41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

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Critical thinking is an essential skill in our information-overloaded world, where figuring out what is fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.

But why is critical thinking essential? Put, critical thinking empowers us to make better decisions, challenge and validate our beliefs and assumptions, and understand and interact with the world more effectively and meaningfully.

Critical thinking is like using your brain's "superpowers" to make smart choices. Whether it's picking the right insurance, deciding what to do in a job, or discussing topics in school, thinking deeply helps a lot. In the next parts, we'll share real-life examples of when this superpower comes in handy and give you some fun exercises to practice it.

Critical Thinking Process Outline

a woman thinking

Critical thinking means thinking clearly and fairly without letting personal feelings get in the way. It's like being a detective, trying to solve a mystery by using clues and thinking hard about them.

It isn't always easy to think critically, as it can take a pretty smart person to see some of the questions that aren't being answered in a certain situation. But, we can train our brains to think more like puzzle solvers, which can help develop our critical thinking skills.

Here's what it looks like step by step:

Spotting the Problem: It's like discovering a puzzle to solve. You see that there's something you need to figure out or decide.

Collecting Clues: Now, you need to gather information. Maybe you read about it, watch a video, talk to people, or do some research. It's like getting all the pieces to solve your puzzle.

Breaking It Down: This is where you look at all your clues and try to see how they fit together. You're asking questions like: Why did this happen? What could happen next?

Checking Your Clues: You want to make sure your information is good. This means seeing if what you found out is true and if you can trust where it came from.

Making a Guess: After looking at all your clues, you think about what they mean and come up with an answer. This answer is like your best guess based on what you know.

Explaining Your Thoughts: Now, you tell others how you solved the puzzle. You explain how you thought about it and how you answered. 

Checking Your Work: This is like looking back and seeing if you missed anything. Did you make any mistakes? Did you let any personal feelings get in the way? This step helps make sure your thinking is clear and fair.

And remember, you might sometimes need to go back and redo some steps if you discover something new. If you realize you missed an important clue, you might have to go back and collect more information.

Critical Thinking Methods

Just like doing push-ups or running helps our bodies get stronger, there are special exercises that help our brains think better. These brain workouts push us to think harder, look at things closely, and ask many questions.

It's not always about finding the "right" answer. Instead, it's about the journey of thinking and asking "why" or "how." Doing these exercises often helps us become better thinkers and makes us curious to know more about the world.

Now, let's look at some brain workouts to help us think better:

1. "What If" Scenarios

Imagine crazy things happening, like, "What if there was no internet for a month? What would we do?" These games help us think of new and different ideas.

Pick a hot topic. Argue one side of it and then try arguing the opposite. This makes us see different viewpoints and think deeply about a topic.

3. Analyze Visual Data

Check out charts or pictures with lots of numbers and info but no explanations. What story are they telling? This helps us get better at understanding information just by looking at it.

4. Mind Mapping

Write an idea in the center and then draw lines to related ideas. It's like making a map of your thoughts. This helps us see how everything is connected.

There's lots of mind-mapping software , but it's also nice to do this by hand.

5. Weekly Diary

Every week, write about what happened, the choices you made, and what you learned. Writing helps us think about our actions and how we can do better.

6. Evaluating Information Sources

Collect stories or articles about one topic from newspapers or blogs. Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones might be a little biased? This teaches us to be smart about where we get our info.

There are many resources to help you determine if information sources are factual or not.

7. Socratic Questioning

This way of thinking is called the Socrates Method, named after an old-time thinker from Greece. It's about asking lots of questions to understand a topic. You can do this by yourself or chat with a friend.

Start with a Big Question:

"What does 'success' mean?"

Dive Deeper with More Questions:

"Why do you think of success that way?" "Do TV shows, friends, or family make you think that?" "Does everyone think about success the same way?"

"Can someone be a winner even if they aren't rich or famous?" "Can someone feel like they didn't succeed, even if everyone else thinks they did?"

Look for Real-life Examples:

"Who is someone you think is successful? Why?" "Was there a time you felt like a winner? What happened?"

Think About Other People's Views:

"How might a person from another country think about success?" "Does the idea of success change as we grow up or as our life changes?"

Think About What It Means:

"How does your idea of success shape what you want in life?" "Are there problems with only wanting to be rich or famous?"

Look Back and Think:

"After talking about this, did your idea of success change? How?" "Did you learn something new about what success means?"

socratic dialogue statues

8. Six Thinking Hats 

Edward de Bono came up with a cool way to solve problems by thinking in six different ways, like wearing different colored hats. You can do this independently, but it might be more effective in a group so everyone can have a different hat color. Each color has its way of thinking:

White Hat (Facts): Just the facts! Ask, "What do we know? What do we need to find out?"

Red Hat (Feelings): Talk about feelings. Ask, "How do I feel about this?"

Black Hat (Careful Thinking): Be cautious. Ask, "What could go wrong?"

Yellow Hat (Positive Thinking): Look on the bright side. Ask, "What's good about this?"

Green Hat (Creative Thinking): Think of new ideas. Ask, "What's another way to look at this?"

Blue Hat (Planning): Organize the talk. Ask, "What should we do next?"

When using this method with a group:

  • Explain all the hats.
  • Decide which hat to wear first.
  • Make sure everyone switches hats at the same time.
  • Finish with the Blue Hat to plan the next steps.

9. SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is like a game plan for businesses to know where they stand and where they should go. "SWOT" stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

There are a lot of SWOT templates out there for how to do this visually, but you can also think it through. It doesn't just apply to businesses but can be a good way to decide if a project you're working on is working.

Strengths: What's working well? Ask, "What are we good at?"

Weaknesses: Where can we do better? Ask, "Where can we improve?"

Opportunities: What good things might come our way? Ask, "What chances can we grab?"

Threats: What challenges might we face? Ask, "What might make things tough for us?"

Steps to do a SWOT Analysis:

  • Goal: Decide what you want to find out.
  • Research: Learn about your business and the world around it.
  • Brainstorm: Get a group and think together. Talk about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Pick the Most Important Points: Some things might be more urgent or important than others.
  • Make a Plan: Decide what to do based on your SWOT list.
  • Check Again Later: Things change, so look at your SWOT again after a while to update it.

Now that you have a few tools for thinking critically, let’s get into some specific examples.

