Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Course No. 9344
Professor Steven Novella, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine
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Course No. 9344
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Course Overview

What should you think? Who should you believe? Could you be deceiving yourself? These are questions that all critical thinkers of any age must constantly ask themselves. There is no more important skill in today's world than being able to think about, understand, and act on information in a way that is both effective and responsible. Critical thinking transforms you from a passive member of society into an active participant in the ideas and issues of the day. It empowers you to better understand nearly every single aspect of everyday life, from health and nutrition to science and technology to philosophical and spiritual belief systems.

What's more: At no point in human history have we had access to so much information, with such relative ease, as we do in the 21st century. Information is literally everywhere around you; in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and television, and across the Internet. But as the amount of information out there increases, so too does the amount of misinformation. So it's more important than ever before to become a better critical thinker—someone who can analyze and construct arguments and arrive at more sound, more informed opinions. And the key to success lies in

  • understanding the neuroscience behind how our thinking works—and goes wrong;
  • mastering the fundamental skills behind logic, reasoning, and argumentation;
  • avoiding common pitfalls and errors in thinking, such as logical fallacies and biases; and
  • knowing how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience.

All this and more you can find in the 24 rewarding lectures of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills. Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine—an academic neurologist, award-winning instructor, and public educator—equips you with the knowledge and techniques you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. By immersing yourself in the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking, and by learning how to think about thinking (a practice known as metacognition), you'll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully than ever before.

Explore the Inner Workings of Critical Thinking

Our brains, according to Dr. Novella, are our greatest strength as critical thinkers. But they can also be the source of many weaknesses and impairments in critical thought. In Your Deceptive Mind, you'll take a closer look at the neuroscientific details of critical thinking and how the (often unfamiliar) ways in which our brains are hardwired can distract and prevent us from getting to the truth of a particular matter:

  • The neuroscience of critical thinking: Approach the act of thinking not as some abstract concept but as an action rooted deep within your brain. In clear, easy-to-understand language, Dr. Novella takes you deep inside this powerful organ to examine how you form beliefs, perceive your surroundings, and remember events.
  • Biases and problems in critical thinking: The key to success as a critical thinker lies in understanding the range of biases and problems that can stand in the way of reason and truth. You'll encounter—and learn how to deftly sidestep—fallacies such as retrofitting of evidence, collective wish fulfillment, reliance on "factoids,"and ad hominem arguments.
  • Science and pseudoscience: Knowing how to separate science (the foundation of critical thought) from pseudoscience is of the utmost importance to any well-rounded critical thinker. Here, you'll investigate common examples of pseudoscience that surround us every day—from the denial of established evidence to the belief in grand conspiracies.

Along the way, you'll sample a range of illuminating case studies, experiments, and observations from nutrition, science, technology, mass culture, and even politics; all of which vividly illustrate the core components of (and threats to) responsible critical thinking. These include

  • how purported sightings of UFOs, ghosts, and Bigfoot are, in reality, plagued by a host of cognitive flaws that also reveal secrets about how we all make sense of unexplainable events;
  • how functional MRI scans have demonstrated that different parts of our brain work together to construct an aggregate consciousness and sense of reality;
  • how a 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds so easily incited mass hysteria in listeners and actually convinced them that an alien invasion was at hand; and
  • how reactions to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy illustrate the inherent tendency in human beings to fall into the cognitive trap of grand conspiracies.

Unpack the Critical Thinker's Toolbox

Throughout Your Deceptive Mind, Professor Novella provides you with a critical thinker's toolbox that you can use to better assess the quality of information or to make a more informed decision.

  • The smaller the scientific study, the greater you should be concerned about the potential for statistical noise. Larger scientific studies are often needed for the random effects to average out so that a more reliable answer can be arrived at.
  • While it's important to remember that emotions have an influence on an individual's thought processes, it's dangerous to completely deny them when analyzing information or trying to make an informed decision.
  • Learn to be comfortable with the uncertainty of the world. The truth is that there is no single guarantee of legitimacy when it comes to scientific information, only solid indicators of legitimacy.
  • Be particularly on guard when dealing with controversial subjects frequently covered in the media. The more controversial a topic, the greater the chances are that information about that topic is skewed in one direction or another.

These invaluable tips, techniques, and strategies are only a few of what you'll find in these lectures.

And that's not all. Your Deceptive Mind's greatest strength lies in Professor Novella's delivery and engagement with the material. In addition to being a master teacher, he is an expert on critical thinking and its intersection with science. President and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society and the host of its award-winning show, The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Professor Novella has dedicated himself to increasing the public's ability to use critical thinking skills to better navigate the mass of information (and misinformation) in today's highly mediated world.

