Critical Thinking and "News"

First of all think about the source of information.

Academics and scientists make use of peer-review journals, edited books and encyclopedia as reputable sources of information as it is expected to have been vetted by expert in the scientific community. Before being published.

All sources must be taken with some degree of critical reflection, this is a hallmark of academic journals and what keeps the academy alive and flourishing.

When information is taken as fact and not questioned there is a greater possibility of being propagandized manipulated and controlled.

Later in the course we will be looking at information propaganda and persuasion of kind and not so kind fashions. We will also look at common cognitive biases in how people think about problems or dilemmas as well as social forces that influence our behaviour.


Guidelines for Critical Thinking

1. Critical thinkers are flexible - they tolerate ambiguity, uncertainty and are 'open-minded.' Avoid 'black vs. white' thinking.

2. Critical thinkers identify inherent biases and assumptions. Consider the position of the speaker, interest groups.

3. Critical thinkers maintain an air of skepticism Don't just take it as fact, question it, ask for evidence or proof.

4. Critical thinkers separate fact from opinion. Try to avoid emotional attachment to issues.

5. Critical thinkers don't over simplify simple solutions may be misleading, consider various means

6. Critical thinkers use logical processes. Inconsistencies suggest a lack of logical process in thought

7. Critical thinkers examine available evidence before drawing conclusions. Make use of several sources of information and convergence

8. Keep working at it!

Don't be satisfied with simply getting it once, you may fall back into lazy thought patterns.


Psychology and News Stories (Radio, TV, internet)

1. Recognise that a summary of a report is not equivalent with the original report, missing details and information makes it difficult to evaluate the evidence.

2. Personal and anecdotal evidence is not as reliable as scientific research makes a distinction between opinion and empirical data.

3. Popular press/media may attempt to dramatize findings as "breakthrough" or a "major discovery."

4. The "popular" press or news outlets looks for controversial or sensational topics with social implications or solutions to social problems. They are often biased to sell.

5. Popular articles should reveal their sources in order for the reader to "track them down" and make a critical evaluation.

6. Fake news stories have become more and more common. Watch out for them.



Smith, R.A. (1995). Challenging your preconceptions: Thinking critically about psychology. Toronto: Brooks/Cole.