Everyday Examples

Life is a series of decisions. From the moment we wake up, we're faced with choices – some trivial, like choosing a breakfast cereal, and some more significant, like buying a home or confronting an ethical dilemma at work. While it might seem that these decisions are disparate, they all benefit from the application of critical thinking.

10. Deciding to buy something

Imagine you want a new phone. Don't just buy it because the ad looks cool. Think about what you need in a phone. Look up different phones and see what people say about them. Choose the one that's the best deal for what you want.

11. Deciding what is true

There's a lot of news everywhere. Don't believe everything right away. Think about why someone might be telling you this. Check if what you're reading or watching is true. Make up your mind after you've looked into it.

12. Deciding when you’re wrong

Sometimes, friends can have disagreements. Don't just get mad right away. Try to see where they're coming from. Talk about what's going on. Find a way to fix the problem that's fair for everyone.

13. Deciding what to eat

There's always a new diet or exercise that's popular. Don't just follow it because it's trendy. Find out if it's good for you. Ask someone who knows, like a doctor. Make choices that make you feel good and stay healthy.

14. Deciding what to do today

Everyone is busy with school, chores, and hobbies. Make a list of things you need to do. Decide which ones are most important. Plan your day so you can get things done and still have fun.

15. Making Tough Choices

Sometimes, it's hard to know what's right. Think about how each choice will affect you and others. Talk to people you trust about it. Choose what feels right in your heart and is fair to others.

16. Planning for the Future

Big decisions, like where to go to school, can be tricky. Think about what you want in the future. Look at the good and bad of each choice. Talk to people who know about it. Pick what feels best for your dreams and goals.

choosing a house

Job Examples

17. solving problems.

Workers brainstorm ways to fix a machine quickly without making things worse when a machine breaks at a factory.

18. Decision Making

A store manager decides which products to order more of based on what's selling best.

19. Setting Goals

A team leader helps their team decide what tasks are most important to finish this month and which can wait.

20. Evaluating Ideas

At a team meeting, everyone shares ideas for a new project. The group discusses each idea's pros and cons before picking one.

21. Handling Conflict

Two workers disagree on how to do a job. Instead of arguing, they talk calmly, listen to each other, and find a solution they both like.

22. Improving Processes

A cashier thinks of a faster way to ring up items so customers don't have to wait as long.

23. Asking Questions

Before starting a big task, an employee asks for clear instructions and checks if they have the necessary tools.

24. Checking Facts

Before presenting a report, someone double-checks all their information to make sure there are no mistakes.

25. Planning for the Future

A business owner thinks about what might happen in the next few years, like new competitors or changes in what customers want, and makes plans based on those thoughts.

26. Understanding Perspectives

A team is designing a new toy. They think about what kids and parents would both like instead of just what they think is fun.

School Examples

27. researching a topic.

For a history project, a student looks up different sources to understand an event from multiple viewpoints.

28. Debating an Issue

In a class discussion, students pick sides on a topic, like school uniforms, and share reasons to support their views.

29. Evaluating Sources

While writing an essay, a student checks if the information from a website is trustworthy or might be biased.

30. Problem Solving in Math

When stuck on a tricky math problem, a student tries different methods to find the answer instead of giving up.

31. Analyzing Literature

In English class, students discuss why a character in a book made certain choices and what those decisions reveal about them.

32. Testing a Hypothesis

For a science experiment, students guess what will happen and then conduct tests to see if they're right or wrong.

33. Giving Peer Feedback

After reading a classmate's essay, a student offers suggestions for improving it.

34. Questioning Assumptions

In a geography lesson, students consider why certain countries are called "developed" and what that label means.

35. Designing a Study

For a psychology project, students plan an experiment to understand how people's memories work and think of ways to ensure accurate results.

36. Interpreting Data

In a science class, students look at charts and graphs from a study, then discuss what the information tells them and if there are any patterns.

Critical Thinking Puzzles

critical thinking tree

Not all scenarios will have a single correct answer that can be figured out by thinking critically. Sometimes we have to think critically about ethical choices or moral behaviors. 

Here are some mind games and scenarios you can solve using critical thinking. You can see the solution(s) at the end of the post.

37. The Farmer, Fox, Chicken, and Grain Problem

A farmer is at a riverbank with a fox, a chicken, and a grain bag. He needs to get all three items across the river. However, his boat can only carry himself and one of the three items at a time. 

Here's the challenge:

  • If the fox is left alone with the chicken, the fox will eat the chicken.
  • If the chicken is left alone with the grain, the chicken will eat the grain.

How can the farmer get all three items across the river without any item being eaten? 

38. The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

You are in a room with two long ropes hanging from the ceiling. Each rope is just out of arm's reach from the other, so you can't hold onto one rope and reach the other simultaneously. 

Your task is to tie the two rope ends together, but you can't move the position where they hang from the ceiling.

You are given a jar full of pebbles. How do you complete the task?

39. The Two Guards Problem

Imagine there are two doors. One door leads to certain doom, and the other leads to freedom. You don't know which is which.

In front of each door stands a guard. One guard always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. You don't know which guard is which.

You can ask only one question to one of the guards. What question should you ask to find the door that leads to freedom?

40. The Hourglass Problem

You have two hourglasses. One measures 7 minutes when turned over, and the other measures 4 minutes. Using just these hourglasses, how can you time exactly 9 minutes?

41. The Lifeboat Dilemma

Imagine you're on a ship that's sinking. You get on a lifeboat, but it's already too full and might flip over. 

Nearby in the water, five people are struggling: a scientist close to finding a cure for a sickness, an old couple who've been together for a long time, a mom with three kids waiting at home, and a tired teenager who helped save others but is now in danger. 

You can only save one person without making the boat flip. Who would you choose?

42. The Tech Dilemma

You work at a tech company and help make a computer program to help small businesses. You're almost ready to share it with everyone, but you find out there might be a small chance it has a problem that could show users' private info. 

If you decide to fix it, you must wait two more months before sharing it. But your bosses want you to share it now. What would you do?

43. The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia is a history expert. She's studying where a group of people traveled long ago. She reads old letters and documents to learn about it. But she finds some letters that tell a different story than what most people believe. 

If she says this new story is true, it could change what people learn in school and what they think about history. What should she do?

The Role of Bias in Critical Thinking

Have you ever decided you don’t like someone before you even know them? Or maybe someone shared an idea with you that you immediately loved without even knowing all the details. 

