The New Critical Thinking: An Empirically Informed Introduction, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The New Critical Thinking

An Empirically Informed Introduction, 1st Edition

By Jack Lyons, Barry Ward


362 pages

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Why is it so hard to learn critical thinking skills?

Traditional textbooks focus almost exclusively on logic and fallacious reasoning, ignoring two crucial problems. As psychologists have demonstrated recently, many of our mistakes are not caused by formal reasoning gone awry, but by our bypassing it completely. We instead favor more comfortable, but often unreliable, intuitive methods. Second, the evaluation of premises is of fundamental importance, especially in this era of fake news and politicized science.

This highly innovative text is psychologically informed, both in its diagnosis of inferential errors, and in teaching students how to watch out for and work around their natural intellectual blind spots. It also incorporates insights from epistemology and philosophy of science that are indispensable for learning how to evaluate premises. The result is a hands-on primer for real world critical thinking. The authors bring over four combined decades of classroom experience and a fresh approach to the traditional challenges of a critical thinking course: effectively explaining the nature of validity, assessing deductive arguments, reconstructing, identifying and diagramming arguments, and causal and probabilistic inference. Additionally, they discuss in detail, important, frequently neglected topics, including testimony, the nature and credibility of science, rhetoric, and dialectical argumentation.

Key Features and Benefits:

  • Uses contemporary psychological explanations of, and remedies for, pervasive errors in belief formation. There is no other critical thinking text that generally applies this psychological approach.
  • Assesses premises, notably premises based on the testimony of others, and evaluation of news and other information sources. No other critical thinking textbook gives detailed treatment of this crucial topic. Typically, they only provide a few remarks about when to accept expert opinion / argument from authority.
  • Carefully explains the concept of validity, paying particular attention in distinguishing logical possibility from other species of possibility, and demonstrates how we may mistakenly judge invalid arguments as valid because of belief bias.
  • Instead of assessing an argument’s validity using formal/mathematical methods (i.e., truth tables for propositional logic and Venn diagrams for categorical logic), provides one technique that is generally applicable: explicitly showing that it is impossible to make the conclusion false and the premises true together. For instructors who like the more formal approach, the text also includes standard treatments using truth tables and Venn diagrams.
  • Uses frequency trees and the frequency approach to probability more generally, a simple method for understanding and evaluating quite complex probabilistic information
  • Uses arguments maps, which have been shown to significantly improve students’ reasoning and argument evaluation


"This is among the very best critical thinking textbooks I've ever seen. What distinguishes it from others, besides its clarity and accessibility, is that it doesn't simply explain the norms of good reasoning and the common ways in which people flout those norms; it also explains the mechanisms that cause us to flout those norms more or less predictably, and thereby helps us to refute the voice of the primitive cave dweller who lives in our brain."

--Ram Neta, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"Critical thinking is all too often taught as basic deductive logic with a passing reference to inductive logic. Lyons and Ward’s empirical approach to critical thinking draws upon the vast literature in cognitive psychology on heuristics and biases. They expertly blend traditional coverage of deductive logic, inductive logic, causal inference, and probability theory with important psychological results. The final product is a refreshing and promising method to train people how to critically evaluate pressing claims."

--Ted Poston, University of South Alabama

"Logicians have developed accurate methods of testing reasoning for such desirable properties as deductive validity and inductive strength. Recent work in cognitive science has shown, however, that in everyday life we tend to evaluate reasoning on the basis of heuristics that fail to track these properties reliably. Lyons and Ward's brilliant book is the first to acknowledge this gap between theory and practice and to develop effective strategies for overcoming it. Bravo!"

--Christopher Hill, Brown University

"The New Critical Thinking is perfect for introductory students. The approach is original in its being psychologically-informed, and it's practical. It will actually help students become sharper thinkers outside the classroom."

