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# Critical Thinking for the Information Age

## 1. Critical Thinking for the Information Age

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Critical Thinking for the
Information Age
Richard E. Nisbett
University of Michigan

## 2. Lesson 1: Statistics

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Lesson 1: Statistics
• Concepts: variable, normal distribution, standard
deviation, correlation, reliability and validity
• If you’ve had one course spend a few minutes looking at
material to see if it’s helpful
• If you’ve had several courses in statistics it makes sense
to go straight to Lesson 2
• No math
• No math

## 3. Lesson 2: Law of Large Numbers

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Lesson 2: Law of Large Numbers
• Sample values resemble population values as a
function of their size
– E.g., your judgment about Bill’s honesty or the quality of food in the new restaurant
becomes more accurate the more evidence you have
• This is especially true when there’s a lot of error in
• The big problem to be overcome: recognizing that
there is error

## 4. Lesson 3: Correlation

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Lesson 3: Correlation
• A correlation tells us the degree of association
between two variables
• E.g., mothers’ height and daughters’ height, IQ and
income
• Difficult to detect some correlations
• Worse: we detect lots of correlations that aren’t really
there
• You need protection from the media – because many
reporters don’t understand these principles

## 5. Lesson 4: Experiments

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Lesson 4: Experiments
• What makes a good experiment
• Why experiments are superior to correlational
evidence
• The concept of natural experiments:
– E.g., the town without toothache
• How to do experiments on yourself
– E.g., does coffee make you more or less efficient?
• The terrific costs society pays for the
experiments it doesn’t do

## 6. Lesson 5: Predicting

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Lesson 5: Predicting
• Concept of regression to the mean
– Extreme values are rare, the next value you encounter is probably
going to be less extreme
– E.g., Joan is probably not going to be as extraordinarily generous
the next time you see her
• Concept of base rate
– Predictions about a case should take into account what other
similar cases are like

## 7. Lesson 6: Cognitive Biases

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Lesson 6: Cognitive Biases
• How we make errors in judgment because we lack some
important concepts
• Illusion of Objectivity
• Heuristics: rules of thumb that can lead us astray when
assessing probability and causality
• Confirmation bias: when testing hypotheses we tend to look
only for evidence that would be supportive, not for equally
valuable evidence that might be contradictory

## 8. Lesson 7: Choosing and Deciding

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Lesson 7: Choosing and Deciding
• How to carry out a cost/benefit analysis
• Opportunity Costs
– How to avoid taking actions that make potentially more valuable
actions impossible
• Sunk Costs
– How to avoid carrying out an action for no better reason than that
you paid to do it

## 9. Lesson 8: Logic and Dialectical Reasoning

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Lesson 8: Logic and Dialectical
Reasoning
• Logic: Syllogisms, Conditional Reasoning