!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Why Critical Thinking May Not Happen

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why Critical Thinking May Not Happen

If, as several previous posts have argued, critical thinking is vital for sound decision-making, why is it so often MIA?

The Wall Street Journal published a short report on October 20 offering some insight. Specifically, Sharon Begley reports on the views of D. Alan Bensley, a cognitive psychologist at Frostburg State University in Maryland, concerning "the reasons people hold tight to seemingly ludicrous beliefs."1

Bensley focuses on the circumstances in which people perfectly capable of deploying critical thinking skills nevertheless choose not to. According to Bensley,
Being curious, open-minded, open to new experiences and conscientious indicates a disposition to employ critical thinking ... So does being less dogmatic and less authoritarian, and having a preference for empirical and rational data over intuition and emotion when weighing information and reaching conclusions.
Bensley argues that the most typical impediment to actually using one's critical thinking skills is extreme reluctance to accept contradictions to one's deeply held beliefs and hopes.

One implication of this insight for business is that it's important to seek out employees who are open-minded (at least in areas relevant to your business's prospects for success). Another implication is that training on how to exert influence can help employees nudge their more credulous peers toward evidence-based decisions.

1 "Why Great Thinkers Sometimes Fail to Think Critically," D. Alan Bensley (Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 30, no. 4, July/August 2006). Begley offers this definition of critical thinking: "... being able to evaluate evidence, to tell fact from opinion, to see holes in an argument, to tell whether cause and effect has been established and to spot illogic."