Psychological Self-Help

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offered around the country; the best-selling textbook about critical
thinking skills is by Diane Halpern (1995). This kind of training should
come before a lifetime of careful thinking. 
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Hopefully, within the context of our emphasis on critical thinking in
schools, we will soon have many studies of the effectiveness of this
classroom training in terms of practical decision-making at work, in
interpersonal relationships, in guiding one's own life. And, fortunately,
Venezuela has already done a large-scale evaluation of teaching
thinking skills in schools (Herrnstein, Nickerson, de Sanchez and
Swets, 1986). The question was: Can good thinking--observation,
reasoning, decision-making, inventiveness, problem-solving, and
persuasive communication--be taught? To answer the question,
several teachers developed a year-long, 56-lesson course and taught it
to 400 seventh graders. This remarkable study convinced the
experimenters that cognitive, general intellectual skills can be
taught. Note that the course took an entire year and altered how the
teachers and students interacted (students became more active and
logical, asking more questions and acting more independently). As yet,
we do not know which parts of the course experience were helpful,
how much is a placebo effect, nor how long the effects will last. Much
more research is needed. The content of that course has been
translated into English (Adams, 1986). 
Developing Attitudes that Help You Cope
The same circumstances may crush one person, hardly concern
another, and even be considered an interesting challenge by a third
person. What makes the difference? One's attitude! Thus, advice-
givers often suggest certain attitudes: "have a positive mental
attitude," "believe in yourself," "look for the best in people," "whatever
happens is for the best--it's God's will," and so on. These ideas may
help some people feel better and perhaps do better, if they can figure
out how to adopt the suggested attitude. Clearly, a negative attitude--
dire expectations, pessimism, distrust, fear, anger, fault-finding--can
create problems. A positive, excited, hopeful, confident, enthusiastic
person can be a joy to be with (and he/she sells more insurance). The
problem is how to get rid of bad attitudes and learn good ones. 
Our attitudes influence our behavior and vice versa (Sears, Peplau,
Freedman & Taylor, 1988). Not surprising, many attitudes have
already been dealt with in this book. Examples: in chapters 1 and 2,
positive but realistic attitudes about self-help are advocated. In
chapter 3, the importance of deciding on your major purpose for living
is emphasized; the Golden Rule is advocated. A major form of therapy,
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