Mistakes in Critical Thinking

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

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

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.”

Hasty Generalization

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

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.”

False Dilemma

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.

Slippery Slope

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.”

Straw Person

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!”

Point of View

These fallacies are frequently used by people who want to persuade you to believe or do something. They have a particular point of view, and their message to you is tilted to favor that point of view. That tilt is called bias. Two common groups of persuaders in American society are politicians and advertisers. Politicians want you to vote for them. Advertisers want you to buy their products or support their cause.

In order to be influenced, a persuader only shows you part of the picture (that’s the bias)or a point of view he or she thinks you will like. Presenting part of the picture is called card stacking. The persuader only shows you the cards he or she has chosen instead of the full deck.

Several of the critical thinking guidelines can help you with bias. (Refer to the Critical Thinking Guidelines at http://thinkwellcenter.edublogs.org/2019/06/06/how-do-you-think-critically/).

Know when you need more information  (Guideline #2) is something to keep in mind when you suspect the persuaders is stacking the cards. Separate emotional and logical thinking (Guideline #5) when you sense the persuader is appealing to your emotions –greed, fear, pity– and is omitting a logical approach. Know the difference between something that must be true and something that might be true (Guideline #4) when the persuader is making statements that are not backed by proof. Build your vocabulary (Guideline #6) when the persuader uses unfamiliar words and terms.

Looking for points of view is a critical-thinking strategy. While it is easy to believe people who share your point of view, remember to be openminded to new ideas (Guideline #1). Consider using other points of view and accepting people who have them.

Points of view connect with what you believe is important in life. Because what’s important carries feelings, part of your critical thinking is always connected to your feelings. Your brain has emotional and logical responses.  A careful thinker notices how feelings are involved in problem solving and decision making. Remember most sources of information have points of view!

How Do You Think Critically?

While you can’t be sure critical thinking will provide correct answers, you can avoid obvious mistakes in thinking. First, metacognate!  When you have a problem to solve or a decision to make, think about your thinking. Sleep on it, count to ten, or use some other method to give yourself time to think. You need to be able to calm your brain because many situations requiring critical thinking are emotionally upsetting. The part of the brain that thinks critically does not function at its best under stress, time pressure, or emotional shock.


The following six guidelines can help you develop your critical thinking ability. They were adapted from material written by Anita Harnadeck.

  1. Be open-minded about new ideas.
  2. Know when you need more information.
  3. Be aware that different people have different ideas about the meanings of words, expressions, gestures, etc.
  4. Know the difference between something that must be true and something that might be true.
  5. Separate emotional and logical thinking.
  6. Develop your vocabulary in order to understand others and to make yourself understood.

By using these six guidelines, you can increase your self-esteem because you feel mentally competent in many situations. The guidelines will be helpful for:

  • Identifying situations that can be improved by critical thinking.
  • Developing conscious attention to your thinking (metacognition).
  • Increasing your confidence about your thinking.
  • avoiding harmful gossip and futile arguments.

The Critical Mind

Critical thinking focuses on the here and now. When you think critically, you concern yourself with what you think is happening and how you will deal with a given situation. How you behave depends on your beliefs. Critical thinking concerns beliefs and behaviors.

Beliefs are interpretations, evaluations, conclusions, and predictions you consider to be true. If you believe that women are not mechanically inclined, you may not think a woman can change a car’s spark plus. If you have failed mathematics in the past, you may have mistakenly concluded that you can’t do math.

Your beliefs guide your behaviors. The physical and mental skills you’ve acquired, such as driving a car or reciting the multiplication tables, were influenced by your belief that they were important. The only behaviors not influenced by beliefs are those that are automatic (that is, bodily functions and reflexes).

Why and When to Think Critically

You need critical thinking to help you solve problems or make decisions that are important to you. Many common behaviors, such as bathing and eating, don’t require daily critical thinking. You perform them based on previously established beliefs.

Being in new situations calls for critical thinking. Seeing new products, hearing dramatic news stories, and experiencing personal or work problems all require you to decide what you believe.


Teaching Critical Thinking with The Cognitive Six

On May 14, 2018 Co-Authors and Educators, Louise Loomis, Ed.D. and Tom Smith, M.A.Ed. were featured guests on the online podcast “Distraction”, hosted by Dr. Edward Hallowell .

They had an in-studio conversation about their book, The Cognitive Six: A Guide to teaching Thinking, how it can be used as a tool to teach critical thinking and the essential role they play in meeting this challenge.

Click link to listen to podcast:

S2 Ep 55: Teaching Critical Thinking with The Cognitive Six

The Cognitive Six: A Guide To Teaching Thinking by Louise E. Loomis, Ed.D. and Thomas Smith, M.A.Ed.

Order you copy today by calling  860-232-0891 or send us an email to louisel@thinkwellcenter.com

Click on link below to order:

The Cognitive Six Order Form


Don’t for get to comeback and leave us a comment about your thoughts about the podcast. Thanks!



By Louise Loomis & Thomas Smith

It is with great pleasure we are pleased to announce that the Cognitive Six: a Guide To Teaching Thinking is complete and available for you to purchase.

Since the vast amount of language used daily in our world—in print, talk, and media—is generally lacking in critical analysis and problem solving, we believe it is imperative that thinking skills become part of general education and daily life.