And the world is only going to get more and more saturated with information. So take the initiative and become better prepared to make sense of it all with this intriguing and rewarding course. While these lectures can't read the news or make decisions for you, they'll undoubtedly give you the concrete knowledge for doing so more intelligently.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking
    Start by learning how to think about thinking itself (an act known as metacognition). Dr. Novella reveals how to distinguish good science from bad science; the individual steps involved in the critical thinking process; and how we can use critical thinking to break down topics such as the existence of UFOs. x
  • 2
    The Neuroscience of Belief
    Our brains are hardwired to believe in something. What is the neuroscience that drives this desire? What are the reasons behind the specific things you believe in? How can you use this understanding to mitigate the effects of your need to believe on your critical thinking skills? Find out the answers here. x
  • 3
    Errors of Perception
    A solid understanding of metacognition relies on an understanding of the nature of perception. First, examine the nature of how our brains acquire and process information. Then, investigate the ways we can be deceived by what we think we perceive in phenomena such as attentional blindness, change blindness, and optical illusions. x
  • 4
    Flaws and Fabrications of Memory
    Memory is tricky, to say the least. Here, unpack the vital role that memories—even inaccurate memories—play in critical thinking. Some of the many topics you’ll explore: how memory recall works; the roots of source amnesia; the inverse relationship between confidence and accuracy in a memory; and how memories can even be manufactured. x
  • 5
    Pattern Recognition—Seeing What’s Not There
    Pattern recognition is both a cognitive strength and a weakness; sometimes our brains can perceive patterns that aren’t there. By seeing hyperactive pattern recognition at work in everything from data mining to superstitious thinking, you’ll be better equipped to sort out what’s real from what only appears to be real. x
  • 6
    Our Constructed Reality
    Explore how different parts of your brain work together—and sometimes in conflict with one another—to construct your aggregate consciousness and the illusion of a single reality. In the process, you’ll examine a range of interesting topics, including out-of-body experiences, phantom limbs, and altered states of consciousness such as dreaming. x
  • 7
    The Structure and Purpose of Argument
    Focus on one of the most important reasoning tools you can use to override the flaws in neurological function: argumentation. What makes for a true argument? How is an effective argument built? What’s the difference between inductive and deductive logic? What common logical fallacies are we most susceptible to—and how can you avoid them? x
  • 8
    Logic and Logical Fallacies
    Delve further into logical fallacies, including the ad hominem argument (attacking the person instead of the argument) and the genetic fallacy (assuming the historical use of something is relevant to its current use). Dr. Novella provides vivid examples to hammer home each fallacy’s specific description and damaging implications. x
  • 9
    Heuristics and Cognitive Biases
    The worst biases are the ones you’re not aware of. Avoid this pitfall of critical thinking by mastering the common biases in our thinking. After focusing on heuristics (mental short-cuts that can lead to erroneous conclusions), explore other powerful cognitive biases, including confirmation bias, familiarity bias, and optimism bias. x
  • 10
    Poor at Probability—Our Innate Innumeracy
    Unfortunately, our brains are horrible when it comes to probability—and that can often lead to a number of probability-based cognitive biases. See the effects of this flaw, known as innumeracy, in everything from numerology (the supposedly mystical meaning behind numbers) to hot-and-cold streaks in competitive games. x
  • 11
    Toward Better Estimates of What’s Probable
    Continue your exploration of innumeracy by turning to the nature and perception of false positives, insignificant risks, and other manifestations in statistics and probability. Then, engage with some fun and revealing probability puzzles to discover just how lacking our intuition is when it comes to numbers. x
  • 12
    Culture and Mass Delusions
    The culture and people around you can also have a profound impact on your critical thinking. Using powerful examples such as the response to Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s, Dr. Novella explains the hidden power and pervasiveness of mass delusion and hysteria. x