This experience is called bias, which occurs when you like or dislike something or someone without a good reason or knowing why. It can also take shape in certain reactions to situations, like a habit or instinct. 

Bias comes from our own experiences, what friends or family tell us, or even things we are born believing. Sometimes, bias can help us stay safe, but other times it stops us from seeing the truth.

Not all bias is bad. Bias can be a mechanism for assessing our potential safety in a new situation. If we are biased to think that anything long, thin, and curled up is a snake, we might assume the rope is something to be afraid of before we know it is just a rope.

While bias might serve us in some situations (like jumping out of the way of an actual snake before we have time to process that we need to be jumping out of the way), it often harms our ability to think critically.

How Bias Gets in the Way of Good Thinking

Selective Perception: We only notice things that match our ideas and ignore the rest. 

It's like only picking red candies from a mixed bowl because you think they taste the best, but they taste the same as every other candy in the bowl. It could also be when we see all the signs that our partner is cheating on us but choose to ignore them because we are happy the way we are (or at least, we think we are).

Agreeing with Yourself: This is called “ confirmation bias ” when we only listen to ideas that match our own and seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms what we already think we know or believe. 

An example is when someone wants to know if it is safe to vaccinate their children but already believes that vaccines are not safe, so they only look for information supporting the idea that vaccines are bad.

Thinking We Know It All: Similar to confirmation bias, this is called “overconfidence bias.” Sometimes we think our ideas are the best and don't listen to others. This can stop us from learning.

Have you ever met someone who you consider a “know it”? Probably, they have a lot of overconfidence bias because while they may know many things accurately, they can’t know everything. Still, if they act like they do, they show overconfidence bias.

There's a weird kind of bias similar to this called the Dunning Kruger Effect, and that is when someone is bad at what they do, but they believe and act like they are the best .

Following the Crowd: This is formally called “groupthink”. It's hard to speak up with a different idea if everyone agrees. But this can lead to mistakes.

An example of this we’ve all likely seen is the cool clique in primary school. There is usually one person that is the head of the group, the “coolest kid in school”, and everyone listens to them and does what they want, even if they don’t think it’s a good idea.

How to Overcome Biases

Here are a few ways to learn to think better, free from our biases (or at least aware of them!).

Know Your Biases: Realize that everyone has biases. If we know about them, we can think better.

Listen to Different People: Talking to different kinds of people can give us new ideas.

Ask Why: Always ask yourself why you believe something. Is it true, or is it just a bias?

Understand Others: Try to think about how others feel. It helps you see things in new ways.

Keep Learning: Always be curious and open to new information.

city in a globe connection

In today's world, everything changes fast, and there's so much information everywhere. This makes critical thinking super important. It helps us distinguish between what's real and what's made up. It also helps us make good choices. But thinking this way can be tough sometimes because of biases. These are like sneaky thoughts that can trick us. The good news is we can learn to see them and think better.

There are cool tools and ways we've talked about, like the "Socratic Questioning" method and the "Six Thinking Hats." These tools help us get better at thinking. These thinking skills can also help us in school, work, and everyday life.

We’ve also looked at specific scenarios where critical thinking would be helpful, such as deciding what diet to follow and checking facts.

Thinking isn't just a skill—it's a special talent we improve over time. Working on it lets us see things more clearly and understand the world better. So, keep practicing and asking questions! It'll make you a smarter thinker and help you see the world differently.

Critical Thinking Puzzles (Solutions)

The farmer, fox, chicken, and grain problem.

  • The farmer first takes the chicken across the river and leaves it on the other side.
  • He returns to the original side and takes the fox across the river.
  • After leaving the fox on the other side, he returns the chicken to the starting side.
  • He leaves the chicken on the starting side and takes the grain bag across the river.
  • He leaves the grain with the fox on the other side and returns to get the chicken.
  • The farmer takes the chicken across, and now all three items -- the fox, the chicken, and the grain -- are safely on the other side of the river.

The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

  • Take one rope and tie the jar of pebbles to its end.
  • Swing the rope with the jar in a pendulum motion.
  • While the rope is swinging, grab the other rope and wait.
  • As the swinging rope comes back within reach due to its pendulum motion, grab it.
  • With both ropes within reach, untie the jar and tie the rope ends together.

The Two Guards Problem

The question is, "What would the other guard say is the door to doom?" Then choose the opposite door.

The Hourglass Problem

  • Start both hourglasses. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out, turn it over.
  • When the 7-minute hourglass runs out, the 4-minute hourglass will have been running for 3 minutes. Turn the 7-minute hourglass over. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out for the second time (a total of 8 minutes have passed), the 7-minute hourglass will run for 1 minute. Turn the 7-minute hourglass again for 1 minute to empty the hourglass (a total of 9 minutes passed).

The Boat and Weights Problem

Take the cat over first and leave it on the other side. Then, return and take the fish across next. When you get there, take the cat back with you. Leave the cat on the starting side and take the cat food across. Lastly, return to get the cat and bring it to the other side.

The Lifeboat Dilemma

There isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Moral Principles: What values guide your decision? Is it the potential greater good for humanity (the scientist)? What is the value of long-standing love and commitment (the elderly couple)? What is the future of young children who depend on their mothers? Or the selfless bravery of the teenager?
  • Future Implications: Consider the future consequences of each choice. Saving the scientist might benefit millions in the future, but what moral message does it send about the value of individual lives?
  • Emotional vs. Logical Thinking: While it's essential to engage empathy, it's also crucial not to let emotions cloud judgment entirely. For instance, while the teenager's bravery is commendable, does it make him more deserving of a spot on the boat than the others?
  • Acknowledging Uncertainty: The scientist claims to be close to a significant breakthrough, but there's no certainty. How does this uncertainty factor into your decision?
  • Personal Bias: Recognize and challenge any personal biases, such as biases towards age, profession, or familial status.

