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The Checklist Manifesto: Summary

Regardless of the intelligence, skill of experience of the person in question, we inevitable make mistakes . No matter how much we might believe that we’ll remember something and regardless of how many times we’ve completed the task at hand we are still prone to forgetfulness and to human error.

In his book, The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande explains that the use of checklists in our professional lives can greatly reduce mistakes made by human error.

Checklists force us to go through step-by-step and not only prevent us from forgetting tasks, but can prompt other ideas and steps. It’s important to note the a checklist isn’t just a list of tasks, it’s a process and eventually develops into company culture or “that’s just how we do things here.” A well designed checklist can elevate the performance of entire teams and spread across many departments.

It’s important to note however, that to be effective, they must meet a few criteria. They must be concise, clear and collaborative.

  • Concise – A long checklist with no more than 9 pointed per section will eventually be discarded and steps skipped.
  • Clear – Only the important points need to be included, you don’t need to outline every step in the process.
  • Collaborative – At any point, anyone in the team has the authority to halt a project or process if the checklist hasn’t been adhered to properly.

They have been used by airline maintenance crews, pilots and surgeons to great success. Checklists can provide a safety net for our inherent cognitive biases and mental flaws (memory, attention, thoroughness).

The premise of the book is simple enough and the many examples Gawande shares help to really drive home the benefits and effects of using checklist. The Checklist Manifesto is a great read and filled with actionable information – a rare find.


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Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Faulty Deduction

The the last in this series of logical fallacies focuses on the mistakes we all make when making decisions and weighing information.


Ignoring evidenced gained by a scientific approach in favour of firsthand stories or anecdotes.

Example: “My grandfather smoked 40 cigarettes per day, and he lived until he was 100, so why should I stop smoking?”


Assuming that the beliefs or characteristics of an individual apply to the entire group

Example: “The recent terrorist attacks were carried out by Islamic groups. Therefore all Muslims must be terrorists.”


Conversely, assuming that the beliefs of a group apply to an individual member

Example: “Many Conservatives don’t believe in evolution, he’s a conservative, so he must also be a creationist.”

Design Fallacy

Assuming that because something is explained or visualised in a positive way, it must be truer.

Example: “Heaven.”

Gambler’s Fallacy

The assumption that the history of outcomes will affect future outcomes.

Example: “The roulette wheel has landed on Black 5 times in a row, I’m going to bet on Red because it’s bound to be read now.”

Hasty Generalisation

Drawing a conclusion from a narrow sample group.

Example: “I was almost hit today by two middle-aged women, women are terrible drivers.”

Jumping to Conclusions

Coming to a conclusion without considering all the evidence and possibilities.

Example: “He said he was working late, but I know he wasn’t in the office. He must be cheating on me”

Middle Ground

Assuming that because two opposing arguments are valid, that the truth will be found in some middle ground.

Example: “I think the car is worth £1,000, but you think it’s worth £5,000, so let’s meet in the middle at £3,000.”

Perfectionist Fallacy

Only valuing perfection and rejecting any solution which is less than perfect.

Example: “What’s the point in introducing stricter gun control, criminals will still be able to get hold of guns anyway?”

Relativist Fallacy

Rejecting a claim or idea because of a belief that the truth is relative.

Example: “That might be true for you, but it isn’t for me.”

Sweeping Generalisation

Applying a general rule too widely.

Example: “These boys are disruptive because they were raised by single mothers.”

Undistributed Middle

Assuming that because two things share characteristics that they are the same thing.

Example: “A scientific theory can be unproven. Evolution is a theory; therefore, evolution is an unproven idea.”

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Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Cause and Effect

Circular Logic

A conclusion which relies on a premise which is based on the conclusion.

Example: “The Bible is the word of God – I know that because it says it in the Bible and it must be true because the Bible is the word of God.”

Denying the Antecedent

Assuming that a cause is based on the effect when there are multiple possible causes.

Example: “If you get a good degree, you’ll get a good job. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a good job.”

Ignoring a Common Cause

Claiming a link between 2 events, when there is a 3rd event which is likely to be the cause.

Example: “During the 60s  there was a sexual revolution, because of that people are dying of AIDS.”

Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Claiming that 2 events that occur together must have a cause-effect relationship and assuming that correlation = cause.

Example: “Smart people wear glasses, so wearing glasses must make you smarter.”

Affirming the Consequent

Assuming that there’s only one explanation for an observation you’ve made.

Example: “Marriage usually results in children, so that’s why marriage exists.”

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

The claim that because one event followed another, it was caused by it. Another cause-effect fallacy.

Example: “Since Obama became president, ISIS has become more powerful. Therefore, Obama has caused the rise of ISIS.”

Two Wrongs Make a Right

If someone is wronged, then another wrong will cancel it out

Example: “They killed 100 of our soldiers, so we need to kill 100 of their soldiers to make it right.”

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Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Manipulating Content

Converse to attacking a person or group to discredit their argument, manipulating content takes a person’s argument and twists it into something entirely different or to manipulate your argument to make it appear more persuasive.

Confirmation Bias

When you cherry pick evidence which confirms your existing beliefs, but ignore all evidence to the contrary as erroneous or irrelevant.

