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Analysis of Critical Thinking on Daniel Gilbert's: "why We Make Bad Decisions"

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Critical Thinking is a broad term that is often misunderstood and hard to define. Being a good critical thinker is not simply a matter of intelligence but rather how much one is predisposed to the seven dispositions of critical thinking and how much one possesses the skills and sub-skills of critical thinking. In short, the seven dispositions of critical thinking are: being systematic, inquisitive, judicious, truth seeking, analytical, open-minded, and confident in their reasoning. The six skills of critical thinking are: interpretation, analysis, inference, evaluation, explanation, and self-regulation.

The video "Why We Make Bad Decisions" presented by Dan Gilbert provides great examples of all the critical thinking skills as he uses nearly all of them, and it is fairly safe to use Gilbert as an example of a good critical thinker. He begins in the video by stating the question, is there any way to avoid bad decisions by always knowing the right thing to do? He answers this immediately by stating that there is in fact a method that was invented by Daniel Bernoulli in the 1700's in the form of a formula. This formula states that the expected gain of something is equal to the odds of gain multiplied by the value of the gain. He states that despite knowledge of the formula, people consistently fail at accurately calculating odds and value then proceeds to explain why we fail at both one at a time. This is an example of the interpretation skill and its three sub-skills of categorization, decoding significance, and clarifying meaning. He splits up the reasoning behind our inability to calculate odds and value into two separate categories that come together later. He decodes the significance of his initial question by stating that even despite our knowledge of the equation we are unable to apply it effectively to real life. Finally, he clarifies the meaning of the Bernoulli formula by stating what it means in the simplest terms possible.

Gilbert moves on from stating his questions and goes straight into demonstrating the critical thinking skill of analysis. He tries to answer the question of why do we make errors in calculating odds. He performs the sub-skill of examining ideas and identifying arguments by investigating if it is a result of the fact that people base their ideas of odds from memory, even though that isn't an accurate way of doing it. He identifies the reasons and claims favoring this idea by stating that when people are asked if there are more words beginning with the letter r or whose third letter is 'r', a majority will answer that there are more words beginning with the letter 'r', even though that is incorrect. This is because people based that idea on the fact that from memory they could think of more examples of words beginning with the letter 'r'. Gilbert subsequently notes that people will vastly overestimate how many people die from fireworks and tornados but vastly underestimate how many people die from asthma and drowning. He attributes this to the media attention that is placed to the uncommon occurrences like death by fireworks and tornados and lack of attention placed on the more common occurrences like drowning. He uses this as evidence for people calculating odds based on memory.

As the presentation continued, Gilbert demonstrated the skill of Inference. He queried the evidence by asking whether there are more factors that contribute to our failure of calculating odds then simply our reliance on memory. He conjectured alternatives by asking if things like how we compare to the past, compare to the possible, and how our perceptions could also affect our ability to calculate odds and value. He drew the conclusion that all of those things significantly damage our ability to calculate odds and value using inductive reasoning. His reasoning stemmed from the examples that people would play a lottery but wouldn't play if one person

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