware of reality and able to deal with it, a consciousness able to direct the actions and provide for the survival of a human being — an unfocused mind is not conscious.

Psychologically, the choice "to think or not" is the choice "to focus or not." Existentially, the choice "to focus or not" is the choice "to be conscious or not." Metaphysically, the choice "to be conscious or not" is the choice of life or death.
Consciousness — for those living organisms which possess it — is the basic means of survival. For man, the basic means of survival is reason. Man cannot survive, as animals do, by the guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as "hunger"), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous. He cannot provide for his simplest physical needs without a process of thought. He needs a process of thought to discover how to plant and grow his food or how to make weapons for hunting. His percepts might lead him to a cave, if one is available — but to build the simplest shelter, he needs a process of thought. No percepts and no "instincts" will tell him how to light a fire, how to weave cloth, how to forge tools, how to make a wheel, how to make an airplane, how to perform an appendectomy, how to produce an electric light bulb or an electronic tube or a cyclotron or a box of matches. Yet his life depends on such knowledge—and only a volitional act of his consciousness, a process of thought, can provide it.

But man's responsibility goes still further: a process of thought is not automatic nor "instinctive" nor involuntary — nor infallible. Man has to initiate it, to sustain it and to bear responsibility for its results. He has to discover how to tell what is true or false and how to correct his own errors; he has to discover how to validate his concepts, his conclusions, his knowledge; he has to discover the rules of thought, the laws of logic, to direct his thinking. Nature gives him no automatic guarantee of the efficacy of his mental effort.

Nothing is given to man on earth except a potential and the material on which to actualize it. The potential is a superlative machine: his consciousness; but it is a machine without a spark plug, a machine of which his own will has to be the spark plug, the self-starter and the driver; he has to discover how to use it and he has to keep it in constant action. The material is the whole of the universe, with no limits set to the knowledge he can acquire and to the enjoyment of life he can achieve. But everything he needs or desires has to be learned, discovered and produced by him — by his own choice, by his own effort, by his own mind.

A being who does not know automatically what is true or false, cannot know automatically what is right or wrong, what is good for him or evil. Yet he needs that knowledge in order to live. He is not exempt from the laws of reality, he is a specific organism of a specific nature that requires specific actions to sustain his life. He cannot achieve his survival by arbitrary means nor by random motions nor by blind urges nor by chance nor by whim. That which his survival requires is set by his nature and is not open to his choice. What is open to his choice is only whether he will discover it or not, whether he will choose the right goals and values or not. He is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see. Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every "is" implies an "ought." Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction.

Man is the only living species that has the power to act as his own destroyer —and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Some material on critical thinking from Diane Halpern's "Thought and Knowledge".

Here is Halpern's working definition of critical thinking

Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed—the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task.

Critical thinking involves thinking skills, knowledge of facts and attitude. Halpern suggests a 4 part model for critical thinking instruction

1) Explicitly learning the skills of critical thinking

Halpern gives a representative generic (not exhaustive) list of skills that a critical thinker can have
- recognize semantic slanting and guilt by association
- seek out contradictory evidence
- make risk-benefit assessments
- generate reasoned methods for selecting among several courses of action
- give reasons for choices and vary style and amount of detail in explanations depending on target audience
- recall relevant information as and when needed
- use skills for learning new techniques efficiently and integrate new knowledge to information previously learned
- use numerical information including ability to think probabilistically and express thoughts numerically
- use metacognitive knowledge that allows novices to monitor their own performance and to decide when additional information or help is needed

2) Developing a disposition for effortful thinking and learning

Developing an attitude conducive to critical thinking is at least as important as developing thinking skills. Halpern states that a critical thinker will exhibit the following dispositions or attitudes:
- Willingness to plan - This is essential to check impulsivity. Development of the habit of planning is the first and sometimes invisible step in critical thinking.
- Flexibility - An attitude of flexibility is marked by a willingness to suspend judgment, gather more information and attempt to clarify difficult issues.
- Persistence - Good thinking is hard work - it is effort intensive and and requires diligent persistence.
- Willingness to self-correct, admit errors and change mind when evidence changes.
- Being mindful - Developing attention and awareness is an essential component in the critical thinking process
- Networking (which is termed consensus-seeking by Halpern but the sense in which she uses the term, it is pretty close to what we call networking)

