Critical Thinking Study Guide official version

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Mid-term covers 1st, 2nd, and part of 4th disciplines and associated readings in handbook and reader.

Note: On concepts be sure to be able to identify, define, and explain the significance of each concept.

1st Discipline: Reflective Voice

  1. Five Disciplines of Thought -- know all five, by heart!
  2. Terms: Rationales, arguments, explanations, claim, premise, conclusion, reflective/deliberative context. (p. 3)
  3. Thinking in Stereo: what is it, what questions are asked at each level.
  4. Cognitive Bias: 1 Anchoring, 2 Framing, 3 Fundamental attribution error, 4 Confirmation bias,
  5. Thought Experiment for finding reflective ideals: What do you need to count on when you begin a serious discussion with someone? What specific values and expectations should one have? What mutual obligations follow? p. 12 and following.
  6. Reflective ideals: sympathetic understanding, seeking knowledge, inviting appraisal.

Questions on Readings:

  1. Haidt: How does basic information about the human brain help us thinking about the nature of thought?
  2. Stanovich: Look at specific thinking "puzzles" Stanovich consider, but also try to state his general point.
  3. Gopnik: How does Gopnik want us to think about thinking? What's her evidence?

2nd Discipline: Reconstruction

  1. Theory of Rationales - basic defintion of a rationale, distinction between argument and explanation.
  2. Distinguishing argument and explanation (skill of identification from exercise set "Distinguishing Argument from Explanation).
  3. 3 Criteria for Good Reconstruction.
  4. Reconstruction (skill) Might have a short argument to reconstruct. (Not Fall 2010)
  5. Distinguishing Deductive and Inductive arguments. (skill) also, give definitions and compare. (Handbook topic: "Logical Structure in Deductive and Inductive Reasoning")
  6. How do you show logical structure in deductive arguments? in inductive? in explanation? (Handbook topic: "Deductive Argument Forms" "Inductive Argument Forms", and "Form in Explanations".)
  7. Identify and give examples of basic deductive argument forms and formal fallacies.
  8. Validity. (esp. relation to truth.) Can a valid argument have a false conclusion? In a valid argument is the conclusion always true?
  9. Basic inductive patterns and inductive analogies.
  10. Understand discussion of "Why Mars is Red" in "Form in Explanation"


  1. Gladwell: Why is it so hard to offer cross cultural explanations of people's drinking behavior?

3rd Discipline: Critical Response

  1. 3 Techniques for assessing rationales. (skill)
  2. What is critical response?
  3. What is the difference between assessing rationales and giving a critical response?
  4. Ad hominem fallacy
  5. What factors should you consider in preparing a critical response to someone's rationales?
  6. Identify some of the ways that critical response discussions can wrong.

4th Discipline: Recognizing Knowledge

  1. What does it mean to call some information authoritative in the everyday sense? in the academic sense?
  2. What is the "peer review" process and how does it contribute to the recognition of knowledge?
  3. What does is mean to define knowledge as "justified, true belief"?
  4. What is the difference between "knowledge by discovery" and "knowledge by interpretation"?
  1. Causation: what is it. What did Hume say about it? How did Mill prepare the way for modern statistics?
  2. Concepts in causation and correlation: independent variable, explanatory variable, dependent variable, response variable, strength of correlation, direct and inverse relationships, linear regression and multiple regression analysis.


Rich, "For Whom the Cell Tolls"

  • Why is it hard to determine whether cell phones cause brain tumors?

Schick & Vaughn, "Science and It's Pretenders"

  • Give a general characterization of science based on this reading.
  • What point is being made by the author's claim that, "All of the data upon which the atomic theory rests, however, can be described without mentioning atoms."
  • Learn the story of Benjamin Franklin and blind testing.
  • Study the criteria of adequacy for scientific hypotheses.
  • What does it mean to say that we only test scientific hypotheses in bundles?
  • What is phlogiston?
  1. Quantitative Information in Knowledge Claims
1 What is a measure?
2 Baseline
3 Percentages and rates
4 Linear vs. Non-linear relationships
5 Surveys
6 Probability
1 Definition,
2 Gambler's fallacy,
3 Predictive dreams
4 SI jinx
7 Causation
1 Regression analysis
2 Multiple regression analysis


Seethaler, "What Happens if..."

  • Follow the discussion of cause and effect, the ways that studies (such as epidemiological studies) can go wrong,
  • Observational vs. experimental studies, placebo effect, double blind studies, Cause and effect links and complications (fig. 5.4), give examples, "anthropogenic causes".

Silberman, "Placebos are Getting Better"

  • Why does Silberman think placebos are getting better?
  • What explanations are offered for this phenomenon?

Sevilla, "Probability" Chapters 18 and 19

  • Major concepts: random process, sample space, event, sampling with/without replacement, probability, disjoint events, conditional probability, independent events.
  • Skills: Determine the probability of an event from a table of data, determine the conditional probability of an event from a two-way table.

5th Discipline: Seeing Complexity

1. Simplification as part of knowledge production
2. Systems, complex systems, chaotic systems (links, nodes, degrees of separation)
3. Coupling, buffering, feedback loops
4. degrees of separation
5. Konigsburg bridge problem
6. Baltimore syphilis epidemic, Colorado Springs G. epidemic
7. What do good managers of complex systems do?
8. Thin slicing and the return of intuition
9. Stereotyping

Reading: Peter Miller, "Swarm Theory" -