Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills

Discover the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking and become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life.
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 108.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Simply fantastic Love this professor. Id like to see more of him. Well done.
Date published: 2021-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content! Valuable information! As someone who recently left a high control fundamentalist religion I was born into, learning these skills and teaching them to my kids are really important to me. I very often recommend this to others
Date published: 2021-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should Be a Required Unit in High School Science If you are a hard-cord Trump supporter, a fan of Alex Jones (or other alt-right talking heads), this course is not for you. If you are into alternative / integrative medicine, treat yoga as something more than a form of exercise, are into New Age Spirituality (astrology, tarot cards, Reiki, psychics, etc.) this course is not for you. It's not fun having your bubbles bursted--and I can say that as someone who once believed some pretty improbable things in my teens and 20s. No course is perfect. There are times where I think Dr Novella painted too broad of a brush when discussing a topic or overly esteemed an expert's work. This didn't happen often and in no way detracted to the overall quality of the lecture series. I think everyone taking high school science should have to do coursework on this topic. When I was a freshman in high school, we had to take Introduction to Physical Sciences. It was a godawful course. It was more about basic laboratory procedures and very little about anything else. It really was a 1 semester class stretched out to be a year long snore fest. Had that course contained information about contained in this course, along with appropriate student projects, IPS would have really been a useful class. I would recommend this course to all who have students in high school. A good use of 'family time' would be for everyone in the family to watch these lectures and talk about what they've just learned. Do exercises in media literacy. Talk about questionable religious movements and groups known to use mind-control/brainwashing techniques. Talk to young people about beliefs you once had (and may have been near and dear to your heart) and why you changed your mind. Be humble--when you realize you're wrong, own up. You're teaching your children an important lesson. When I taught, I always asked my students to tell me about something new they learned since we last met--and I had to do that exercise as well. When my father was dying, he was still learning. Our favorite show is "How it Works" and "How it's Made" and we would sit together for hours watching it. Never stop learning!
Date published: 2021-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best Well, structured. Well presented. Walks a fine line between too much detail (examples of people who believe strange things) and too little. I would like to see this course (or one like it) required for all college students. Critical thinking is definitely lacking in education. Also included is an excellent tip on how to talk with someone who believes in pseudo science, conspiracy theories, and the like. I highly recommend this one!
Date published: 2020-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We need more of this. This really should be something that everyone learns growing up in an age of abundance of information/ misinformation
Date published: 2020-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love Hate Relationship with Steven Novella MD Ultimately I really enjoying listening to Steven Novella. I enjoying him here and on YouTube where he has podcasts and conferences. I love how he also defines skepticism or what he means by it. As the title says, I have a love/ hate relationship with him. I love it when he debunks all the nonsense from groups that like Yoga etc. However, sometimes he debunks stuff I believe in, and well, that gets a little more difficult to accept (eventually I do come across). A world (my world) filled with less magic is not as entertaining but at least it becomes more accurate and therefore better in the long run. Don't let it hurt your ego if you're wrong. If we let go of our false beliefs, the world will not crumble.
Date published: 2020-10-14
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
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Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. The 24 rewarding lectures of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills immerses you in the science of cognitive biases and thought processes. By learning how to think about thinking (a fascinating process known as metacognition), you'll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully than ever before.


Steven Novella
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.


Yale School of Medicine

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.

By This Professor

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills


The Necessity of Thinking about Thinking

01: 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

02: 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

03: 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

04: 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

05: 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

06: 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

07: 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

08: 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

09: 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