Given what we know about how reason works, there’s a few things you can do: Since reason tends to be more to justify than to generate the right judgement, one way to avoid making mistakes is to reason about the same problem in a lot of different contexts.
The modular theory of mind says that rather than a single coordinated function, the brain consists of a lot of semi-autonomous modules that all “vote” their preferred action into the brain.
Similarly, critical thinking isn’t just a single monolithic ability that reduces to abstract logical forms.
Instead it’s numerous facts, inferences, heuristics and context-specific abilities that must be built up through voluminous exposure to real situations.
Being able to think critically is an essential skill. With that said, what’s the best way to improve your ability to think critically?
You need to wade through what everyone is saying and pick out the truth from the nonsense. I’m going to start with what I believe is the wrong way to improve critical thinking, which is sadly the kind most often taught in schools. You can think of these dispositions as aspects of your personality – which may or may not be well-developed, but which you can work on over time – that are conducive to critical thinking. NUI Galway researchers have identified twelve critical thinking dispositions that you may find it helpful to consult as you work on developing self-awareness.Depending on which module is more strongly activated by the context around you, its vote will get higher weight.So if you’re hungry, scared, angry, sleepy, joyful or sad you may get different inputs into which decision is correct.In order to critically engage with the theories, ideas, words, or work of others, you must develop self-awareness: an understanding and awareness of yourself. Try to reflect honestly on how well these dispositions describe you, and why and when they might be useful for you as a student.While there’s some benefit of this, most of the work of learning a language is learning specific vocabulary.Thus, if you want to learn Japanese, you’re best off learning Japanese vocabulary—mastering Latin first won’t help too much.Critical thinking isn’t just for detecting fake news, however. This approach starts by teaching you some basic rules of logical deduction, modus ponens, some examples of fallacies and a whole bunch of Latin terminology that philosophers use. Each of these decisions is difficult and important, so being able to think critically about them can make a huge difference in your life.