Critical Thinking: Part Skill, Part Mindset And Totally Up to You is the title of a column by Sharon Begley in the October 20 2006 edition of the Wall Street Journal.
It is a wonderful piece that begins with a story about a mother who lost her son in the sea. Nearly 14 years later, an impostor comes forward as her son and although the evidence is compelling that he is not her son, she embraces him. He was found guilty later.
The article explores why even reasonable people sometimes abandon critical thinking.
Critical thinking, as we all know, is the ability to gather and evaluate evidence, to differentiate between facts and opinion, to see gaping holes in arguments, to see the link between cause and effect, and to embrace logic rather than illogic. A quote from the article follows:
"It is a truism that emotions and hopes can trump reason. But with so many contentious issues these days manifesting themselves as clashes in which reason squares off against passion, researchers are becoming keenly interested in the reasons people hold tight to seemingly ludicrous beliefs." End Quote.
Dr. Alan Bensley of Frostburg State University states that while research shows that these skills can be taught, they are very different from "critical-thinking dispositions." In other words, simply because you have it doesn’t mean you will deploy it! " Professor Bensley states, "Critical thinking skills have to do with cognitive ability of reasoning. Critical-thinking dispositions are more related to traits that determine whether you choose to use those skills." In other words, having critical thinking skills is not enough. You must have a desire to use them.
It all makes sense, doesn’t it? This is why intelligent people readily give up their critical thinking skills and sometimes endorse the irrational behavior of their colleagues.