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RAVEN is a critical thinking acronym that stands for:

  • Reputation
  • Ability to observe
  • Vested interests
  • Expertise
  • Neutrality

It is used in assessing how valid an individual's point of view is by assessing the individual themselves. If done poorly, may be seen as a type of Ad Hominem. Forms part of the deduction series of reasoning in assessing information.

Reputation

Reputation is how well known an individual is for being credible, that is, either being honest, reliable, consistent or similarly. Appeals of trust explicitly on reputation where it may not be warrented may be a type of appeal to authority fallacy, especially if their reputation is poorly substantiated or not even backed up.

Attacks on reputation may be classified as types of ad hominem (if the attack on reputation is irrelevant to the statement), poisoning the well fallacy (if the information is presented adversely to skewer perceptions), or doubt-casting (if the doubts on reputation are speculative and poorly substantiated).

Ability to observe

Ability to observe is whether or not the individual has the capacity to directly view or see the events of which they are specifying. For example, if an individual argues radiation from Fukushima is safe, if they are arguing that from the safety of their home some 5,000 miles away from Fukushima, they can be deemed as too far removed as to be able to directly observe such a statement.

Likewise, in any sort of testimony or statement from a witness of a crime or similar, this is whether or not the individual had the opportunity to see the crime or similar actually being committed.

Claims of being able to observe something when it's apparent it's not possible should be deemed as negative reputation.

Vested interests

Vested interests are whether or not the individual has any reason to present information in a specific manner. For example, an employee of a big oil company would have a good reason to report their company in a positive way, as well as a company stockholder or a CEO.

Similarly, however, this can be used as a form of 'inverse vested interest', where if a big oil employee reports something wrong with the company, they can be viewed more favourably, as they would be taking negative risks (such as workplace mistreatment, being fired, harassment etc) to present such information. A government agent opposing their own government is more trustworthy than a government agent who supports their own government.

However, this isn't not a strict rule, and individuals may attack their own establishments in order to curry favour as part of an inverse oppositional behaviour attack (by winning people over by attacking what they see as a negative target to oppose), and thus falls within probability and percentage deduction.

Expertise

Expertise is whether or not the individual has any knowledge on the subject and how knowledgeable they are on the subject. Where-as reputation covers how reliable they are when giving information, expertise is how much knowledge on the information they are likely to have.

Expertise is not sufficient by itself, and may consistute an appeal to authority fallacy, especially if the individual has vested interests. For example, doctors have been given kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs, and whilst they might have expertise, they fail on vested interests.

Neutrality

Neutrality is how neutral (or how bias) an individual might be in a given situation. Where-as vested interests might be obvious things they are associated with, neutrality deals with how likely they themselves are to be bias. For example, an individual who supports a political party might not have any vested interest (as in, they do not receive any benefits or losses), but their neutrality is affected as they favour that particular party and may be less willing to criticise it.

Where-as vested interest deals with situational influences that might influence the individual, neutrality deals with the personal influences that might influence the individual.

Assessment

Whilst RAVEN might point overwhelmingly over towards one direction or another, it should be treated as a general indicator rather than an absolute, and should be used as a means to conduct further investigation to find more solid evidence to prove a point, rather than being the point itself.

For example, if an individual defends a company decision, it would be reasonable to infer they may have vested interests in the company, and to ask for clarification as to whether or not they have vested interests. Or, if the individual does express a vested interest, to see if there any examples of said company bribing or offering incentives to present the company favourably, which can be used to argue a point.

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