--Aaron R. Champene, St. Louis Community College, Meramec

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Preface to Instructors

Introduction To Critical Thinking

1. The Aims and Causes of Belief

2. Reasoning and Dual Systems Theory

3. Reasoning, Evidence, and Arguments

4. Why Reason (Properly)?

5. Plan for the Book



Part I: Deduction

Chapter 1: Validity: Why it Matters

1. Distinguishing the Good From the Bad

2. Validity and Impossibility

3. More on Logical Impossibility

Logical Terms


4. Logic and the Belief Bias

5. Why it Matters: Missing Premises and Insisting on Validity


Chapter 2 : Proving Invalidity and Proving Validity

1. Proving Invalidity by Counterexample

2. Proving Validity

3. Negations, Indicative Conditionals, and Two Important Valid Argument Forms

Conditionals and the Wason Test

4. Two Important Fallacies: Denying the Antecedent and Affirming the Consequent

An Important Note about Fallacious Argument Forms

5. More Valid Argument Forms and More About Conditionals

6. Equivalent Sentences and Disguised Conditionals

7. Even More Valid Argument Forms: Aristotelian Syllogisms in One Bite

Using Euler Diagrams:

8. Summation: Evaluating Arguments


Chapter 3. Reconstructing and Identifying Deductive Arguments

1. Identifying by Evaluating

2. Mapping Complex Arguments

3. Reconstructing by Connecting the Dots

4. Extra Help: Premise and Conclusion Indicators

5. Putting All This Together



Part II: Induction

Chapter 4: Inductive Arguments

1. Statistical Syllogism

Conditional Support Comes in Degrees

Undermining By Additional Information and the Requirement of Total Evidence

2. Defeaters and Mapping Inductive Arguments

3. Inductive Generalization

Defeaters for Inductive Generalizations

The Availability Heuristic

4. Argument from Analogy

Defeaters for Analogical Inference

Deductive Arguments with Analogical Premises

5. Inference to the Best Explanation

6. Balance of Features

7. Confirmation Bias


Chapter 5: Causal Inference

1. The Nature of Causation

One More Thing about Causation

2. "The" Cause? Singling out Causes in a Complex World

3. Identifying Causes

4. Causation, Correlation, and Confounds

Some Varieties of Causal Investigations

Better and Worse

5. Causal Narratives

6. Singular Causes Revisited


Chapter 6: Probability and Frequency

1. Introduction to Probability

Probabilities and System 1

2. Frequencies and Frequency Trees

3. The Probability Calculus

4. Bayes’s Theorem

The Theorem

Frequency Trees and Bayes

5. Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics


How to Live

Effect Size and Effect Significance


Chapter 7: Reconstructing and Identifying Arguments, Revisited

1. Reconstructing and Identifying

2. Mapping More Complex Arguments



Part III: Truth: Evaluating Premises

Chapter 8: Testimony

1. The Need for Testimony

2. How Can you Spot the Experts if You’re Not an Expert?

Sincerity, Competence, Trustworthiness

Mapping Arguments from Authority

Testimony and Ad Hominem

3. Epistemological Perils of the Internet

News, Unreliable News, and Fake News

4. Wikipedia

5. Fair and Balanced?


Chapter 9: Science

1. Disagreeing with Science: The Earth is Flat and Star Trek is Real

2. Why Trust Science?

3. How Does Science Work?



4. Hypotheses, Theories, and Conjectures

5. Extended Example: Evolution and Historical Explanation

6. Science in the Non-Science Press


7. Applying What We’ve Learned: Crowds, Self-selection, and Causal Fallacies

Democracy and Scientific Fact


Part IV: Argumentation

Chapter 10: Rhetoric

1. Emotion and Belief

2. Influencing and Bypassing Reasoning

Apt Feelings

3. Abuses of Emotive Rhetoric

Ad hominem

Ad Populum and Peer Pressure

Appeals to Force, Pity and Consequences

Other Uses of Emotive Language

4. Rhetorical Tricks with Language

5. Enthymemes, again

6. Rhetoric and Cognitive Illusion


Chapter 11: Dialectic

1. The Dynamics of Argumentation

The First Golden Rule of Constructive Argumentation: Respond to the Argument

The Second Golden Rule: Track the Burden of Proof

The Third Golden Rule: Demand Overall Consistency

The Fourth Golden Rule: Be Charitable

2. Ultimate Premises

Depriving the Claimant of Premises

3. Analogy, Parity of Reasoning, and Tu Quoque


Appendix of Fallacies


About the Authors

Jack Lyons is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of Perception and Basic Beliefs (2009).

Barry Ward is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings: