Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Bias of One's Own

The blind-spot bias: That's when one sees (and points out) everyone else's biases but one's own (which is often the exact same bias one sees in others). Can one have such metacognitive superpowers to recognize this in oneself?

I begin to teach critical thinking skills by simply introducing my students to the vocabulary of critical thinking: cognition, metacognition, intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual courage, fallacies, skepticism, wishful thinking, and more. I do this, hoping that, if they can't quite immediately apply these concepts to themselves, then at least they will have those terms in mind as a sort of invitation to epiphany.

But I worry that I am simply reinforcing their own blind-spot biases. It sometimes seems this way as I listen to their (loud) conversations with one another before class, as happened this past November around election day. Very little awareness of the intellectual stunting of existing beliefs, or the power of wishful thinking as an alternative to measured deliberation, or prejudice-revealing stereotyping, seemed to accompany those conversations, which weren't really conversations.

Then I tell myself to remember that critical thinking takes practice. It takes a while to connect those abstract terms to one's actions and words.

Can critical thinking be taught? Do I even practice it myself?


even the know-it-all
knows your name
blue heron

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