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Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Discover the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking and become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life.
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 117.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sadly, the author deceives himself Excellent example of “do as I say but not as I do”. Was enjoying the information until I explored his blog and X (Twitter), and his own compartmentalization, how his emotions triumph over his reason and logic, totally undermines his credibility. Very sad. Would not recommend, at any price, including free.
Date published: 2024-03-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worthless vis-a-vis the course title ... ... not a "scientific guide" and doesn't deal with "critical thinking skills" !! I almost never write a review since my language issues makes writing narrative very labor intensive and time consuming; however in cleaning up my study I saw this course sitting out (away from where my other Teaching Company courses are stored) and from the title thought "hey, I put that out to remember to view it ...". But then I saw a post-it note I had put on it: C.R.A.P.!! (and no, it wasn't written as an acronym). To paraphrase another of the 1-star reviewers: based on my regard for the generally high quality of Teaching Company courses -- formed from my viewing something like 350 of their courses to-date --I'm shocked that the Teaching Company would release such a poor presentation. If nothing else having released this material under this title (which it hardly addresses at all) what title could they use if they wanted to release another course meeting their fairly high quality standards that actually addressed this content? There's a note to provide some details 'justifying' one's review comments, but given my writing issues I'll have to note that more content backing up my rating can be found from my comments on other 1-star reviews that I found meaningful. So there's more to my 'review comments' to be found there. One thing though that I must mention is that some of the poor reviews say something like "maybe for introduction" to the topic; but I say NO. It's definitely bad to use material as an introduction that's actually a bad example of the topic. If I were to burden anyone with this material it would only be for someone at an Intermediate level in this topic and then to use as target of critique using their previously acquired skills -- but subjecting anyone to a 12-hour 'bad example" would just be mean :), so I can't recommend it for that level of competency either. P.S. Something I just thought of concerning the (somewhat confusing from my viewpoint) overall positive reviews written on this course: Arguing with "facts" isn't the be-all-and-end-all of Critical Thinking; and, in not delivering on the title's Skills component this course has left many viewers with the perception that 'arguing based on facts' IS the essence -- no skills involved.
Date published: 2023-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must-watch for all learners In my opinion, this is one of the best lectures a person can watch on TGC. There may be other courses that are led by professors who are more engaging, or which deal with topics that are more mind-blowing, but the content of this course is so fundamentally-important to the human experience as to be essential watching for any serious learner. From discussions on the foibles of the human mind in memory and perception, to basic cognitive biases and logical fallacies, to an examination of conspiracy theories that tempt countless people on a regular basis, this course covers a large spectrum of topics related to improving critical thinking skills. A large part of this series revolves around the use of science as a tool to gain knowledge, which really makes this an introductory course on the philosophy of science. The professor has a very straightforward presentation style that is devoid of much emotion, which might sound unenlightening, but I actually found it to be quite compelling. He takes care to truly emphasize the push-and-pull of scientific inquiry, the limits of science's reach, and the surprising Achilles' Heel of the science work, which seems to be "hubris". The professor does a fantastic job of defending science against attacks on its credibility, while also acknowledging its limits and some of the major errors of scientists in the past. I thoroughly enjoyed this lecture series. If you watch it, you may be forced to confront your own errors in thinking, and in the end you will be a better person for it.
Date published: 2023-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting I found the lecture series interesting. However, I wish the professor had spent more time on practical methods for the average person to develop critical thinking. Is it possible to overcome the errors in perception and memory and cognitive biases that he describes in the first few lectures? For most of us, this would be most useful for everyday decisions. His emphasis on differentiating science from psuedo-science is less useful. And checking out what we read with multiple sources is not always practical, particularly on scientific matters.
Date published: 2023-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Your Deceptive Mind I have not finished looking at the series but to date have enjoyed the presentation and found the lectures relevant and useful
Date published: 2022-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectual Humility I am an unabashed fan of Steven Novella’s “Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills” (The Teaching Company, 2012), one of The Great Courses series, and would highly recommend it to anyone. Novella is a superb science communicator—in a different mold than Carl Sagan, but with the same ethic, and with a knack for formulating things in just the right way: the way one wishes one could do oneself when called upon to explain. (There are multiple phrases and statements in these lectures I would happily commit to memory if my poor mind had the capacity!) Especially fascinating for me are Novella’s introductory lectures on: • “the neuroscience of belief,” and how our brains filter, process, and ultimately construct our realities; • heuristics, cognitive biases, and innumeracy (fascinating supplements for those more familiar with the study of logical fallacies); • the philosophy of science, scientific skepticism, methodological naturalism, the demarcation problem, the varieties of scientific evidence, methods, blunders, expertise, and consensus; • and the varieties of conspiracy thinking and denialism. All of this underpins an oft-repeated encouragement to practice “intellectual humility” and to rally our commitments and emotional investments behind the most rational methods and practices available to us—following wherever they may lead after rigorous testing—rather than behind a backwards rationalizing from preferred conclusions.
Date published: 2022-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent With a Few Exceptions This course would have been a five-star presentation if not for two points: The anti-religion example is unnecessary and inflammatory. Let people have their faith. There are plenty of other examples which would illustrate the point equally well. Frankly, this comment demonstrated the instructor's own bias. Secondly, the point about banning certain kinds of firearms without all firearms being banned is readily refuted and, again, demonstrated an obvious bias on the instructor's part. Perhaps, there could be an edit where the instructor self-critiqued and made the case about his own bias. Those would be good self-deprecating, genuine examples in which people could have some faith.
Date published: 2022-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Your deceptive mind. I'm partially through this course. It is well done and pretty much what I expected. No constructive criticism can be offered at this point.
Date published: 2021-11-15
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Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. The 24 rewarding lectures of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills immerses you in the science of cognitive biases and thought processes. By learning how to think about thinking (a fascinating process known as metacognition), you'll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully than ever before.


