Critical Thinking: Logic Versus Flawed Perception
Look up the definition of the words "think" and "thinking" in the dictionary and you will find a myriad of answers ranging from the practice of reasoning to how we see the world around us. The common theme, if a bit simplistic, is that in thinking, we use our minds to gather and process information, stimuli, or ideas. Critical thinking, however, is much more complex and involved in that it is a process in which we actively question and evaluate the data we gather to form a conclusion based on logic and reason.
How do we gather the information to think about? We use our senses, with or without cognizance of our doing so, to perceive data through what we see, hear and feel. Our senses are bombarded with new stimuli every second of every day of our lives. Some of it is immediately thought provoking, some of it is merely forgotten about, and some of it is filed away in our memory. Perception is everything we have ever seen, heard or felt, and is the sum total of our memory, and thus, is the basis for our thoughts. Sometimes our minds process what we perceive in a faulty way. Sometimes what we see, hear and feel does not match reality, though we take it in as if it were quite real and it becomes a flawed part of our knowledge. In some instances when this occurs, it is through natural error that we take in and process information incorrectly. In other instances, we see, hear, or feel things that we want to see, hear and feel, based off our expectations, even if it is flawed. If we expect to sense something in a certain way, chances are we will. In either case, the perception is still just as real as if it were based in reality because we have come to trust in our senses.
Flawed or not, our perceptions give us plenty to think about. When faced with a new problem to solve, we draw on our knowledge and experiences to facilitate our thinking. If we rely on our perceptions alone, knowing that many of them are indeed flawed, then the result of our thinking will in many cases be flawed as well. Critical thinking is a method in which we actively seek to identify and overcome flawed perceptions though the use of logic. According to Kirby and Goodpaster (1999, p. 134), "Thinking logically and identifying reasoning fallacies in one's and in other's thinking is the heart of critical thinking." When we think logically, we look at a problem objectively, unclouded by faulty perceptions, and are able to arrive at a conclusion that is real. Logical thinking values fact over assumption or supposition.
A personal example of how faulty perception impeded my ability to think effectively has to do with my current job. As a soldier in the Army, I have been separated from my family due to extended deployments numerous times in the last eighteen years. My situation is no different than the vast majority of all soldiers, especially given the current world situation. Once in a great while, an assignment opportunity comes along...