UNM delivers tips on critical thinking

By Hope Munoz / NM News Port /

Critical thinking is an essential skill for engaging with popular science and several simple steps can help students determine valuable information from junk, according to a recent workshop.

The Engineering Student Success Center (ESS) held a Zoom meeting and in-person event this semester to help students at the University of New Mexico expand their critical thinking skills. 

The meeting’s presenter, Yadéeh Sawyer, a retention program specialist for ESS, said she wanted to convince people to think more skeptically about information. 

Sawyer explained the stages of building critical thinking skills and what happens when you don’t use them.

“What things are influencing your thought processes?” Sawyer challenged the participants. “You wanna reflect on whether those assumptions are reasonable and how they’re influencing your thoughts and conclusions.” 

Sawyer also talked of issues of popular science seen in the media.

“Pop science really plays on fear, uncertainty, and doubt,” Sawyer said. “Just think back to the last two years of our lives. Why do we have such high unvaccinated rates? Why do we have the distrust of science and vaccinations in general? Where is that coming from, and how is the media playing on that?”

She also talked about “pseudoscience,” a claim which is presented as, science that has not gone through the peer-review process and is not evidence-based. Some of the best ways to weed out pseudoscience are to look at the source of information, check if there is a motive, and see if emotion-evoking language is being used, she said.

“I think it would be a disservice if we just passively accepted whatever [the media] were saying, Sawyer, said. ”We can’t hold other people accountable for our own thought processes.”

Hope Munoz is a reporter for New Mexico News Port and can be reached at nmnewsport@gmail.com.