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Ten Steps to Critical Thinking

Ten Steps to Critical Thinking

From Easily Fooled, copyright © 2000 by Robert Fellows <>

            Here are some suggestions for resisting manipulation, ensuring free choice, and promoting self- responsibility:

1.          RECOGNIZE SOCIAL CONDITIONING.  Resist mind control—the ways that groups and certain social situations can manipulate people.


2.          REMEMBER YOU CAN SAY NO.  Sometimes we agree with people just to be polite.  Or we say “I’m going to agree with this person just to get rid of him.”  The problem is that each time we do that we are practicing going along with people.

3.          RECOGNIZE FAULTY DILEMMAS.  Try adding “None of the above” to multiple choices before making a decision.  I tell children that if a stranger says “Would you like to go for a walk in the park or a ride in my car?” they can say “Neither!”

4.          SLEEP ON IT.  Recognize pressure to decide quickly.  Try not to act under stress.  If someone wants you to “buy now,” you can say you’d like to think about it.  He’ll always be willing to sell!

5.          LOOK FOR THE HIDDEN AGENDA.  What is really being said?  What is not being said?  To whom, by whom, and why is it being said?  Practice with commercials and political speeches.

6.          RECOGNIZE LOGICAL FALLACIES.  When someone emphasizes the truth of the statements in an argument (“I’m sure we’d all agree that the sky is blue...”), the argument may be invalid.  If he emphasizes the validity of an argument (“so it must be true that...”), it might be because some of the statements in it are false.

7.          KNOW WHAT GROUP OR BELIEF A PERSON REPRESENTS.  Many unethical groups change their names and use fronts to fit the situation, so we have to research this question fully.

8.          RECOGNIZE FLATTERY.  What are the other emotional buttons someone can push to get you to respond?

9.          ASK QUESTIONS.  Challenge claims of authority.  Does a person’s training, education, or background make her an authority on the subject she’s discussing, or is she outside of her field?

10.        RETAIN YOUR SELF-ESTEEM.  Don’t be afraid to be different from those around you.