Consider the following situations, then respond to these questions:
- Do you agree or disagree with the inference/conclusion? Why or why not?
- What assumption(s) may have led to the inference/conclusion?
- What are some alternative ways of thinking about this situation?
Bill needs six scholarly articles for his paper on the psychological effects of domestic violence. He searches Google for "psychological effects of domestic violence," looks through the first few hits, and finds six sources, including some articles on the websites of legitimate organizations. A few of these articles include bibliographies.
- Bill's Inference/Conclusion: I'm going to stop researching because I have my six sources.
Christie is researching representations of gender in popular music. She decides to search Google and, within a few minutes, locates more sources that she could possibly incorporate into her final paper.
- Christie's Inference/Conclusion: I can just use Google for my research.
Jennifer has decided to write her literary analysis paper on drug use in David Foster Wallace's novel, Infinite Jest (1996). She tries a few Google searches for Infinite Jest, drugs, and drug use, but she has trouble finding scholarly sources. She gives up on Google and moves on to EBSCO Academic Search Premier, one of the databases she heard about in a library instruction class. She runs a search for Infinite Jest and drug use, but she still can't find much.
- Jennifer's Inference/Conclusion: I need to change my topic.
Pearson's RED Critical Thinking Model
The RED model lays out a path for understanding how critical thinking works and for developing each of the essential skills. Let's take a look at each critical thinking skill.
Pearson’s RED Model of Critical Thinking
This is the ability to separate fact from opinion. It is deceptively easy to listen to a comment or presentation and assume the information presented is true even though no evidence was given to back it up. Noticing and questioning assumptions helps to reveal information gaps or unfounded logic. Taking it a step further, when we examine assumptions through the eyes of different people (e.g., the viewpoint of different stakeholders), the end result is a richer perspective on a topic.
How to use it: When you’re gathering information, listening to what people say, or assessing a situation, think about what assumptions you have going in. Perhaps you assume that a trusted co-worker is providing reliable information – but is there really evidence to back that up? Learn to see gaps in logic, and opinion disguised as fact.
The art of evaluating arguments entails analyzing information objectively and accurately, questioning the quality of supporting evidence, and understanding how emotion influences the situation. Common barriers include confirmation bias, or allowing emotions-yours or others-to get in the way of objective evaluation. People may quickly come to a conclusion simply to avoid conflict. Being able to remain objective and sort through the validity of different positions helps people draw more accurate conclusions.
How to use it: We often have problems sorting through conflicting information because unknowingly let our emotions get in the way, or because – like just about everyone – we sometimes only hear what we want to hear. Learn how to push all that aside, and analyze information accurately and objectively.
People who possess this skill are able to bring diverse information together to arrive at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence, and they do not inappropriately generalize beyond the evidence. Furthermore, they will change their position when the evidence warrants doing so. They are often characterized as having "good judgment" because they typically arrive at a quality decision.
How to use it: This is the payoff. When you think critically, the true picture become clear, and you can make the tough decision, or solve a difficult problem.