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Get a Head Start on Critical Thinking: 15 Minutes to Better Grasp Complex Concepts

In a world where the answer to everything is just a Google search away, critical thinking skills are more important than ever. We need to be able to understand complex concepts and analyze information in order to make informed decisions. However, many of us don't have time to invest in long hours of studying. That's why I've put together this 15-minute guide to help you get a head start on critical thinking!

Source: Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA on Pexels

I have curated these concepts from the Twitter thread of Ankur Warikoo, Zain Kahn, and Gurwinder. The sources are available at the end of this post.

1. Spotlight effect

We overestimate how much attention people pay to our words and appearance.

2. Third-person effect

We think that others are more influenced by social media and mass media than we are.

3. Status Quo bias

We tend to like things to remain the same; most of us regard change as a negative thing.

4. Survivorship Bias

We believe that the accounts of those who survived are the whole truth. Because the "deceased" isn't around to tell their story.

5. Zeigarnik Effect

Incomplete tasks are remembered more readily than completed ones.

6. Ikea Effect

We place a higher value on things that we have created ourselves.

7. Pessimism Bias

We frequently underestimate the likelihood of negative results.

8. Framing Effect

We make different judgments from the same facts based on how they are presented.

9. Declinism

We frequently believe that the past was superior to what lies ahead.

10. Sunk Cost Fallacy

We put more money into things that have cost us something, even if the results are negative.

11. Gambler's Fallacy

We believe that past events have an influence on future possibilities, even though they are unconnected.

12. Google Effect

We often overlook items that we may locate with a quick Google search.

13. Curse of knowledge

We assume that everyone else is aware of what we know.

14. Self-serving Bias

Our shortcomings are contingent, but our achievements are the result of hard effort.

15. Fundamental Attribution Error

We evaluate others on their personalities and actions, but we evaluate ourselves on the circumstances.

16. In-group favoritism

We're more likely to agree with people in our group than those outsides of it.

17. Blind Spot Bias

We don't believe we have any biases. However, we can sense it in others.

18. Social Proof

People copy others when unsure how to act, outsourcing their decisions. People didn't want to use shopping trolleys when Sylvan Goldman created them because they appeared ridiculous. As a result, he paid actors to utilize trolleys in his shops, and everyone soon followed suit.

19. Twyman's Law

The more important the data, the more likely it is to be incorrect. This is because mistakes and data manipulation are far more common than true significant (i.e. surprising) findings.

Conversely, the more boring the data, the greater its trustworthiness.

20. Spotlight Effect

We frequently feel as if everyone is watching our every move. The fact is that no one is paying greater attention to you than you are. People are too preoccupied with how they appear to others to be concerned about how you appear to them.

21. Relative Privation

When something else is even worse, many people fall into the trap of discounting a problem. “How can you discuss X while Y is taking place?”

So by this logic, how can anyone ever discuss anything other than the very worst thing in existence?

22. Expectation Effect

What you anticipate to see is determined by what you believe you'll observe.

23. Shirky Principle

Institutions will seek to preserve the problem they are intended to solve. It's the greatest method to assure their continuing existence and development. Planned obsolescence and other "industrial complexes" are examples of this (military, prison, pharmaceutical, etc).

24. Gibson's Law

"For every Ph.D., there is an equal and opposite Ph.D."

Anyone may discover a subject-matter expert that supports their point of view in legal and policy matters because having a Ph.D. does not necessarily make someone correct; it just makes them more adept at being incorrect.

25. Noise Bottlenecks

We only learn 10% of what we read online, and 90% of it is worthless fluff: small talk, bait, and marketing. We're inundating our minds with distractions, which is drowning out the signal. As a result, we feel we're getting smarter as we get stupider.

26. Belief Perseverance

Our views are like bricks in a masonry wall; they're supported by and rely on one another. To alter a belief, you must demolish all beliefs that have been built atop it. Because demolition is difficult to endure ( easier to live with an incorrectly constructed building), individuals will seldom allow that 1 brick to move.

27. Proteus Effect

In virtual environments, people act like their avatars. A "sexy" appearance, for example, may lead to a person being more flirty. This suggests that humans' personalities are largely determined by social norms and expectations.

28. Narrative-Market Fit

News and commentary are commodities, therefore they are influenced by market forces. The more a narrative fits a trend or satisfies strong consumer demand, the less likely it is to be genuine.

29. Fredkin's Paradox

When there are many options to choose from, the more similar they appear to be, the less important they should have. As a result, we frequently spend the most time on the choices that matter least.

30. Cunningham's Law

The most efficient approach to obtaining the correct answer on the internet is not to ask a question; instead, post the incorrect response because people are more interested in tearing others down than assisting them.

31. Ben Franklin Effect

Getting someone to do you favour might make them like you since people's identities are a narrative they create for themselves, and if they're kind to you, they need to reconcile their conduct with their identity, thus implying that they like you.

