Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Review the definition of critical thinking, the barriers to critical thinking, and the 3 stages of cognitive development in college students in Ch. 1 of THiNK: Critical Thinking a - EssayAbode

Review the definition of critical thinking, the barriers to critical thinking, and the 3 stages of cognitive development in college students in Ch. 1 of THiNK: Critical Thinking a


Review the definition of critical thinking, the barriers to critical thinking, and the 3 stages of cognitive development in college students in Ch. 1 of THiNK: Critical Thinking and Logic Skills for Everyday Life before you respond.

Write a 75- to 125-word response to each of the following prompts. Enter your response on a new line.

1. What is the role of critical thinking in your daily life? Consider your personal, professional, and school life in your response. Review the definition of critical thinking in Ch. 1 of THiNK: Critical Thinking and Logic Skills for Everyday Life.

2. Provide an example of a situation in your life in which critical thinking could be used. Why would critical thinking be helpful in that situation?

3. Identify 3 to 4 barriers to critical thinking that you can relate to. Describe the barriers in your own words. Provide an example of a situation where you have, or might in the future, encounter each barrier.

Note: You do not need to describe how you can overcome the barriers you identified. You will have that opportunity in a future assignment. Focus on the barriers to critical thinking and examples that are meaningful to you.

4. Which of the 3 stages of cognitive development (dualism, relativism, commitment) are you at? Explain why you placed yourself in this stage of development. How might you move to the next stage if you are at stage 1 or 2, or how you might maintain stage 3?

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is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. . . .21

Like the beginner’s mind, good critical thinkers do not reject, without sound reasons, views that conflict with their own. Instead, they are willing to consider multiple perspectives. One of the recent breakthroughs in neuroscience is the discovery that the brains of Buddhist monks who meditate regularly—a practice that involves being mindful, open, and attentive to what is going on in the present moment—are neurally much more active and more resilient in neuroplasticity than are the brains of people who do not ‐ meditate.22 Many large corporations, including some Fortune 500 companies, are encouraging their executives to take meditation breaks on the job, since it has been found to improve their performance.23 The power of mindfulness was recently demonstrated when a soccer team of twelve boys and their assistant coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong, a former Buddhist monk, were rescued after being trapped deep in a cave in Thailand by monsoon rains. They were trapped for more than two weeks without food, not knowing whether or not rescue would be coming. Ake’s training in the practice of mindfulness and mediation kept the boys calm until rescue finally arrived. Amazingly, everyone survived.

Collaborative Learning

Critical thinking occurs in a real-life context. We are not isolated individuals—we are interconnected beings. As critical thinkers we need to move beyond the traditional, detached approach to thinking and develop a more collaborative approach that is grounded in shared dialogue and community.

The failure to take into account context and relationships can lead to faulty decisions that we may later regret. An example of this type of faulty reasoning is the tendency of many individuals to neglect both feedback and complexity. Because of this, they tend not to fully and accurately consider the other side’s response. In a  relationship we may do something in an attempt to get our partner to pay more attention to us—for example, threatening to leave a partner if he or she doesn’t stop spending so much time with friends —only to see this backfire, losing the relationship altogether because we failed to consider how the other person might react.

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Vicki Beaver/Alamy Stock photo

To use another example, military planners in developing strategies sometimes fail to consider what the enemy might do in return to minimize the effectiveness of these strategies. During the War of 1812, a group of politicians in Washington, D.C., decided the time had come to add Canada to the United States. Their military strategy failed primarily because they did not adequately assess the Canadian response to the U.S. mission to annex Canada. Instead of greeting the American invaders as liberators from British rule, Canadians regarded the war as an unprovoked attack on their homes and lives. Rather than uniting Canada and the United States, the War of 1812 gave rise to the first stirring of Canadian nationalism (and even provoked a movement in New England to secede from the United States).24

Did You Know?

The ancient Greek thinker Socrates (469–399 bce) spent much of his time in the marketplace of Athens surrounded by his young followers. He used this public venue to seek out people in order to challenge their traditional beliefs and practices. He did this by engaging people in a type of critical thinking, now referred to as the Socratic method, in which his probing questions provoked them into realizing their lack of rational understanding and their inconsistencies in thought.

