Spread the love

A “Revisited” blog post indicates that I reread the original and used AI-assisted tools (e.g., Grammarly) to improve grammar and word choice.

One of the reasons that I enjoy teaching is that I am encouraged to think. I would argue that one of the missions of higher education is to develop thinking capabilities—and the joy of thinking — in students. This can be done in several ways, and it can be overdone. Similarly, emphasizing “learning objectives can be overdone, ironically diminishing the joy of teaching and learning.

I find the term “critical thinking” over-used, with users of the time very often having very different private definitions. I want my students (and me!) to be able to think deeply and to be perspicacious, to understand nuances and to recognize the quality of arguments, to know when it is appropriate to take something at face value or to trust one’s intuition and when it is prudent to challenge what seems commonsensical or nonsensical.  And then there is the problem of measuring this quality of thinking!

A book I recently read shows promise for how I might better develop clearer thinking of my students—at least about popularized “findings” in psychology.  In 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior, authors Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry L. Beyerstein suggest that there are ten significant ways in which we are fooled by plausible sounding but specious claims:

  • Repetition of the (false) claim across a wide variety of sources
  • Our desire for easy, quick answers
  • Our selective perception and memory
  • Our predisposition to infer causation from correlation
  • Our tendency to think that if one event follows another, it has been caused by it
  • Exposure to biased samples
  • Misuse of mental shortcuts
  • Misleading media portrayals
  • Exaggerations of kernels of truth
  • Terminological confusion

The authors do an admirable example of thoughtful, careful examination of fifty widely held “myths” in psychology  (e.g., most people use only 10% of their brain power). They spell out, where possible, the myth’s origins, how the idea has been or can be tested, why the myth persists, and how to better develop ways of reducing susceptibility to such faulty thinking. I’m impressed enough by the book that I intend to incorporate it into my Introductory Psychology class—though, as the authors suggest, the reader should be required reading for all educators or journalists who attempt to popularize ideas and findings of psychology. The book provides much to think about.