Rated 5 out of 5 by NYNM Fair, even-handed and valuable
I recommend this course. I am impressed by Dr. Novella's ability to be rational and fair, even when discussing unscientifc, even "crazy" ideas. This includes such topics as conspiracy theories, aiien invasion theories, mass hysteria, etc. He gives a generous hearing to all sides, the rational, the non-rational and the irrational, and tells you how to distinuguish them.
Much of what Dr. Novella teaches in in the realm of cognitive and social psychology, including various cogntive biases and distortions. He explains that there are human tendencies to think emotionally rather than logically, tendencies to seek order, patterns (even when none exist) predictability, be influenced by peer pressure, and so on. This is why we prefer "black and white" thinking rather than "the gray." Novella gives excellent examples of these common thinking biases as well as why they are likely to occur. I am suprised that he is a physician, since such topics are usually the purview of psychologists rather than medical doctors. Nevertheless, this is excellent material.
Many times there is emphasis on content rather than critical thinking, This is true in politics, consumer behavior and health behavior. By listening to this course you will be better able to evaluate your decisions. While some of the lecture topics sound a bit dry, the discussion is more lively and thought provoking.
This is a course of value to all listeners.
March 12, 2012
Rated 2 out of 5 by Rodney44 Not A Scientific Guide.
If you have a degree in science and spent many years reading other's research, and doing lab experiments, you will walk away dumfounded by his amazing inability to see and separate out his own confirmation biases.
I would not wish to work in a lab with this scientist. His own confirmation biases arise time and again. This repeated pattern of freely expressing his own confirmation bias suggests that he is clueless about his own biases. Certainly unconscious of them.
But he states that he is so well informed about other people's biases.
This treatment of this vital subject is appropriate only for the very beginner. High School level, or perhaps a first year college introductory source.
I am disappointed to see the word "Scientific" used in this title.
April 13, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Katiescarlet Amazing course!
I am currently listening to these CDs for the third time. Dr Novella's lectures are most informative and very well organized; he's a great presenter. He uses real-life examples in his teaching and covers the topics sufficiently. I recommend this course to anyone interested in knowing more about how our brains function. It's full of highly useful information.
March 15, 2015
Rated 4 out of 5 by BCLearner good foundational course
I enjoyed this course. I found it very informative, bringing together a lot of seemingly disparate ideas under the umbrella of our need to be more critical about the information we receive on any subject. Much of the first part of the course reminded me of Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow because of the way Professor Novella highlighted vulnerabilities in our way of thinking. For example, our brain tends to grab on to patterns and reduce complexity to more accessible judgments in order to make sense of information, even if those patterns serve as more of a shortcut to understanding and therefore are not fully reliable. Throughout the course Dr. Novella does a good job of introducing and then reusing the new vocabulary to help support this discussion, e.g. pattern recognition, confirmation bias, pareidolia, confabulation, etc. These are all helpfully included in the glossary, but you will notice that Dr. Novella includes these terms as part of his lectures and his discussion of the issues around critical thinking in order to help make clear his ideas rather than simply wielding technical vocabulary for its own sake. Acquiring the language of critical thinking is one of the keys to understanding it.
Dr. Novella spends roughly the first half of the course addressing these short-cutting tendencies of the mind as a way to build a case for the justification of the scientific method as our one saving grace in terms of making sense of this world. But having reached this point, we are not quite in the clear. The course then proceeds to take a look at ways in which the scientific method, speaking very generally as an overall approach, has been done badly or inadequately or even misleadingly. So Dr. Novella dwells on bad science and pseudoscience and other various activities that in some ways emulate scientific methodology but fall short for one reason or another. Along the way, we become acquainted with several classic tales from this rogue’s gallery of bad science such as cold fusion, false memory syndrome, the measles, mumps, rubella vaccination scare, and n-rays to name but a few.
This is all very interesting, and I would say that course title “The Deceptive Mind” lives up to its name. I am not so sure about the subtitle of the course, "Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills." I don't think this course is really about critical thinking skills. It is more about the prominence of the scientific method (and by method Dr. Novella cautions us not see this as a single method but as a general approach including several legitimate methods) has the best form of inquiry that we have in order to make discoveries and develop sound knowledge. Maybe it is about scientific thinking. When I think of critical thinking skills, I tend to see this more at the level of the individual, i.e. what someone can do to distinguish good from bad information, knowing when and how to question authority, etc.. But I don't think the course deals with this very much unless you see the scientific method as your only way of determining anything. In this way the course is less applicable on the day-to-day level as one might think although this does seem to change by Lecture 21 where the focus is much more on what I consider to be critical thinking rather than scientific thinking. This is not so much a failing of the course than an inaccuracy of the subtitle, in my view. However, I would maintain that the course does an exemplary job of heightening our level of vigilance about the kind of information we accept and reject on a daily basis as well as recognizing the hazards of poor disseminated public information. As well, the way Dr Novella builds his arguments about the benefits of and need for scientific/critical thinking is very well done from lecture to lecture.
Because of this 360° look at the scientific method, it seems to me that the course is very well suited to those who are interested in getting started in fields like sciences and social sciences that depend upon this research tradition. On the other hand, as Dr Novella points out, this message shouldn’t remain just with those in the sciences, but it needs to get out beyond its traditional subject areas. In this way, the course explains very clearly why we need something like scientific and critical thinking as opposed to other, less effective or outright bogus methods of inquiry. Given the current debates in Canada and the US about vaccinations, a course like this is timely and relevant. Nonetheless, having listened to these lectures, I am not so sure that dismissing the so-called deniers as poor thinkers or cranks in a debate like that of the legitimacy of vaccinations is good enough for a critical discussion. It is not enough to accept that we must have vaccinations simply because this is "good science." It is important to look at the arguments put forward and assess them for their merits or weaknesses. But I suppose this is what the course is all about.
To conclude, I think this is one of those courses that should appeal to a very wide audience and sets a solid foundation for further inquiry into other subject areas.
February 18, 2015