The Tech Dilemma

Again, there isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the Risk: How severe is the potential vulnerability? Can it be easily exploited, or would it require significant expertise? Even if the circumstances are rare, what would be the consequences if the vulnerability were exploited?
  • Stakeholder Considerations: Different stakeholders will have different priorities. Upper management might prioritize financial projections, the marketing team might be concerned about the product's reputation, and customers might prioritize the security of their data. How do you balance these competing interests?
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Implications: While launching on time could meet immediate financial goals, consider the potential long-term damage to the company's reputation if the vulnerability is exploited. Would the short-term gains be worth the potential long-term costs?
  • Ethical Implications : Beyond the financial and reputational aspects, there's an ethical dimension to consider. Is it right to release a product with a known vulnerability, even if the chances of it being exploited are low?
  • Seek External Input: Consulting with cybersecurity experts outside your company might be beneficial. They could provide a more objective risk assessment and potential mitigation strategies.
  • Communication: How will you communicate the decision, whatever it may be, both internally to your team and upper management and externally to your customers and potential users?

The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia should take the following steps:

  • Verify the Letters: Before making any claims, she should check if the letters are actual and not fake. She can do this by seeing when and where they were written and if they match with other things from that time.
  • Get a Second Opinion: It's always good to have someone else look at what you've found. Dr. Amelia could show the letters to other history experts and see their thoughts.
  • Research More: Maybe there are more documents or letters out there that support this new story. Dr. Amelia should keep looking to see if she can find more evidence.
  • Share the Findings: If Dr. Amelia believes the letters are true after all her checks, she should tell others. This can be through books, talks, or articles.
  • Stay Open to Feedback: Some people might agree with Dr. Amelia, and others might not. She should listen to everyone and be ready to learn more or change her mind if new information arises.

Ultimately, Dr. Amelia's job is to find out the truth about history and share it. It's okay if this new truth differs from what people used to believe. History is about learning from the past, no matter the story.

Related posts:

  • Experimenter Bias (Definition + Examples)
  • Hasty Generalization Fallacy (31 Examples + Similar Names)
  • Ad Hoc Fallacy (29 Examples + Other Names)
  • Confirmation Bias (Examples + Definition)
  • Equivocation Fallacy (26 Examples + Description)

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25 Critical Thinking Examples

critical thinking examples and definition, explained below

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information and make reasoned decisions. It involves suspended judgment, open-mindedness, and clarity of thought.

It involves considering different viewpoints and weighing evidence carefully. It is essential for solving complex problems and making good decisions.

People who think critically are able to see the world in a more nuanced way and understand the interconnectedness of things. They are also better able to adapt to change and handle uncertainty.

In today’s fast-paced world, the ability to think critically is more important than ever and necessary for students and employees alike.

Critical Thinking Examples

1. identifying strengths and weaknesses.

Critical thinkers don’t just take things at face value. They stand back and contemplate the potential strengths and weaknesses of something and then make a decision after contemplation.

This helps you to avoid excessive bias and identify possible problems ahead of time.

For example, a boxer about to get in the ring will likely need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his opponent. He might learn that his opponent’s left hook is very strong, but his opponent also gets tired after the third round. With this knowledge, he can go into the bout with strong defenses in the first three rounds before going on the offense.

Here, the boxer’s critical thinking skills will help him win his match.

2. Creating a Hypothesis based on Limited Data

When scientists set out to test a new theory, they first need to develop a hypothesis. This is an educated guess about how things work, based on what is already known.

Once a hypothesis has been developed, experiments can be designed to test it.

However, sometimes scientists may find themselves working with limited data. In such cases, they may need to make some assumptions in order to form a hypothesis.

For example, if they are studying a phenomenon that occurs infrequently, they may need to extrapolate from the data they do have in order to form a hypothesis.

Here, the scientist is engaged in critical thinking: they use the limited data to come up with a tentative judgment.

3. Moderating a Debate

A debate moderator needs to have strong critical thinking skills. They need to use objective evaluations, analysis, and critique to keep the discussion on track and ensure that all sides are heard fairly.

This means being able to identify when a point has been made sufficiently, or when someone is beginning to veer off topic and being able to direct the conversation accordingly.

Similarly, they need to be able to assess each argument objectively and consider its merits, rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the debate. If someone is using an unfair point or one that is not factual, the moderator needs to be switched on and identify this.

By remaining calm and impartial, the moderator can help to ensure that a debate is productive and respectful.

4. Judging and Adjudicating

A judge or adjudicator needs to weigh the evidence and make a determination based on the facts.

This requires the adjudicator to be able to try to see both sides of an argument. They need the ability to see past personal biases and to critically evaluate the credibility of all sides.

In addition, judges and adjudicators must be able to think quickly and make sound decisions in the face of complex issues.

For example, if you were to be adjudicating the above debate, you need to hear both sides of the argument and then decide who won. It’s your job to evaluate, see strengths and weaknesses in arguments, and come to a conclusion.

5. Grading an Essay

Teachers need critical thinking skills when grading essays so that they can effectively assess the quality of the writing. By critically analyzing the essay, teachers can identify any errors or weaknesses in the argument.

Furthermore, they can also determine whether the essay meets the required standards for the assignment. Even a very well-written essay may deserve a lower grade if the essay doesn’t directly answer the essay question.

A teacher needs to be able to read an essay and understand not only what the student is trying to say, but also how well they are making their argument. Are they using evidence effectively? Are they drawing valid conclusions? A teacher needs to be able to evaluate an essay holistically in order to give a fair grade.

In order to properly evaluate an essay, teachers need to be able to think critically about the writing. Only then can they provide an accurate assessment of the work.

6. Active Reading

Active reading is a skill that requires the reader to be engaged with the text in order to fully understand it. This means not only being able to read the words on the page, but also being able to interpret the meaning behind them.

In order to do this, active readers need to have good critical thinking skills.

They need to be able to ask questions about the text and look for evidence to support their answers. Additionally, active readers need to be able to make connections between the text and their own experiences.

Active reading leads to better comprehension and retention of information.

7. Deciding Whether or Not to Believe Something

When trying to determine whether or not to believe something, you’re engaging in critical thinking.

For example, you might need to consider the source of the information. If the information comes from a reliable source, such as a reputable news organization or a trusted friend, then it is more likely to be accurate.

However, if the source is less reliable, such as an anonymous website or a person with a known bias, then the information should be viewed with more skepticism.

In addition, it is important to consider the evidence that is being presented. If the evidence is well-supported and logically presented, then it is more likely to be true. However, if the evidence is weak or relies on fallacious reasoning, then the claim is less likely to be true.

8. Determining the Best Solution to a Situation

Determining the best solution to a problem generally requires you to critique the different options. There are often many different factors to consider, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

However, there are some general guidelines that can help to make the process a little easier.

