Insights

Read insights from the Reboot Foundation into topics like metacognition, media literacy, and how best to teach critical thinking. Our work is backed by the latest and most reliable research and designed to give readers ideas and information they can put to use immediately.

The internet offers a wealth of resources for learning and social connection. But it also can expose impressionable young people to false information that can undercut their education. To be successful learners, kids and teens need to be savvy critical thinkers. 

Adults can do a lot to help kids and teens become critical thinkers, and many underestimate how much reasoning their children can do at a young age. 

 

The term “critical thinking” is used a lot: by educators, politicians, journalists, and the general public. But when it comes down to saying exactly what critical thinking actually is  — and is not — there is vagueness and confusion. 

Although it’s complicated and multi-faceted, critical thinking can be defined. As cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham writes, the activities of critical thinking can be divided into three areas: reasoning, making judgments, and problem-solving. Critical thinking means becoming skilled in all three areas. It means, in brief, thinking well.

Since the 2016 election, there has been a great deal of talk about fake news, or misinformation, and the impact it continues to have on elections and public discourse around the world. The Reboot Foundation recently released a report on this topic, outlining the nature of the misinformation crisis and offering several suggestions for addressing it.

As non-profit organizations, governments, and citizens move forward in addressing these issues, it’s important that interventions be based on a good understanding of how misinformation works and why it is effective. 

Emotions can be one of the most serious barriers to critical thinking. When people are engaged in emotional reasoning, they get easily seduced by weak logic, engage in ad hominem attacks, or plainly ignore evidence contrary to their point of view. 

Lately, there’s been ample evidence of this kind of emotional reasoning online, including people at the top of their professions in politics, business, and elsewhere.  

Jon Favreau became director of speechwriting in the Obama White House at the age of 27, and he wrote some of Obama’s most notable speeches. The president thought so highly of Favreau’s talent that Obama once called Favreau a “mind reader.” But on May 27, 2018, Jon Favreau screwed up, tweeting a picture representing the immigration crisis at the border with Mexico. The problem was, it was fake news.

The way to combat fake news is to give young people the tools to think critically.

Governments around the world are scrambling to solve the problem of “fake news.” From Turkey to the United Kingdom to India to the United States, governments are taking tech companies to task, launching probes and decrying the spread of maliciously false information on social media platforms.

Is there a faster way to improve critical thinking?  A growing body of research indicates that the answer is yes, that we can improve critical thinking through, short targeted interventions. 

Critical thinking is a well-known, yet nebulous term. We all tend to have our own subjective definitions of critical thinking.  Various researchers also define critical thinking differently, which leads to many different ways to study it.  Some researchers choose to evaluate critical thinking by judging one’s thought process, while others focus on logic and reasoning errors.