The Importance of Being Critically Aware
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is a mind skill which allows you to analyse, reflect and evaluate an idea or issue in an objective manner. Being critically aware means having a healthy degree of scepticism, which means constantly asking questions. It also means finding both sides of the story and exploring all the perspectives.
Critical Thinking in Everyday Life
Can critically thinking really be applied to everyday life? Yes! Critical thinking can be utilised in your day-to-day activities; it can have a huge impact on it.
Imagine the following scenario.
It 7am and Sally is getting ready for work. Before going to freshen up, she checks her phone. One of the first things she sees is a new message from her dad saying "My Coldexit toothpaste made my gums bleed". Feeling alarmed, Sally walks into her bathroom to see the exact same brand of toothpaste that her dad claimed caused his teeth problems. Sally proceeds to getting rid of the offending product.
Now lets analyse the situation above. What were some of the things Sally should have done differently?
- Before getting rid of the product, Sally should have researched it.
- She could have asked questions such as: (Are there any known side-effects? Any evidence? Have there been any cases/reports where a customer was harmed from using the product? What are the main causes of bleeding gums? etc.)
- Sally should have considered other possible causes.
The scenario above demonstrates how blind faith and trust can impact on our everyday judgements. Sally made judgements based solely on the information her father told her.
The opinions and the perspective of others can be very useful in gaining insight on an idea or an issue. However, it is also important that you actively analyse and assess the information others are relaying. It can be detrimental to blindly trust that another person's word or opinion is true. Especially if they do not support what they are saying with evidence.
Bias and Propaganda in the News Media
When watching, listening or reading the news, it is important to remember that there are two sides to every story. As follows, it is crucial that you analyse any information that is given to you.
News stories and articles need to be objective. When reading or watching the news, ask your self the following questions:
- Does it display both sides of the story. Does the article explore all perspectives?
- Does the article provide evidence to support their claims?
- Does the article show all their sources? Are their sources credible?
If you have not answered yes to any of the aforementioned questions, the article may not be reliable.
The image below is a screenshot taken from a Fox news newscast. The guest speaker Steve Emerson, an "expert on Islamic Terrorism" made claims that Birmingham (a city in England) and other parts of Europe was ruled by Muslims.
“You basically have zones where Shariah courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country.”
These state of affairs demonstrated that sometimes newscasts do make big claims and they do base it on poor research and poor fact checking. As follows, it is very important that we do not blindly trust in the information they relay to us. We need to be vigilant in checking for objectivity and evidence.
The second set of images display the Steve Emerson's reported source of information.