Do psychologists believe critical thinking should be included in the undergraduate psychology curriculum?
How do psychology textbook authors deal with critical thinking?
Critical Thinking As Described By Other Authors
Rathus in his textbook entitled Essentials of Psychology (1994) says that "Higher education is a broadening experience not only because of exposure to intellectual disciplines and human diversity, but also because it encourages students to learn to think critically. By thinking critically, people can challenge widely accepted but erroneous beliefs, including some of their own most cherished beliefs. Critical thinking helps make us into active, astute judges of other people and their points of view, rather than passive recipients of the latest intellectual fads and tyrannies....
"Psychologists have been working with the Association of American Colleges to establish goals and guidelines for undergraduate education. One psychology task force listed several goals for undergraduate education in psychology (McGovern, 1989). The first was to foster a knowledge base consisting of important psychological theories, research findings, and issues. This goal seems obvious enough. But the second goal was to promote skills in critical thinking and reasoning. These thinking skills involved:
"Development of skepticism about explanations and conclusions"The emphasis on critical thinking reflects the widespread belief that your college education is intended to do more than provide you with a data bank of useful knowledge. It is also meant to supply intellectual tools that allow you to analyze information independently. With these tools, you can continue to educate yourself for the rest of your life." (pp. 26-27) "As noted by the educator Robert M. Hutchins, `The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.' One of the primary ways of educating yourself is through critical thinking." (p. 29)
The ability to inquire about causes and effects
Refinement of curiosity about behavior
Knowledge of research methods
The ability to critically analyze arguments
Huffman et al. (1994) in their General Psychology textbook Psychology in Action point out that "critical thinking has received considerable attention from education specialists and textbooks authors. Unfortunately, many texts that advocate critical thinking do little more than exhort students to `think critically.'"
A useful handbook for teachers of psychology is McGovern's Handbook for Enhancing Undergraduate Education in Psychology (1993) which summarizes the consensus of a conference of psychology teachers:
"How do we want our students to change as a result of their education? We identified three ways in which successful psychology students changes as a result of their undergraduate education. First, they accumulate a body of knowledge. Second, they master intellectual skills that enable them to use their knowledge wisely. These skills include the ability to think critically, to express themselves clearly in writing and speaking, to reason empirically, and to demonstrate ethical judgment and sensitively to other people and cultures. Third, psychology students acquire or strengthen personal characteristics such as maturity, rigor, tolerance, flexibility, high ethical standards, and a positive attitude toward lifelong learning." (McGovern, 1993, pp. 27, 29).In the June 1991 issue of the American Psychologist McGovern et al. in their article "Liberal Education, Study in Depth, and the Arts and Sciences Major -- Psychology" listed eight goals for the psychology curriculum. The first goal was labeled knowledge base. The second was labeled thinking skills. Here is what they said about thinking skills.
"The fundamental goal of education in psychology, from which all the others follow, is to teach students to think as scientists about behavior...
"The first element of scientific thinking that students should master is the empirical criterion of truth. They should learn that the final authority for factual statements in psychology is evidence and not affect; how they feel about a topic has no bearing on its truth. Their understanding of the empirical approach should include a recognition of the distinction between facts and inferences drawn from facts...They should understand that naming is not explaining...The person who understands these things is an informed consumer and evaluator of the psychological and quasi-psychological information reported in the media and a knowledgeable and independent decision maker on problems that involve behavior." (McGovern, 1993, pp. 168-169).
"Advanced work in the discipline requires skills in learning, critical thinking, and reasoning -- skills that come in part from working with quantitative information in statistics or experimental methods courses and from critical thinking of original texts in all courses. Psychology students also need to gain familiarity with qualitative methods and to develop a disciplined curiosity about human behavior and experience. Even at the introductory level, students should be able to inquire about behavioral antecedents and consequences and to view with amiable skepticism the explanations and conclusions in popular media reports on psychology and other social sciences. As they advance, psychology students should learn to think critically about themselves, including their difference and their similarities with others; to evaluate their attitudes about people who are different from themselves; and to know how gender, race, ethnicity, culture and class affect all human perspectives and experiences." (p. 601) [Emphasis in bold added.]Back to the Top
Besides these writings, what is happening in psychology textbooks?
