Science

From definition to critical thinking education, by Albert Moukheiber

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In response to disinformation campaigns, fake news, and other conspiracies, critical thinking education is often heard as a proposition. But what does the research say? Are we really capable of developing some kind of infallible method of reasoning? What is established knowledge and points still under discussion *?

Two central elements for critical reasoning seem to be the subject of scientific consensus. The first is that certain mental building blocks seem necessary, in particular a good epistemological understanding of a topic (comprehension and mastery), but also a good development of metacognition and metacognitive control (our ability to think about our thoughts) and, finally, a good argumentative ability. skills (knowing how to evaluate the quality of an argument).

The second emphasizes that critical reasoning is not only a matter of “thinking for oneself” but also, and above all, who we trust. When you hear someone tell you “think for yourself,” that person often implicitly says “trust me.” Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the importance of informational compliance: knowing how to recognize who else is delivering better quality information than mine and knowing how to delegate their own reasoning to them. Thus, the latter is always situated: the context would be as important or even more important than the intrinsic capacities of the individual who is reasoning.

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We all have a responsibility to improve the information landscape.

However, several elements are still debated. Starting from a unified definition of the concept of critical reasoning. So we don’t know if there is a transferable way to improve critical thinking: you can study an area and develop a very good critical sense, but are you going to apply these skills when that person is exposed to a problem? requires reflection skills?

Also, we hear more and more about cognitive biases, these “traps” of our thinking. But we still don’t know if learning cognitive biases would actually help us to have better critical thinking. Furthermore, very few scientific articles establish a link with cognitive biases. However, an exploration of these links in a coherent theoretical model would be very helpful in attempting to advance in this area.

Meanwhile, what would be the best solutions to combat the current social polarization? We cannot prevent malicious actors from spreading false information, however, it is possible to improve the good information we pass on. This requires work on the part of the so-called “traditional” media to have less sensational and less immediate news. In short, move towards a qualitative change in the classical information landscape before worrying about the alternative information landscape.

We can also work for systemic coherence: the “infox” often benefit from contradictory mandates that come from real news. Example: decades of political promises say they want to fight social inequalities, while they continue to widen. Or, particularly in the context of the presidential elections, the proliferation of statements in favor of the fight against global warming as the climate continues to deteriorate irreparably.

This kind of discourse erodes the confidence of the French until, in the end, it serves as a springboard for infox. Then a greater coherence of political action would be necessary to recreate this trust. Improve supply instead of worrying about demand. We all have a responsibility to improve the information landscape. It is even crucial to postulate that critical reasoning is not “just taught.” Just as we should not settle for blaming the individual who seems to lack it at the risk of consolation in an illusion of intellectual superiority. All of this is a social work that we must begin.

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* In writing this column, I relied on a recent synthesis by researchers on the topic of critical thinking education, coordinated by EphiScience on behalf of the School of Mediation (universciences) and found online at www.estim-mediation .fr.

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