Welcome to Chapter Seven: Critical Thinking – Memory Boost. In this pivotal chapter, we delve into the intricate web of cognitive processes that not only sharpen your memory but also enhance your ability to think critically. Throughout Chapter Seven, we will explore strategies, exercises, and techniques that can be integrated into your daily routine to supercharge your mental capabilities. Chapter Seven represents a turning point in your journey towards a more robust memory and sharper thinking. So, let’s embark on this transformative adventure and unlock the potential hidden within Chapter Seven, as we decipher the secrets of memory and critical thinking.
Critical Thinking Defined
We found a definition for critical thinking by Michael Scriven and Richard Paul for their project with the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction:
Critical thinking actively involves analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information from observation, experience, reflection, and reasoning, guiding belief and action effectively. In its exemplary form, critical thinking is based on universal intellectual values. These values transcend subject matter divisions, emphasizing clarity, accuracy, precision, and relevance. Sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness are crucial components.
You’re probably thinking, is there some way this definition could be worded differently so that it’s easier to digest and understand? If indeed that was the first thought that entered your mind, congratulations – you just put your creative thinking cap on! Having discussed the creative mental process, let’s now look at our critical thinking skills.
Rephrasing the definition above, we’ll take some of the keywords: conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluation. These are all verbs. The key nouns are: observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, communication. Modifiers intersperse both verbs and nouns, including clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. We’ve got all the components of the original definition. How about the following as an alternative definition?
Critical thinking begins with our minds receiving sensory input, followed by a process of analysis, application, and summarization. This leads to a clear, accurate, and fair assessment of the information.
Was that easier and less doctoral? We certainly hope so. Don’t be misled. We respect the original definition. The writers likely overlooked that this definition applies not just to an academic journal but also to the Internet. Web writing differs significantly from thesis-like writing.
In its minimalist form, critical thinking involves how we handle data gathered from our environment, deciding its use or discard. Should we choose to use it, we must break it down into components for a clear and precise plan. That’s the minimalist version.
Scriven and Paul, however, take critical thinking one notch higher: critical thinking should be fair and justified. What they mean is that an individual’s motives influence the process of critical thinking. When his motives are selfish, this is evident in the clever manipulation of ideas to serve one’s own purpose. Hence it risks being intellectually flawed, no matter how practical or useful those ideas are.
By grounding critical thinking on fair-mindedness, Scriven and Paul elevate it intellectually, despite some deeming it “too idealistic.” They argue that it’s impossible to label someone a complete critical thinker, as we all experience irrational moments. Critical thinking essentially is a question of degree and dependence on range and depth of experience, among other things.
Methods of Critical Thinking
The process of critical thinking follows a logical sequence:
It’s usually more effective to support principles with real-life examples. Here’s one situation. Picture yourself pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, choosing a thesis over a grueling week of exams. You will be interrogated by a panel of professors. Since you’ve written term papers all your life and feel you’ve honed your research skills, you decided that doing a 200-page thesis would be the better option. You have three facts to consider:
Fact #1: You have two topics in mind: one is on Freud’s contradictions and the other is on Type A Personalities and how type A behavior can lead to stress-related disorders.
Fact #2: You received notice that three professors will be on your oral defense panel and you know them well, having taken a few classes under them during your four-year degree. Professor X is a traditionalist thinker and has a profound respect for Freud; Professor Y is a young professor who graduated from an Ivy League university and has a string of accomplishments to his name: captain of the basketball team at the university, marathon runner with two gold medals, coaches his daughter’s lacrosse team, and you’ve heard him once or twice scoff at Freudian principles.
He’s obviously a type A personality and at the rate he’s accomplishing his numerous life goals, a sure candidate for chronic fatigue syndrome. Professors X and Z would maintain a neutral stance since neither of them possesses a type A personality, and they do not have a particular interest in this area of psychology. He hosts
barbecues in his home, doesn’t mind a good stick of marijuana occasionally and plays the banjo. He’s the type of professor who doesn’t take the “publish or perish” motto of academia too seriously. In fact, he has chosen to perish rather than publish.
