So many mistakes in critical thinking are made by so many people that numerous books have been written about the topic. Though you will make mistakes on your own, the actions and words of other people often contribute to your mistakes. By being aware of how others influence your thinking process, you will be able to judge situations more clearly and come to better decisions. Some of the most common mistakes in thinking are described in the following paragraphs.
Mistakes in thinking are called fallacies. They distract you from making decisions based on critical thinking. Several fallacies are described below.
Peer pressure causes you to go along with the crowd in order to be accepted or popular.
Example: “Ling and I are skipping class tonight to go to the hockey game. Aren’t you coming with us?”
Horse laugh refers to making fun of someone or something when you disagree. This fallacy is best communicated by one’s tone or voice or body language.
Example: Wallie is talking to a co-worker, and the coworker says, “You are doing that project?”
Two Wrongs Make A Right
This refers to returning an insult with an insult.
Example: “My coworker invited everyone to her party but me, so I’m not going to help with her project.”
This refers to making a decision too quickly.
Example: “I know I just met him, but I don’t like him” or ” I tried playing tennis once, and I’m not going to try it again.”
Name calling substitutes a personal insult for a direct response.
Example: Joe says, “Being metacognitive about studying is a great help.” Pat responds, “That’s a typical nerd statement if I ever heard one.”
Scare Tactics, Appeals To Pity, and Apple Polishing
These fallacies all focus on emotional thinking and ignorance logic.
Scare Tactics Example: ” We, the membership committee of the Sigma Club, see in your application that you’ve been very active with the student newspaper. Did you know that our club president was kicked off your paper’s editorial board last year?”
Appeal to Pity Example: “Professor Amato, please let me had in my paper tomorrow. I had to take care of my grandmother last night. When I finally started typing, I ran out of paper, and it was too late to buy any. If you accept my paper late, I’ll be able to stay off probation.”
Apple Polishing Example: “Hamid, please let me photocopy your notes to study for an exam. Your handwriting is so much neater than mine, and you always get more out of Professor Smith’s lectures than I do.”
People use a false dilemma to make you think there are only two choices in a situation–the one they favor and an unappealing alternative.
Example: The statement “Strong men watch wrestling on T.V., so what’s the matter with you?” is intended to make you think you aren’t strong if you don’t enjoy professional wrestling. Actually one has little to do with the other; there are many ways to be strong. People often combine peer pressure, mentioned earlier, with the false dilemma tactic.
People tend to use slippery slope thinking in situations involving change. Claims are made that the change will lead to many more changes and that the end result will be bad.
Example: “If we let you have two excused absences, then you’ll want three. Before we know it, all of our absentee standards will have disappeared.”
Begging the Question
This is also known as “circular reasoning.” The same statement gets repeated with different words, but nothing is added to the meaning. This is very popular in advertisements.
Example: “Athletes need a good, healthy diet. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to what you eat if you want to perform well in sports.”
Have you ever had someone disagree with you by changing your statement? The changed statement is the “straw person.” Notice how the brother changed the one time clean-up request in the following example to a daily one.
Example: You ask your brother to help you clean the bathroom. He says he can’t clean it every day. It’s too much work and a waste of time.
Using someone of status to convince others of the “right” thing to do is one of the most common fallacies used in advertising and political campaigns.
Example: Famous people (prestige identification) or people just like you (ordinary people) tell you how great something is: “Buy it!” “Vote for it!”