3) Direct learning activities in ways that increase probability of transcontextual transfer

This component involves recognizing when critical thinking is needed so that the most appropriate skills can be selected and recalled. Critical thinkers need to create recall cues from the structural aspects of the problem or argument, so that when the structural cues are present, they can serve as cues for retrieval.
This is strongly related to the analogy used in Steve Mithen's "prehistory of mind" where he talks about the mind being organized into compartments with connecting doorways in between which allow for transfer of information across different domains. Knowledge gained in one field can translate across to a different domain when there are underlying structural similarities . A significant portion of what is considered as creative/lateral thinking belongs to this category of "transcontextual information transfer".


4) Make metacognitive monitoring explicit and overt

Metacognition refers to our knowledge about what we know and the use of this knowledge to direct further learning activities. There is an interesting thread in the forum related with this topic - difficulties recognizing our own incompetence .

Critical thinking is extended to cover emotional intelligence and interpersonal situations and as such encompasses empathy as well.

Part of developing thinking skills lies in understanding the process of thinking and knowing what mode is likely to be effective in what situation (law of three). Halpern sites thinking in words and thinking in images as two most common modes of thinking. Each is useful in specific circumstances. The ability to deliberately switch from one mode to another according to context is an essential element of critical thinking. As a general example, she states that solutions to mathematical and science problems are word-oriented whereas imagery is useful for comprehending complex prose.


As a general framework, the following questions may be of help in the thought process:

- What is the goal : even if the goal gets revised and updated as a result of progress in the process, it is useful to always have a goal in mind so that the thinking effort remains well-directed. Periodically revisiting this question is also likely to guard against the tendency to substitute the original question with a different one which lends itself to an easier answer - as discussed in "Thinking, Fast and Slow".

- What is known : some information may nbe known with certainty (facts), while others may be partially known or probabilistic in nature. It is important to categorize them appropriately at the beginning of engaging in the thinking process.

- What combination of thinking skills will help achieve the goal

- Check whether the goal is reached in a consistent manner

Role of memory

The ability to think clearly depends in large part on how well we can utilize past experiences. What or how we think depends on what we know - the contents of our memories. The ability to pick up information and learn it in a way that it is available for easy recall is thus helpful. Certain types of recall are easy while others are more effortful.

Paying attention while acquiring information is essential for recall. Repeating information(like the name of a person being introduced) immediately after being introduced to it increases the chances of a successful later recall. In cases, setting up cues for remembering is useful.

Comprehension and memory are closely related as memory is enhanced when material is meaningful. When reading complex prose, it is helpful to go through a section and writing down in one's own words what was read. In this context, Halpern states that if one is unable to meaningfully summarize a section immediately after reading it, then it will not be possible to do it at a later date. Putting effort to relate new information to what is already known integrates the material better and helps with future recall.

Since our attention spans are usually limited due to the high energy requirements of effortful concentration, spreading out learning activities rather than cramming helps with improving chances of recall.

Organizing objects into categories, inter-relating them into coherent structures and setting up multiple cues by which the stored information may be recalled later are regarded as effective learning strategies. It seems that system2 initiates the process through effortful attention and then involves system1 by relating new information with existing knowledge base to make a coherent pattern making future recall easier. Using mnemonics with keyword, images and suitable combinations of both have been shown to be more effective in remembering tasks than simple rote method. An interesting example is the method of loci used by ancient Greeks and Romans for memorization.

It is important at the learning stage to work extra hard so that System2 can be in charge of the overall process to prevent the errors and biases which typically creep in otherwise and may be difficult to identify at a later stage. Advertisers, media personnel and elements of PTB are all too aware of the process of how we learn and ruthlessly exploit our system1 tendencies to create a coherent pattern by filling in the gaps. Without careful attention, the categorization task that we undertake for learning information can easily become a source for serious errors like stereotyping. Knowledge of common biases seems essential for critical thinking. Like Kahneman said regarding the Muller-Lyer illusion in "Thinking, Fast and Slow" - once one has encountered the illusion and learned about it, when similar questions are asked in the future, one has far greater chance of not falling for it.