Good critical thinkers adopt a collaborative rather than an adversarial stance, in which they listen to and take others’ views into account. Let’s go back to the relationship example. Rather than accusing our partner of not spending enough time with us, a good critical thinker would express his or her feelings and thoughts and then listen to the other person’s side. Critical thinkers carefully consider all perspectives and are open to revising their views in light of their broader understanding. Using our critical- thinking skills, we might come to realize that our partner’s friends are very important to him or her. Perhaps we are being insecure and need to spend more time with our own friends, giving our partner more space. Maybe we can find a solution that meets both our needs. For example, the sports lovers can bring their partners or another friend along once or twice a month to watch the games with them.

Good critical thinkers adopt a collaborative rather than an

adversarial stance.



As a skilled critical thinker, you should:

Have good analytical skills Possess effective communication skills Be well informed and possess good research skills Be flexible and able to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty Adopt a position of open-minded skepticism Be a creative problem solver

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Be attentive, mindful, and intellectually curious Engage in collaborative learning

APPLICATION: Identify an example of each of the characteristics in the text.



Watch the Milgram film Obedience. Discuss ways in which the participants in the film demonstrated, or failed to demonstrate, good critical-thinking skills. Identifying good role models in your life can help you come up with a picture of the person you would like to be. Think of a person, real or fictional, who exemplifies good critical-thinking skills. Make a list of some of the qualities of this person. Discuss how these qualities help the person in his or her everyday life. Adopt the stance of the Buddhist “beginner’s mind.” Be attentive only to what is ‐ happening in the present moment. After one minute, write down everything you observed going on around you as well as inside of you (your feelings, body language, and the like). Did you notice more than you might have otherwise? Share your observations with the class. Discuss ways in which this practice of being more attentive to what is going on might enhance your effectiveness as a critical thinker. Working in groups of four to six students, select an issue about which the group is evenly divided into positions for or against it. Each side should adopt a stance of belief and open-mindedness when listening to the other side’s position. After the pro side presents its views for two minutes, the anti side takes one minute to repeat back the pro’s views without interjecting its own doubts. Repeat the process with the anti side presenting its views. Discuss as a class how this exercise helped you to suspend your biases and to actively listen to views that diverge from your own. Referring to the Self-Evaluation Questionnaire on page 6, share your strengths and ‐ weaknesses as well as your plans for improving your critical-thinking skills with others, whether it be friends, family, or in class. Discuss steps you might take or have already taken to work toward or overcome some of your weaknesses.


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Critical thinking is not just about abstract thought. It is also about self-improvement and your whole development as a person. Working on your self requires that you be honest with yourself and others about your biases, your expectations, your strengths, and your limitations. Are your expectations realistic? Do you have a well-thought-out plan and goals for your life? People who are inflexible in their thinking may be unable to adapt to changing or new or unusual circumstances and may instead get caught up in rules and inflexible ways of thinking that are inadequate to resolve the situation.

Living the Self-Examined Life

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said. Often we flounder in college because we have not taken the time to learn about ourselves or develop a plan for our future. The lives of too many people are controlled more by circumstances than by their own choices. Good critical thinkers, in contrast, take charge of their lives and choices rather than opting for the security of fitting into the crowd or simply blindly following an authority figure as happened in the Milgram study at the beginning of this chapter. In addition to being rational thinkers, they are in touch with their emotions and feelings. We’ll be looking more at the role of emotion in Chapter 2.

Some psychologists and psychiatrists believe that irrational beliefs and poor critical- thinking skills contribute to many of the “problems of life,” such as depression, rage, and low self-esteem.25 While depression often has a biochemical component that needs to be treated, poor critical- thinking skills can aggravate or even be a major factor in some types of situational depression where a student feels overwhelmed and unable to cope or make a decision in a particular set of circumstances. In a recent survey by the American College Health Association, 41.9 percent of college students reported that at least once during the past year they felt “so depressed, it was difficult to function.”26 Since people tend to become better at problem-solving as they get older, it is not surprising that depression rates start to drop beginning at age 30. According to the Institute of Mental Health, compared to people over the age of 50, 18−26-year-olds are more than twice as likely to experience depression. See Table “Age Differences in Depression” at the bottom of this page.

