“Fake news” isn’t so new after all – there have been reports for decades of a giant ape-like beast in the mountainous wildernesses of various countries. It’s easy to simply dismiss such tales of “abominable snowmen” or, conversely, to get swept up in the related conspiracy theories. So, how can we approach this, or the many more routine demands on our credulity, objectively and rigorously?
Critical thinking is a powerful tool for channeling our curiosity and helping us to develop good judgment. It involves using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide our decisions, actions and beliefs.
When confronted with a claim that North America’s Bigfoot (or Sasquatch) exists, what should you do?
First Steps in Critical Thinking
Prepare your attitude and mindset. Are you ready to be surprised, to see alternative perspectives? Be aware how your emotions could affect your logic: you might have a lot invested in coming up with the “right” answer.
Then start gathering information from a wide range of resources. This is just the first of 14 steps in critical thinking that Mind Tools Club members can read about in our article here.
In our example of Bigfoot, there are footprints, hairs fragments, audio records of howling, and a few grainy videos, the most famous being the so-called Paterson-Gimlin clip. But how reliable are the witnesses? How clear are the pictures? Where are the DNA samples or dead specimens?
Follow the Evidence
Try to take a step back and gain a “big picture” perspective. Check for blind spots in both the arguments and your conclusions. And there’s nothing wrong with speculation, as long as you treat it as such. It’s been argued that Bigfoot could perhaps be a remnant population of Gigantopithecus, not unlike a large, possibly bi-pedal orang-utan, but there’s no conclusive evidence to confirm this. At the same time, it’s impossible to prove that Bigfoot does not exist!
Remember, you might have to admit your ignorance despite your efforts to explore an issue. But that’s no failure – it simply means that you’re open to learning.
Share Your Experience
Do you have any suggestions or advice on practical ways to use critical thinking? Are there any critical thinking techniques you find particularly useful? What were the results? Have your say by adding your comments in the box below. And check out our latest infographic on Critical Thinking, here.