Role of Language

The role of language is immense in directing the thinking process. It has been discussed in the forum in many different contexts and the subject is vast. Halpern's book deals with it to some extent describing skills needed for proper comprehension of language - recognizing inappropriate emotional language, labeling, ambiguity,vagueness, euphemisms, reification (making an abstract concept into a tangible physical reality and then substituting one for the other - like taking IQ test results as being equivalent to intelligence), framing biases , analogies - appropriate and inappropriate, anchoring effects etc.

I can add more stuff as I go further in this book if this appears useful.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
kenlee said:
I think that between the critical thinking and creativity there has to be an emotional element there, resulting from a struggle of some kind which will reconcile the two so as to make a connection between them.

I agree wholeheartedly!

Ana said:
I’m not denying the need for creative thinking, just saying that it is not possible without critically thinking first.

Oops, apologies for an unintended implication. The idea of 'denial', in relation to you, never crossed my mind; it was just that I was a bit confused. I can recall all the insights you've shared, in those posts of yours that I've read, and it seems to me that 'insightful' is a product of logic and creativity working together. So, with that and your statement about creativity in my mind, I suppose it was natural for me to spontaneously wonder what meaning you have for "true creativity."


The neuroscience I mentioned involves those fMRI studies that show what brain regions activate during 'task switching'. The array of measured tasks fell into two main categories: logical/mathematical type work involving following step-by-step procedures and tasks that could be described as Pattern Detection where there are no rules to follow. Because of the consistency in the brain region activations for the same type of tasks, we could probably refer to them as focus Mode 1 and focus Mode 2 and have the numbers correspond to the system numbers referred to in the opening post.

At any rate, one of the modes shows a low level of background excitation and localized areas of high excitation. This is when the subject is fully engaged in a focused attention task involving step by step work, where the steps are known before the task begins. In the other mode, the PFC has a medium level of excitation all over while the tasks being performed involved "cognitive flexibility" and working memory. The subjects' tasks involved what could be called pattern detection, pattern matching or pattern discovery. I suspect this focus mode could be described as 'loose', due to an apparent necessity to have some 'room' within the scope of one's awareness for a pattern to 'pop-out' in order to be 'seen' by attention, so to speak.


The Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory describes the functional organization of the prefrontal cortex in humans and offers many of their publications for any interested reader to check out (see the second link below):

Functional organization of the prefrontal cortex in humans
_http://www.isc.cnrs.fr/dre/uk/Research_1.htm

The list of publications, freely available for download:
_http://www.isc.cnrs.fr/dre/uk/Publications.htm


FWIW, I totally agree with this...

[quote author=obyvatel]
It is important at the learning stage to work extra hard so that System2 can be in charge of the overall process to prevent the errors and biases which typically creep in otherwise and may be difficult to identify at a later stage.[/quote]

...especially because of the mention of 'errors and biases'. I sometimes suspect that the greatest source of problems with 'thinking' is externally imposed conditioning, not limited to the consequences of a 'dumbed down' public education nor the zombifying effects of incessant background propaganda - especially as the MSM broadcasts political agendas. Orwell's "Double-speak" is a fine treatment on that subject, OSIT. :)
 

Gimpy

The Living Force
Just wanted to thank everyone for this thread. :hug: :rockon:

I'm struggling with a taper off an anti depressant. While its too early to root any of the changes into my brain with realistic results, being able to keep reading the 'how' and 'why'
in this section is a big help in keeping an Aim in sight.

What you're doing matters, thank you!
 

ana

The Living Force
Buddy said:
Oops, apologies for an unintended implication. The idea of 'denial', in relation to you, never crossed my mind; it was just that I was a bit confused.

I see, no need for apologies Buddy :)


Buddy said:
I can recall all the insights you've shared, in those posts of yours that I've read, and it seems to me that 'insightful' is a product of logic and creativity working together.

