Dig Deeper: Critical Thinking in the Digital Age

MindEdge’s Second Annual State of Critical Thinking Survey

Figuring out how to tell good online content from bad online content is a challenge for Internet users of any age. But for young professionals – digital natives who’ve essentially grown up online – it should be easier, right?

They certainly seem to think so, but the numbers tell a different story. According to MindEdge’s second annual State of Critical Thinking survey, young professionals express a high level of confidence in their critical thinking abilities and related skills – but their ability to detect false information online is actually declining.

MindEdge’s national survey of 1002 college students and recent graduates was conducted online by ResearchNow between March 29 and April 10, 2018. The top finding: 59 percent of respondents are very confident in their so-called soft skills, including critical thinking. But when confronted with a nine-question quiz designed to gauge their ability to detect fake news, a majority receive a failing grade.

Correct Responses to Critical Thinking Questions
Proportion of total Respondents with the Following Number of Correct Answers
In 2017 32% of respondents answered 6 to 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 52% of respondents answered 6 to 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 32% of respondents answered 6 to 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 29% of respondents answered 6 to 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 24% of respondents answered 8 to 9 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 19% of respondents answered 8 to 9 questions correctly.
                        Fewer respondents give correct answers this year compared to 2017.
                        Number of correct answers:
                        In 2017 1% of respondents answered 0 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 2% of respondents answered 0 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 6% of respondents answered 1 question correctly.
                        In 2018 8% of respondents answered 1 question correctly.
                        In 2017 8% of respondents answered 2 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 11% of respondents answered 2 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 8% of respondents answered 3 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 11% of respondents answered 3 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 9% of respondents answered 4 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 11 of respondents answered 4 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 12% of respondents answered 5 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 9% of respondents answered 5 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 14% of respondents answered 6 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 14% of respondents answered 6 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 18% of respondents answered 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 15% of respondents answered 7 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 16% of respondents answered 8 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 14% of respondents answered 8 questions correctly.
                        In 2017 8% of respondents answered 9 questions correctly.
                        In 2018 5% of respondents answered 9 questions correctly.
8-9 Correct Answers by Segment
(% Getting 8-9 Answers Correct)

                            Males in 2017 answered 22% of questions correctly.
                            Males in 2018 answered 16% of questions correctly.
                            Females in 2017 answered 26% of questions correctly.
                            Females in 2018 answered 22% of questions correctly.
                            Respondents ages 18-22 answered 22% of questions correctly in 2017.
                            Respondents ages 18-22 answered 16% of questions correctly in 2018.
                            Respondents ages 23-30 answered 25% of questions correctly in 2017.
                            Respondents ages 23-30 answered 21% of questions correctly in 2018.
                            Respondents with a two year education answered 15% of questions correctly in 2017.
                            Respondents with a two year education answered 9% of questions correctly in 2018.
                            Respondents with a four year education answered 27% of questions correctly in 2017.
                            Respondents with a four year education answered 22% of questions correctly in 2018.
                            Respondents confident in their soft skills answered 21% of questions correctly in 2018.
                            Respondents not confident in their soft skills answered 17% of questions correctly in 2018.

Fully 52 percent of respondents got four or more of the questions wrong – enough to earn them a grade of "F." Only 19 percent earned an "A" or "B" by answering eight or nine questions correctly. Compared to our 2017 survey, the proportion earning an "A" or "B" has declined by five points (from 24 to 19 percent) – while the proportion earning an "F" has increased by eight points (from 44 to 52 percent). Scores for every one of the nine questions in the quiz are lower than in 2017.

MindEdge's Dig Deeper Course

To help foster the conversation around critical thinking, MindEdge is offering access to Dig Deeper: Critical Thinking in the Digital Age, a brief online course that includes sections on website reliability, the power of social media, native advertising, and how to spot fake news — along with videos, interactive games, and an online poll.

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