In a world where we are bombarded with quick bites of information with questionable validity, the need for critical thinking is more important than ever. However, our brain is designed to make quick decisions with a limited amount of information through the processes of assimilation and generalization. This enables us to learn and adapt quicker but it also can result in a brain bias. Cultivating a resiliency toward this bias takes practice. Here are seven ways to improve critical thinking and challenge brain bias:
Look for alternative premises: Our brain is wired to interpret information through existing contexts causing us to overly focus on information that supports our current beliefs. Counteracting this requires a deliberate shift in focus. If you believe something to be so, look for the evidence that it is not so. Actively seek information that disputes your conclusion.
Challenge cause and effect assumptions: We tend to assume that there is a causal relationship if one event precedes another. This can be an error in thinking. To challenge this, make it a habit to ask yourself “what else might be the reason for this to happen?”
Step in someone else’s shoes: When you find yourself judging another’s behavior, try to imagine what it would be like to be in their place. This requires more than just thinking about how you would respond to the situation. It requires considering the thoughts and feelings involved given that person’s past experiences as well as the current circumstances. This not only increases your empathy, it challenges your brain to broaden its perspective.
Expose yourself to opposing views: Give yourself a chance to interact and dialogue with people who hold different opinions than your own. Try to keep an open mind. Don’t just focus on convincing them of what you believe. Listen closely to their rationales for what they believe. Healthy debate is a good way to grow and learn.
Consider the source: People tend to give undue weight to anything published or broadcast. We also can be easily swayed by numbers and statistics. With the internet and social media, it is easy to mistake questionable sources as legitimate. Even legitimate news agencies or research can and often do contain bias. Understand the source of where you are getting information and ask yourself how their bias is influencing their argument. Better yet, get in the habit of checking information from more than one source and don’t limit your exposure to your own bias.
Expand your cultural experiences: Make it a habit to read books by authors with different cultural backgrounds. See movies depicting characters from other cultures. Travel to different regions or countries and experience how others live. This opens your mind to ways of thinking and perceiving different than your limited experiences.
Think outside the box: Don’t get trapped into thinking there are only one or two ways to do things when there might be a wide array of choices. Learn how to creatively brainstorm solutions to problems.
Good critical thinking skills keep the brain resilient. What other ways have you found to challenge brain bias?