Description of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
What should you think? Who should you believe? Could you be deceiving yourself? These are questions that all critical thinkers of any age must constantly ask themselves. There is no more important skill in today’s world than being able to think about, understand, and act on information in a way that is both effective and responsible. Critical thinking transforms you from a passive member of society into an active participant in the ideas and issues of the day. It empowers you to better understand nearly every single aspect of everyday life, from health and nutrition to science and technology to philosophical and spiritual belief systems.
What’s more: At no point in human history have we had access to so much information, with such relative ease, as we do in the 21st century. Information is literally everywhere around you; in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and television, and across the Internet. But as the amount of information out there increases, so too does the amount of misinformation. So it’s more important than ever before to become a better critical thinker—someone who can analyze and construct arguments and arrive at more sound, more informed opinions. And the key to success lies in
- understanding the neuroscience behind how our thinking works—and goes wrong;
- mastering the fundamental skills behind logic, reasoning, and argumentation;
- avoiding common pitfalls and errors in thinking, such as logical fallacies and biases; and
- knowing how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience.
All this and more you can find in the 24 rewarding lectures of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills. Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine—an academic neurologist, award-winning instructor, and public educator—equips you with the knowledge and techniques you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. By immersing yourself in the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking, and by learning how to think about thinking (a practice known as metacognition), you’ll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully than ever before.
Explore the Inner Workings of Critical Thinking
Our brains, according to Dr. Novella, are our greatest strength as critical thinkers. But they can also be the source of many weaknesses and impairments in critical thought. In Your Deceptive Mind, you’ll take a closer look at the neuroscientific details of critical thinking and
how the (often unfamiliar) ways in which our brains are hardwired can distract and prevent us from getting to the truth of a particular matter:
- The neuroscience of critical thinking: Approach the act of thinking not as some abstract concept but as an action rooted deep within your brain. In clear, easy-to-understand language, Dr. Novella takes you deep inside this powerful organ to examine how you form beliefs, perceive your surroundings, and remember events.
- Biases and problems in critical thinking: The key to success as a critical thinker lies in understanding the range of biases and problems that can stand in the way of reason and truth. You’ll encounter—and learn how to deftly sidestep—fallacies such as retrofitting of evidence, collective wish fulfillment, reliance on “factoids,”and ad hominem arguments.
- Science and pseudoscience: Knowing how to separate science (the foundation of critical thought) from pseudoscience is of the utmost importance to any well-rounded critical thinker. Here, you’ll investigate common examples of pseudoscience that surround us every day—from the denial of established evidence to the belief in grand conspiracies.
Along the way, you’ll sample a range of illuminating case studies, experiments, and observations from nutrition, science, technology, mass culture, and even politics; all of which vividly illustrate the core components of (and threats to) responsible critical thinking. These include
- how purported sightings of UFOs, ghosts, and Bigfoot are, in reality, plagued by a host of cognitive flaws that also reveal secrets about how we all make sense of unexplainable events;
- how functional MRI scans have demonstrated that different parts of our brain work together to construct an aggregate consciousness and sense of reality;
- how a 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds so easily incited mass hysteria in listeners and actually convinced them that an alien invasion was at hand; and
- how reactions to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy illustrate the inherent tendency in human beings to fall into the cognitive trap of grand conspiracies.
Unpack the Critical Thinker’s Toolbox
Throughout Your Deceptive Mind, Professor Novella provides you with a critical thinker’s toolbox that you can use to better assess the quality of information or to make a more informed decision.
- The smaller the scientific study, the greater you should be concerned about the potential for statistical noise. Larger scientific studies are often needed for the random effects to average out so that a more reliable answer can be arrived at.
- While it’s important to remember that emotions have an influence on an individual’s thought processes, it’s dangerous to completely deny them when analyzing information or trying to make an informed decision.
- Learn to be comfortable with the uncertainty of the world. The truth is that there is no single guarantee of legitimacy when it comes to scientific information, only solid indicators of legitimacy.
- Be particularly on guard when dealing with controversial subjects frequently covered in the media. The more controversial a topic, the greater the chances are that information about that topic is skewed in one direction or another.
These invaluable tips, techniques, and strategies are only a few of what you’ll find in these lectures.
And that’s not all. Your Deceptive Mind’s greatest strength lies in Professor Novella’s delivery and engagement with the material. In addition to being a master teacher, he is an expert on critical thinking and its intersection with science. President and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society and the host of its award-winning show, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, Professor Novella has dedicated himself to increasing the public’s ability to use critical thinking skills to better navigate the mass of information (and misinformation) in today’s highly mediated world.
And the world is only going to get more and more saturated with information. So take the initiative and become better prepared to make sense of it all with this intriguing and rewarding course. While these lectures can’t read the news or make decisions for you, they’ll undoubtedly give you the concrete knowledge for doing so more intelligently.
What you’ll learn in Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
- The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking
- The Neuroscience of Belief
- Errors of Perception
- Flaws and Fabrications of Memory
- Pattern Recognition—Seeing What’s Not There
- Our Constructed Reality
- The Structure and Purpose of Argument
- Logic and Logical Fallacies
- Heuristics and Cognitive Biases
- Poor at Probability—Our Innate Innumeracy
- Toward Better Estimates of What’s Probable
- Culture and Mass Delusions
- Philosophy and Presuppositions of Science
- Science and the Supernatural
- Varieties and Quality of Scientific Evidence
- Great Scientific Blunders
- Science versus Pseudoscience
- The Many Kinds of Pseudoscience
- The Trap of Grand Conspiracy Thinking
- Denialism—Rejecting Science and History
- Marketing, Scams, and Urban Legends
- Science, Media, and Democracy
- Experts and Scientific Consensus
- Critical Thinking and Science in Your Life
About Steven Novella
Professor Steven Novella, M.D.
“All of our beliefs are open to revision: When new data comes in, or maybe just a better way of interpreting data or looking at the way things work, we have to be open to revising what we thought we knew”
Dr. Steven Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his M.D. from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals. An expert in neuroscience, Dr. Novella focuses his practice on neuromuscular disorders.
His personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, is considered one of the top neuroscience blogs and covers issues in neuroscience as well as the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella is also the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a medical blog dedicated to promoting the highest standards of basic and clinical science in medical practice. Dr. Novella is president and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society, a nonprofit educational organization designed to further public understanding of science.
As the host and producer of the organization’s award-winning science show, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Dr. Novella explores the latest scientific discoveries, the presentation of science in the mainstream media, and public understanding and attitudes toward science.
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