Example: Paying more attention to the 5 studies which show a link between vaccines and autism than the 1,000+ studies which disprove any link.

Suppressed Evidence

The deliberate neglect of relevant evidence/information which counters your own argument.

Example: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and so we should invade.” This ignores the reports that show no evidence of such weapons.

Biased Generalising

Using an unrepresentative sample of people to bolster your argument.

Example: “75% of people would vote for Bernie Sanders” Based on a poll only of students.

Ad Hoc Rescue

Trying to protect a belief or idea by revising the argument each time a flaw is found.

Example: “Apart from the freedom to live in any EU country, the millions of jobs it sustains, increased security, strong business links, lower import costs and greater political influence,  what has the European Union ever done for us?”

False Dilemma

Positioning two options as the only two options and deliberately hiding or suppressing alternatives.

Example: “You have to choose between the Republicans or the Democrats.”

Misleading Vividness

By describing a situation in detail, even if that situation is rare or unlikely in order to convince that it is more of a problem that it truly is.

Example: “After gay marriage was legalised, school libraries now stock same-sex literature. This means that primary school children are exposed to gay fairy tales and books which promote a gay lifestyle”.

Red Herring

Intentional introduction of irrelevant material to distract from the argument and alter the conclusion.

Example: “The Prime Minister doesn’t need to disclose his tax returns. After all, there are corporations who have billions of pounds in unpaid tax.”

Slippery Slope

The assumption that a single small step in one direction will lead to an inevitable chain of increasingly worse events.

Example: “If we introduce stricter gun control, the government will be more controlling and we’ll be living in a dystopian country”.


Suggesting a claim or argument that is impossible to prove false, purely because there is no way to check it’s validity.

Example: “He is a Prophet and speaks the message of God.”

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Brain Waves: A Quick Guide

All thinking in the brain is the result of electrical signals that can be observed with an EEG (electroencephalograph). These signals appear as waves, and they vary in frequency depending on what our brains are doing.

There are five different types of brain wave and each wave serves a different purpose and helps us in various situations. It’s important to note that there is no “best” brainwave as too much or too little of any wave can be harmful. All five waves occur simultaneously, but in certain situations, one particular wave is more dominant. When trying to learn a new concept, for example, it’s better when Alpha waves are more influential.

The five types of brainwave (from highest to lowest frequency) are:

  • Gamma
  • Beta
  • Alpha
  • Theta
  • Delta

Gamma Waves

The fastest (40Hz – 100Hz) waves are gamma waves, and they are most dominant when we’re processing information. They help us to perceive the world around us and also to form memories. Gamma waves are good at sensory-binding and can link information throughout the entire brain.

People with high levels of gamma waves tend to be better at problem solving, but also more anxious and with increased stress levels. A low amount of gamma waves can point to ADHD, depression or the learning difficulties.

Neuroscientist Sean O’Nuallain (2004) hooked Tibetan Monks up to EEG machines and found that the more experienced meditators showed significantly more gamma waves than novices.

Beta Waves

Beta waves (12Hz – 40Hz) are mostly present during deliberate thinking. They help us to build focus and complete tasks more easily. Beta waves are associated with states of alertness, concentration and focus. They are the dominant wave for most people throughout the day.

People who are quick-witted or rapid thinkers tend to have brains that produce extra beta waves. Smart drugs (nootropics) all increase beta waves and elevated levels of beta waves result in enhanced performance.

As with gamma waves, high beta waves can cause to anxiety and higher levels of stress.

Beta waves are increased by energy drinks, coffee and other stimulants.

Alpha Waves

Alpha waves (8Hz – 12Hz) are critical for creative pursuits as they help to bridge the gap between our conscious and subconscious minds. Alpha waves are dominant while we are daydreaming and during relaxation. They are linked to relaxation, drowsiness and improved moods. Knowing this, it’s not surprising to learn that alcohol, marijuana and antidepressants can increase the dominance of alpha waves.

Alpha waves bridge the gap between our sleeping and waking states.

Theta Waves

Theta waves (4Hz – 8Hz) are linked to subconscious processing and experiencing emotions. Very few adults show theta activity while they are aware, they generally only show up during sleep. However, children tend to have much higher levels of theta activity than adults.

It’s suggested by some researchers that theta waves help to solidify our understanding of concepts and improve our learning. Break times and recess for children is so incredibly important as it allows the brain to process the information that it’s just learned. Unfortunately, particularly in the UK, any time not utilised by learning is seen as wasted time. This practice of giving homework for every subject every night is dangerous as it can actually harm learning if the child doesn’t have the time to relax.

Theta waves are associated with low levels of arousal and can contribute toward feelings of depression.

Delta Waves

Delta waves (0Hz – 4Hz) are the lowest frequency and are strongly associated with deep relaxation and sleep. Delta waves are responsible for helping up rejuvenate properly while resting and give us restorative and satisfying sleep.

They are produced in the deep stages of sleep and play a role in regulating unconscious bodily processes.

While we sleep our brains repeat our experiences of the day, including any learning, so that they are more deeply ingrained in our heads. For this reason a good night’s sleep is incredibly important if you want to learn.

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