Critical thinking is sometimes included in the study guide to the textbook.
13 textbooks did not list critical thinking in either the glossary or index.
Ettinger, R., Crooks, R., & Stein, J. (1994). Psychology.
Gerow, Josh. (1995). Psychology.
Gleitman, Henry. (1995). Psychology.
Goldstein, E. (1994). Psychology.
Gray, Peter. (1994). Psychology.
Huffman, Karen et al. (1994). Psychology in action."Although the ability to think critically has always been important, it is now imperative....Critical thinking has many meanings...Critical thinking...is defined as thinking about and evaluating our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so that we can clarity and improve them...Critical thinking is a process...You can develop your critical thinking skills." (Prologue) This text presents in two pages the affective components, cognitive components, and behavior components of the critical thinking process. (Prologue) "Critical thinking has received considerable attention from education specialists and textbooks authors. Unfortunately, many texts that advocate critical thinking do little more than exhort students to `think critically.'...In every chapter we include an exercise called `Critical Thinking in Action." (Preface)
Lahey, Benjamin. (1995). Psychology.
Malott, Richard et al. (1993). Principles of behavior.
Plotnik, Rod. (1993). Introduction to psychology.
Rubin, Z., Peplau, L., & Salovey, P. (1993). Psychology.
Seamon, J., & Kenrick, Douglas. (1994). Psychology.
Weiten, Wayne. (1995). Psychology.
Worchel, S., & Shebilske, Wayne. (1995). Psychology.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, R. (1994). Social psychology.
"There's been a great hullabaloo about `critical thinking' in higher education over the past few years. What does critical thinking mean to us? We want our students to be active consumers of information, not passive ones; we want our students to go beyond the role of consumers to that of producer. We want our students to question, challenge, and engage in the material. In short, we want students to think and not memorize mindlessly....
"Critical thinking involves questioning; it involves thinking for yourself....critical thinking doesn't just mean critiquing what one reads. It also refers to a style of thinking that is systematic and analytical." (pp. xxiv-xxv)
Lefton, Lester. (1994). Psychology. pp. 32-33, 256."Critical thinking means evaluating evidence, shifting through choices, assessing outcomes, and deciding whether conclusions make sense. When you think critically, you are being evaluative....A key to thinking critically about research is to be evaluative, to question all aspects of the study." (pp. 32-33)Morris, Charles. (1993). Psychology. pp. xv-xvi, 9."What exactly is critical thinking? It is the process we use to examine the information we have and then, based on this inquiry, make judgments and decisions. When we think critically, we define problems, examine evidence, analyze assumptions--ours as well as those of others--consider alternatives, and ultimately find reasons to support or reject an argument."