  • 13
    Philosophy and Presuppositions of Science
    Turn now to an in-depth examination of science, which serves as the foundation for critical thinking and can compensate for the tendency of human thinking to go awry. Specifically, you’ll focus on and make sense of the philosophical interpretations of science (including Occam’s razor), as well as probe some of the limits of scientific reasoning. x
  • 14
    Science and the Supernatural
    What are we to make of “supernatural” issues such as the existence of ghosts and the possibility of miracles? Approach these and other topics from a critical thinker’s perspective. Along the way, examine the deeper issue at work here: what is—and what should be—the relationship between science and the belief in things we can’t see. x
  • 15
    Varieties and Quality of Scientific Evidence
    Scientific studies are often used to provide evidence and support to a range of ideas and arguments. What questions should you ask when you are presented with an experimental or observational study? What specific biases should you be on the lookout for? What’s the best way to compare studies with one another? Find out here. x
  • 16
    Great Scientific Blunders
    Learn how important skepticism is as a first response to scientific claims by surveying blunders that resulted from a lack of critical thinking. Among them: the claimed existence of “n-rays,” cold fusion, Lord Kelvin’s calculations for the age of the Earth, and a psychologist drawn into reports by patients convinced they were abducted by aliens. x
  • 17
    Science versus Pseudoscience
    Many claims label themselves as scientific—but are they really? Break down the concept of pseudoscience by exploring some of its most prominent features (or warning signs), including its tendency to work backward from desired results, its shifting of the burden of proof onto others, and its bold claims that go beyond evidence. x
  • 18
    The Many Kinds of Pseudoscience
    Deconstruct several specific examples of pseudoscience to see how its various features work. You’ll investigate the pseudoscience behind iridology (the idea that our irises reflect our health), photographs that claim to capture ghosts, psychic abilities such as precognition, spontaneous human combustion, and more. x
  • 19
    The Trap of Grand Conspiracy Thinking
    Theories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The existence and power of the Illuminati. The Roswell incident. Grand conspiracies such as these are cognitive traps that result from our attempts to make sense of our complex world. Examine both the compelling nature of conspiracy thinking and ways to determine which theories are true and which are just pseudoscience. x
  • 20
    Denialism—Rejecting Science and History
    Dr. Novella introduces you to denialism, a subset of pseudoscience that seeks to deny established science. By exploring the features and tactics of denialism, as well as extreme examples of it at work, you’ll shed light on how critical thinking helps you sidestep the more subtle forms of denialism we’re all susceptible to. x
  • 21
    Marketing, Scams, and Urban Legends
    Ever since its creation, the Internet has revolutionized our access to facts and become a veritable “Wild West of Information.” Gain tips for using critical thinking to filter the wealth of information out there in chain emails, popular scams, and other everyday outlets that exploit human psychology. x
  • 22
    Science, Media, and Democracy
    How does one find sound, reliable information in today’s world? Topics you’ll explore include the strengths and weaknesses of science reporting in the media; traps reporters fall into when covering science topics; the intersection between science and ethics, politics, and social issues; and the important role of science literacy. x
  • 23
    Experts and Scientific Consensus
    How reliable is scientific consensus on hot-button issues such as climate change? What is the definition of an expert, and when should you defer to an expert’s knowledge on important questions? Is there any characteristic that guarantees an expert’s legitimacy? Probe these and other tricky questions related to the nature of scientific consensus. x
  • 24
    Critical Thinking and Science in Your Life
    In the course’s final lecture, Dr. Novella leaves you with some final thoughts on thinking more critically in your everyday life. These include accepting humility in the face of your own knowledge; understanding—but not denying—your emotions and their influence on thinking; and accepting the need to be comfortable with uncertainty. x

