Critical Thinking

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” — Thomas Paine.

How often do we question our assumptions, judgements and thinking skills? Not often enough. True critical thinking means less justifying of our actions and acceptance of information at face value and more curiosity and getting in the habit of asking far more questions than we do.

Critical thinking is crucial for good decision-making. Here are some great TED talks to help understand how we make choices.

Attention isn’t just about what we focus on — it’s also about what our brains filter out. By investigating patterns in the brain as people try to focus, computational neuroscientist Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar hopes to build computer models that can be used to treat ADHD and help those who have lost the ability to communicate. Hear more about this exciting science in this brief, fascinating talk.

Critical Thinking worksheets

Assumptions Exercise
Assumptions Exercise

Complete this worksheet to challenge both your own and others’ assumptions.

4 ways to fast track your critical thinking skills
4 ways to fast track your critical thinking skills

Try these as soon as you can to fast track your critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking As It Relates To Problem Solving
Critical Thinking As It Relates To Problem Solving

A simple worksheet that helps you work through problems using critical thinking skills.

More Critical Thinking resources

Why do so many companies make bad decisions, even with access to unprecedented amounts of data? With stories from Nokia to Netflix to the oracles of ancient Greece, Tricia Wang demystifies big data and identifies its pitfalls, suggesting that we focus instead on “thick data” — precious, unquantifiable insights from actual people — to make the right business decisions and thrive in the unknown.

5 great tips for improving your critical thinking skills.

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet?

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep. What if technology could help us get more out of it? Dan Gartenberg is working on tech that stimulates deep sleep, the most regenerative stage which (among other wonderful things) might help us consolidate our memories and form our personalities. Find out more about how playing sounds that mirror brain waves during this stage might lead to deeper sleep — and its potential benefits on our health, memory and ability to learn.

The Diner

£0.00

Duration: 5-10 mins

Intended for: Young people, undergraduates – good for employability skills

Contents: Workshop plan and supporting PowerPoint slides

Objectives: This is a great interactive exercise ideal for young people with a focus on problem-solving, active listening and getting everyone speaking

Why incompetent people think they’re amazing – David Dunning explains.

We all have origin stories and identity myths, our tribal narratives that give us a sense of security and belonging. But sometimes our small-group identities can keep us from connecting with humanity as a whole — and even keep us from seeing others as human. In a powerful talk about how we understand who we are, Chetan Bhatt challenges us to think creatively about each other and our future. As he puts it: it’s time to change the question from “Where are you from?” to “Where are you going?”

Amishi Jha studies how we pay attention: the process by which our brain decides what’s important out of the constant stream of information it receives. Both external distractions (like stress) and internal ones (like mind-wandering) diminish our attention’s power, Jha says — but some simple techniques can boost it. “Pay attention to your attention,” Jha says.

A handful of people working at a handful of tech companies steer the thoughts of billions of people every day, says design thinker Tristan Harris. From Facebook notifications to Snapstreaks to YouTube autoplays, they’re all competing for one thing: your attention. Harris shares how these companies prey on our psychology for their own profit and calls for a design renaissance in which our tech instead encourages us to live out the timeline we want.

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson researches the basis of human communication, and experiments from his lab reveal that even across different languages, our brains show similar activity, or become “aligned,” when we hear the same idea or story. This amazing neural mechanism allows us to transmit brain patterns, sharing memories and knowledge. “We can communicate because we have a common code that presents meaning,” Hasson says.

Meet the “ems” — machines that emulate human brains and can think, feel and work just like the brains they’re copied from. Futurist and social scientist Robin Hanson describes a possible future when ems take over the global economy, running on superfast computers and copying themselves to multitask, leaving humans with only one choice: to retire, forever. Glimpse a strange future as Hanson describes what could happen if robots ruled the earth.

Stanford lecturer and entrepreneur Matt Abrahams is an expert on interpersonal communication and presentation. His talk at TEDxMontaVistaHighSchool’s 2015 Spring conference explains the ins and outs of impromptu and public speaking.

As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other? Sherry Turkle studies how our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication — and asks us to think deeply about the new kinds of connection we want to have.

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