Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Barriers to Critical Thinking by Jim Triplett

I’ve taught at a number of colleges and universities, both online and in-person, in different locations in the eastern half of the United States.  Part of addressing challenging dilemmas found in critical thinking and ethics classes involves carefully selecting one's words, as the message one conveys should be clear, well-supported, and easy to understand for the intended audience.  A concern about offending others is a topic of debate these days on many college campuses:

Now consider a psychiatrist's perspective on the challenges of trigger warnings and microagressions as well as how critical thinking is one of a number of means to address them in this Psychology Today article.

Along with the failure of our education system to properly teach critical thinking, as Dr. Pomeroy suggested in the trigger warning article, one commonly finds defense mechanisms present in the outrage at others' perspectives with which one does not agree.  Defense mechanisms are a means of deceiving oneself in the presence of discomfort related to multiple competing perspectives, including one’s opinion on something that is countered by another equally or more valid perspective.  Splitting, a form of self-deceptions, is something common to politics.  Dr. Burton (2012) noted splitting “reinforces our sense of self as good and virtuous by effectively demonizing all those who do not share in our opinions and values” (para.  8).  He elaborates on splitting in this Psychology Today article.

Dr. Burton referenced groupthink as a potential problem with the limited thinking associated with splitting.  The challenges of groupthink also arise in environments where alternative perspectives are limited for fear of offending others.  While we want to consider how some topics may contain elements that are uncomfortable to some, it’s also important to learn from the uncomfortable elements as a means of making better decisions in the future.  Human history does not rhyme; however, there are quite a few similarities that with some critical thinking may be diminished.  As you reflect on microaggressions and splitting, consider some means to identify these in news broadcasts and school.

Burton, N.  (2012, March 13).  Hide and seek:  Understanding self-deception, self-sabotage, and more.  Psychology Today.  Retrieved from:

Triplett - cover pictureJim Triplett is an author, instructional designer, and instructor in the areas of finance, economics, ethics, and critical thinking. Jim holds Masters Degrees in Finance, Organizational Leadership, and Instructional Design Technology, is ABD / PhD in Organization and Management, and is currently completing a doctoral degree, Ed.D, in Educational Leadership with a focus on Educational Technology.