Sdorow, Lester. (1995). Psychology. pp. 36-37."Skepticism is the basis of critical thinking -- the systematic evaluation of claims." Three steps are suggested: (1) Is the claim based on empirical evidence? (2) How strong is the evidence that supports the claim? (3) Are there other explanations for the claim?Zimbardo, Philip, & Weber, Ann. (1994). Psychology. pp. 21, 30-31."You can improve your critical thinking skills by learning how to ask the right questions about behavior and how to evaluate the answers you find." 12 general rules are given to help students become "a more sophisticated shopper in the supermarket of knowledge." (pp. 30-31)
Bernstein, Douglas et al. (1994). Psychology."The process of assessing claims and making judgments on the basis of well-supported evidence." (p. 19 and glossary A-14) "One strategy for applying critical thinking to this or any other topic is to ask the following five questions. 1. What am I being asked to believe or accept?...2. What evidence is available to support the assertion?...3. Are there alternative ways of interpreting the evidence?...4. What additional evidence would help to evaluate the alternatives?...5. What conclusions are most reasonable?" (p. 19)Rathus, Spencer. (1994). Essentials of psychology. pp. 26-30."Critical thinking helps students to evaluate other people's claims and arguments, and to reconsider and, when necessary, dispute widely help beliefs. Critical thinking has many meanings. On one level, critical thinking means taking nothing for granted...On another level, critical thinking refers to a process of thoughtfully analyzing and probing the questions, statements, and arguments of others....we will illustrate some principles of critical thinking as we whet your appetite for psychology. 1. Be skeptical...2. Examine definitions of terms...3. Examine the assumptions or premises of arguments...4. Be cautious in drawing conclusions from evidence...5. Consider alternative interpretations of research evidence...6. Do not oversimplify ...7. Do not overgeneralize...8. Apply critical thinking to all areas of life." (p. 26-29)
Baron, Robert. (1995). Psychology.Back to the TopCritical Thinking - "Careful assessment of available evidence in order to evaluate claims and statements in an objective and well-reasoned manner." (p. G3) index - pp. 2, 40-41Coon, Dennis. (1995). Introduction to psychology. p. 27-28, 46-50."Critical thinking is an ability to evaluate, compare, analyze, critique, and synthesize information. Critical thinkers are willing to ask the hard questions, including those that challenge conventional wisdom....The core of critical thinking is a willingness to take an active role in evaluating ideas. It is, in a sense, the ability to stand outside yourself and reflect on the quality of your own thoughts. Critical thinkers are able to evaluate the quality of the evidence supporting their beliefs and to probe for weaknesses in their reasoning." (p. 27)Kassin, Samuel. (1995). Psychology. pp."...the process of solving problems and making decisions through a careful evaluation of evidence." (p. G-3, glossary) "Thinking critically involves maintaining a skeptical attitude, probing underlying assumptions, and considering alternative arguments." (p. 291)Matlin, Margaret. (1995). Psychology."Thinking that involves deciding what to believe and how to act after carefully evaluating the evidence and reasoning in a situation." p. 661 (in the glossary)Myers, David. (1995). Psychology. pp. 9-37.
"An understanding of research methods can also help you become a more effective critical thinker....Several years from now, you probably will not recall much of the specific information in this textbook, but if you have improved your critical thinking, you will still be able to use the basic principles of methodology to help you evaluate psychological claims." (p.22)"Thinking that does not blindly accept arguments and conclusions. Rather it examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, and assesses conclusions." (p. G-2 in the glossary)Santrock, John. (1994). Psychology."The notion of grasping the deeper meaning of problems, of keeping an open mind about different approaches and perspectives, and of deciding for oneself what to believe or do." (p. GLO-4) index L-17, L-19, M-17--M19, L-14, M-20.Sternberg. Robert. (1995). In search for the human mind."The conscious direction of mental processes toward representing and processing information, usually in order to find thoughtful solutions to problems." (p. G-11, glossary) "Critical thinking can be viewed both in terms of analysis and synthesis and in terms of divergent thinking and convergent thinking." (p. 330)Wade, C., & Tavris, Carol. (1993). Psychology.Critical thinking - "the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons. It is the ability to look for flaws in arguments and resist claims that have no supporting evidence." (p. 27) index - pp. 27-32, 82, 283-284, 323, 411, 679.
E. Five social psychology textbooks published in 1994.None of these five recent textbooks lists critical thinking in either the glossary or index. Three do mention something related to critical thinking in their Prefaces.Aronson, E., Wilson, T., & Akert, R. (1994). Social psychology."There's been a great hullabaloo about `critical thinking' in higher education over the past few years. What does critical thinking mean to us? We want our students to be active consumers of information, not passive ones; we want our students to go beyond the role of consumers to that of producer. We want our students to question, challenge, and engage in the material. In short, we want students to think and not memorize mindlessly....Baron, R., & Byrne, D. (1994). Social psychology.