Yes, I agree, my point was that before, some skills to determine "what it is/what it is not" as you said must be developed. We are just trying to do it step by step so that we don’t end slaves of precipitated and usually flawed “insights” of System 1.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Continued : from Halpern's "Thought and Knowledge"

Logic

Inductive Reasoning: observations are collected that support or suggest a conclusion. It is a way of projecting information from known examples to the unknown or in other words, inferring the general from the particular. If every person we have met has one head, we can infer that everyone in the world has one head. If one ever finds out someone who has more than one head, then the conclusion will be proved wrong. Thus with inductive reasoning, one cannot prove (with absolute certainty) that the conclusion or hypothesis is correct, but can disprove it.

Deductive Reasoning: This type of reasoning proceeds from some assumptions/facts/beliefs and inferences are drawn in particular cases based on the starting hypothesis.

A distinction between inductive and deductive reasoning may not be particularly useful to describe real life thinking behavior. In everyday contexts, we switch from inductive to deductive reasoning in course of our thinking.


Illicit Conversion

Consider the following statements from a logical point of view

a) If she is rich, she wears diamonds. She is rich. Therefore she wears diamonds.
b) If she is rich, she wears diamonds. She is not wearing diamonds. Therefore she is not rich.
c) If she is rich, she wears diamonds. She is wearing diamonds. Therefore she is rich.
d) If she is rich, she wears diamonds. She is not rich. Therefore she is not wearing diamonds.

Which of the four conclusions are valid given the premise? Please take a moment to figure this out.

One of the common logical thinking errors is called illicit conversion. When it is stated that
"if {A} then {B}" is true, we automatically assume the reciprocal relationship "if {B} then {A}" is true.

A tree diagram is helpful. From the start point there are 2 nodes - "rich" and "not rich". The "rich" node, there is a connection to "wears diamonds". Since it is not stated that "if she is rich, sometimes she wears diamonds, we go with "if she is rich, always she wears diamonds." So there is no branch from the "rich" node to "does not wear diamonds".
The "not rich" node will have branches to both "wears diamonds" and "does not wear diamonds" since we are not told anything about this condition.

We can conclude
a) and b) are valid.
c) and d) are not valid.

In real world examples, we need to think critically to figure out whether we are falling prey to illicit conversions. Take for example an advertisement where some healthy centenarian people in a remote location are shown and we are told that they eat yogurt. (Assume for the moment that the previous statement is true). The advertisers are hoping that we will draw the conclusion that eating yogurt is good for health and longevity.

Take an example from a legal context. A person is being accused of murder. He has an alibi from after 11PM. Now the prosecutor is trying to prove through coroner's reports that the murder happened before 11PM - say at 10:30 to convince the jury that the accused is guilty. But even if the murder happened at 10:30, by itself does it say anything conclusive about the guilt of the accused?


Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias has been already covered in other threads, but here is an interesting example which (may) illustrate this in a different way.

Four cards are lying face up on a table in front of you. Every card has a letter on one side and a number on the other. Your task is to decide if the following rule is true "If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side". Which card or cards would you need to turn over to find out whether the rule is true or false. You may turn over only the minimum number necessary to determine if this rule is true.
The four cards are
A D 4 7

If interested, take a few minutes to think about the problem.

Most people answer "A only" or "A and 4" according to Halpern. But the right answer is "A and 7".

Syllogisms and Missing Quantifiers

Syllogisms are commonly encountered logic problems. A syllogism usually consists of two statements called premises and a third statement called conclusion. In categorical syllogisms, quantifiers (eg all, some etc) are used in the premises and conclusion. The task is to determine if the conclusion follows logically from the premises.

The typical way to check for validity of categorical syllogisms are through Venn/circle diagrams. G00gling syllogisms and Venn diagram will bring up pages illustrating the formal process.

Example
1. Premise 1 : All people on welfare are poor.
Premise 2: Some poor people are dishonest
Conclusion: Some people on welfare are dishonest

If one can work through the various combinations and find one case where the conclusion is not valid (though it could be valid for most cases), then the syllogism is said to be not valid.
In the above example, all poor people are not on welfare. It is possible for some poor people who are dishonest to not be on welfare. This would make the conclusion logically invalid.

In real life, it is not usually possible to throw Venn diagrams at a syllogism, but working on such tools is helpful in exercizing the critical thinking muscle.

