However, most people get their information about science from media — a shortcut that allows them to get up to speed on important issues in a limited amount of time and incorporate multiple primary information sources in a single swoop. To increase the likelihood that information gained in this way is reliable, Lupia suggests we expand our repertoire of sources and consider whether the TV, radio, blog and print sources we use are biased toward our own political values, or are an objective portrayal of fact.

“In politics, debates are not only about facts but also about values. In such cases, many people prefer to follow information sources who share their values — even if such sources are not the most accurate,” he says.

Whether making decisions on purchasing organic versus conventionally grown produce, or forming opinions about a politician or medical procedure, some scholars consider critical thinking a moral imperative in a world replete with misinformation because the opposite can have tragic consequences, both personally and societally.

“We have no choice but to return again and again to critical thinking in the strongest possible sense,” says Richard Paul, director of research and professional development at the Center for Critical Thinking, which urges not just active reflection on one’s thinking, but the commitment to actually use those skills to guide behavior. “Critical thinking is one of the few hopeful forces in the world.”