Monthly Archives: February 2015

Gender and the Importance of Giving Reasons

Here’s an interesting bit of research that points to the value of the kind of critical thinking that focuses on the offering of reasons.

This is Victoria Brescoll, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior, Yale School of Management, commenting on her research on gender roles:

“We found that if people inferred that a woman had an intention to get power, or if she explicitly said that she was looking for a position of power, they were less likely to vote her into office. But people were more likely to vote for a man when he explicitly expressed or they inferred that he had that intention. 

We think that it’s entirely driven by expectations for how men and women are supposed to act. A strong desire for power on the part of women is very much violating a gender stereotype that women should be modest and play more of a backseat role.
….
When you actually ask people if women should be able to express anger at work, they say it is okay. If you ask people if they would vote for a woman who says she wants power, they’ll say yes, I wouldn’t discriminate. But when we randomly assign people to view one of the scenarios, they will show the bias against the people enacting counter-stereotypical behavior. 

The simplest way that women can express anger while avoiding this bias, at least according to my research, is to offer an explicit reason, so that somebody can’t blame their anger on who they are as a person. It’s not offering an excuse, but a context. This is a great thing for women to do.”

Of course, every critical thinker needs to be aware of the reasons behind his or her opinions, actions, or attitudes. But this suggests an interesting additional reason for emphasizing that.

On the Importance of Drawing (arguments)

Here’s a worthwhile rumination On the Importance of Drawing. Its point is that there are times when you can really only understand a thing well if you draw it. Unlike taking a picture, drawing something forces you to focus on its details.

This bears directly on a key still taught in many critical thinking courses, namely argument diagramming.

While the article linked is about the role of drawing in really seeing beauty, I think it applies well to critical thinking, too. Consider the challenge in really understanding the point of an argument, seeing its elements clearly, and the role drawing a diagram of it might play. And now read this paragraph:

So if drawing had value even when it was practised by people with no talent, it was… because drawing can teach us to see: to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly. In the process of recreating with our own hand what lies before our eyes, we naturally move from a position of observing beauty in a loose way to one where we acquire a deep understanding of its parts.