Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thinking about thinking I found that Professor Novella presented a series of clearly stated, well organized lectures with examples of instances in which rational, critical thinking skills were not employed. His point is, we are all individuals who, according to our upbringing and educational background, have internal biases that either cloud our aid our ability to clearly ascertain truth (real, absolute far as that's possible) in a, huge...variety of situations. Prof Novella simply points out that we must recognize those personal biases when evaluating the 'fake news' or 'pseudoscience' rampant in the world today. Professor Novella offers no silver bullet, or a 'how-to' manual on what YOU should think...he only points out that we should all be careful when evaluating questionable...or It's a good course, but you have to have a relatively open mind to his (Novella's) approach, and listen to his advice about questioning your own biases! know the drill!
Date published: 2020-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, please update?? This is an excellent course for me because I'm a beginner, I don't have a University degree. But the course is essential for everyday life, so I believe. What I'd love to see is an update to this course to include navigating the internet using Critical Thinking. That would be great in this day a nd age.
Date published: 2020-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excelltn presentation A very interesting set of lectures, presented clearly. The series could be even better if there was a bit more interaction, animation, examples or other material to "liven up" the whole series of lectures.
Date published: 2020-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course Judging by this course Dr. Novella must be an expert in many fields. He has the rare ability to harmonize content from areas as diverse as statistics and neurology. His exposition is clear and engaging. The serious learner will want to review the lectures several times, ponder, consult the references that appear in the guidebook, and ponder again. There is much to learn. What a treat for the students who can ask questions to Dr. Novella. The ideas explored in these lectures are more now than ever given the proliferation of misinformation and our tendency to hold views that are strong, incorrect and shallow.
Date published: 2020-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not long enough I have to take away a star because this course should have been two to three times longer. GC lectures can often come across dry or filler-heavy, and you'll think "This person could have made their point in one tenth of the time." Not this one. In this course, the professor introduces a really interesting concept and then quickly moves on to something else, and this process repeats about a hundred times. It felt incomplete and unsatisfying. I was left hungry for more explanation, details, and examples. When I visualized the structure of this course, it seemed to me to be just an outline. There should be additional courses that deep dive into the various topics so that we can learn more.
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Crucial to Understand Politics The current political environment is toxic on so many levels. I find myself laughing at the explanations provided by Steven Novella on how these guys and ladies in DC try bamboozle us. I also find it amazing that this program was produced in 2012, long before the current administration was even a gleam in someone's eye, and yet each lesson (I've had 12 of the 24 so far) is so right on! Very pleased with my investment!
Date published: 2019-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening class! Dr. Novellia states what we all seem to forget! Taking this class made me realize just how fraudulent or memories are! It has made me look for facts of science rather then Pseduo-science, and discern the difference!
Date published: 2019-02-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Professor Buzzkill I'm going to leave content to the side. It's pretty simple logic, statistics, sociology and psychology. Not much new here and it's format doesn't provide any additional illumination. It's presentation is positively dystopian. It's like a robot dryly reciting terrible facts about the human condition in the most boring, flat way possible while never once acknowledging the cumulative effect of a relentless flood of negative criticism. It's largely impersonal but when it's anecdotal, it's worse. My favorite story is of his having been in the ER and after hearing a nurse speculate 'It must be a full moon tonight!' his taking the time to correct her as it was in fact NOT a full moon. After this, she tried to pretend she never said this, which he took as her ignoring a false positive with her confirmation bias! More likely, she regretted ever saying anything to this guy in the first place. I bet he gets that a lot. He may understand the mechanics of humanity but I wouldn't want to be at a party with him. He's a Med guy so I guess dry, emotionless and clinical is the order of the day. Order delivered! Google the guy. If you like him, you'll like this. If you don't, there's better ways to find this stuff out than having him deliver the message. Did he tell a single ha-ha? Just once to relieve the unremitting negativity? Even horror movies know you have to lighten the mood once in a while.
Date published: 2018-11-16
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Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills
Course Trailer
The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking
1: 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
2: 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
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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
8: 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
9: 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
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.


Georgetown University


Yale School of Medicine

About Steven Novella

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.

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