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Your professor

Steven Novella

About Your Professor

Steven Novella, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine
Dr. Steven Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his M.D. from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals. An expert in neuroscience, Dr. Novella focuses his practice...
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Reviews

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 94.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Relevant for the present time I have not yet finished this course, but already it has given me invaluable knowledge and application information. This course is highly relevant for today's world. I am glad I purchased it.
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from everyone interested in science must take this An excellent introduction to cogitive science. An exploration of the mental errors we are prone to and why people develop false beliefs.
Date published: 2018-02-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from There is No Right or Wrong I've only just begin to read the transcript for this course. I skipped to the end. Professor Noella doesn't seem to believe his own words. He says, "There are many cognitive biases that conspire together to lead us to take and firmly hold beliefs that potentially have little or no relationship to reality." I believe that. Elsewhere, he says, "In the scientific sense, faith is belief without knowledge, it involves believing in something for reasons other than empirical evidence, logic, and philosophy." He believes in evolution as a matter of faith. There is no empirical evidence and never will be, but he gives himself an out. He can use philosophy, which is veiled religion and faith. He separates science and religion into to separate and opposing entities, which is contrary to reality. But as he says, "There is right or wrong." And he says, "You should not trust me as any kind of definitive authority." So, why waste my time reading this thing? Alas, I am beginning to understand the concept of "critical thinking," which is a mantra of education. It means, there is no right or wrong, and we should religiously criticize where we are as Americans and, perhaps, as Christians. Sure criticism is a good thing, but to say there is no right or wrong is to send people into a death spiral. Instead of evolving to higher highs, we devolve into lower lows. I'm going to give this course a higher rating than nothing, because it is informative, but not so high, because this guy is wrong. Yes, there is wrong. He admits it, after all.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thumbs up! I don’t usually review educational courses because everyone has different learning styles. However, since you pay money or this course I thought it couldn’t hurt to offer a perspective to others. What I expected this course to tell me: 1. how is my mind deceptive 2. what exactly is critical thinking (according to this course) 3. a description of the neuroscience behind thinking 4. the biases and problems of critical thinking 5. how does critical thinking apply to both science and pseudoscience With these expectations in mind, and my belief that you don’t know what you don’t know, I would recommend this course to anyone and found it was a great investment. Here’s why: 1. it was well presented. The lectures were well paced and the topic well explained. There wasn’t any scientific jargon so I could understand the concept and the point Dr. Novella was trying to make. 2. The content delivered on my expectations. I guess it’s as simple as that. It answered the questions I had. Again, you don’t know what you don’t know, so I relied on my expectations as guide and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s up to me how I use or interpret the information Dr. Novella graciously provided, but I’d say he did his job and glad I gave this course a shot.
Date published: 2017-10-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from "Scientific" Thinking at its Worst The lecturer speaks very well, but spews nonsense. Worse, he apparently doesn't realize that he is doing so. For example, in the very first lecture, he asserts "We are our brains." I believe that is not true, in both an obvious way -- i.e. I have never met a brain, only bodies with brains -- and in a less obvious way, i.e. the mind/body problem has never been resolved with anything close to general agreement. In a course on "critical thinking" you cannot simply assert something so important, so doubtful, and so contentious. He later commits a similarly egregious error. The claims, "We literally have a lizard brain," inside our mammalian brains. Perhaps he means this metaphorically, but he said "literally." Again, a fatal error in a course supposedly on critical thinking. He offers as an example of how people supposedly make bad decisions the case of a wristband that supposedly improves your golf game. For real people in the real world, we would want to know whether it does. That is, do real people find their golf game improved when wearing the item? He is correct that we should look for more than anecdotes. We should look for statistical evidence. He presents none. Instead, he offers evidence of a double-blind study that shows no benefit. By doing so, he has committed a cardinal error of answering a different question. Real people operating in the real world want, and should pursue, any legitimate edge they can, whether it can be shown in a double-blind study or not. He should know this. If a surgeon, for example, has a pre-operative routine that involes what the speaker would consider 'superstition', would the speaker want to be operated on by the surgeon when the surgeon's pre-op routine was disrupted? I wouldn't. When he commits such fundamental errors, it means that he is unreliable. And since his style seems to be assertion, rather than argument or explanation, we must reject There must be thousands of careful thinkers out there who could have done justice to this course, not merely presented a know-it-all's view of 'truth'. He is an MD. Physician, heal thyself!
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from First course I could not finsh! I had to stop listening after 12 lessons. Just terrible. I agree with just about all other 1 and 2 stars reviews. No sense beating a dead horse...
