Really? That’s a pretty outrageous statement, and when taken at face value can be dismissed in an instant; the sky can be blue, grey, black or many other colours dependant on the weather and time of day/night, but surely not green. Our instant dismissal of this statement is understandable; we see the sky every day and know from experience that it is not green and therefore this statement must be false. However, if we were to approach this statement from a critical thinking perspective, we may not be quite so quick to dismiss it.

Confirmation bias will tell us that the sky is normally blue, never green and hence the statement should be instantly disbelieved. That however ignores the concept of context and assumes that all the variables are ‘normal’. What if the sky is being viewed through tinted glass or is referring to the sky painted by a young child on a picture? Perhaps the person making this claim has a visual ailment or is recounting a dream in which yes, the sky was green. We must not make assumptions and instead should take into account all the relevant information before drawing any conclusions.

This is the basis of critical thinking, and although the example given was perhaps a little exaggerated, the concept remains the same for any given statement, and all data must be considered before coming to a conclusion. Evidence should be sought for all claims and an open mind kept throughout in order to attain the correct, logical removal of the null hypothesis. This null hypothesis states that there is no relationship between two phenomena, and in deciding on which side of an argument to take, three points must be considered, namely true premises, all information considered and logical validity. Remember, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and when this not forthcoming, then some doubt can and should always remain.

Simple eh? Two sides to an argument, points made on both sides, data collated and logically examined and a conclusion drawn. However, just to make the situation a little more complicated, we all have one or more biases, whether we are conscious of them or not, and these should be acknowledged when assessing an argument. We are often swayed by those around us, the social conformity, and go ‘with the herd’ utilising groupthink rather than individualisation, and also tend to spend the majority of time in our own echo chamber, surrounded by the patterns of our everyday decisions and choices. There are people we listen to and respect and often accept what they tell us without much thought, purely on the basis that we assume them to be knowledgeable and trustworthy since we subscribe to their way of thinking. We may have done something a particular way for many years and be ‘stuck in our ways’, reluctant to take on board ideas that contrast with our way of doing things regardless of the fact that these may be better, or become more rooted in our ideas when challenged by an alternative method and hence become further entrenched in our incorrect ways. Add to this the placebo and nocebo effects whereby results can occur purely because you believe they will and it can be seen that making the correct decision is not always as easy as we’d like, and that critical thinking is a skill well worth developing in order to come to the correct conclusion.

Remain open minded and open to change, seek evidence and don’t accept everything you are told at face value. Have a mind of your own, listen to both sides of an argument and see being wrong as a chance to grow rather than a personal attack on your thoughts and beliefs.

 Think about and challenge all that you are told… you might just learn something!

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I am a fully qualified Personal Trainer with over 22 years’ experience. Find out more about my specific training and qualifications or book a personal training session.

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