"Critical thinking involves questioning; it involves thinking for yourself....critical thinking doesn't just mean critiquing what one reads. It also refers to a style of thinking that is systematic and analytical." (pp. xxiv-xxv)"Critical thinking/Essay Questions center on provoking thought rather than just promoting reproduction of information contained in the text. These questions often ask students to apply what they have learned from their readings." (p. IS-xxix)Brewer, M., & Crano, W. (1994). Social psychology.
Mitchener, H., & DeLamater, J. (1994). Social psychology.
Taylor, S., Peplau, L., & Sears, D. (1994). Social psychology."To help students learn to `think like social psychologists,' we have included throughout the text detailed discussions of a few key research studies, describing the research process and the decisions researchers made." (p. ix)
F. Educational Psychology TextbooksKaplan, Paul. (1990). Educational psychology for tomorrow's teachers."Critical thinking. Thinking that involves analyzing and focusing on what to believe or do in a particular situation." (p. 111)Slavin, Robert. (1991). Educational psychology."One key objective of schooling is enhancing students' abilities to think critically, to make rational decisions about what to do or what to believe....the goal of teaching critical thinking is to create a critical spirit, which encourages students to question what they hear and to examine their own thinking for logical inconsistencies or fallacies..." (p. 191)Woolfolk, A. (1993). Educational psychology."Critical Thinking Evaluating conclusions by logically and systematically examining the problem, the evidence, and the solution." (pp. 311, 587) "Many educational psychologists believe that thinking skills can and should be developed in school....Critical thinking skills are useful in almost every life situation--even in evaluating the media ads that constantly bombard us. To evaluate the claim that 99 out of 100 dentists prefer a particular brand of toothpaste, you must consider such questions as: Which dentists were polled? How were they chosen? Was the toothpaste company involved in the polling process? If so, how could this bias the results of the poll? ....Psychologists have not been able to agree on the skills that constitute critical thinking." (pp. 310-312)
G. Books which focus primarily on critical thinking in psychologyBell, James. (1995). Evaluating psychological information: Sharpening your critical thinking skills (2nd ed.)."Critical thinking is deciding what to believe and how to act after a careful evaluation of the evidence and reasoning in a communication." (p. 1). A six step procedure is used: Identify the source. Read to understand. Analyze the definitions of important terms. Analyze the research evidence. Evaluate the research evidence. Evaluate the nonscientific evidence and reasoning in the source. (p. 72)Coats, E., Feldman, R., & Schwartzberg, S. (1994). Critical thinking: General principles and case studies."Whether evaluating a scientific research experiment or figuring out what might be wrong with a broken home appliance, critical thinking is an important and common tool of everyday life....What characterizes critical thinking? People who think critically scrutinize the assumptions that underlie their decisions, beliefs, and actions. When presented with a new idea or a persuasive argument, they carefully evaluate it, checking for logical consistency and listening for tacit assumptions that may distort the central point. They pay attention to the context in which ideas or actions are implemented." (p. 5)Halonen, Jane. (1995). The critical thinking companion for introductory psychology.