32. Mismatch Theory

Moths used to navigate by the moon, which was until the invention of electric lights when they have been led astray. Humans also evolved to be tribal, which was a successful strategy until the Digital Age, when we now act like ill-tempered goons on the internet.

33. Agent Detection

For eons, it was more prudent to assume that something unusual was planned by intellect rather than that it resulted from nature. This kept us out of harm's way. As a consequence, we've evolved to believe anything unique is the result of planning. As a result, creationism and conspiracy theories have arisen.

34. Problem Selling

Solvers look for problems and break them down into manageable parts. The opposite is done by problem-sellers (such as politicians and the media), who bundle many little issues together to create a formidable and frightening big problem.

35. Hyperbolic Discounting

As things become more distant, they appear to be smaller. As a consequence, we are inclined to choose short-term gains over future ones, even though these short-term benefits are much less significant.

36. Generation Effect

The greatest approach to learning anything is not to read about it, but to write about it. The process of explaining something enables one to connect the dots and memorize them far better than reading through them.

37. Guerrilla Information War

The ages of conquest were characterized by the aggressor seizing land, but with the Digital Age, it is more effective to virtually seize minds. World War III has already begun, but it's not for the territory that people are fighting; rather, they're squabbling over authority.

38. Extended Cognition

Our eyes have been transformed into optic nerves, relaying information to our new sense organs: phones and computers. We can now see considerably more, but we've also exposed ourselves to a predatory world by extending our nervous systems outside of ourselves.

39. 48-Hour Rule

Our thoughts are in constant motion, and our declared opinions are frequently just flickering sparks of untamed creativity that we would disavow after a little thought. So, what if we had a 48-hour period to think about and change our words before being condemned?

40. Van Restorff Effect

The likelihood of something standing out is higher. As a result, news stories that are most off-center with reality tend to be our most enduring representations of reality.

41. Trait Ascription Bias

We perceive ourselves as having a flexible personality that adjusts to the circumstances, while others are seen as having a consistent personality. "I was in a jam and acted in an irrational manner," we might tell ourselves. He did it because that's just who he is, we may say.

42. Wittgenstein's Ruler

The less you know about the measurer in comparison to the thing being measured, the less it measures the measured and the more it measures the measurer. E.g., if a stranger says that most people are leftists, this is a stronger indicator that he or she is a rightist.

44. Via Negativa

We have a greater understanding of what is not than of what is, for example, we don't know if studying will make us an expert, but we do know that not studying will not. As a result, when you're unsure, go with the alternative of avoiding what you should not do rather than attempting to comply with all of your responsibilities.

45. The Fisher Protocol

Many leaders are disconnected from the consequences of their actions. Roger Fisher proposed that officials implant the nuclear codes into a volunteer. To arm nukes, the President would have to personally murder the volunteer and confront reality.

46. Nocebo Effect

When people believe a substance to be harmful, even chemicals that are safe may induce illness. According to a recent meta-analysis, most adverse effects of Covid jabs are not due to the vaccine itself, but rather due to people's fear of the vaccine!

47. Idiocy Saturation

People who do not think before they post are able to publish more frequently than those that do. As a result, the typical social media post is dumber than the average social media user. When you're annoyed by Twitter morons, keep this in mind.

48. The Opinion Economy

The rise of social media as a major mode of interaction has resulted in an overvaluing of opinions as a measure of character. We are increasingly defined by what we say rather than what we actually do, and words, unlike actions, are inexpensive and easy to fake.

49. Streisand Effect

This is known as the paradox of censorship. In some circumstances, attempting to eliminate a concept may result in it becoming more popular instead. The most famous illustration of this phenomenon is the case of banned books and music albums that unexpectedly become very popular as a consequence of their prohibition.

50. The Lindy Effect

The life of perishable items, such as food, decreases with time. The life of non-perishable objects, such as ideas, improves with time. Ideas that are most likely to survive 1,000 years into the future are the ones that have already existed for millennia.

51. Confirmation Bias

We demand high-quality evidence for ideas that don't match our views, but we accept low-quality evidence for ideas that do.

52. Hick's Law

The more alternatives you provide, the more difficult it is for a consumer to choose. This is why most businesses and now developing products with fewer options.

53. Brandolini's Law

The amount of effort required to refute misinformation is orders of magnitude greater than the amount of effort required to generate it, which is why misinformation is so widespread on the internet.

Concluding thoughts

In just 15 minutes, you have learned how to better understand complex concepts and improve your critical thinking skills. By understanding the biases that we all naturally exhibit, we can make more informed decisions and arguments. Additionally, by knowing how to properly assess information, we can become less reliant on the opinion of others and develop our own worldviews.


Ankur Warikoo

Zain Kahn


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