Although by no means a cure-all, improving critical- thinking skills has been shown to help people deal more effectively with their problems.27 Rather than view the problems in our lives as being out of our control, we should—as cognitive psychologists in particular counsel us—develop strategies for taking charge of our lives, develop realistic expectations, and commit ourselves to acknowledging and developing the skills to resolve our problems.

Age Differences in Depression

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Source: Data courtesy of SAMHSA.

Developing a Rational Life Plan

American philosopher John Rawls (1921–2002) wrote that in order to get the most out of life, everyone needs to develop a “rational life plan”—that is, a plan that would be chosen “with full deliberative rationality, that is, with full awareness of the relevant facts and after a careful consideration of the consequences. . . . Someone is happy, when his plans are going well and his more important aspirations are being fulfilled.”28

In drawing up our life plan, we make a hierarchy, with our most important plans or goals at the top, followed by a list of subplans. Organize your goals according to a schedule when they are to be carried out, although the more distant a goal is, the less specific the plan will be. Of course, we can’t predict everything that will happen in life, and there will be times when circumstances hinder us from achieving our goals. Think of a life plan as being like a flight plan. Airplanes are off course about 90 percent of the time because of factors such as weather, wind patterns, and other aircraft. The pilot must constantly correct for these conditions to get the plane back on course. Without a flight plan, the pilots and their planes would be at the mercy of winds and weather, blown hither and thither, and never reaching their destination.

Begin putting together your life plan by making a list of your values, interests, skills, and talents. Values are what are important to you in life and include things such as financial security, love, family, career, independence, spirituality, health and fitness, education, contributions to society, friends, sense of integrity, and fun. Your goals in life, whether raising a family or being well-off financially, should be rational as well as consistent with your values. Take time to deliberate about your hierarchy of values. It is possible that after careful consideration of the implications of a particular value, such as “being very well-off financially,” you may want to place it lower on your hierarchy of values.

If you are unsure of your skills and talents, go to the career office at your college and take some of the aptitude and personality tests available there, such as the Myers–Briggs Indicator.29 These tests are useful in helping you to determine which career or careers

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1. 2. 3. 4.

a. b.

5. 6.

might be most fulfilling for you. The website also provides helpful information on choosing a major and a career.

But don’t just list your strengths, assets, and competencies; take note of your weaknesses too. Weaknesses are something we do poorly or something we lack, such as financial resources, information, or technical expertise.

Once you’ve written down your values, interests, talents, skills, and weaknesses, list your goals. Goals are important in helping you organize your day-to-day life and in giving your life direction. Start out by listing short-term goals, or those that you want to accomplish by the time you graduate from college; for example, choose a major, maintain a 3.0 average, or get more exercise. These goals should be consistent with your interests, talents, and the type of person you want to be. Also come up with a plan of action to achieve these short- term goals.



In putting together your life plan, you need to identify:

Your most important values Your strengths (interests, skills, talents, and assets) Your weaknesses (e.g., lack of financial resources or skill) Your goals

Short term Long term

A plan of action to achieve short-term goals A plan of action to achieve long-term goals

APPLICATION: Identify an example of each of the six steps in the text.

Next, list your long-term goals. Ideally, your long-term and short-term goals should augment each other. Your plans for achieving the long-term goals should be realistic and compatible with your short-term goals and interests. Think creatively about how certain goals can fit together.

People who are skilled critical thinkers not only have reasonable, well-thought-out goals and strategies to achieve them but also act from a sense of integrity or personal authenticity and respect for the integrity and aspirations of others in their lives. We are not isolated individuals but social beings whose decisions affect the lives of all those around us.

Facing Challenges

Sometimes traditional practices and cultural beliefs get in the way of achieving our life plan. In these cases, we may need to develop subgoals that involve challenging the obstructing beliefs rather than give up our life plan. Openly questioning traditional belief systems and effectively addressing challenges to deeply held beliefs require courage and self-confidence. The abolitionists and early feminists and civil rights advocates were often ridiculed and even imprisoned because they challenged traditions they believed were unjust. See “Thinking Outside the Box: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Women’s Rights Leader” on page 17.

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When Martin Luther King Jr. was thrown in jail for his role in organizing the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, he refused to back down despite the beseeching of his fellow clergy. Fortunately, King had the courage to stand by his convictions. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King wrote to his fellow clergy that a law that degrades humans is unjust and, as such, must be opposed. Furthermore, to be effective, opposition may require civil disobedience and even jail, since oppressors do not give up their power willingly.

