Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Course No. 9344
Professor Steven Novella, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine
Share This Course
4 out of 5
97 Reviews
75% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 9344
Streaming Included Free

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.

Hide Full Description
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

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 240-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

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...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 97.
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
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Banal and Boring I am 3/4 the way through this course and it is one of the worst courses I have taken here. It is extremely basic, more at the high-school level then college. Maybe because I have been well trained in critical thinking having both a Masters in Electrical Engineering and an MBA, so my expectations may be too high, but there is very little critical thinking skills being taught in this class. He just goes through a litany of examples of what are not examples of critical thinking, but there is no follow-up on how to be a critical thinker. He also has some personal bias. For example, he implied chiropractic is a farce, which of course is not true, many, many people are helped by chiropractic. He also presents the material in a very boring monotone manner. Nothing at all creative about his teaching method. Really awful. –Unless there is some miracle in the last ¼ of the course, I am sending this one back.
Date published: 2014-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should Be A Mandatory Course This is one of the few courses that I could not put down (I finished it under 3 days). I am most fascinated on how people (including myself) fall for superstitions, religions, scams, tabloids, conspiracy theories and even scientific claims that border the “fringe.” What is more captivating is how we embrace these with the most pig-headedness qualities. When I look at my own shortcomings two words stand out prominently – arrogance and ignorance. Most of the examples in this course have been around for a long time. They are still prominent today but in different forms i.e. computers. In the past 10 years I have been reversing my thinking in a few areas in my life. I threw out almost everything I believed and began a journey based on evidence using my sub-standard critical thinking skills … until I took this course. Before writing this I began looking at the reviews for this course. One person made a list of points of how Dr. Novella was not using his critical thinking skills on himself and titled his review “Inconsistent.” I was going to write a response addressing each point but decided I was wasting my time. Then I became more interested in the “thumbs up” this person got. I don’t think people read his points carefully (which makes sense based on what I learned on this course). If you read closely…. THE REVIEWER was making the claim that “archeology, astronomy, and evolution” was “difficult or impossible to have hypothesis testing and reproducible results” NOT the scientific community. Or when he talks “about the fallacy of moving the goalposts” and asserting that “scientific theory is a living and changing body of knowledge,” he is forgetting that WE are moving our OWN “goalposts” in order to come closer to this “body of knowledge.” I invite the viewers of this page to re-read the some of these comments as a miniature case study and post your responses or comments at the beginning of the reviews and talk about them. I also invite the viewers that gave a “thumbs up” for the review “Inconsistent” and tell us if you changed your mind on a second glance. I agree with a couple of reviewers that this should be a mandatory course at all levels of education. I’m glad he picked on scientists near the end so we can see how subtle these pitfalls can be even in the most so-called critical thinkers. I also recommend Michael Shermer’s book The Believing Brain. It changed my life in positive ways as well as this course. Well done Dr. Novella!
Date published: 2014-01-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great intro to scientific thinking I listened to the audio edition of this course and I love this book. Presentation of Dr. Novella is excellent and engaging. After having read "Thinking Fast and Slow", this course was more like a review. I enjoyed it.
Date published: 2013-11-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't waste your money--this course is nothing but introductory lectures describing what critical thinking is NOT.
Date published: 2013-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes You Think After this course, you'll wonder if you should trust your own brain. I saw a bumper sticker that says "Don't believe everything you think." This course explains in great detail why not. I was surprised at the number of ways we fool ourselves. You need to have an open mind to accept much of the content. But that is the key to not deceiving yourself.
Date published: 2013-07-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very Basic I'll qualify my review by saying that I do a lot of reading on this subject and was disappointed in the shallowness of the content. The course is delivered like a college level course but the material is very weak. As another reviewer pointed, there is very little advice on improving one's thinking and a lot of criticism of what are merely 'dumb' people. I kept waiting for the course to get 'meaty' but it stays in the milk through to the bitter end. If you have no experience with the subject, or are in high school, you might benefit from this class. It isn't bad, just too basic. That's my biggest fear about the future of these courses. I worry they will dumb them down to broaden the market. This course is a scary step in that direction.
