Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking

By Diane F. Halpern | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SUMMARY
1. Much of our everyday thinking is like the scientific method of hypothesis testing. We formulate beliefs about the world and collect observations to decide if our beliefs are correct.
2. In the inductive method we devise hypotheses from our observations. In the deductive method we collect observations that confirm or disconfirm our hypotheses. Most thinking involves an interplay of these two processes so that we devise hypotheses from experience, make observations, and then, on the basis of our observations, we redefine our hypotheses.
3. Operational definitions are precise statements that allow the identification and measurement of variables.
4. Independent variables are used to predict or explain dependent variables. When we formulate hypotheses, we want to know about the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable(s).
5. When we draw conclusions from observations, it's important to utilize an adequately large sample size because people are variable in the way they respond. Most people are too willing to generalize results obtained from small samples.
6. In determining if one variable (e.g., smoking) causes another variable (e.g., lung cancer) to occur, it is important to be able to isolate and control the causal variables. Strong causal claims require the three-stage experimental design that was described in this chapter.
7. In everyday contexts, we often use retrospective techniques to understand what caused an event to occur. This is not a good technique because our memories tend to be selective and malleable and because we have no objective systematic observations of the cause. Prospective techniques that record events when they occur and then see if the hypothesized result follows are better methods for determining cause-effect relationships.
8. Variables that are related so that changes in one variable are associated with changes in the other variable are called correlated variables. Correlations can be positive as in the relationship between height and weight (taller people tend to weigh more, whereas shorter people tend to weigh less) or negative as in the relationship between exercise and weight (people who exercise a great deal tend to be thin, and those who exercise little tend to be heavy).
9. A common error is to infer a causative relationship from correlated variables. It is possible that Variable A caused Variable B, or that Variable B caused Variable A, or that A and B influenced each other, or that a third variable caused them both.
10. The belief that two variables are correlated when they are not (illusory correlation) is another type of error that is common in human judgment.
11. It is important that you use measurements that are sensitive, valid, and reliable or the conclusions you draw may be incorrect. Few people consider the importance of measurement issues when they draw everyday conclusions about the nature of the world.
12. Although many of our judgments lack validity, people report great confidence in them. This is called illusory validity.
13. Inadvertently, we may act in ways that will lead us to confirm or disconfirm hypotheses according to our expectations. These are called self-fulfilling prophecies.

TERMS TO KNOW

Check your understanding of the concepts presented in this chapter by reviewing their definitions. If you find that you're having difficulty with any term, be sure to reread the section in which it is discussed:

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