For example, if you have a few possible solutions to the problem, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of each one. Consider both the short-term and long-term effects of each option before making a decision.

Furthermore, it is important to be aware of your own biases. Be sure to consider all of the options objectively, without letting your personal preferences get in the way.

9. Giving Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is feedback that you give to someone part-way through a learning experience. To do this, you need to think critically.

For example, one thing you need to do is see where the student’s strengths and weaknesses like. Perhaps the student is doing extremely well at a task, so your feedback might be that they should try to extend themselves by adding more complexity to the task.

Or, perhaps the student is struggling, so you suggest to them that they approach the learning experience from a different angle.

10. Giving Summative Feedback

Summative feedback occurs at the end of a learning scenario. For example, the written feedback at the end of an essay or on a report card is summative.

When providing summative feedback, it is important to take a step back and consider the situation from multiple perspectives. What are areas for improvement and where exactly might the student have missed some key points? How could the student have done better?

Asking yourself these questions is all part of the process of giving feedback, and they can all be considered examples of critical thinking. You’re literally critiquing the student’s work and identifying opportunities for improvement.

11. Evaluating Evidence

When evaluating evidence, critical thinkers take a step back and look at the bigger picture. They consider all of the available information and weigh it up. They look at logical flaws, the reliability of the evidence, and its validity.

This process allows them to arrive at a conclusion that is based on sound reasoning, rather than emotion or personal bias.

For example, when a social scientist looks at the evidence from his study, he needs to evaluate whether the data was corrupted and ensure the methodology was sound in order to determine if the evidence is valuable or not.

12. Media Literacy

Media literacy seems to be in short supply these days. Too many people take information off the internet or television and just assume it is true.

A person with media literacy, however, will not just trust what they see and read. Instead, they look at the data and weigh up the evidence. They will see if there was a sound study to back up claims. They will see if there is bias in the media source and whether it’s just following an ideological line.

Furthermore, they will make sure they seek out trustworthy media sources. These are not just media sources you like or that confirm your own point of view. They need to be sources that do their own research, find solid data, and don’t pursue one blind agenda.

13. Asking your Own Questions

Asking your own questions is an important part of critical thinking. When you ask questions, you are forcing yourself to think more deeply about the information you are considering.

Asking questions also allows you to gather more information from others who may have different perspectives.

This helps you to better understand the issue and to come up with your own conclusions.

So, often at schools, we give students a list of questions to ask about something in order to dig deeper into it. For example, in a book review lesson, the teacher might give a list of questions to ask about the book’s characters and plot.

14. Conducting Rigorous Research

Research is a process of inquiry that encompasses the gathering of data, interpretation of findings, and communication of results. The researcher needs to engage in critical thinking throughout the process, but most importantly, when designing their methodology.

Research can be done through a variety of methods, such as experiments, surveys, interviews, and observations. Each method has strengths and weaknesses.

Once the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and interpreted. This is often done through statistical methods or qualitative analysis.

Research is an essential tool for discovering new knowledge and for solving problems, but researchers need to think critically about how valid and reliable their data truly is.

15. Examining your own Beliefs and Prejudices

It’s important to examine your own beliefs and prejudices in order to ensure that they are fair and accurate. People who don’t examine their own beliefs have not truly critically examined their lives.

One way to do this is to take the time to consider why you believe what you do. What experiences have you had that have led you to this belief? Are there other ways to interpret these experiences? It’s also important to be aware of the potential for confirmation bias , which is when we seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs, while ignoring information that contradicts them.

This can lead us to hold onto inaccurate or unfair beliefs even when presented with evidence to the contrary.

To avoid this, it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives, and to be open-minded when considering new information. By taking these steps, you can help ensure that your beliefs are fair and accurate.

16. Looking at a Situation from Multiple Perspectives

One of the most important critical thinking skills that you can learn in life is how to look at a situation from multiple perspectives.

Being able to see things from different angles can help you to understand complex issues, spot potential problems, and find creative solutions. It can also help you to build better relationships, as you will be able to see where others are coming from and find common ground.

There are a few simple techniques that you can use to develop this skill.

First, try to imagine how someone else would feel in the same situation.

Second, put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their point of view.

Finally, ask yourself what other factors may be influencing their perspective. By taking the time to view things from multiple angles, you will be better prepared to deal with whatever life throws your way.

17. Considering Implications before Taking Action

When faced with a difficult decision, it is important to consider the implications of each possible action before settling on a course of action.

This is because the consequences of our actions can be far-reaching and often unforeseen.

For example, a seemingly small decision like whether to attend a party or not might have much larger implications. If we decide to go to the party, we might miss an important deadline at work.

However, if we stay home, we might miss out on an opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections.

In either case, our choice can have a significant impact on our lives.

Fortunately, critical thinking can help people to make well-informed decisions that could have a positive impact on their lives.

For example, you might have to weight up the pros and cons of attending the party and identify potential downsides, like whether you might be in a car with an impaired driver, and whether the party is really worth losing your job.

Having weighed up the potential outcomes, you can make a more rational and informed decision.

18. Reflective Practice

Reflecting on your actions is an important part of critical thinking. When you take the time to reflect, you are able to step back and examine your choices and their consequences more objectively.

This allows you to learn from your mistakes and make better decisions in the future.

In order to reflect effectively, it is important to be honest with yourself and open to learning new things. You must also be willing to question your own beliefs and assumptions. By taking these steps, you can develop the critical thinking skills that are essential for making sound decisions next time.

This will also, fortunately, help you to constantly improve upon yourself.

19. Problem-Solving

Problem-solving requires the ability to think critically in order to accurately assess a situation and determine the best course of action.

This means being able to identify the root cause of a problem , as well as any potential obstacles that may stand in the way of a solution. It also involves breaking down a problem into smaller, more manageable pieces in order to more easily find a workable solution.

In addition, critical thinking skills also require the ability to think creatively in order to come up with original solutions to these problems.

Go Deeper: Problem-Solving Examples

20. Brainstorming New Solutions

When brainstorming new solutions , critical thinking skills are essential in order to generate fresh ideas and identify potential issues.

For example, the ability to identify the problems with the last solution you tried is important in order to come up with better solutions this time. Similarly, analytical thinking is necessary in order to evaluate the feasibility of each idea. Furthermore, it is also necessary to consider different perspectives and adapt to changing circumstances.

