Becoming aware of the sources of error in thinking is the main resource we can draw upon to improve our thinking. The clearer we think, the better we will be at making decisions, at problem solving, and also at keeping thinking perspective.
Here are solutions set for clear thinking.
Look for evidence that could disconfirm your belief rather than for evidence that confirms it. If you believe that all swans are white, then your believe can only change, and fit with reality, if you look out for swans that are not white. Finding more white swans only endorse the belief you already have without helping you to verify it. Looking for non-white swans can tell you when an old belief needs changing.
When you came across instances that do not fit with your preconceptions, make sure you think about them remember them and ask yourself whether old beliefs need modifying.
Keep your preferences and inclinations out of it. This means both knowing what they are, and becoming aware of how they might bias your powers of reasoning. If you know what you “want to think” then it is easier to check out whether the facts really fit the case, or whether you are just shaping them up that way.
Do not worry about modifying beliefs as you go along. It can feel unsettling to have to change your mind. For example, about the benevolence of a certain teacher in your children’s school or the belief that hard work will ultimately be rewarded and recognized. Beliefs, theories and assumptions can shift gradually over time, or change suddenly. In both cases the ability to adapt and change with circumstances is more likely to keep you thinking rationally and clearly than banging onto the safe but unsupported beliefs.
Take your time when thinking something through. Snap judgments are more likely to be unduly influences by irrelevancies than considered ones.
Try to stand back from the heat. If your feelings are strongly engaged your thinking may change when the feelings change. It helps to label your feelings, to identify the thoughts that go with them and to check out whether these make sense and fit with reality.
Check out your thoughts on others. See how they react. Become everyone’s experience and interests are different. Using two minds rather one is a good way of reducing this form of bias.
When you notice that two things are similar, ask yourself also now they differ. See if you can find out whether they have different causes. My depressions, or eating problems, might or might not have the same cause as yours. Check out your expectations.
Are appearances a good indicator of the facts? They usually are, and this is why people can exploit them to them advantage, but they can also mislead. Taking at face value, especially if the circumstances are unusual may be misleading. Statistics, the science of numerical facts and data, is complex and technical ordinary thinker need not be a statistician in order to think rationally. A number of common errors in thinking can be figured out by knowing about basic statistical rules.
Law of large numbers: –
The larger the sample the more likely it is to reflect the characteristics of the population from which it is drawn. The larger the numbers on more random the sampling involved the more valid your judgment is likely to be.
Comparisons Control Groups: –
Think of this statement large number of people killed on the roads or the small percentage of babies who die within the first year of life. They may shock us, but they do not provide an adequate basis for value judgment or for decision making, unless they are put into the context of comparison groups.
Making predictions: –
It has been argued that boys are better at math than girls. But this does not make it possible to predict how easily any individual boy or girl will learn mathematical skill. This is for two reasons. First, the behavior of the group does not tell us anything about the actual behavior of an individual. Second the overlap between the groups may be for greater than the difference between them.
The similarities between people who have problems and difficulties in their lives also are far greater than the differences between them, as the vast majority of people experience difficulties at some stage in them lives.
Pressure to conform to the group is surprisingly strong. Use all of your skills and strategies to resist when you need to. If you keep thinking clear and straight, you will be better able to keep things in perspective, to make decisions, and to solve the problems that come your way.