When critical thinking helps

The most politically engaged people are also the most partisan, and in many cases they’re also the most resistant to revising their views. They even — if I’m recalling this Ezra Klein show episode correctly — read articles by the opposition more closely so as to better pick apart their opponents.

In other words, the fact that you care about politics and are highly engaged isn’t evidence that you’re objective, and might in fact indicate the opposite.

Listening to all of this, you might think critical thinking is just a facade, that it’s purely a way to justify the conclusions we’ve already reached. As I’ve written before, that’s far too cynical. And here’s some new evidence that’s more optimistic, via Nieman Lab:

These studies also suggested that two related forms of thinking may protect against belief in fake news: The first, actively open-minded thinking, involves the search for alternative explanations and the use of evidence to revise beliefs. The second, analytic thinking, involves deliberate thought processes that consume memory resources.

Critical thinking and open-mindedness really are helpful! And this is hardly the only paper to find that result.

For more in this vein, I wrote a few months back about decision-making for HBR, drawing on research on how to think and decide rationally.

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