By utilizing all of these critical thinking skills, it will be possible to develop innovative solutions that are both practical and effective.

21. Reserving Judgment

A key part of critical thinking is reserving judgment. This means that we should not rush to conclusions, but instead take the time to consider all the evidence before making up our minds.

By reserving judgment, we can avoid making premature decisions that we might later regret. We can also avoid falling victim to confirmation bias, which is the tendency to only pay attention to information that supports our existing beliefs.

Instead, by keeping an open mind and considering all the evidence, we can make better decisions and reach more accurate conclusions.

22. Identifying Deceit

Critical thinking is an important skill to have in any situation, but it is especially important when trying to identify deceit.

There are a few key things to look for when using critical thinking to identify deceit.

First, pay attention to the person’s body language. Second, listen closely to what the person is saying and look for any inconsistencies. Finally, try to get a sense of the person’s motive – why would they want to deceive you?

Each of these questions helps you to not just take things at their face value. Instead, you’re critiquing the situation and coming to a conclusion using all of your intellect and senses, rather than just believing what you’re told.

23. Being Open-Minded to New Evidence that Contradicts your Beliefs

People with critical thinking skills are more open-minded because they are willing to consider different points of view and evidence.

They also realize that their own beliefs may be wrong and are willing to change their minds if new information is presented.

Similarly, people who are not critical thinkers tend to be close-minded because they fail to critique themselves and challenge their own mindset. This can lead to conflicts, as closed-minded people are not willing to budge on their beliefs even when presented with contradictory evidence.

Critical thinkers, on the other hand, are able to have more productive conversations as they are willing to listen to others and consider different viewpoints. Ultimately, being open-minded and willing to change one’s mind is a sign of intelligence and maturity.

24. Accounting for Bias

We all have biases, based on our individual experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. These can lead us to see the world in a certain way and to interpret information in a way that supports our existing views.

However, if we want to truly understand an issue, it is important to try to put aside our personal biases and look at the evidence objectively.

This is where critical thinking skills come in.

By using critical thinking, we can examine the evidence dispassionately and assess different arguments without letting our own prejudices get in the way. Start by looking at weaknesses and logical flaws in your own thinking.

Play the devil’s advocate.

In this way, you can start to get a more accurate picture of an issue and make more informed decisions.

25. Basing your Beliefs on Logic and Reasoning

In order to lead a successful and fulfilling life, it is important to base your beliefs on logic and reasoning.

This does not mean that you should never believe in something without evidence, but it does mean that you should be thoughtful and intentional about the things that you choose to believe.

One way to ensure that your beliefs are based on logic and reasoning is to seek out reliable sources of information. Another method is to use thought games to follow all your thoughts to their logical conclusions.

By basing your beliefs on logic and reasoning, you will be more likely to make sound decisions, and less likely to be swayed by emotions or misinformation.

Critical thinking is an important skill for anyone who wants to be successful in the modern world. It allows us to evaluate information and make reasoned decisions, rather than simply accepting things at face value. 

Thus, employers often want to employ people with strong critical thinking skills. These employees will be able to solve problems by themselves and identify ways to improve the workplace. They will be able to push back against bad decisions and use their own minds to make good decisions.

Furthermore, critical thinking skills are important for students. This is because they need to be able to evaluate information and think through problems with a critical mindset in order to learn and improve.

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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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critical thinking examples ideas

Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide , https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-is-critical-thinking-important/.” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.

Self-Awareness

Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns

Communication

Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing

Open-Mindedness

To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas.  Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability to recognise fake news .

Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.

Critical thinkers will identify, analyse and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

Understand the links between ideas.

Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.

Recognise, build and appraise arguments.

Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.

Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.

Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.

Critical Thinking is:

A way of thinking about particular things at a particular time; it is not the accumulation of facts and knowledge or something that you can learn once and then use in that form forever, such as the nine times table you learn and use in school.

The Skills We Need for Critical Thinking

The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.

Specifically we need to be able to:

Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.

Identify the different arguments there are in relation to a particular issue.

Evaluate a point of view to determine how strong or valid it is.

Recognise any weaknesses or negative points that there are in the evidence or argument.

Notice what implications there might be behind a statement or argument.

Provide structured reasoning and support for an argument that we wish to make.

The Critical Thinking Process

You should be aware that none of us think critically all the time.

Sometimes we think in almost any way but critically, for example when our self-control is affected by anger, grief or joy or when we are feeling just plain ‘bloody minded’.

On the other hand, the good news is that, since our critical thinking ability varies according to our current mindset, most of the time we can learn to improve our critical thinking ability by developing certain routine activities and applying them to all problems that present themselves.

Once you understand the theory of critical thinking, improving your critical thinking skills takes persistence and practice.

Try this simple exercise to help you to start thinking critically.

Think of something that someone has recently told you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

Who said it?

Someone you know? Someone in a position of authority or power? Does it matter who told you this?

What did they say?

Did they give facts or opinions? Did they provide all the facts? Did they leave anything out?

Where did they say it?

Was it in public or in private? Did other people have a chance to respond an provide an alternative account?

When did they say it?

Was it before, during or after an important event? Is timing important?

Why did they say it?

Did they explain the reasoning behind their opinion? Were they trying to make someone look good or bad?

How did they say it?

Were they happy or sad, angry or indifferent? Did they write it or say it? Could you understand what was said?

What are you Aiming to Achieve?

One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to decide what you are aiming to achieve and then make a decision based on a range of possibilities.

Once you have clarified that aim for yourself you should use it as the starting point in all future situations requiring thought and, possibly, further decision making. Where needed, make your workmates, family or those around you aware of your intention to pursue this goal. You must then discipline yourself to keep on track until changing circumstances mean you have to revisit the start of the decision making process.

However, there are things that get in the way of simple decision making. We all carry with us a range of likes and dislikes, learnt behaviours and personal preferences developed throughout our lives; they are the hallmarks of being human. A major contribution to ensuring we think critically is to be aware of these personal characteristics, preferences and biases and make allowance for them when considering possible next steps, whether they are at the pre-action consideration stage or as part of a rethink caused by unexpected or unforeseen impediments to continued progress.

The more clearly we are aware of ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, the more likely our critical thinking will be productive.

The Benefit of Foresight

Perhaps the most important element of thinking critically is foresight.