"To learn to think critically, you need to familiarize yourself with four fundamental principles that characterize the process....1) identifying and challenging underlying assumptions; 2) check for factual accuracy and logical consistency; 3) accounting for the importance of context; and 4) imagining and exploring alternatives." (p. 13)Critical thinking "means the special kind of thinking skills that promote conscious, purposeful, and active involvement of the thinker with new ideas." (p. 1). Six categories of critical thinking are explained: pattern recognition, practical problem solving, creative problem solving, scientific problem solving, psychological reasoning, and perspective taking. (pp. 2-3).Halpern, Diane. (1989). Thought and knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking."Critical thinking: Thinking that is purposeful, reasonable, and goal directed. Also known as directed thinking. Compare with nondirected thinking." (p. 38)Mayer, Richard & Goodchild, Fiona. (1994). The critical thinker: Thinking and learning strategies for psychology students."We define critical thinking as an active and systematic attempt to understand and evaluate arguments." (p. 4)Smith, Randolph. (1995). Challening your preconceptions: Thinking critically about psycholog.Critical thinking is "a logical and rational process of avoiding one's preconceptions by gathering evidence, contemplating and evaluating alternatives, and coming to a conclusion." (p. 2) Seven guidelines for critical thinking are described: 1. "Critical thinkers are flexible--they can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. 2. Critical thinkers identify inherent biases and assumptions. 3. Critical thinkers maintain an air of skepticism. 4. Critical thinkers separate facts from opinions. 5. Critical thinkers don't oversimplify. 6. Critical thinkers use logical inference processes. 7. Critical thinkers examine available evidence before drawing conclusions. (pp. 2-5)Stanovich, K. (1992). How to think straight about psychology (3rd ed.)."The general public is unsure about what is and is not psychology and is unable to evaluate independently claims about human behavior....Psychology, probably more than any other science, requires critical thinking skills that enable students to separate the wheat from the chaff that accumulates around all sciences. These are the critical thinking skills that students will need to become independent evaluators of psychological information. Years after students have forgotten the content of an introductory psychology course, they will still use the fundamental principles covered in this book to evaluate psychological claims." (From the Preface, p. xii)Wade, Carole & Tavris, C. (1993). Critical & creative thinking: The case of love and war."Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons. It is the ability to look for flaws in arguments and resist claims that have no supporting evidence." (pp. 4-5)Zechmeister, Eugene & Johnson, James. (1992). Critical thinking: A functional approach."Good thinking, or what we will term critical thinking, is, as one observer wryly comments, different from the kind of thinking that most of us habitually do..." (p. 4)
Critical Thinking As Described By Other Authors
Beyer, Barry. (1987). Practical strategies for the teaching of thinking ."The term critical thinking is one of the most abused terms in our thinking vocabulary. Generally it means whatever its users stipulate it to mean. In some circles critical thinking is used to mean all thinking operations....Experts in the field of critical thinking have for some years been rather specific about what they mean by the term. Critical thinking, according to them and as used here, means judging the authenticity, worth, or accuracy of something." (pp. 32-33)Marzano, Robert et al. (1988). Dimensions of thinking: A framework for curriculum and instruction."Critical thinking is sometimes defined narrowly (`assessing the accuracy of statements') and sometimes more globally. Ennis (1985), who at one time preferred the narrower meaning, now defines critical thinking as `reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.' (p. 54)....The goal of teaching critical thinking is to develop people who are fair-minded, objective, and committed to clarity and accuracy.," (p. 18)Ruggiero, Vincent. (1988). Teaching thinking across the curriculum."Creative thinking produces ideas. Critical thinking evaluates those ideas, as well as the ideas we encounter in such activities as reading and listening, testing them for usefulness and/or soundness, and refining them as necessary." (p. 28)Swartz, Robert & Perkins, David. (1990). Teaching thinking: Issues and approaches."We interpret critical thinking to concern the critical examination and evaluation--actual and potential--of beliefs and courses of action....in critical thinking we aim at critical judgment about what to accept as reasonable and/or to do use standards that themselves are the results of critical reflection in making these judgments:employ various organized strategies of reasoning and arguments in determining and applying these standards; andThe term `critical thinking' is sometimes interpreted in a broader sense than this. Critical thinking has become a banner word for many educators: `We need to teach critical thinking in the schools.' Given its popularity, many educators and scholars prefer to include in critical thinking all good thinking." (pp. 37-38)
seek and gather reliable information to use as evidence or reasons in supporting these judgments.
Cederblom, J., & Paulsen, D. (1991). Critical reasoning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth."When you read a book or a newspaper or listen to someone speak, or even when you are thinking by yourself, you face a decision about what to believe...Critical reasoning --the subject of this book-- is a collection of procedures that will help you make decision concerning what to believe....Diestler, S. (1994). Becoming a critical thinker. NY: Macmillan.