When syllogisms are found in everyday use, the quantifiers are often missing. Sometimes this absence is deliberate in the hope that you will infer one particular quantifier (eg assume "all" instead of the more truthful "some"). Here is an example of categorical reasoning being used in a presidential campaign. A presidential candidate was questioned about his extramarital affairs. He responded this way: I have not been perfect in my private life, but we have had great presidents who were also not perfect in their private lives.
Let us convert this to a categorical syllogism:

Premise1: I am not perfect (in my private life)
Premise 2: Some great presidents were not perfect (in their private lives)
Conclusion: I will be a great president (implied)

In its abstract form this becomes:
A=I (the speaker)
B=people who are not perfect
C=great presidents
or
All A are B
Some C are B
All A are (will be ) C

The conclusion he wanted listeners to draw is that he would also be a great president.

One important factor to keep in mind is that in real life, few things are known for certain. So reasoning is usually probabilistic.

When we reason in everyday contexts, we consider the strength and likelihood of evidence (premises) that support a conclusion and often decide if a conclusion is probable or improbable, not just merely valid or invalid.

Another important point to keep in mind is the distinction between validity of an argument and truth . Validity refers to a form of argument and is unrelated to content. If a conclusion necessarily follows from the premises, then it is valid. But it may not be true. One should take care to examine if the premises given are true or if significant facts are omitted. A conclusion is valid if it follows from the premises but good reasoning from poor premises will not produce realistic results.

Halpern provides a real life example of a revisionist speaker attempting to convince a group of young adults that slavery in the US was not so bad.

First, listeners were asked if they agreed that people do not harm valuable property. Most nodded in agreement. Then they were told that slaves were valuable property; therefore slave owners took good care of their slaves. The speaker went on to say that "most slaves enjoyed being taken care of", so slavery was not as bad as we had been led to believe. The scary part of this scene was that there were many listeners who seemed to be considering this ludicrous idea or could not figure out what was wrong with it. Can you?

I hope that you are outraged at this attempt to rewrite a disgraceful part of US history and to use what seems like reasoning to do it. It is true that most people do not harm valuable property, but there are massive amounts of historical evidence that slaves were often subjected to the most brutal and dehumanizing conditions. The speaker left out far too many relevant facts to make this conclusion logical. There was a seductiveness to the speaker's "logic" but it was patently wrong.

This brings us to the next topic, analyzing an argument.

Anatomy of an Argument

An argument (used in the sense of giving reasons) consists of premises and conclusion. Arguments may also contain assumptions and qualifiers.

Premises are the reasons that support a conclusion- or the "why" part of an argument. To identify a premise in everyday language, it is useful to look for premise markers - though a premise marker is not necessarily always followed by a premise. Some common premise markers are
because, for, if, given that, as shown by, seeing that, whereas .....

Conclusion is the purpose or the "what" of an argument. It is the point of view being supported or defended with the premises. Some common conclusion indicators are
therefore, hence, so, thus, consequently, as a result, it is clear ......

Assumption is a statement for which no proof or evidence is offered. Assumptions are more often implied or unstated.

Take the example of a car advertisement:

More people have bought LaBaroness automobiles than any other American car.

The implied statement is that if more people bought this car, then it must be better in some way. The assumption (unstated) is that when large number of consumers make a choice, it is good. There is no justification for this assumption. The implied conclusion is that buying this automobile would be a good choice.

Qualifiers are constraints or restrictions put on the conclusion. It states the conditions under which the conclusion is supported. Consider the paragraph below

It is important that we have some indicators of what and how much students are learning in college. For this reason, a national college-level testing program is needed. However, if the national assessment is not related to the subjects taught in the college curriculum, then it will not be a valid measure of college-level learning.
Let's dissect the paragraph into its component parts:

The conclusion is : a national college level test is needed.

A premise is: It is important that we have some indicators of what and how much students are learning in college

An unstated assumption is: A national college level test is a good way to indicate what students are learning.

A qualifier is: the conclusion is valid only when the assessment is related to the curriculum.

Arguments can have convergent structure where multiple premises independently support the conclusion. eg

"Be sure to get plenty of aerobic exercise because it helps build a strong cardiovascular system, helps brain function and lowers the resting heart rate."

