Critical thinking is:
  1. Skeptical clarification
  2. Logical thinking
  3. Humble self-reflection
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Creating knowledge gap awareness through conversion messages

Education is often ineffective when people lack awareness of their knowledge gaps. Conversion messages (i.e., testimonials from people who have changed their mind on an issue) may be one effective way to help people see their own knowledge gap. A recent study used video clips of the environmentalist Mark Lynas talking about his own conversion from a GM crop opponent to an advocate. The study’s lead author notes:


"People exposed to the conversion message rather than a simple pro-GM message had a more favorable attitude toward GM foods …The two-sided nature of the conversion message -- presenting old beliefs and then refuting them -- was more effective than a straightforward argument in favor of GM crops."


The paper suggests that conversion messages are effective in a variety of ways, but it seems the technique could be used generally to warm people up to the possibility that they don’t know as much about something as they think they do. We hear Lynas’s story and see that he learned something that he didn’t previously understand (in his own words, “I discovered science”). It makes us more likely to humbly self-reflect on our own knowledge.


Here is a video of Lynas discussing his conversion experience, and here is his book.


© 2019 by Jason Riis