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Barriers to Critical Thinking

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Enculturation is the process in which a person learns and adopts characteristics of the culture around them. Enculturation can teach moral values, behaviors, expectations, rituals and language. This helps unify people to create functional societies. It can also create barriers in the way a person thinks and behaves. Most of us are products of our own enculturation unless we make a conscious effort to remain objective. A person must step back from what was taught to them from early on and view a topic with an open mind to overcome held beliefs and opinions ingrained in them by enculturation.

The way we view or perceive ourselves is self-concept. It is also the way we evaluate ourselves. Attributes, items, core values, and group affiliations are ways people often define themselves. According to Lewis (1990) the development of the concept of self has two aspects. The first is the existential self or the sense of being separate and distinct from others. The second aspect of self-concept is the categorical self. This occurs when a person becomes aware that they are an object in the world and they have properties or skills that can be categorized. This is just one of many views of self- concept. These beliefs are taught to us from before birth. When parents find out the gender of their child-to-be they start decorating their room accordingly. The parents are teaching that child from an early age how a boy or girl should behave and think. It is often difficult for a person to break away from these tightly held notions to become open minded and use better critical thinking skills.

A psychological coping strategy that easily distorts reality is ego defenses. It prevents bad feelings from harming a person. Often feelings of anxiety or guilt will make it difficult to reason things out in a way that is rational. Denial plays a large role in ego defenses. Denial is a person’s ability to not accept the reality of a situation. This can protect a person from seeing themselves or someone they love in a negative light. Projection is another form of defense that occurs when a person is critical about something in someone’s behavior that is actually their own behavior reflected in them. Aggression is a common form of projection. In order to prevent ego defenses from being a barrier in critical thinking, a person must look at their true selves and be open to another person’s point of view.

Lewis, M. (1990). Self-knowledge and social development in early life. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality (pp. 277-300). New York: Guilford.

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