Critical thinking, as we noted earlier, requires being in touch with our emotions, such as indignation or anger, elicited by unjust treatment, as in the case of King, or by a shocking image such as photos of prisoners of war being tortured and children dying of starvation.

Connections How can participation in civic life improve your critical-thinking skills and enhance your personal growth? See Chapter 13, p. 420. What marketing strategies should you be aware of so as to avoid being an uncritical consumer? See Chapter 10, pp. 325–326.

In addition to being able to effectively challenge social injustices, as critical thinkers, we need to be able to respond thoughtfully to challenges to our own belief systems rather than engaging in resistance. This requires good critical-thinking skills as well as self- confidence.

The Importance of Self-Esteem

Effective critical-thinking skills appear to be positively correlated to healthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem emerges from effectiveness in problem-solving and success in achieving our life goals. The task of sorting out genuine self-worth from a false sense of self-esteem requires critical thinking. Healthy self-esteem is not the same as arrogant pride or always putting one’s own interests first. Nor are people with proper self-esteem habitually self-sacrificing, subverting their interests and judgment to those of others.

People with low self-esteem are more vulnerable to manipulation by others. They experience more “depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, nightmares . . . withdrawal from others, nervous laughter, body aches and emotional tension.”30 Some of these traits, such as anxiety and nervous laughter, were seen in the Milgram study participants who complied with the request of the authority figure. Indeed, many of these men later came to regret their compliance and even required psychotherapy.

Good critical-thinking skills are essential in exercising your autonomy. Critical thinkers are proactive. They are aware of the influences on their lives, including family, culture, television, and friends; they can build on the positive influences and overcome the negative ones, rather than be passively carried through life and blaming others if their decisions turn out poorly.

An autonomous person is both rational and self- directing and therefore less likely to be taken in by poor reasoning or contradictions in his own or  other’s reasoning. Being self-directing entails making decisions on the basis of what is reasonable instead of  getting swept up in groupthink or blindly obeying an authority figure. To achieve this end, autonomous critical thinkers seek out different perspectives and actively participate in critical dialogues to gain new insights and expand their own thinking.

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A life plan is like a flight plan; it helps keep us on course. Geoff Tompkinson/Getty Images

Martin Luther King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than back down on his goal of equality for all people, made him one of the most effective civil rights leaders in American history. Everett Collection/CSU Archives/Newscom

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Outside the Box ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, Women’s Rights Leader

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902) was a social activist and leader in the early women’s rights movement. In 1840, when she was a young newlywed, Stanton attended the World Anti-Slavery Society convention in London, which her husband was attending as a delegate. It was there that Stanton met Lucretia Mott (1793– 1880). At the convention, the women delegates from the United States were denied seats after some of the male U.S. delegates vehemently objected. Mott, in response, demanded that she be treated with the same respect as accorded to any man— white or black. During these heated discussions, Stanton marveled at the way Mott held her own in the argument, “skillfully parried all their attacks . . . turning the laugh on them, and then by her earnestness and dignity silencing their ridicule and jeers.”*

Following the Civil War, Stanton refused to support passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave voting rights to black men but not to women. She argued that the amendment essentially was based on the fallacy of false dilemma**—either black men get the vote (but not women) or only white men can vote. Instead she pointed out that there was a third option: both men and women should have the right to vote. Unfortunately, her argument and her challenges to traditional beliefs about the role of women were ridiculed. Although black men received the vote in 1870 with passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, it would be another 50 years before women were given the right to vote in the United States. Although Stanton, being a product of the prejudices of her time, limited her advocacy to white women, her fight for equal opportunity for  women paved the way for the passage of  the 19th Amendment so that other women could participate in the political life of the country.


Stanton had friends such as Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony in her fight for women’s rights. Discuss ways in which having a support network of people who are skilled critical thinkers can enhance your ability not to use or fall for faulty reasoning.

Think of a time when your ability to pursue your goals was compromised by ridicule. Discuss steps you might take to make yourself less likely to give in to faulty reasoning or to give up on an aspect of your life plan under such circumstances.