Date published: 2013-07-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Awful After six lectures I could not take hearing about the delusional people Dr. Novella was speaking about. This course proved to be more of an observation of very unintelligent and irrational people, as opposed to teaching me something I could actually self reflect on or use as a tool of self improvement. All of his points were overly simple and despite this did not elaborate enough to make a convincing argument. Secondly, even as an atheist, this man poked at religion to a point of being slander. It felt offensive. His attitude and opinion on the topic was obviously strong distaste and unnecessarily over expressed. Ultimately the biggest problem with this course is how the lecturer was not a critical thinker himself. He would use historical examples to demonstrate his point and by the time he was done stating his point you could already have developed an equally simple counter argument. This drove me to strongly disliking the course. I couldn't follow his train of thought, or what his actual purpose of lecturing was. And although I have listened to a Great Course that I did not find interesting which made the listening boring or painful, I still learned something. Unfortunately that wasn't the case here.
Date published: 2013-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well Presented This is my first experience with The Great Courses. I found that learning a little more about Dr. Novella from sources other than the listed bio beforehand helped me to better overall absorb the material - understanding more about the perspective (and scientific biases) of the course itself. I thought some of what he had to say was clearly lacking a broader view point, and some of the observations and lessons were so fascinating and also astoundingly simple and logical, I listened to them more than once. He is an excellent communicator and in my opinion, successfully delivers a great deal of pertinent information through this course. I enjoyed it very much and would highly recommend the audio version.
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Powerful Medicine Dr. Novella flawlessly delivers much needed knowledge in this spectacular course. Well researched facts and cutting edge neuroscientific evidence abound throughout. The professors expertise becomes evident very quickly, and his humility coupled with patience carries the listner from beginning to end delightfully. If your willing to learn about your individual cognitive flaws, and desire to apply critical thinking to your day, than this is the course for you. In fact- I would hope that high schools and parents would initiate Dr. Novella's and Michael Shermer's studies with the youth of our nation. Both of their courses can pour a foundation of clarity and confidence, in theirs and our minds, at a time when faulty information floods our perceptions of reality. I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2013-05-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not good I thought this instructor did a poor job of presenting the material in a clear, progressive way. His use of visuals was limited. It was hard to stay focused. It seemed that he could have put more effort into the course design. He may be used to rapt audiences but I fail to see why.
Date published: 2013-05-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Concrete Dogmatic Thinker The speaker is intelligent but concrete and dogmatic in his thinking. He tells you whats real, what isn't even if it is controversial. 1. I have been a Harvard Profess/researcher for 28 years and making paradigm shifts is basically seeing patterns in noise and testing it statistically. The speaker on the other hand for the part treats it as seeing Jesus in a cookie. 2. Take the JFK assassination. He TELLS you people find need for an another shooter as fact. Ignoring that congress voted that there had to be more than one shooter. As a long range competitive shooter, when I was in the school book depository, I was struck by the fact it seemed to reconcile Oswald was the shooter required simultaneously holding the views he was an expert and inept, which I had a problem with. But the lecturer is happy to tell you what reality is with no question.
Date published: 2013-04-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rational Thinking for the 21st Century Dr. Steven Novella, author of Medical Myths, which is another Great Courses presentation, takes off his stethoscope and puts on his rational thinking hat to present this course on critical thinking skills. I'm not entirely surprised to see him in this venue. A Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and author of the blog NeuroLogica, Novella is no stranger to the skeptic movement. This course is truly a guide to critical thinking skills, something all of us can use in this day of information - and misinformation overload. A word of warning to theists, deists and fans of alternative medicine; Novella is none of these. He pretty much tears up anything that is not scientific-method based. I would have enjoyed the course a bit more if his presentation style was more energetic. Nevertheless, this course will go on my "repeat watch" shelf of Great Courses offerings that I will rewatch to keep my rational thinking cap on straight.
Date published: 2013-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable presentation I really appreciate the clarity and contents of this course. It is relevant to everyone in our world of information and misinformation. It also demonstrates the fact of uncertainty that is imposed upon us, like it or not. We are all vulnerable to the intoxication of wishful thinking and wishful believing and this helps one identify fallacies--a valuable skill. The professor delivers well developed concepts with an agreeable style and good delivery. The information here would be valuable applied to any question one might be considering.
Date published: 2013-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Truly Great Course I have listened to many terrific Teaching Company courses and this is one of the best of the best. The course is well organized and Dr. Novella's presentation skills are first rate. Who hasn't had to deal on occasion with someone making fantastical claims that are said to be supported by "experts" or "studies" or "evidence"? Dr. Novella discusses how to assess such claims and respond to those making the claims in a non-confrontational fashion. One will come away better equipped to think about a broad range of topics and issues--from evolution vs. creationism, to ghosts, ESP, conspiracies, miracles etc. This course should be required for college students.
