Did You Know?... Fun Facts About Verbal Reasoning

The intellectual roots of critical thinking are traced back to 2,500 years ago, to the teaching practice and vision of Socrates. Socrates revealed the fact that one cannot depend upon those in ‘authority’ to have sound knowledge and insight. He demonstrated that people in high positions may have power yet they can be immensely irrational. He established the importance of asking deep questions that probe profoundly into thinking before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.

In 1958, Robert Ennis published an article about the Watson Glaser test, concluding that the test gave too high a score for the pathological doubter. If you answered ‘insufficient data’ throughout section 1, ‘assumption not made’ throughout section 2, ‘conclusion not made’ throughout section 3 and 4 and deemed all arguments as ‘weak’ in section 5, you would have had 66 correct answers out of 99, putting you in the 86th percentile (according to high school norms)! In comparison, if you answered randomly, you would probably have scored 44, putting you only in the 19th percentile.

The internet and newspapers today are full of wonderful, interesting, and incorrect information. How many times have you read a title such as this: ‘Researchers found that fewer brain cells lead to a greater love of chocolate!’ just to realize between the pages of the article that the research was a correlative one (meaning you cannot infer that X caused Y).

Notice how logic is sometimes illogical (№1):
How a valid conclusion becomes unreasonable:

If Jill is hungry, then she takes an afternoon snack.
If Jill takes an afternoon snack, then she has a light dinner.
Therefore if Jill is hungry, then she has a light dinner.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Notice how logic is sometimes illogical (№2):
How a false conclusion can still be logically valid:

All bears are reptiles
Paddington is a bear
Therefore, Paddington is a reptile.

Apparently, in order for a conclusion to be valid, neither of the premises of the argument nor the conclusion deriving from them need to be true. Well, we all know Paddington is a bear (who liked to eat marmalade)!

Don’t worry! Many researchers believe that people are wholly rational; it’s just that psychological tests do not reflect their competence… They say that ‘Perfect rationality is for the angels’ (Johnson-Laird, 1999).

And of course, critical reasoning can be practised! Click here and get started!