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What Prevents Us From Thinking Critically?

Developing good critical thinking skills among the members of a society would clearly have a positive impact on the society itself. Unfortunately, critical thinking is not held in high esteem in our society. It is not a skill that is valued, supported, encouraged, taught or reinforced. 
So why don’t we value critical thinking and why don’t people strive to build their critical thinking skills? One reason is that, by nature, our thinking is self-serving. Our thoughts support our self-interest. As such, we are prone to self-deceptive thinking. We adopt thoughts and beliefs that may not be rational or logical, but they seem to work for us. Paul and Elder point out several ways of thinking that prevent us from thinking critically:

  • Egocentric thinking:  What I believe is true, even though I have never examined the basis of my belief.
  • Socio-centric thinking:  I take on the beliefs of the dominant group, even though I have never examined the basis of these beliefs.
  • Wishful thinking:  I believe what I want to believe because it makes me feel good, it fits with my other beliefs, it is easier to believe this, it makes me look better, etc.
  • Self-validated thinking:  I believe what I have always believed, even though I have never examined the basis of these beliefs.
  • Selfish thinking:  I believe that which gets me what I want, such as power, money, privilege, fame etc.

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