Steven Novella

All of our beliefs are open to revision: When new data comes in, or maybe just a better way of interpreting data or looking at the way things work, we have to be open to revising what we thought we knew.


Yale School of Medicine

Dr. Steven Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine. He earned his M.D. from Georgetown University and completed his residency training in neurology at Yale University. Dr. Novella is active in both clinical research and in medical education at every level, including patients, the public, medical students, and health professionals. An expert in neuroscience, Dr. Novella focuses his practice on neuromuscular disorders. His personal blog, NeuroLogica Blog, is considered one of the top neuroscience blogs and covers issues in neuroscience as well as the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella is also the founder and senior editor of Science-Based Medicine, a medical blog dedicated to promoting the highest standards of basic and clinical science in medical practice. Dr. Novella is president and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society, a nonprofit educational organization designed to further public understanding of science. As the host and producer of the organization's award-winning science show, The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, Dr. Novella explores the latest scientific discoveries, the presentation of science in the mainstream media, and public understanding and attitudes toward science.

By This Professor

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills


The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking

01: The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking

Start by learning how to think about thinking itself (an act known as metacognition). Dr. Novella reveals how to distinguish good science from bad science; the individual steps involved in the critical thinking process; and how we can use critical thinking to break down topics such as the existence of UFOs.

33 min
The Neuroscience of Belief

02: The Neuroscience of Belief

Our brains are hardwired to believe in something. What is the neuroscience that drives this desire? What are the reasons behind the specific things you believe in? How can you use this understanding to mitigate the effects of your need to believe on your critical thinking skills? Find out the answers here.

35 min
Errors of Perception

03: Errors of Perception

A solid understanding of metacognition relies on an understanding of the nature of perception. First, examine the nature of how our brains acquire and process information. Then, investigate the ways we can be deceived by what we think we perceive in phenomena such as attentional blindness, change blindness, and optical illusions.

33 min
Flaws and Fabrications of Memory

04: Flaws and Fabrications of Memory

Memory is tricky, to say the least. Here, unpack the vital role that memories-even inaccurate memories-play in critical thinking. Some of the many topics you'll explore: how memory recall works; the roots of source amnesia; the inverse relationship between confidence and accuracy in a memory; and how memories can even be manufactured.

33 min
Pattern Recognition-Seeing What's Not There

05: Pattern Recognition-Seeing What's Not There

Pattern recognition is both a cognitive strength and a weakness; sometimes our brains can perceive patterns that aren't there. By seeing hyperactive pattern recognition at work in everything from data mining to superstitious thinking, you'll be better equipped to sort out what's real from what only appears to be real.

33 min
Our Constructed Reality

06: Our Constructed Reality

Explore how different parts of your brain work together-and sometimes in conflict with one another-to construct your aggregate consciousness and the illusion of a single reality. In the process, you'll examine a range of interesting topics, including out-of-body experiences, phantom limbs, and altered states of consciousness such as dreaming.

34 min
The Structure and Purpose of Argument

07: The Structure and Purpose of Argument

Focus on one of the most important reasoning tools you can use to override the flaws in neurological function: argumentation. What makes for a true argument? How is an effective argument built? What's the difference between inductive and deductive logic? What common logical fallacies are we most susceptible to-and how can you avoid them?

33 min
Logic and Logical Fallacies

08: Logic and Logical Fallacies

Delve further into logical fallacies, including the ad hominem argument (attacking the person instead of the argument) and the genetic fallacy (assuming the historical use of something is relevant to its current use). Dr. Novella provides vivid examples to hammer home each fallacy's specific description and damaging implications.

32 min
Heuristics and Cognitive Biases

09: Heuristics and Cognitive Biases

The worst biases are the ones you're not aware of. Avoid this pitfall of critical thinking by mastering the common biases in our thinking. After focusing on heuristics (mental short-cuts that can lead to erroneous conclusions), explore other powerful cognitive biases, including confirmation bias, familiarity bias, and optimism bias.

