After devastating flooding recently inundated parts of landlocked western Tennessee, residents of similar states may be wondering if such floods await them, too. Gabe Filippelli, executive director of the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University, says flooding and water issues are definitely a concern for regions such as central Indiana. As climate change warms the planet, Filippelli says one of the most critical issues facing Indiana is extreme precipitation. Rainfall events have already become more frequent and extreme, he says, with about a 15% increase since 1990 and another 15% increase expected in Indiana by 2050. Filippelli says he and his colleagues are working with Indiana citizens to help them realize there are things we all can do—like riding a bike and driving your car less-- to address current impacts of climate change. But in the end, he says, it will take moving toward more renewable energy sources to curb the rate of future warming. The fact is, Filippelli says, we need quick and extreme actions now to have a “less-bad” future.
In other news, with misinformation and conspiracy theories running rampant, many are calling for greater use of critical thinking skills—meaning, the ability to make objective, coherent evaluations of information we encounter, particularly online. But how to best teach critical thinking skills remains a matter of debate. In a new study, Indiana University psychology researchers Ben Motz, Emily Fyfe, and colleagues tested an easy-to-implement approach for improving people’s ability to identify false claims. Their research found that educators and others can teach and hone essential critical thinking skills using an age-old method: practice. In the study, participants were presented with scenarios where a person makes a claim, and in a simple multiple-choice response format, the participants marked the error in the claim, if any. Participants then took an open-ended critical thinking exam in which they had to evaluate new claims and explain issues in their own words. Essentially, the researchers found that small amounts of critical thinking practice, using multiple-choice questions, enabled large gains in critical thinking skills, quickly and efficiently. Critical thinking has been overcomplicated, says Motz, and teaching it doesn’t have to be overdone. Simple, multiple-choice practice problems, the researchers say, can significantly elevate our ability to critically evaluate claims we encounter online.