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An intro to critical thinking, skepticism & quirkology

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This is a slightly modified version of my presentation at Bar Camp Canberra #3. It's been modified to include a few more on-screen notes and a page of suggested resources from the bar camp attendees.

I also ran a mini exercise to explain the Forer and Barnum effect. This was based on psychologist Bertram R. Forer's experiment (versions of which has been run by James Randi and many others). The wording of the exercise was from http://skepdic.com/forer.html.

The term 'quirkology' was coined by Professor Richard Wiseman (@RichardWiseman) who does some awesome stuff (like his book Quirkology and his tv series, The People Watchers).

Published in: Education, Technology, Design

An intro to critical thinking, skepticism & quirkology

  1. An intro to critical thinking, skepticism & quirkology By @RuthEllison For BarCamp Canberra #3 On 6th February 2010
  2. Work at Stamford Interactive Live in Canberra Chocolate appreciator Loves robots Loves gadgets I’m Ruth User experience designer “I help make Skeptic-in-training things easier to use”
  3. Let me tell you a story about shampoo... Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stirwise/527796228/
  4. A few years back, I received a phone call from The Parents.
  5. There’s this chemical Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)...
  6. This substance is found in most shampoos...but the fact is that SLS is used to scrub garage floors, and it is very strong. It is also proven that it can cause cancer in the long run. Source: random emails from around the web
  7. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brainware3000/22205084/
  8. So I did
  9. I replaced it with a special “safe and effective” product full of “wholesome, gentle, health-enhancing ingredients.”* * Scam alert! Multi-level marketing alert!
  10. A few months later and much moolah...
  11. I’ve been had!
  12. The Facts SLS is an irritant Is not carcinogenic Sources: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/household/shampoo.asp; CIR publication. Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 1983 Vol. 2 (No. 7) pages 127-181.
  13. QLD Environmental Health Unit: “SLS may possibly cause death...if you ingest approx 5-10kg of toothpaste”(containing 1% of SLS) Sources: http://www.health.qld.gov.au/ph/documents/ehu/3368.pdf
  14. Source of image: http://www.colgate.com.au/Colgate/AU/OC/Products/Toothpastes/PDPContent/ColgateAdvancedWhitening/caw_r2_c1.jpg
  15. A skeptic? Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spamily/2181824324/
  16. Skepticism Isn’t a set of beliefs It’s a method, not a position1 It’s about critical thinking Applying methods of science Respecting good evidence 1 http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/index.html
  17. Some famous skeptics Carl Sagan James Randi Richard Wiseman Richard Dawkins Penn & Teller (who we got to meet in Vegas) Image sources: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/9612/sagan_uc.gif , http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/0701-dawkins-jacket.jpg, http://www.flickr.com/photos/balerini/2532483450/, http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_4ify7vDXrDs/SyrDgTuZbcI/AAAAAAAAE_8/3BLte-9MsGY/s320/James+Randi.jpeg, http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-09-12images/RWiseman.gif
  18. What sparked my interest? Lots of interesting psychological quirks
  19. Watch the video of Richard Wiseman’s magic card trick (cool quirkology) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voA ntzB7EwE
  20. Expectations shape our experience of the world
  21. Mmm, nom nom nom.
  22. What’s happening?
  23. Part of being a skeptic is recognising and compensating for our biases
  24. Some common cognitive biases
  25. Loss aversion Imagine that your country is preparing for an outbreak of a disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Which vaccination schedule will you select? Program A which will save 200 Program B which will save all 600 with probability 1/3 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion
  26. Imagine that your country is preparing for an outbreak of a disease which is expected to kill 600 people. Which vaccination schedule will you select? Program A: which will allow 400 people to die Program B: no one dies (1/3 probability) or all 600 will die (2/3 probability) Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion
  27. Forer effect: the tendency to give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases Barnum effect: a type of subjective validation in which a person finds personal meaning in statements that could apply to many people source: http://skepdic.com/barnum.html
  28. Avoid biases by critically thinking about the issue Consider totality of evidence Ask questions, listen carefully
  29. Want to learn more? Listen: The Skeptics Guide to the Universe Skeptoid Read: Australian Skeptics - www.skeptics.com.au www.skeptic.com www.snopes.com Whatstheharm.net Modern Skepticism http://www.slideshare.net/reedesau/modern-skepticism-bias-and-the-informed-consensus www.criticalthinking.org Skeptic’s Dictionary skepdic.com Quirkology by Richard Wiseman Attend: The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Sydney http://www.skeptics.com.au/latest/announcements/australian-skeptics-announce-tamaustralia2010/ Watch: The People Watchers Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!
  30. Here are additional readings suggested by attendees of the session • Richard Dawkins letter to his 10 year old daughter (how to warn your child about this irrational world) http://www.rationalresponders.com/richard_dawkins_letter_to_his_10_year_old_daughter_how_to_warn_your_child_about_this_irr ational_world • Skeptical Sundays to be held shortly in Canberra, organised by @lozz • Skeptics in the Pub, held in Sydney on the first Thursday every month check out www.skeptics.com.au
  31. Ruth Ellison Email: me@ruthellison.com Web: www.ruthellison.com @RuthEllison Find this presentation at www.slideshare.net/ruthellison Image sources: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vernhart/1574355646/ , http://randaclay.com/freebies/free-twitter-graphics/

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