The Cognitive Six are the ways in which our brains naturally organize information.

Awareness and Practice of the Cognitive Six has many benefits:

  • Produces control of information
  • Provides a language to communicate about thinking
  • Develops a habit of thinking about thinking (Metacognition)
  • Makes learning easier
  • Generates transfer
  • Makes people realize they are smart and that feels good
  • Is the foundation of critical thinking and creativity

The Cognitive Six enables all users to meet the challenges that require thinking and problem solving in their lives. This is accomplished without disrupting the demands of daily activities.

The Cognitive Six: A Guide to Teaching Thinking cost is $30.00 plus ($1.91 CT sales taxes) /per copy. Include an additional $5.00 shipping and handling charge/per book if being mailed.

We also offer the Train of Thought (a Classroom Tool for Teaching Cognitive Six) at $15.00/set. Each set contains 8 (8½in X 11in) cards

To place an order today:  Call 860-232-0891 or send us an email to info@thinkwellcenter.com



Dr. Lou maps out strategy for students in interview on WDRC’s “Talk of Connecticut” Radio Show

Brad & Dan- Aug. 21, 2017: Dr. Lou interview

On the Monday morning of August 21, 2017, Dr. Louise Loomis was interviewed by Brad Davis and Dan Lovallo of the The Talk of Connecticut a talk radio show on WDRC Radio. She discussed the Maps for All Initaitive (M4A), the importance of maps being displayed in public places and their connection to critical thinking through geographical literacy.

Click on link to hear audio of interview: https://audioboom.com/posts/6224839-brad-dan-aug-21-2017-dr-lou-maps-out-strategy-for-students

For more information about the Maps For All Initiative please visit: http://www.ctwac.org/maps/


Why Cognitive Six Is Necessary?


Quite a long time ago when I was team teaching in a program called Higher Horizons I became involved in teaching thinking in my science classes. At several of our team meetings we’d commented on how students seemed to be different. They weren’t telling us when they didn’t understand…the expression   “I don’t get it” – seemed to be missing. Testing seemed to be the way we learned who “got it” and who didn’t. “Are they thinking about what they are being asked to learn?” we pondered.

At that time (Mid 1970’s) there were federally funded teacher centers and there we found a course and manual on teaching thinking: my colleague, Thomas Smith, the language arts instructor, and I both took the course and started using the material. We have been doing so ever since! Recently we decided to upgrade the manual, and with the help of editing guidance by Sharon Smith are soon to publish The Cognitive Six: A Guide to Teaching Thinking.

The Cognitive Six is based on the work of the late Albert Upton, Professor of English at Whittier College. In his book Design for Thinking* (1973.) He describes six fundamental and natural forms of thought. Shortly thereafter the team of Sager, Marr and Kovacs created the Cognitive Skills Manual*that provided practical teaching formats for instruction based on Upton’s work.

The manual and accompanying training course is what inspired me and Tom. Our Cognitive Six is based on the earlier Cognitive Skills Manual.

So what are these six ways in which we naturally think day in and day out? YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM!

We name things, we describe them, we classify all sorts of information, we compare/contrast and create analogies, we learn and recognize parts and wholes, and we arrange some kinds of information in sequence.

Learning to identify the six thinking skills and practice using them provides more variety in instructional material, enables learners to more readily analyze and manage information, and provides a base for critical and creative thinking.

For example, from compare/contrast: Analogies it is easy to create and analyze metaphors, while classification readily leads to categorical syllogisms.

August is our goal for publication.

So keep checking back!

If  you like some examples from the book? Let me know.




Dr. Louise Loomis, Keynote Speaker for the Alpha Kappa State 75th Fall Conference


Dr. Louise Loomis is announced as this year’s Keynote Speaker for the Alpha Kappa State 75th Fall Conference, to be held on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at the Courtyard by Marriott, 4 Sebethe Drive, Cromwell, CT 06416. She will be presenting Teaching to Abundance: Brainwise Learning with Our Natural Thinking.

For more information about AKS 75th Fall Conference please visit for details: http://www.deltakappagamma.org/CT/index.php


Click on link for copy of Participants Feedback of the presentation:AKS 75th State Conference_11_1_14 Feedback

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Cognitive Six workshop held at CPSI 2014 on June 18-22, University at Buffalo

Hello and hope all is well in your part of the world,

This week I will be presenting at CPSI ’60 -Extending Track Education Sessions for the Creative Education Foundation Conference June 18 – 22, 2014:

The Cognitive Six: A Guide to Teaching Thinking

The Cognitive Six refers to the skills our brain uses naturally for organizing information. Practice of the Six develops the 21st Century learning skills of Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Communication. I have used the Cognitive Six for many years with great success and believes it is a valuable tool for answering that question, “How DO I Teach Thinking?”  My book, The Cognitive Six: A Guide To Teaching Thinking, will be published this year, and I look forward to engage participants in an ongoing dialogue.

If you are in the area or attending the conference, I sure hope you can join us while we:

  •  Identify and practice the Cognitive Six (classification is one).
  •  Connect the Cognitive Six to the 21st Century learning skills.
  •  Analyze the CPS process for the Cognitive Six

Please visit  link for details:


Thanks, and have a great day!