Critical thinking about headlines
The following activity is adapted from Jon Mueller's great website Correlation or Causation. There is a copy of the worksheet attached below. I give this to my students in pairs. I ask them to find as many problems as they can with the short research blurbs that are included. They should not make any assumptions, but just work with what is there.
Below you will see a copy of each of the headlines. Below each section you will find some of the variables and concerns that my own students raised with regard to each of them. A good activity. Takes about 20 minutes. You may also choose to start four different classes with one of the problems in order to revisit critical thinking more regularly in the classroom.
Headline: Diet of fish ‘can prevent’ teen violence.
Participants were a group of 3-year-olds given an “enriched diet based on fish, exercise, and cognitive stimulation.” They were compared to a control group who did not go through this same program.
By age 23 they were 64% less likely than a control group of children not on the program to have criminal records.
Headline: Higher beer prices cut gonorrhea rates
The research suggests “that raising the price of a six-pack of beer by 20 cents would cut gonorrhea rates by almost 9%.
Researchers considered gonorrhea rates from 2001 to 2007 among teens and young adults in states that raised increased the state beer tax.
Of the 36 beer tax increases that we reviewed, gonorrhea rates declined among teens aged 15 to 19 in 24 instances. Among young adults aged 20 to 24, they declined in 26 instances.
Headline: Luckiest people ‘born in summer’
An online public survey in which 40,000 people responded. People who took part in the survey gave their birth-dates and rated the degree to which they saw themselves as lucky or unlucky
Those born in May were most likely to consider themselves lucky; those born in October had most negative views of their life. The poll found there was a summer-winter divide between people born from March to August and those born from September to February. 50% of those born in May considered themselves lucky; 43% of those born in October.
Headline: Fear of hell makes us richer, Feds say.
Researchers studied 35 countries including the United States, Japan, and Turkey. They found that religion shed some “useful light” on how successful a country may be.
In countries where a large percentage of the population believe in hell, there seems to be less corruption and a higher standard of living. For instance, 71% of the U.S. population believe in hell and the country boasts one of the world’s highest per capita income.