The Harm in Taking Things at Face Value

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Happy New Year to you. It’s been a while, I know. A lot has happened in the last 13 months (since my blog post in December 2020) and I’m sure you can relate. Regardless, I hope you find more fulfilment in this year than you ever have and that you get better than you did last year.

Post-2019, so much of what we knew to be commonplace transformed into absurdities before our eyes. Who would have thought the world would become overly contradictory and polarised as it currently is- on a magnitude that it has never been before? Recent events have fiddled with our mental world views, resulting in a separation of the general populace into opposing groups- you are either in the populist camp or in the minority camp. And everyone is talking- so it’s up to you as an individual to choose which of the many narratives you will embrace, and the ones you will discard. I raised this concern in my most recent post.

Fuelling this polarity is the content on social media, which has greatly fostered and amplified groupthink (notice that I refer to the content on social media, NOT social media itself). This is because the populace typically believes that the loudest opinions/voices/personalities amassing the highest views, amplified retweets or highest followings dispense the most sensible things. We take things at face value and don’t bother to interrogate ideas that are in our faces every single day.

To be honest, I believe that groupthink is the bane of critical thinking- something that is needed critically on all levels of existence- personal or professional, and in all facets of society. There’s a growing dearth of mindful interrogation of thoughts to arrive at a ‘well informed’ conclusion. Nowadays, people generally echo the ‘general choir’s sentiments, and this way of operating is seriously harming our ability to engage in dissenting dialogues. It is also causing us to be so narrow-minded and harming our ability to separate the truth from lies.

Richard Paul and Linda Elder describe Critical Thinking perfectly and succinctly below:

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

i. raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;

ii. gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it, effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;

iii. thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and

iv. communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

An area I need to do a lifestyle switch up in is my thinking. It’s easy to just go with the flow and take things at face value. But I am asking myself the following questions:

i. How do I get better than I was last year when it comes to my way of thinking, my perspectives, and my mental models?

ii. How do I ensure that I conclude on any issue solely on my interrogation of the facts associated with that issue- void of ‘the popular or dominant opinions’ on the same issue?

iii. How will I hold my thinking process to the highest level of integrity?

I know this will be a lifelong change that will require iterative self-correction, and I also know that it will modify my world view long term. So I invite you to embark on this journey of expanding your mental bandwidth in 2022. Remember, before you reprise the chorus, be sure you composed your own lyrics.

Footnote

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2008). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts & Tools

Image credits: Man Smoke Fog photo by intographics / 95 images from Pixabay  and Trolls Gnome photo by Efraimstochter / 5255 images from Pixabay

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