34 min
Poor at Probability-Our Innate Innumeracy

10: Poor at Probability-Our Innate Innumeracy

Unfortunately, our brains are horrible when it comes to probability-and that can often lead to a number of probability-based cognitive biases. See the effects of this flaw, known as innumeracy, in everything from numerology (the supposedly mystical meaning behind numbers) to hot-and-cold streaks in competitive games.

31 min
Toward Better Estimates of What's Probable

11: Toward Better Estimates of What's Probable

Continue your exploration of innumeracy by turning to the nature and perception of false positives, insignificant risks, and other manifestations in statistics and probability. Then, engage with some fun and revealing probability puzzles to discover just how lacking our intuition is when it comes to numbers.

30 min
Culture and Mass Delusions

12: Culture and Mass Delusions

The culture and people around you can also have a profound impact on your critical thinking. Using powerful examples such as the response to Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the Salem witch trials of the late 1600s, Dr. Novella explains the hidden power and pervasiveness of mass delusion and hysteria.

32 min
Philosophy and Presuppositions of Science

13: Philosophy and Presuppositions of Science

Turn now to an in-depth examination of science, which serves as the foundation for critical thinking and can compensate for the tendency of human thinking to go awry. Specifically, you'll focus on and make sense of the philosophical interpretations of science (including Occam's razor), as well as probe some of the limits of scientific reasoning.

30 min
Science and the Supernatural

14: Science and the Supernatural

What are we to make of "supernatural" issues such as the existence of ghosts and the possibility of miracles? Approach these and other topics from a critical thinker's perspective. Along the way, examine the deeper issue at work here: what is-and what should be-the relationship between science and the belief in things we can't see.

30 min
Varieties and Quality of Scientific Evidence

15: Varieties and Quality of Scientific Evidence

Scientific studies are often used to provide evidence and support to a range of ideas and arguments. What questions should you ask when you are presented with an experimental or observational study? What specific biases should you be on the lookout for? What's the best way to compare studies with one another? Find out here.

32 min
Great Scientific Blunders

16: Great Scientific Blunders

Learn how important skepticism is as a first response to scientific claims by surveying blunders that resulted from a lack of critical thinking. Among them: the claimed existence of "n-rays," cold fusion, Lord Kelvin's calculations for the age of the Earth, and a psychologist drawn into reports by patients convinced they were abducted by aliens.

31 min
Science versus Pseudoscience

17: Science versus Pseudoscience

Many claims label themselves as scientific-but are they really? Break down the concept of pseudoscience by exploring some of its most prominent features (or warning signs), including its tendency to work backward from desired results, its shifting of the burden of proof onto others, and its bold claims that go beyond evidence.

33 min
The Many Kinds of Pseudoscience

18: The Many Kinds of Pseudoscience

Deconstruct several specific examples of pseudoscience to see how its various features work. You'll investigate the pseudoscience behind iridology (the idea that our irises reflect our health), photographs that claim to capture ghosts, psychic abilities such as precognition, spontaneous human combustion, and more.

34 min
The Trap of Grand Conspiracy Thinking

19: The Trap of Grand Conspiracy Thinking

Theories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The existence and power of the Illuminati. The Roswell incident. Grand conspiracies such as these are cognitive traps that result from our attempts to make sense of our complex world. Examine both the compelling nature of conspiracy thinking and ways to determine which theories are true and which are just pseudoscience.

30 min
Denialism-Rejecting Science and History

20: Denialism-Rejecting Science and History

Dr. Novella introduces you to denialism, a subset of pseudoscience that seeks to deny established science. By exploring the features and tactics of denialism, as well as extreme examples of it at work, you'll shed light on how critical thinking helps you sidestep the more subtle forms of denialism we're all susceptible to.

30 min
Marketing, Scams, and Urban Legends

21: Marketing, Scams, and Urban Legends

Ever since its creation, the Internet has revolutionized our access to facts and become a veritable "Wild West of Information." Gain tips for using critical thinking to filter the wealth of information out there in chain emails, popular scams, and other everyday outlets that exploit human psychology.

31 min
Science, Media, and Democracy

22: Science, Media, and Democracy

How does one find sound, reliable information in today's world? Topics you'll explore include the strengths and weaknesses of science reporting in the media; traps reporters fall into when covering science topics; the intersection between science and ethics, politics, and social issues; and the important role of science literacy.

29 min
Experts and Scientific Consensus

23: Experts and Scientific Consensus

How reliable is scientific consensus on hot-button issues such as climate change? What is the definition of an expert, and when should you defer to an expert's knowledge on important questions? Is there any characteristic that guarantees an expert's legitimacy? Probe these and other tricky questions related to the nature of scientific consensus.

29 min
Critical Thinking and Science in Your Life

24: Critical Thinking and Science in Your Life

In the course's final lecture, Dr. Novella leaves you with some final thoughts on thinking more critically in your everyday life. These include accepting humility in the face of your own knowledge; understanding-but not denying-your emotions and their influence on thinking; and accepting the need to be comfortable with uncertainty.

32 min