Choices, decisions and information overload, oh my! Part 2

Results of egocentric and critical thinking.

At any given time on any given day we are thinking about a variety of issues. Those issues may include what to eat for dinner, what song shall I listen to, why the gas prices are what they are, and why is wearing a seat belt the law. We are constantly bombarded with issues, questions, laws, preferences, choices and this not only occurs in our own home, but our neighborhood, city, town, state, tribe, country and beyond! How do we begin to make the best choices for ourselves, our family, tribe, and community? As we have moved into an era of technology where information is at our finger tips, we are able to review an abundant amount of data on any of the questions and situations that we face on a daily basis. But how do we synthesize all the information that we are seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing? A better question is why would we want to synthesize and think critically? The answer simply is to ensure that we are creating a quality of life which is based on our quality of thought.

If decisions are made based strictly on our biases, prejudices, or inaccurate information then the decisions we make may be very costly in the long run. However, it takes practice, discipline, self-direction and self-corrective thinking to come to a well informed decision. According to Michael Scriven and Richard Paul for the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking Instruction, “Critical thinking is a mode of thinking – about any subject, content or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by analyzing and assessing information with the goal of improvement.” The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools written by Richard Paul and Lind Elder, stated the result is a refined thinker who:

  • Asks vital questions which are stated clearly and precisely
  • Gathers and evaluates relevant information
  • Formulates a well-reasoned conclusion and solution, while testing them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions

However, often times our own ‘”egocentric thinking” takes the front seat when we arrive at our decisions and conclusions. Egocentric thinking is the, “results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others” (The Critical Thinking Community). A few commonly used standards in human thinking include:

  • “It’s true because I believe it” – Innate egocentrism: assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis of my beliefs.
  • “It’s true because we believe it” – Innate sociocentrism: I assume the beliefs of the dominate group to which I belong to are true though I have never questioned the basis for these beliefs
  • “It’s true because I want to believe it” – Innate wish fulfillment: I believe what “feels good”, what supports my other beliefs, what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit that I am wrong.
  • “It’s true because I have always believed it” – Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs that I have long held, even though I have not considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified.
  • “It’s true because it is my selfish interest to believe it” – Innate selfishness: I hold to those beliefs that justify my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though these beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.

As we continue on our journey of what is critical thinking and how does it play a role in our lives, please stay tuned for the third article on critical thinking. Don’t forget to take a look at the first article in this series by Michigan State University Extension that focuses on thinking more critically about your world.

To learn more about Government and Public Policy and the Leadership and Community Engagement programs offered through MSU Extension please contact me, Tribal Extension educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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