Additionally, you discover that Professor X is part of a secret sect of Freud disciples. Furthermore, you recall that during a barbecue party at Professor Z’s house, he humorously criticized Freud’s theories as overly sex-oriented. Based on the three facts above-you now need to decide which topic to write on. Here’s our suggested approach for addressing this issue, taking critical thinking methods into account. This involves gathering, breaking down into components, examining, weighing, adjusting, assessing, and then taking appropriate action.
√ By noting down the facts, you have already gathered the info (three professors on the panel) and broken it down into components (reputation of each professor).
√ Applying the examination method, you sense that challenging Freud may lead to resistance from Professor X due to his profound respect for Freud. This might make defending your arguments challenging. On the other hand, Professor Y, displaying type A tendencies, would demand substantial evidence and scrutinize your research methods. Professor Z would likely acknowledge Freud’s contradictions and pose a few questions for formality, ensuring the authenticity of your work. Your most difficult battle would then be with professors X & Y.
√ On the other hand, if you choose the second topic – type A personalities and their health problems – professor Y would probably challenge you the most. He may appreciate your thesis because it would enlighten him on potential health problems, or he may deride you for jumping to conclusions. He could even accuse you for using too much anecdotal evidence instead of actual case experiments supported by scientific data. Professors X and Z would take a neutral stance. They neither possess a type A personality nor hold a particular interest in this psychology area.
√ As you weigh your facts and arguments, you’re realizing this might be your best approach. Discard the Freud thesis to avoid anti-Freudian backlash and embrace the type-A personality thesis. Professor Y’s challenges won’t deter you; your knowledge and research will prevail.
√ When assessing the weightings, emphasize the benefits of type A personalities, highlight their achievement potential, and moderate criticism. Also, stress that not all type A personalities develop illnesses later in life and focus on productivity. This approach should prevent Professor Y from feeling personally attacked and encourage a more lenient questioning stance.
√ Acting you’ve carefully studied the situation, so you now send off a note to the academic office that you will be writing your thesis on type-A personalities.
Proponents of critical thinking assert that critical thinking does not begin and end at certain points; individuals must continuously change or adjust it in light of new information obtained because it is a continuum of thought. You must not assume that by applying the methods of critical thinking, you will reach the right answers and conclusions. The information that is gathered may be false, biased or only half-true. And just because we call our mind to task when we engage in critical thinking, it does not mean that our emotions do not get involved. They do. In some situations, our emotions can affect the nature of the information we obtain to help us make a decision.
Paradigms of Critical Thinking
An article on Wikipedia explains that critical thinking may be looked at within many frameworks or paradigms. This paradigm is a four-tiered one. Dual reasoning – in this thinking mode, the paradigm at work is usually in terms of black/white; wrong/right; good/bad; either/or. The example of the graduating student who had to write a thesis had to choose between Freud or type-A personalities, and the advantages and disadvantages of one topic versus the other.
Diverse perspectives make us recognize that others may hold different views or approach problems uniquely. The graduating student may fear that Professor X, a Freud disciple, won’t welcome her critique of Freud’s contradictions. However, it’s also plausible that Professor X, while a Freud supporter, might agree that Freud’s theories had numerous contradictions.
Relativity “it’s all relative”, we hear people say. Indeed it is. Because people are different, ideas may also be different, but they are all equal. Relativity is a step up from multiplicity in that it recognizes that different people have different opinions, and that these opinions are not necessarily wrong or correct.
Relativity with commitment- this mode dictates that there may be a difference in opinion, but to enable us to validate an opinion we must have a set of criteria upon which to validate it. There is another principle that operates in critical thinking: the simplest solution is likely the best. We’ve all heard the advice, “keep it simple.” It is based on Occam’s Razor, or the “principle of parsimony,” which requires making only one assumption – making too many would be unnecessary.
In conclusion, Chapter Seven has illuminated the path to enhancing memory and critical thinking. Throughout Chapter Seven, we’ve uncovered an array of invaluable tools and techniques that can be harnessed in our everyday lives. The insights gained from Chapter Seven are not only valuable but also essential for personal and professional growth. As we close the chapter on Chapter Seven, remember that this journey is ongoing, and the wisdom acquired within these pages will continue to empower you. Keep revisiting Chapter Seven as a constant source of inspiration and guidance on your quest for an improved memory and sharper critical thinking skills. Embrace Chapter Seven as a treasure trove of knowledge that will guide you to greater heights in your cognitive journey.