In April 2021, Rakonto participated in an Erasmus + training focused on critical thinking and media education offered by the Ukrainian-Polish NGO Logos as part of the Skepsis movement. Here are the tools we have selected for you.
- Birth of Skepsis - Fallacious Reasonings
- Forge a critical mind - Cognitive biases
- Discern facts and judgments - Conclusion
Erasmus + projects are European projects designed and organized by associations all over Europe and funded by the European Commission. The objective of these projects is always to educate in a non-formal way a multicultural group of people coming from various European countries on a particular theme.
In addition, the NGO Logos aims to give the possibility to disadvantaged young people to receive a non-formal education and thus to have the tools to create their own opinion and increase their openness. With this in mind, they created the Skepsis movement, a movement whose objective is to share tools to refine its critical thinking and thus avoid disinformation, especially among disadvantaged young people who are often the first victims of false information.
BIRTH OF SKEPSIS
The idea for the movement was born when Markus, a young Ukrainian, visited his grandmother in Crimea in southern Ukraine. He then realizes that his grandmother, who had lived during the Soviet occupation, was obviously a convinced Communist. But at the same time she had also become Orthodox after the fall of the Soviet regime which made no sense since the USSR condemned all forms of religion.
Now invaded by Russia, she is convinced that the safest place in the world is in Siberia. Markus then realizes how his grandmother's beliefs are full of inconsistencies. He also realizes that all these inconsistencies come from the propaganda she has been the victim of over the years. And still today she continues to believe that television is telling the whole truth.
He then thought that it was extremely important for young people today to develop a critical mind to avoid finding themselves in the same situation. So when he returned to Poland where he lived, he created the NGO logos and the Skepsis movement.
FORGE A CRITICAL MIND
Before providing tools to forge critical thinking, let's try to define this term appropriately. You can start with an interesting activity to do to know how to define critical thinking yourself:
Write an alphabet on a piece of paper. For each letter of the alphabet try to find the word which, in your opinion, corresponds the most to critical thinking. Then from the words on your sheet try to write your own definition.
This exercise is interesting because there are many definitions of critical thinking. According to Wikipedia it can be defined as:
The capacities and attitudes allowing rigorous reasoning in order to achieve a goal, or to analyze facts to formulate a judgment.
In conclusion we will regularly find terms such as analyze, seek, discuss and inform oneself because these are the best means to avoid disinformation and that is what critical thinking corresponds to.
1. Discern facts and judgments
"Analyze facts to form a judgment." So here is the basis of critical thinking, it is extremely important, and yet not so obvious. Learning to discern a fact from a judgment will allow you to use your logic and not be guided by your emotions .
A fact is:
Objective: material or immaterial event.
Temporal: realized and finished in time.
Observable: we can verify it scientifically.
A judgment is:
Subjective: an emotion, thought or opinion.
Moral: is considered good or bad.
Timeless: devoid of precise temporality.
Unobservable: lack of evidence. Not quantifiable.
Indeed even if the facts can sometimes be false the major difference that there is between a fact and a judgment is that the fact can always be verifiable, it is accompanied by scientific proofs and by demonstrations which make it possible to check. On the other hand, judgment is always biased and one cannot rely on a judgment to form an opinion.
Example: "COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically this week." This sentence is a judgment because the word “dramatically” expresses a point of view and not a quantity. One fact would be: "COVID-19 cases increased by 10% this week"
Discerning a fact from a judgment allows us to be able to form our own opinion as much as possible without being influenced by the emotions of other people. However this is not enough not to be "manipulated" because put end to end, these facts are part of reasoning which can sometimes be just as fallacious.
2. Arguing back at fallacious reasoning
Every day, we face fallacious reasoning which are false reasoning despite the appearance of truth. Fallacious reasoning (or fallacy) is very common today, at a time when social media play a key role in information. However, it is possible to protect yourself from them by learning to recognize them. Indeed there is a small number of fallacious reasonings that are very common and by highlighting them, you can easily dismantle an argumentation.
Today, fallacious logics are regularly used, especially in the family, with friends or even in politics. We must know how to recognize these fallacious logics and we must also know how to denounce them when we see them in order to avoid the manipulation of certain people around some information.
Some recurring fallacious reasoning:
The strawman: You distort the words of others to make them more easily criticized.
Ex: "You don't want to develop this program of building aircraft carriers ; I don't understand why you want to leave our country defenseless."
The proposition "I am against the construction of an aircraft carrier" has been diverted into "I am against the defense of my country", an argument that is much easier to fault.
Appeal to Emotion: You manipulate emotional responses instead of providing a strong valid argument.
Ex: Luc did not want to eat his brains of sheep accompanied by pieces of liver and Brussels sprouts, but his father told him to think of all the hungry and poor children who are not lucky enough to have something to eat .
The slippery slope: You state that if we accept A then Z will inevitably occur, and therefore A must not take place.
Ex: Frigide Barjot says that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, we will soon allow people to marry their parents, their car, even monkeys.
Other examples of fallacious reasoning
We now know how to recognize a fact as well as fallacious reasoning and we are therefore armed to avoid disinformation. But there is still one enemy that is arguably the most difficult to defeat because it is within ourselves. And yes sometimes our own brain plays tricks on us and pushes us to a distorted reasoning through cognitive biases.
3. Recognize your cognitive biases
IIt seems very difficult to accurately explain cognitive biases in such a short article. That is why I am going to confine myself to saying that it is bugs or flaws in our brain that alternate our judgment.
There are over 200 different cognitive biases. We are all more or less sensitive to multiple biases and this is why it is important to know them in order to recognize them in ourselves when they arise. Unfortunately, it is much easier to see cognitive biases in others than in ourselves, but by being attentive it is possible to detect a certain number of them.
Obviously I'm not going to list 200 biases now but here is a list with some examples for you to understand what it is.
Find your cognitive biases on this quiz.
In this article, we have covered many concepts to better understand what it means to "be critical" but also some useful tools. Finally, here are the 5 fundamental steps to remember to strengthen your critical thinking:
Take a step back by evaluating what you hear, read or decide to do.
To ask questions. On everything and everyone.
Do your own research.
Knowing our own biases to be aware of the reasons that push us to pass a judgment.
Separate facts and judgments to form an opinion while avoiding being influenced.
That's the end of this article. For more information on the subject you can explore this Google Drive . We will probably do more articles on this subject too, so subscribe to the newsletter so you don't miss them!