Our concern for the rights of others is shaped by our cultural definition of moral community, defined as “all beings who have inherent moral value and, as such deserve the respect and protection of the community.” Some beings, such as white males, are closer to the center, while others are marginalized or even outside the moral community. For example, at one time blacks were not considered part of the moral community. Presidents Washington and Jefferson, while advocating for equal rights for all men, were slave-owners. Similarly, Stanton, while fighting for women’s rights part limited her advocacy to white women. Discuss ways in which our current cultural definition of the moral community excludes or privileges certain groups of beings.

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Bettmann/Getty Images

  *Lloyd Hare, The Greatest American Women: Lucretia Mott (New York: American Historical Society, 1937), p. 193. **For more on the fallacy of false dilemma, see Chapter 5, page 162.

Did You Know?

Studies show that young people who have positive self-esteem “have more friends, are more apt to resist harmful peer pressure, are less sensitive to criticism or to what people think, have higher IQs, and are better informed.”31

Critical Thinking in a Democracy

Critical-thinking skills are essential in a democracy. Democracy literally means rule by the people; it is a form of government in which the highest power in the state is invested in the people and exercised directly by them or, as is generally the case in modern democracies, by their elected officials. As  citizens of a democracy, we have an obligation to be well

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informed about policies and issues so that we can effectively participate in critical discussions and decisions.

democracy A form of government in which the highest power in the state is invested in the people and exercised directly by them or, as is  generally the case in modern democracies, by their elected officials.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of the first importance.”32

The purpose of democracy is not to achieve consensus through polling or majority vote but to facilitate open-ended discussion and debates by those with diverse views. Truth, argued British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), often is found neither in the opinion of those who favor the status quo nor in the opinion of the nonconformist but in a combination of viewpoints. Therefore, freedom of speech and listening to opposing views, no matter how offensive they may be, are essential for critical thinking in a democracy.

Many of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were denied access to legal counsel and other protections as required by the United Nations’ Geneva Conventions. Despite calls by the United Nations to close Guantanamo Bay by January 2007, it is still open. Although most of the prisoners have been transferred or released, in 2018 President Trump signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay Prison open indefinitely. As of January 2019 there were still 40 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images


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Jeff Widener/AP Images

Student Protestor in Front of Tanks at Tiananmen Square, China On June 3 and 4, 1989, hundreds, possibly thousands, of unarmed demonstrators protesting the legitimacy of China’s communist government were shot dead in a brutal military operation to crush a democratic uprising in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The demonstrators, who were mostly university students, had occupied the square for several weeks, refusing to leave until their demands for democratic reform were met. A photographer captured the above picture of a lone, unnamed demonstrator standing in front of the tanks, bringing to a halt the row of advancing tanks. To this day, no one knows who the demonstrator was or what his fate was.

Discussion Questions What do you think the student in the photo is thinking and feeling? What do you think led up to his decision to take this action? Does his action show good critical thinking? Discuss ways in which the student’s action demonstrates, or does not demonstrate, good critical-thinking skills. Relate your answer to the actions of reformers such as Stanton and King. Imagine yourself in a similar situation. Discuss how you would most likely react and how your reaction is a reflection of your current self-development. What steps could you take in your life to make yourself more likely to engage in civil disobedience, particularly in a case where your life was not at stake?

Corrupt politicians have been elected or appointed to public office and high-ranking positions in their parties because the people failed to educate themselves about their activities and ideals. Indeed, in a 1938 poll of Princeton freshmen, Adolf Hitler was ranked first as the “greatest living person”!33 And in New York City in the mid-nineteenth century, politician William Marcy “Boss” Tweed (1823–1878) conned citizens out of millions of

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dollars. He also managed to get his corrupt associates, known as the Tweed Ring, appointed and elected to high offices.

Unlike totalitarian societies, modern democracies encourage diversity and open discussion of different ideas. Research on the effects of race, ethnicity, class, and diversity on college students reveals “important links between experiences with diversity and increased commitment to civic engagement, democratic outcomes and community participation.”34 Exposure to diversity on campus and in the classroom broadens students’ perspectives and improves critical- thinking and problem-solving skills.

Connections What critical-thinking skills do you need to participate in campaigns and elections, influence public policy, and understand the legal system? See Chapter 13. </

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