"But in evaluating what appears to be `information' on these subjects and in judging whether this information justifies taking a particular position on the issue, critical reasoning should play a crucial role." (p. 1)
"Critical Reasoning. In contrast to a mere disagreement, a procedure for understanding and evaluating the support given for a point of view." (p. 370)"We live in what has been called the Age of Information because of the many messages that we receive daily from newspapers, magazines, ratio, television, and books.McWhorter, K. (1988). Study and thinking skills in college. Boston: Scott, Foresman.
"...in a democratic society, in which the people are asked to vote on candidates and political propositions, we also need to use print and electronic sources to help us make decisions about the direction our community, state, and nation will take.
"We need to know how to understand the evaluate the information that comes our way...A critical thinker is someone who uses careful and objective reasoning to evaluate claims and made decisions." (pp. 1-2)"Critical thinking is the careful and deliberate evaluation of ideas or information for the purpose of making a judgment about their worth or value." (p. 97).Moore, B., & Parker, R. (1995). Critical thinking. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
"Evaluating statements involves distinguishing fact from opinion, and distinguishing both fact and opinion from informed opinion. Evaluating differing viewpoints on a particular topic is also necessary. Generalizations -- reasoned statements about an entire group or class -- must be carefully evaluated. Hypotheses... require critical evaluation as well. For each statement, a critical thinker weighs the level and quality of the supporting evidence that is provided before deciding whether to accept it." (pp. 110-111)"Critical thinking is the careful, deliberate determination of whether we should accept, reject, or suspend judgment about a claim -- and of the degree of confidence with which we accept or reject it." (p. 4)Ruggiero, Vincent. (1995). Beyond feelings: A guide to critical thinking (4th ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield."Critical thinking is the process of evaluating ideas. More specifically, it is testing the accuracy of statements and the soundness of the reasoning that leads to conclusions. Critical thinking helps us interpret complex ideas, appraise the evidence offered in support of arguments, and distinguish between reasonableness and unreasonableness. Both problem solving and decision making depend on critical thinking, as does the analysis and discussion of controversial issues." (p. 16)Waller, Bruce. (1994). Critical thinking. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall."You evaluate arguments and assertions every day: when choosing your breakfast cereal, evaluating reports on the effects of the caffeine in your coffee, reading your morning paper, deciding who to vote for....
"Every day you are bombarded with advertisements, and to find any helpful substance in them you will have to critically winnow out masses of chaff. You are a citizen in a democratic society, and thus it is your responsibility to carefully and rationally evaluate the policies and programs of your local, state, and federal government and to vote intelligently for the candidates you consider most capable. You encounter advertisements, the evening news, news magazines, opinion journals, scientific reports, editorials, textbooks--all making claims (sometimes contradictory) and sometimes slanting the material presented. Sorting these out, distinguishing fact from speculation, weighing competing theories and interpretations requires the same reasoning skills that are required of an effective and responsible juror." (pp. 1-2)
K. Critical Thinking = critical evaluation, critical reasoning
- Introductory psychology textbooks disagree on what critical thinking is, the component skills, and its importance.
- Some introductory psychology textbooks do not appear to discuss critical thinking, some do provide a definition and brief explanation, and some textbooks describe critical thinking as a key concept.
- Some textbooks equate critical thinking to thinking. Some textbooks mix together critical thinking and problem solving. Some textbooks report that critical thinking is the evaluating of information to decide what to believe and do. Some of these textbooks emphasize evaluating arguments while others emphasize evaluating the evidence.
- Most books on critical thinking outside of psychology define critical thinking as a thinking process to use when evaluating ideas, information, and arguments to be able to decide what to believe and then do.
syn: assess, judge, gauge, appraise, weigh, rank, measure, grade, examine, inspect, classify,Back to the Top
Jobs which require critical thinking - expert, authority, critic, judge, inspector, editor, teacher,
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