Arguments can also have a chained structure where one premise is the reason for a second premise which is the reason for a conclusion. eg

"It is important that you work through all of the problems in the workbook because the problems will help you to learn the skills of critical thinking. We can conclude that working the problems in the workbook will help you to learn the skills based on research that shows that active learning promotes long-term retention."


For arguments having a linked structure, the conclusion is only as strong as the weakest subargument.

For complex arguments with multiple premises and conclusions with interlinks, a simple diagramming approach is suggested to check the validity and strength of the argument.

Evaluating the strength of an argument

Arguments are evaluated by how well they meet three criteria.

1) The first criterion concerns the acceptability and the consistency of premises. This often requires personal research, looking at what relevant, credible experts have to say on the topic - evaluating both the source of the information and the information itself. It is useful to make an effort to distinguish between opinions, reasoned judgments and facts.

2) The second criterion concerns the relationship between the premises and the conclusion. Do the premises directly support the conclusion?

Take an example

(a)M and E had a fight this morning. (b) In fact, they fight every day. (c) E is moving out of the apartment and plans to move in with his mother. (d) M has made an appointment with a divorce attorney. Therefore they plan to get a divorce.

Here there are 4 premises (a), (b), (c) and (d) and the conclusion. (a) can be labeled as the weakest by itself as far as supporting the conclusion goes. (b), (c) and (d) get progressively stronger as premises supporting the conclusion.


3) The third criterion concerns the unseen part of the argument. What is missing that could change the conclusion? This is related to the strength of relevant counter arguments that can be found. Going back to the previous revisionist speaker hinting that slavery was not that bad, one can find huge missing portions in facts and counter arguments that blows the argument out of the water.

To assess the soundness of arguments, one has to look out for biases which may lead to rationalization and selectively cherry picking data and analysis preferring a particular conclusion. Halpern sites a study (Lord, Ross and Lepper, 1979) where students were given an essay to write where they argued for or against some controversial issue like abortion or capital punishment. The students were then given the results of experimental studies that supported a "middle of the road" point of view. But after reading the balanced review, students who had written "for" the issue concluded that the objectively neutral paper supported their "pro" position. The students who had written against the issue concluded that the neutral paper supported their "con" position. Instead of bringing the two sides closer, the balanced paper drove them further apart.

Halpern states that the above finding has been repeated in different studies.

So just telling people that we tend to judge information that we favor as stronger than information that we oppose does not work to correct that bias. Is it any wonder why it is so difficult to get people to assess controversial issues in a fair-minded manner? Because we are not aware that we judge reasons in a way that supports what we believe to be true, it is very difficult to change the way we evaluate information.

One successful attempt was accomplished by Koriat, Lichtenstein, and Fischhoff (1980). They required students to list reasons that support a conclusion and reasons that run counter to a conclusion (counter arguments) and to rate the strength of each. This should be familiar because they are steps used in analyzing arguments. They found that the students became more accurate in their assessments after this training in "giving reasons". These results have been replicated in more recent studies in which the bias for information that confirms a prior belief was reduced by requiring people to provide reasons that did not support the preferred conclusion (Lenski, 2001; Flannelly & Flannelly, 2000). The authors of one of the studies summarized their research : " critical thinking skills of students should be fostered so the students come to appreciate the importance of weighting both positive and negative evidence" (Flannelly & Flannelly, 2000).

These sorts of experimental results show that the giving and assessing of reasons can have beneficial results that improve the thinking process.

Edit: Grammar error and clarity
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Ana said:
Yes, I agree, my point was that before, some skills to determine "what it is/what it is not" as you said must be developed. We are just trying to do it step by step so that we don’t end slaves of precipitated and usually flawed “insights” of System 1.

OK,would it be useful at this point to have an example problem to which we might apply some critical thinking?

-----------------------

[quote author=obyvatel]
[quote author=Halpern's "Thought and Knowledge"]
The typical way to check for validity of categorical syllogisms are through Venn/circle diagrams. G00gling syllogisms and Venn diagram will bring up pages illustrating the formal process.

