The Biased Jumper has a decent ability to identify and define the problem, but is unable to go beyond that. Unlike the Confused Fact-Finder, the Biased Jumper can distinguish between well-structured and open-ended problems. Nevertheless, her understanding of open-ended problems is rather limited. Without substantial support, she tends to simplistically attribute uncertainties to a superficially narrow set of limitations such as lack of information and inability to predict the future.1
Overall approach to open-ended problems:
- Proceeds as if goal is to stack up evidence and information to support conclusion
Major improvements over Confused Fact Finder:
- Acknowledges existence of enduring uncertainties
- Recognizes the viability of multiple perspectives
- Begins to use evidence logically to support conclusions
- Jumps to conclusions
- Stacks up evidence quantitatively to support own view and ignores contrary information
- Equates unsupported personal opinion with other forms of evidence
- Inept at breaking problem down and understanding multiple perspectives
- Insists that all opinions are equally valid, but discounts other opinions
- Views experts as being opinionated or as trying to subject others to their personal beliefs
Approach to Reasoning
Unlike the Confused Fact-Finder, the Biased Jumper begins to acknowledge the role of evidence and can use evidence and arguments to support her own position. She makes her own judgments and no longer relies on experts to provide the answers to open-ended problems. Because she understands that open-ended problems have no single “correct” solution, she recognizes that different people can have different opinions. Thus, she acknowledges the existence of multiple perspectives.
Unfortunately, the Biased Jumper has not yet developed an adequate framework within which to understand information about open-ended problems. Accordingly, she tends to look at problems superficially, rather than complexly and broadly. This approach leads to several observable weaknesses in her approach to open-ended problems. First, she is likely to equate unsupported personal opinion with other forms of evidence. Second, she does not yet recognize that evidence must be interpreted based on qualitative differences. Third, she has a limited view of the reasons for differences in points of view, believing that differences arise solely because of personal characteristics (e.g., upbringing, intentional bias, or individualism). These beliefs often cause her to ignore or discount alternative viewpoints. Fourth, due to her own skill limitations, she fails to fully understand that experts (including professors) reach conclusions through a complex process of identifying and interpreting evidence from a variety of legitimate perspectives. Thus, she often views experts as being opinionated or as trying to subject others to their personal beliefs. These characteristics of the Biased Jumper make it difficult for her to break problems down, understand problems from multiple perspectives, control for her own biases, and weigh evidence and arguments.
Because of her skill limitations, the Biased Jumper tends to “jump to conclusions.” She rather simply stacks up reasons and evidence to support her own position without giving careful consideration to viable alternatives. She often ignores or discounts information that contradicts her own point of view. She sometimes seems overly confident in her conclusions because of her limited understanding of alternative viewpoints. She may insist that all opinions that can be supported with evidence are equally valid. Because of this and also because her own solution is not well supported, she may become defensive if challenged or when confronted with new evidence. If she is less settled in her conclusions, she may capriciously change her position.
Before the Biased Jumper can begin applying critical thinking skills, they must overcome the following biases:
- Uncertainty is due only to specific limitations such as lost or incorrect reporting of data, limited resources, or inability to correctly predict the future
- Differences in points of view arise solely because of personal characteristics (e.g., upbringing, intentional bias, or individualism)
- Conflicting points of view for which evidence can be provided are equally valid
- Criticizing an argument is the same as criticizing the person who makes the argument
- It is sufficient to simply stack up evidence that supports one’s opinion
- Experts are biased persons who are simply promoting their own agenda