Date published: 2013-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Valuable Course for our Opinionated Time I suspect that persons with deeply held beliefs, but upon which they have seldom reflected or considered alternative ideas regarding them, will have much to object to in this course. On the other hand, for those who are sick and tired of the angry and opinionated commentaries which constantly assault us in all media, this course is both vital and useful. Above all, Professor Novella constantly teaches that -- 1) If we are aware how the human brain, for all its marvels and processing capabilities, nonetheless is prone to error in both memory and in perceiving patterns (especially where there are none); and 2) If we learn to practice with discipline principles of critical thinking -- we will be better able to navigate our own gullibility towards unconscious (or un-thought) self-deception as well as the intentional deceptions or half-truths peddled by others. This was another of the Great Courses in which I experienced several "ah ha!" moments, either by recognizing reasoning or concluding errors I had made, or be reliving times when I had trouble wrestling with how to question, let alone refute, arguments which were both forceful and, as I then suspected, less than fully true. As so many wise thinkers have taught through the centuries, the ancient Greeks' instruction to "Know thyself" remains central to our journey of discovery. So many of the "hot button" issues of our day revolve around deeply held beliefs motivated either by "desire and hope" (the ways in which we wish the world operated) or by "angry biases or judgments" (which, by placing "other people" in the narrow box in which we judge they "fit," we exalt our own self-assumed righteous position). I think Professor Novella does a great job of describing both individual and collective reasoning errors and delusions without "speaking down" to persons who may share similar beliefs. And his emphasis on the necessity of critical thinking for a democratic society to be able to confront and resolve the many difficult challenges we currently face is "right on." He does not really discuss "religion" or "faith" much, for he makes it clear that, by their very nature, such are not subject to the kind of factual analysis -- including refutation -- which scientific based reasoning relies upon. In so doing, he does not disdain faith systems; rather, he just clarifies that these are, by definition, beyond the ability of science to explain or refute. Highly recommended! '
Date published: 2013-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating look at the way our minds fool us This is the 4th course I've purchased from The Great Courses and is the best one yet. The first half of the course is particularly outstanding as it covers how we perceive the world around us and how our minds deceive us through logical flaws and cognitive biases. It was as if I was putting on glasses for the first time and seeing things clearly that I always assumed I'd seen clearly before. The second half of the course gives many examples of how these flaws and biases can impact us in real life, especially as applied to science. It then discusses how we can develop critical thinking skills to allow us to overcome these flaws and biases and make best use of our minds. Dr. Novella does a fine job explaining things in clear unambiguous terms that anyone can follow. He speaks well and is easy to hear and understand. I know some reviews have criticized his "pet peeves", but I suspect it's because his examples have hit home on their particular bias or belief. As Dr. Novella says at the end of the course, you should not rely on any one source as being a definitive authority, not even him, but should question everything, verify facts, and objectively reason things out for yourself. Finally, I would strongly agree with one reviewer who said if he was in charge of the world for a day, he'd make everyone take this course. We'd be much better off as a society if everyone did and then applied the skills Dr. Novella has imparted to our own lives.
Date published: 2013-02-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Your Deceptive Mind I am a big fan and longtime customer of the Great Courses. However, once in a while a course and instructor fall far below the standards I've come to expect. That is the case with this course. Dr Novella should stick with medicine and allow others to speak on this subject. He takes a very interesting subject and drones on as if reading a shopping list. In addition, his choice of illustrations betrays a sometimes offensive bias against theistic reason and dogmatically asserts naturalistic premises throughout the lectures without practicing the very rational humility he preaches in the introductory sessions.
Date published: 2013-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superior How well do we know what we know? What influences our thinking? How sound is the logic that persuades us one way or another? The answers may surprise you - I know some of them did me. Dr. Novella's course takes you on an intriguing, intellectually stimulating journey through the mind. We learn some of the unexpected things that manipulate our thinking and affect our perceptions. For me, the most valuable part was the discussion of logical fallacies. Whether it's advertisers, bad science, or just that annoying uncle with loud political opinions that you FEEL are wrong but can't pin down WHY, this course helps you see through the haze. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Date published: 2013-01-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Biased Professor Steven Novella does a wonderful job of putting forth the conventional, scientific view of the world for what it’s worth. Unfortunately, in the process, he also promotes much misinformation. He presents himself as a skeptic but the fact that he is a denier when it comes to alternative medicine is undeniable. The most revealing example of Professor Novella’s bias is his dismissal of acupuncture as being ineffective. Really? The FDA has considered acupuncture needles to be medical devices since 1996. The World Health Organization states that acupuncture has been proven to be effective for 28 conditions and has been shown to be effective in dozens more. It is obvious he has not given the research regarding alternative medicine serious consideration. When it comes to alternative medicine, it is Professor Novella who is on the fringe of science. If there is not enough proof of the effectiveness of acupuncture for Professor Novella, then it is not likely he will ever accept any cutting edge medicine. This is the common attitude of conventional medicine practitioners. This is also the outlook that has made the US healthcare system number one in the world for expense but 38th in health outcomes.