Example
1. Premise 1 : All people on welfare are poor.
Premise 2: Some poor people are dishonest
Conclusion: Some people on welfare are dishonest

If one can work through the various combinations and find one case where the conclusion is not valid (though it could be valid for most cases), then the syllogism is said to be not valid.
In the above example, all poor people are not on welfare. It is possible for some poor people who are dishonest to not be on welfare. This would make the conclusion logically invalid.

In real life, it is not usually possible to throw Venn diagrams at a syllogism, but working on such tools is helpful in exercizing the critical thinking muscle.[/quote][/quote]

I support the reference to Venn diagrams because I've found them useful and easy to use.

Hopefully, when a person reads Premise 1 above, they will also notice what the speaker is not saying: that all poor people are on welfare - especially since this tends to match experience. If that is noticed, then when he gets to Premise 2, he naturally sees that, while some poor people are dishonest, the statement doesn't cover all the poor people so there's probably some poor people who are honest. So, with this much in mind, when the reader gets to the 'conclusion', he already knows that there are possibly some poor people who are not dishonest, so there is no basis but possibility for concluding that "Some people on welfare are dishonest."

IOW, the most that can be said is that it is possible for some people on welfare to be dishonest and if it is important to say for sure, we must go and find out, I reckon.

-------------

In Halpern's work, the point about the role of language is also well made, I think. We do get used to taking verbal (and related thinking) shortcuts - speaking in shorthand, so to speak - and then we start making errors that go unnoticed and can lead to more serious errors.

Simple example: "Some dogs are setters". To some people that may seem intuitively true and it may seem counter-intuitive to even question it even though it is, in fact, backwards compared to proper form. If memory serves, the subject (dogs) is supposed to be in the predicate if it represents the larger class. The proper form would be something like: "Some dogs are animals called setters". As it stands though, and even if the correction applied is not completely correct, 'propositions of relation' like this require the subject's class and the predicate's class to be on the same level and for each class to have some attribute that is not in the other class and for both classes to share the same larger class. At the very least, that statement is little more than an identification between two separate layers of abstraction. It says that some objects (dogs) are attributes (setters).

Example of proper form for a 'proposition of relation': "Some merchants are misers". Both merchants and misers are sub-classed from "people" and there are attributes of 'merchant' that are not in 'miser' and vice-versa.

Another possible example of backward thinking is a common refrain from people involved in failed relationships. How often have we heard someone say something like: "Relationships always (or even many times) end in jealousy and bitterness."

While that may seem intuitively true and it may seem counter-intuitive to question it, the truth seems to be hidden in such a way to make the solution difficult to see. (Sometimes you have to just live the experience to come to know the patterns). The right way around would recognize that people prone to jealousy, resentments and bitterness have this stuff coded in at the start of relationships. It's generally just denied for what it is or otherwise hidden at the start.

During the course of a relationship what's already there just starts growing as it's fed. Hostile behaviors like "testing", checking up on partners, detailed questioning, verbal "barbs", etc - these are usually denied for what they are and painted over with rationalizations about "how much I love you", "care" and "concern" and "I just said it because it's true" and so forth. The truth will eventually come out, though, and what a person can see in retrospect is that the signs were always there to be read.

So far, IRL, the behavior that seems to help my thinking efforts the most is simply asking "why?" and to not just settle for any answer. This may also be a way for people to reconnect with the openness and wonder of childhood.

A child asking questions like "why?" is a natural skeptic. He has a brain more like a Beysian processor I suspect. He is seeking understanding within the full context of his experience. He doesn't just accept any answer and he will try to keep asking questions until he does understand. Maybe that's why Mark Twain once said (loosely paraphrasing): "I've had more intelligent conversations with 6 year olds than I've had with 16 year olds. What are schools doing to them?"

When people stop asking questions, they are settling for static, rote-memorized knowledge packets and a fragmented mental map. As Gurdjieff points out, people can become very successful this way; even retire rich and whatnot, but they won't have genuine understanding. Not of the type Feynman refers to, anyway, when he says that he always feels happier about a result when could find more than one way to derive it. Also (paraphrasing Feynman): "I always try to think of an example [of what I mean] and describe what it's doing."

I suspect something like the above to be one of the direct links in any chain involving an inhibition of creativity.
 
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