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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0065| August 6, 2002
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Critical Thinking Skill-Building for Facilitators-- Bias, Emotions, and Conditioning

The Point

To improve critical thinking skills, it's important for you to become aware of your personal biases, emotional states and habits, and conditioning. 

Bias refers to your prejudices - and all of us have prejudices, some that we cannot see without careful and ongoing self-examination. Surmounting one's prejudices is critical to thinking clearly. 

Our emotions definitely affect our abilities to think in a reasonable fashion - our moods and temperaments affect our perceptions.

Our conditioning - the way we were brought up by our families, our communities, and our cultures - all have a strong impact on our thinking.


You may not think you are biased but none of us can be totally objective. If your prejudices are hidden from your conscious mind, you won't be able to think critically. 

For example, in high school if you were tall and shorter people made fun of your height, you might be inclined to avoid taking the viewpoints of shorter people seriously. But you might not know that you are doing that! So you may be filtering out good information because you have a "prejudice" against shorter people. 

Now, that is a simplistic example, but it can be applied to your own particular experiences and views. In a group you are facilitating, there may be someone who reminds you of your arch enemy, and you immediately dislike him or her and discount what he or she have to offer. That would another an example of bias.

Your moods affect how you are able to think. If you are overwhelmed with personal problems, your ability to think critically suffers. It IS possible to be aware of your moods and set them aside when you are facilitating a group. Your mood WILL color your perceptions so it is important to become aware of your feelings and regulate their affects when you need to do serious thinking. Our emotional framework also depends on our personal temperaments. Becoming aware of the strengths and weaknesses in your individual temperament helps you transcend the self in the group process.

Your conditioning impacts on your ability to think critically. You might be a Republican because your whole family was staunch Republicans. What choice did Jack and Bobby Kennedy have, given their family conditioning, but to become Democrats? Our views are shaped by our families, our religions, our communities (from the neighborhood to the nation), and our teachers. Being aware of the reality that our perspectives are limited by our conditioning helps us to keep an open mind in the thinking process.

The next article in the series will discuss the issues of ambiguity and paradox in the critical thinking process. Stay tuned!

About the Author

Deborah Osborne is a consultant, a crime analyst, a poet, and a book author. She has a BA in psychology, worked eight years in applied behavioral analysis, holds an MA in Social Policy, and is a MENSA member. She is available to assist you in becoming a better thinker through personal coaching - write to her at for more information about consulting and/or coaching services.


Take time each day to evaluate how your biases, emotions, and conditioning affect your thinking. As your closest friends for an assessment of these areas - look for outside insight! Write your biography to uncover areas that may interfere with thinking objectively. Become aware of your moods and how they affect your thinking. Journal daily to get to know yourself better.

Please email me your comments.

Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, by Richard Paul, Linda Elder
Widely sought as professional development leaders, Paul and Elder have conducted hundreds of workshops for university faculty all over the world. Their work speaks to the universal need to develop a sharp, open, and analytical mind. Tools that enable us to take charge of our learning and our lives are the very same tools that can help us all do more than merely survive in an economically and socially deprived environment. With them we can work independently or with others to produce positive changes.

2. Critical Thinking Consortium. Website with a host of resources, books, conferences, etc. on the subject of Critical Thinking.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on August 13, 2002.   

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