When Good Thinking Goes Bad: How Your Brain Can Have a Mind of Its Own

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Prometheus Books, 2008 - Psychology - 236 pages
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In 1975, the Environmental Fund sponsored a full-page advertisement in leading newspapers, which predicted that "the world as we know it will likely be ruined before the year 2,000," due to the assumed inability of world food production to keep pace with the increase in population. The statement was endorsed by some of the finest thinkers of the time—scientists, scholars, and other professionals who had spent their careers applying the principles of critical thinking to their chosen disciplines. Nonetheless, in this instance, they all failed to use the same rigor in assessing the probability of looming disaster and badly miscalculated.
This is just one example of how even the best thinkers can sometimes go astray, and it illustrates how easily unconscious biases can undermine the critical thinking process. In this insightful analysis of the mental pitfalls that trip up even elite critical thinkers, psychologist Todd C. Riniolo makes a compelling case that under certain circumstances everyone is vulnerable to accepting erroneous beliefs.
Riniolo begins by reviewing the hallmarks of critical thinking related to the evaluation of claims, such as the use of the double-blind procedure and the law of parsimony. He then provides an evolutionary framework and empirical supporting evidence from cognitive psychology to explain why being inconsistent in the use of critical thinking is part of our evolutionary heritage. Each of us possesses cognitive biases that make us prone to maintaining our current beliefs (both true and false). He concludes by focusing on a wide range of claims—environmental, political, economic, multicultural—to illustrate how in certain contexts we all are tempted to abandon critical thinking.
Thoroughly researched yet written in a lively, witty style, this unique approach to critical thinking will interest students, teachers, and anyone who wishes to become a better thinker.

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About the author (2008)

Todd C. Riniolo (Grand Island, NY) is an associate professor of psychology at Medaille College. He has written many peer-reviewed articles in the psychological literature.

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