Date published: 2013-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learn Thinking Skills Not Taught in School We live in a society that continually presents us with information that can be exciting, frightening, or misleading. Who/what to believe? Dr. Novella offers a scientific approach to anyone who is interested in 'separating the wheat from the chaff'. I found this course to be empowering. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2012-12-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critica All of the approximately 20 courses I have purchased from The Great Courses have been very worthwhile. I cannot understand how such an inferior course could ever get into the curriculum. The course is very limited in scientific content, and has almost nothing to do with the mind. The lecturer contradictates himself continuously, showing examples of incorrect thinking, and returning with the same logic for supposed critical thinking. I did not learn a single new idea.
Date published: 2012-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Caffeine for the Brain What coffee does to the body this course does to the brain. Think clearer and pursue the truth longer after listening to this.
Date published: 2012-11-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Tedious! This course is scientific soap opera for your ears while you are washing dishes. Absolutely monotonous! I learned nothing!
Date published: 2012-11-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Uncritical Skepticism I teach Critical Thinking and Philosophy of Cognitive Science, and this is the worst course I have ever bought from the teaching company. Dr. Novella is a neuroscientist, and I was hoping to find some neurological facts I could use in my courses. I did learn a few things in that area, but their connections to Critical Thinking are shaky at best. Most of the course has Dr. Novella wandering out of his specialty and ranting against topics where he has no special expertise. Most of these topics are dead horses that most of us recognize are nonsense, but he doesn't give any coherent reasons why they are nonsense. In fact, you can see from other comments on this page that other Teaching Company professors who are experts in these fields disagree with Dr. Novella about a few of his dismissals. The "principles" that he describes as being essential to Critical Thinking are either common sense or filled with inconsistencies. Many of these inconsistencies are nicely outlined by the poster EngineerfromVA. The underlying idea is "don't believe anything weird", which requires no more Critical Thinking Skills than "believe everything weird". At one point, he even says that there was no actual need to test one of these claims, because it was so obviously wrong. That is dogmatism not skepticism.The basic idea behind this course is that of the celebrity debunkers who speak about Bigfoot, Chiropractic, and Crop circles in a single article. There is no way that a single person could develop enough expertise in so many topics that would enable them to give them a proper scientific evaluation. The failings of this course demonstrate this.
Date published: 2012-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very interesting course - highly recommended! This is my first review, motivated by the excellent presentation of critical thinking skills by Dr. Novella. This course covers many phenomena that we see around us every day and provides insights into the processes people use to make decisions, both good and bad. This was a helpful course!
Date published: 2012-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommended If I was dictator of the world for one day, I would make everyone listen to this. Do someone a huge favor and buy this as a gift. Very entertaining and educational.
Date published: 2012-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A True Necessity I went into this course a little biased, as a fan of Dr. Novella from the SGU podcast. But although many of the concepts I was previously familiar with, the way they were put together was of true value for me. Not only in order to be a more rational human being, but also in order to be a self reflective and truly enlightened human being, one simply must improve on the skills presented in this course. Only by sincerely knowing thyself can you examine your thinking and thus your whole being. There was a lot of focus on science and the scientific method in this course, but it's important to realize this is not a course about promoting science. It's about using science, and what we know about our own physiology and psychology in order to reflect on our thinking and different tendencies. As to some of the criticism regarding some of the examples that were given, I believe Dr. Novella was not attempting to debunk ghosts or homeopathy or alien abduction stories. That would be of little point. He was simply trying to demonstrate the different flaws in thinking through examples. I do agree that this part was a little duller but not completely redundant (although for me personally, much was rehearsed from the podcast). In conclusion I really do think these skills are a must, and I can think of no better person than Dr. Novella to convey them in an articulate, interesting manner. So kudos and cheers!
Date published: 2012-10-24
  • y_2020, m_2, d_22, h_17
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.5
  • cp_3, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_10, tr_87
  • loc_en_US, sid_9344, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 15.71ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought