|© Jonathan Gill|
So, I'm taking a 'Critical Thinking' course right now. Yes, it's apparently a skill that needs to be taught. And yet, maybe it's not so apparent. Everyone wants to believe that they are critical thinkers. We all have strongly held opinions and we stand behind them, but it seems we need to be taught how to be critical about our own thinking. It's a great question to ask. Am I a critical thinker? If I have a strongly held belief, will I change it if I am presented with irrefutable evidence to the contrary? Few of us will. We are experts at justification and rationalization. We can create amazing arguements for our case, but are they credible? Do we have the bravery to change our views if necessary?
If we ever want to change the world, we will all have to become a lot braver.
This is the heart of the 'behavioural economics' conundrum. Our brains and our hearts don't see, erm, "eye-to-eye." Appeal to our brains, we might understand, but we're bored. Appeal to our hearts and we may not understand but we're too excited to care. Yet you can't have one without the other. Advertising that simply appeals to the heart can be maniuplative and sell lousy products - once. Advertising that appeals exclusively to the brain gets ignored. Goverment policy must speak to the hearts of the people, but if there is no thought behind it, it's a sure-fire way to change the balance of power at the next election.
How can we create environments where it's safe to be emotional and rewarding to be critical? How can we encourage ourselves to let our hearts slip the reigns on our decisions enough to allow the brains in? What can we do to prepare ourselves that we might be wrong about things we feel passionately about?
There are some excellent books about this subject. My current favourite is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. They talk about how to generate change in others, be it individuals, entrenched corporate systems or inflexible government bureaucracies. There's also some interesting concepts in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - my current favourite book. But these all talk about changing others. What can we possibly do to be willing to change ourselves?
We like to think of ourselves as open-minded, intelligent people. But are we?