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The power of analytic thinking

August 15, 2022

Several surveys have shown that analytic thinking and problem-solving top the list of skills that employers believe will grow in prominence over the next five years. Analytic thinking is a careful, deductive way of thinking, where data analysis and logic work together to make decisions. Within the increasingly automated, digital, and dynamic job market, having analytical thinking is very advantageous, especially in areas that require a greater sense of analysis. 

Someone who has analytical thinking will not make decisions on impulse or emotion, but by logic and analyzing all the information. New research by MIT reveals that the skill is relevant not only in the corporate world, but when applied to current global issues, it makes a difference.

MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. David Rand, McGill University Prof. Aaron Erlich, and other colleagues found that Ukrainians who engaged in more analytic thinking were less likely to believe the pro-Kremlin disinformation, even if they were generally pro-Russia.

“We found strong evidence that analytic thinking helps curtail belief in misinformation. This is grounds for optimism in Ukraine, which has a long history of fabricated news and pro-Kremlin disinformation. The fact that Ukrainian citizens can still distinguish falsehoods from truthful news sheds a lot of light on how we can further improve the information environment in countries facing similar disinformation campaigns,” says Rand.

The authors point out that Ukraine provides “a new and fascinating” context to study the relationship between analytic thinking, political ideology, and belief in misinformation and disinformation. It is a unique information space because of the high volume of disinformation attacks from Russia and its history of distrust in institutions, making it qualitatively different from the Western democracies in which most prior disinformation studies have been conducted.

The study, which used online and face-to-face representative samples of Ukrainians, found that Ukraine’s environment does not eliminate or reverse the positive relationship between analytic thinking and truth discernment. “The results demonstrated a similar pattern to prior work using American participants. Despite low trust in government and media, weak journalistic standards, and years of exposure to Russian disinformation, Ukrainians who engage in more analytic thinking are better able to tell truth from falsehood,” says Rand.

He adds, “This is an important contribution to the literature on the political psychology of misinformation. Individuals who engage in analytic thinking are more likely to rate false stories as false and true stories as true. This was the case regardless of Ukrainians’ political position on Russia. Our study provides strong evidence for the role of analytic thinking in improving information environments in countries like Ukraine.”

Source: MIT Sloan | PUC-GO