Psychology, Common Sense and Beliefs
There are some beliefs that are held by many to be true and everyone is expected to live by these beliefs. Contrary to these, one is regarded as not using his or her common sense. To some people common sense may prove to be hard to know and live by and so the whole aspect of common sense becomes contradictory because it is not common to them. People hold these beliefs without a second thought of whether or not they are proven true. Common sense comes because of commonly held beliefs, which people find hard to change. People’s beliefs affect the way people think, feel and act, which in turn affects their behavior. Common sense does not need to be measured and controlled. People hold these beliefs to be true and they are usually not willing to believe otherwise. This is commonly known as belief perseverance.
On the other hand, science often leaves no place for doubt. Scientists usually engage in research, tests and examinations in controlled environments until they conclude their research. This means that unlike common sense, science cannot be manipulated or distorted easily. Science makes room for change as new theories and hypotheses are developed. These changes have brought about technology, which in turn has forced people to change the way they live. Science accepts inaccurate and incorrect information and the main aim is to look for the right solutions and answers.
Belief perseverance interferes with critical thinking because people hold their beliefs in such a way that they are not willing to change them despite science showing that these beliefs may not be true or that they are not beneficial to them. Gambrill (2005) points out that people cling to old beliefs because they seem good and they have used these beliefs successfully. These beliefs are familiar and people feel that they are in control. Belief perseverance can come because of the commonly held stereotypical views and perceptions that people hold. Issues of race and religion are especially common and many people have strong feelings where the two issues are concerned. It would be hard for instance to convince a Muslim to convert to Christianity and vice versa. Some extremely racist whites still believe that they are superior compared to blacks and other races. Convincing these groups of people to change their perceptions is extremely difficult.
Belief perseverance does not allow people to apply critical thinking. People ignore new information or misinterpret the evidence. This does not leave any room for new ideas to develop ideas, which result from critical thinking. In the academic setting, students who had a firmly held view regarding a certain idea find it hard to accept a new meaning of the same idea. Schneider et al (2005) gives the example of students who find it hard to distinguish between negative reinforcement and punishment, two of the most confused terms in psychology classes. This is detrimental to the students learning because they end up applying the wrong principles to different situations. Critical thinking makes it possible for people to present their cases in a more effective manner.
A person who applies critical thinking in their reasoning is able to tell the unspoken argument that has not been used by the opposing group. This is especially beneficial for students and it can help them in their studies as well. Critical thinking enables the students to question the arguments brought up by the lecturer and any arguments in the text and other research sources. Applying critical thinking is essential for analyzing different texts and it helps the students apply their knowledge in a well-developed manner. This not only makes it easier for the students to develop new ideas but it broadens the students’ minds and allows them to gain more knowledge. If a person held their beliefs so strongly, he or she would not be able to present their argument in an objective way.
Gambrill, D. E. (2005). Critical thinking in clinical practice: Improving the quality of judgments and decisions. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Schneider, W. F., Gruman, A. J., & Courts, M. L. (2005). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
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