A contrarian assumes the crowd is wrong without necessarily understanding why.   A true independent thinker will isolate themselves mentally from the crowd and common information and research the best information available, relying as little as possible on second hand resources, to reach their own conclusions.  They are skeptical of the sources that move the crowd more than the crowd itself.

Being independent requires a lot of work but starts with the same skepticism of a contrarian.  It is better to be independent than to be a contrarian, but if you do not have the time or inclination being a contrarian will put you on the correct side more times than not. The more drastic the trend you oppose the more likely you are to be correct.

Be skeptical of the mass media.  We tend to enjoy news that confirms our bias.  It is emotionally uncomfortable to be a contrarian.  We are not as independent as we think we are.