The second is the transcript of a series of lectures by Prof Steven Novella, an academic neurologist at Yale: 'Your Deceptive Mind: a scientific guide to critical thinking skills'. The series is about metacognition - thinking about thinking. Here is a snippet (paraphrased by me) from the introduction ...
'Humans posses logic but we are not inherently logical creatures. In addition to being logical, we are also highly emotional creatures; we tend to follow our evolved emotions and rationalisations. Our thoughts tend to follow the pathway of least resistance, which is not always the optimal pathway. Logic and critical thinking are therefore learned skills. The inherent tendency of humans is to make many errors in thinking. Flaws in logic are called 'logical fallacies', in which we tend to make connections that are not valid. Our thinking is also plagued with many false assumptions. Our heads are filled with knowledge we think is true, but is in fact false ... Our memories are also massively flawed. We tend to naively assume that our memories are an accurate, passive recorder of what has happened, but our memories are actually plagued with numerous flaws that make them highly unreliable. In psychology, 'heuristics' are patterns of thinking. They are mental shortcuts that we tend to take that may be right much of the time, but are wrong often enough to frequently lead us astray.
'We compensate for all of these flaws in our brain's functioning by using metacognition, or thinking about thinking itself. Thinking critically is a process, and the first component is to examine the facts - many of them may not be reliable, or they may be assumptions ... You also need to examine your logic. Is it legitimate or flawed in some way? Perhaps it is biased in a certain direction. You should try to become aware of your motivations. Understanding your motivations will help you deconstruct the process and give you the skills to discover conclusions that are more likely to be true, as opposed to ones you wish to be true. Critical thinking also means thinking through the implications of a belief. If you think about what else has to be true if a certain belief is true and whether both make sense, that is a good way to tell how likely to be true a belief is. You should also check your thinking with others: no matter how developed your thinking skills are, you are still only one person, whose thinking is quirky and individual. You have a limited fund of knowledge and a limited perspective. You don't know what you don't know. It is important to be humble, which means knowing your limits. We tend to get in to trouble when we assume we have expertise or knowledge we don't have or when we don't question the limits of our knowledge. Finally, be comfortable with uncertainty. There are some things we simply cannot know or that we currently do not know ...'
If you would like an introduction to clinical reasoning, take a look at the Resources Page, or post a comment on the blog!