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Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Professor Steven Novella, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine

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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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4 out of 5
80 Reviews
76% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 9344
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version features nearly 300 visuals to enhance your learning, including approximately 250 photographs to illustrate various phenomena, key people, and historical events and places mentioned in the course. The course also contains about 20 illustrations to support thought experiments and discussions of the brain, plus on-screen prompts for logical faults.
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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
 |  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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Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 80.
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
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
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