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Don't be deceived Most of this course is very informative, even for those with advanced knowledge about how our brain and habits trick us into thinking we know or remember things we don't. Ironically, however, while Novella warns us about letting personal bias lead us to wrong conclusions and of the need to be humble in evaluating evidence, he reflects the militant skeptical viewpoints of the Committee for Skeptical Inquirer and The Skeptics Society, whose publications I have been reading for decades. One would get the impression from them that anyone who disagrees with them on anything is unscientific and illogical. The fact is that on many issues they are, as Thomas Kuhn's The Structures of Scientific Revolutions predicts, a generation or two behind the cutting evidence. For example: 1) He dismisses the idea of Asian medicine energy lines, but there is plenty of support for this documented in James Oschman's Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. 2) He claims the acupuncture has no basis, but I have worked with many integrative MDs and know the effects are far more than due to the placebo effect (as even the AMA admitted a few years ago). Listen to another Great Course on the subject by an MD: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/the-science-of-natural-healing.html 3) Novella insists there is no evidence for ESP, but Dr. Dean Radin's The Conscious Universe provides very detailed discussions of the global experiments that show it does exist. 4) To understand the scope of the pseudo-skeptics' objections that are based on an outdated paradigm of materialism, read Michael Crichton's appendix in Travels, which has a speech he was invited to give to the local skeptics' society on Los Angeles, but he was disinvited when they realized that he no longer adhered to a strict interpretation of what was accepted wisdom in medicine and other sciences.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Appropriate title.Two lectures on logic drifted I enjoyed to book. A lot to think about. i already knew the lectures on logical thinking from Aristotelian courses. A good read. Lecturer included personal examples.
Date published: 2017-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent subject matter and very broad coverage I found the subject matter to be extremely useful in everyday decision making and was better able to see mistakes made by others. Dr. Novella delivered the lectures in a way which kept me totally interested all the way through. Can't imagine anyone being disappointed with this series.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not pleased with course material or presentation. The course has been a disappointment. I read the reviews and should had heeded the warning offered by others who suffered through this course.
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Possibly the single most essential course offered. This course creates the foundation for interacting with information in any other capacity.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Relevant! I found the contents of this course to be highly relevant to the rhetoric taking place in today's media environment. Particularly in regards to helping separate what is true from what is false. Professor Novella presents the concepts in an easily understandable manner and then provides practical examples.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Changing your Thought Process If one incorporates the principles of this course into daily life, your thought process will be fundamentally changed. Thinking about thinking is something everyone must examine, perhaps, on a regular basis.
Date published: 2016-12-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing Informative and entertaining. It points out common errors in what we might think of as common sense. I especially liked the section on probability. This can be very useful for making sense of and thinking critically about the things we see in the news and on social media.
Date published: 2016-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Your deceptive mind: :A Scientific Guide The course was well named and immensely fun as Dr Novella discusses and shows by example our beliefs to be built on bias and intuition.The actual thought process needs to be examined before determining a final conclusion.Dr.Novella is clearly a brilliant neurologist as well as a learned neuro psychologist. The course is well put together and I find myself using components of it in decision making daily..This lecturer has more to tell us and I hope He will have a update course to follow.
Date published: 2016-08-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Useful without being exceptional Dr. Steven Novella's Your Deceptive Mind was a useful refresher on logical fallacies and cognitive biases paired with insights from the world of neuro-psychology. It was really not a course proper on critical thinking, but was rather a helpful re-introduction into the mindset of scientific skepticism. A relabelling of the subtitle could be helpful. I would recommend it highly to reacquaint oneself with the barriers to critical thinking, although the strong leanings of the presenter toward scientific skepticism are apparent throughout. This can be a problem when he touches on philosophical problems and metaphysical claims, although he is rather respectful of those who disagree with his position. This course was worth the price of admission.
Date published: 2016-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A little confusing I did learn a good bit about argument and logic from Mr Novella. But ironically he himself does not listen to sound reason. His staunch support of evolution reveals that he does not concede that evolution is only a theory. I ask him - how can something come from nothing? He ridicules the lack of evidence for bigfoot but conveniently does not mention the gaps in the fossil record. His word salad dances around the fact that man has an eternal soul (will, emotions, a mind) but does not acknowledge his creator. "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." Also he willfully chooses to ignore the overwhelming evidence that proves that gwb and cheney misled the country into the Iraq war. Anyone who paid attention or has used Google knows this.
Date published: 2016-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Improve your analysis and decision skills Throughout our lives, each of us will be exposed to vast quantities of information -- much of it confusing and/or contradictory. We will need to make choices based on this information. While some choices are mundane, others will literally be life-altering. Obviously, making good choices is important. No one course can ever make you an expert on all topics. But this course will help you use the knowledge you have most effectively. It will help you evaluate different sources of information and decide which are the most reliable and likely to be true. It will improve your ability to spot logical inconsistencies and thus avoid being mislead by things that sound plausible but really aren't. Most importantly, it will help you to avoid being fooled by your own emotions. All of us have a tendency to find reasons to believe what we want to believe while ignoring contradictory evidence. Just recognizing that problem is part of the solution, but Dr. Novella goes much farther than that. He helps us understand the many other different ways that our brains can fool us, and how we can avoid being fooled. In summary, not only a useful course, but a very interesting one as well. Over and over again, I found that his examples would apply directly to real world situations, either in my own life or else in my acquaintances. Understanding the many different ways we can fool ourselves makes it much easier to see why incorrect decisions are made so often. Now, I find it much easier to recognize the flaws in other people's reasoning as well as my own.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential course in critical thinking This course is one of the best lecture series I have seen/attended. It covers all standard topics in critical thinking and skepticism. People who are familiar with the subject will enjoy listening to the very concise and well structered presentation, which helps to strengthen one's own abbilty to communicate these ideas. People who are new to the field will be able to follow relatively easily and will have lots of eye opening moments. Steven Novella presents the material in a very friendly, non offending way. The topic of religion is not directly addressed. Still, due to the powerful concepts and the broad applicabilty of the presented information, probably many listeners may at some moment feel challenged in some belief they hold or in some way of thinking/acting they are used to. In this case it might make sense to pause the presentation and for example review the enclosed lecture notes, check the references or discuss the topic with someone else. I, for example, had a very good experience watching the course together with someone who was previously not very much trained in critical thinking. The course is suited for both people with or without science background.
Date published: 2015-12-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critica I have many Great Courses courses and this is probably my favorite. A lot of great information.
Date published: 2015-01-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Basic Aristotelian Logic The professor has a good grasp of the perception and logic, but I found myself challenging some of his conclusions in my own mind. There are so many factors outside ones perception that it's also important to cultivate an openness to possibilities that are not verifiable by Aristotelian logic.
Date published: 2014-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Very interesting, very good explanations and well presented.
Date published: 2014-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Core Competency One of the best and most important courses available from the Teaching Company. Fundamentally, it is a primer on human nature as revealed by recent findings from cognitive science. No high school student should graduate without a demonstrated grasp of this course content and the ability to apply it in the real world. Of course this may not be imminent as none of this content is currently taught in high schools (or generally in higher education for that matter). If you're interested in improving the human condition, you might try to change this in your locality. No other public involvement could make a greater difference for the future. Critical (AKA skeptical) thinking is our only hope.
Date published: 2014-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than worth the time Not only would I recommend this course to friends, I have since we are all subject to the fallacies in thinking that Dr. Novella addresses and the more aware we are of those fallacies, the better we can deal with them in our own arguments and in the arguments of others
Date published: 2014-04-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Deceptive Mind It was a very good course, but I would have like more practical application. I found it somewhat useful. It gave me a few concepts to think about... I constantly remind myself to 'think with my frontal lobe.' Overall, good and I'm glad I signed up for the course.
Date published: 2014-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of Critical Thinking I've thoroughly enjoyed this course! While it is not in depth, it provides an outstanding OVERVIEW of critical thinking from a neuroscience perspective. It touches on a nice breadth of critical thinking concepts, usually with a reasonable amount of detail and it is very easy to understand. This course offers a great starting point to further explore various concepts depending on your interests and background. I think the course outline itself is an outstanding reminder/reference of best practices for managing thinking processes in our day to day lives. I believe that the more critical reviewers of this course were so locked into there expectations (and so full of themselves) that they couldn't appreciate the course for what it was intended to provide, that is a broad overview. I'm sharing this with my friends and colleagues to they too an enjoy it!
Date published: 2014-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Close to perfect I cannot say enough good things about this lecture series. Dr. Novella is a physician, a clinical scientist, but by his presentation a scientist first. Would that all of us in this profession maintained the same commitment! He demonstrates how the Scientific Method in its truest form melds with philosophy's study of epistemology, representing the very best method in that discipline. Consistently, he shows us how we must all, if we wish to live in reality and not self-deception, constantly fight our biases of perception, memory, and decision-making, and must as a preliminary maintain a vigilance against those biases, which occur so automatically and completely unawares. This is not a resource for soothing reassurance, but is instead one for seeing oneself and one's world more clearly, the better to make choices large and small, perhaps obviating the need for reassurance. Yet I do challenge Dr. Novella to examine the biases that he himself brings to this presentation. One is political; many of his examples lean left -- for example democrats consistently see things correctly where republicans do not. (Where's the libertarians?) Another is his consistent and unfounded trust in the Common Wisdom, which is often neither common nor wise. He often cites the Warren Commission and the conspiracy theorists who believe different explanations for the president's demise. He creates no space for another alternative, that perhaps neither the Commission nor the theorists have it right, and as of this day, we simply cannot know! Indeed, in another lecture, he speaks of those who cannot tolerate the cognitive dissonance simply to sit with uncertainty. My concern is his clear and obvious lack of healthy skepticism regarding any of the pronouncements he cites from Washington. Am I paranoid? Well, let's remember Ellsberg and Snowdon. Yet this concern does not for me take a fraction off the five stars I am assigning the course. In fact, I have found it the best yet. Many thanks, Dr. Novella!
Date published: 2014-03-23
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