Almost all decisions we make and implement don’t prove disastrous if we find reasons to abandon them. However, our decision making will be infinitely better and more likely to lead to success if, when we reach a tentative conclusion, we pause and consider the impact on the people and activities around us.

The elements needing consideration are generally numerous and varied. In many cases, consideration of one element from a different perspective will reveal potential dangers in pursuing our decision.

For instance, moving a business activity to a new location may improve potential output considerably but it may also lead to the loss of skilled workers if the distance moved is too great. Which of these is the more important consideration? Is there some way of lessening the conflict?

These are the sort of problems that may arise from incomplete critical thinking, a demonstration perhaps of the critical importance of good critical thinking.

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In Summary:

Critical thinking is aimed at achieving the best possible outcomes in any situation. In order to achieve this it must involve gathering and evaluating information from as many different sources possible.

Critical thinking requires a clear, often uncomfortable, assessment of your personal strengths, weaknesses and preferences and their possible impact on decisions you may make.

Critical thinking requires the development and use of foresight as far as this is possible. As Doris Day sang, “the future’s not ours to see”.

Implementing the decisions made arising from critical thinking must take into account an assessment of possible outcomes and ways of avoiding potentially negative outcomes, or at least lessening their impact.

  • Critical thinking involves reviewing the results of the application of decisions made and implementing change where possible.

It might be thought that we are overextending our demands on critical thinking in expecting that it can help to construct focused meaning rather than examining the information given and the knowledge we have acquired to see if we can, if necessary, construct a meaning that will be acceptable and useful.

After all, almost no information we have available to us, either externally or internally, carries any guarantee of its life or appropriateness.  Neat step-by-step instructions may provide some sort of trellis on which our basic understanding of critical thinking can blossom but it doesn’t and cannot provide any assurance of certainty, utility or longevity.

Continue to: Critical Thinking and Fake News Critical Reading

See also: Analytical Skills Understanding and Addressing Conspiracy Theories Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Warren Berger

A Crash Course in Critical Thinking

What you need to know—and read—about one of the essential skills needed today..

Posted April 8, 2024 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk

  • In research for "A More Beautiful Question," I did a deep dive into the current crisis in critical thinking.
  • Many people may think of themselves as critical thinkers, but they actually are not.
  • Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself to try to ensure that you are thinking critically.

Conspiracy theories. Inability to distinguish facts from falsehoods. Widespread confusion about who and what to believe.

These are some of the hallmarks of the current crisis in critical thinking—which just might be the issue of our times. Because if people aren’t willing or able to think critically as they choose potential leaders, they’re apt to choose bad ones. And if they can’t judge whether the information they’re receiving is sound, they may follow faulty advice while ignoring recommendations that are science-based and solid (and perhaps life-saving).

Moreover, as a society, if we can’t think critically about the many serious challenges we face, it becomes more difficult to agree on what those challenges are—much less solve them.

On a personal level, critical thinking can enable you to make better everyday decisions. It can help you make sense of an increasingly complex and confusing world.

In the new expanded edition of my book A More Beautiful Question ( AMBQ ), I took a deep dive into critical thinking. Here are a few key things I learned.

First off, before you can get better at critical thinking, you should understand what it is. It’s not just about being a skeptic. When thinking critically, we are thoughtfully reasoning, evaluating, and making decisions based on evidence and logic. And—perhaps most important—while doing this, a critical thinker always strives to be open-minded and fair-minded . That’s not easy: It demands that you constantly question your assumptions and biases and that you always remain open to considering opposing views.

In today’s polarized environment, many people think of themselves as critical thinkers simply because they ask skeptical questions—often directed at, say, certain government policies or ideas espoused by those on the “other side” of the political divide. The problem is, they may not be asking these questions with an open mind or a willingness to fairly consider opposing views.

When people do this, they’re engaging in “weak-sense critical thinking”—a term popularized by the late Richard Paul, a co-founder of The Foundation for Critical Thinking . “Weak-sense critical thinking” means applying the tools and practices of critical thinking—questioning, investigating, evaluating—but with the sole purpose of confirming one’s own bias or serving an agenda.

In AMBQ , I lay out a series of questions you can ask yourself to try to ensure that you’re thinking critically. Here are some of the questions to consider:

  • Why do I believe what I believe?
  • Are my views based on evidence?
  • Have I fairly and thoughtfully considered differing viewpoints?
  • Am I truly open to changing my mind?

Of course, becoming a better critical thinker is not as simple as just asking yourself a few questions. Critical thinking is a habit of mind that must be developed and strengthened over time. In effect, you must train yourself to think in a manner that is more effortful, aware, grounded, and balanced.

For those interested in giving themselves a crash course in critical thinking—something I did myself, as I was working on my book—I thought it might be helpful to share a list of some of the books that have shaped my own thinking on this subject. As a self-interested author, I naturally would suggest that you start with the new 10th-anniversary edition of A More Beautiful Question , but beyond that, here are the top eight critical-thinking books I’d recommend.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark , by Carl Sagan

This book simply must top the list, because the late scientist and author Carl Sagan continues to be such a bright shining light in the critical thinking universe. Chapter 12 includes the details on Sagan’s famous “baloney detection kit,” a collection of lessons and tips on how to deal with bogus arguments and logical fallacies.

critical thinking examples ideas

Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results , by Shane Parrish

The creator of the Farnham Street website and host of the “Knowledge Project” podcast explains how to contend with biases and unconscious reactions so you can make better everyday decisions. It contains insights from many of the brilliant thinkers Shane has studied.

Good Thinking: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World , by David Robert Grimes

A brilliant, comprehensive 2021 book on critical thinking that, to my mind, hasn’t received nearly enough attention . The scientist Grimes dissects bad thinking, shows why it persists, and offers the tools to defeat it.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know , by Adam Grant

Intellectual humility—being willing to admit that you might be wrong—is what this book is primarily about. But Adam, the renowned Wharton psychology professor and bestselling author, takes the reader on a mind-opening journey with colorful stories and characters.

Think Like a Detective: A Kid's Guide to Critical Thinking , by David Pakman

The popular YouTuber and podcast host Pakman—normally known for talking politics —has written a terrific primer on critical thinking for children. The illustrated book presents critical thinking as a “superpower” that enables kids to unlock mysteries and dig for truth. (I also recommend Pakman’s second kids’ book called Think Like a Scientist .)

Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters , by Steven Pinker

The Harvard psychology professor Pinker tackles conspiracy theories head-on but also explores concepts involving risk/reward, probability and randomness, and correlation/causation. And if that strikes you as daunting, be assured that Pinker makes it lively and accessible.

How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion and Persuasion , by David McRaney

David is a science writer who hosts the popular podcast “You Are Not So Smart” (and his ideas are featured in A More Beautiful Question ). His well-written book looks at ways you can actually get through to people who see the world very differently than you (hint: bludgeoning them with facts definitely won’t work).

A Healthy Democracy's Best Hope: Building the Critical Thinking Habit , by M Neil Browne and Chelsea Kulhanek

Neil Browne, author of the seminal Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking, has been a pioneer in presenting critical thinking as a question-based approach to making sense of the world around us. His newest book, co-authored with Chelsea Kulhanek, breaks down critical thinking into “11 explosive questions”—including the “priors question” (which challenges us to question assumptions), the “evidence question” (focusing on how to evaluate and weigh evidence), and the “humility question” (which reminds us that a critical thinker must be humble enough to consider the possibility of being wrong).

Warren Berger

Warren Berger is a longtime journalist and author of A More Beautiful Question .

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Best Critical Thinking Examples to Help You Improve Your Critical and Analytical Skills

Critical thinking has been studied since ancient times. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato provided us with good critical thinking examples and the foundations for this field. Socrates is widely regarded as one of the fathers of critical thinking and deductive reasoning, a valuable skill in a world plagued with fake news and overwhelming amounts of information.

However, what is critical thinking? How can we use it in everyday life? In this article, we will explain what critical thinking is and why it is important, provide tips for improving your critical thinking skills, and offer the best examples of critical thinking.

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What is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and logically about what to do or believe. To do so, you must establish logical connections between ideas, evaluate arguments, approach problems systematically, and reflect on your values and beliefs. Logical thinking and scientific thinking are types of thinking that depend on these skills.

Additionally, the critical thinking process involves challenging knowledge to discover the truth. It involves reviewing knowledge and information to make an informed decision. You can improve your critical thinking skills by becoming more adept at analyzing problems, identifying biases, practicing active listening and inductive reasoning, and avoiding emotional reasoning.

Where Is Critical Thinking Used?

  • Progressive education
  • Risk assessment
  • Programming
  • SAT standardized tests

Why Is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking is important because it allows you to better synthesize, analyze and interpret information. Other critical thinking skills like problem-solving , observation, and communication, can help you advance in your career. All of these skills can enable you to understand yourself better and make better life decisions.

Many people believe they are critical thinkers. However, when drawing conclusions in real life most people rely on common sense and numerous fallacies. To avoid this, we must have critical thinking dispositions to gain more insight, learn to identify a weak argument, and make better decisions. Understanding critical thinking concepts is crucial if you want to understand your thoughts, emotions, or live a better life.

Real-World Examples of Critical Thinking

People live their lives based on the choices they make. As a result, they require critical thinking skills and a constructive approach to problem-solving to make their lives easier. For example, if you need to deliver to multiple locations, don’t just go there by chance.

To save time, determine which location is closest and devise an efficient pattern for the next locations you will need to visit. This is just one of many examples of critical thinking for the following section. Below are more critical thinking examples.

  • Self-evaluation of your actions
  • HR manager resolving conflict between staffs
  • A military officer working on tactical plans
  • Professor guiding students to fresh ideas with creative questioning
  • Student defending a master’s thesis
  • Basketball coach seeking out new tactics during a timeout
  • Writer organizing content ideas
  • Applicant preparing for a job interview
  • Using a disciplined process to look for a job
  • A detective using their observational ability to analyze a crime scene

10 Great Examples of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking example 1: self-evaluation of your actions.

Self-evaluation is essential for improving your overall performance. When you use reflective thinking or try to evaluate yourself, you analyze what went wrong and how you can improve in the future. You attempt to understand what happened and figure out what you need to change to get different results.

Many universities and schools use special questionnaires that test critical thinking abilities. For example, Cambridge, a school with over 20 years of experience in assessing critical thinking, uses a student self-assessment critical thinking questionnaire .

Critical Thinking Example 2: HR Manager Resolving Conflict Between Staffs

Employees have disagreements in every organization. In many cases, it is the HR manager who steps in to solve the problem. However, the HR manager must first listen to both sides, determine the source of the problem, assess the situation, and decide how to proceed. As a result, a soft skill such as problem-solving or management is essential for HR.

Critical Thinking Example 3: A Military Officer Working on Tactical Plans

A military officer working on tactical plans for extracting fellow soldiers in a dangerous military zone is another example. In this case, the military officer must find an effective way to get the soldiers out of the danger zone while minimizing casualties, which requires logical thinking.

Critical Thinking Example 4: Professor Guiding Students to Fresh Ideas With Creative Questioning

Creative questioning is an interesting process because it can promote critical thinking. By asking creative open-ended questions, the professor makes students think more deeply about a subject. Therefore, they need to discern what information to pick and share. Analysis of arguments is another way to foster analytical thinking among students.

Critical Thinking Example 5: Student Defending a Master’s Thesis

Writing a master’s thesis requires applying critical thinking. You seek and gather information, conduct research, perform calculations, analyze data, and draw conclusions. You also demonstrate what critical skills you used to create the thesis by explaining all of the steps and methodology you used in the research process.

Critical Thinking Example 6: Basketball Coach Seeking Out New Tactics During a Timeout

In some cases, if the match does not go well, the basketball coach may call a timeout to reassess the team’s strategy. During the timeout, a basketball coach looks for new tactics that reveal the vulnerabilities of the opposing team. The coach needs to find a way to assess the potential risks and provide a new strategy that will lead the team to victory.

Critical Thinking Example 7: Writer Organizing Content Ideas

When writing articles, writers must distinguish between good and bad information. They must also make the article flow. To accomplish this, writers must adhere to the core concept of writing format: title, introduction, body, and conclusion. This means that they have to choose certain information to insert in certain sections of the text.

Critical Thinking Example 8: Applicants Preparing for a Job Interview

If you apply for a job and go to the interview blindly, there is a high chance you will not be hired. It is preferable to arrive prepared and apply critical thinking to the interview. One tip for interview preparation is to ask yourself outcome-based questions about the job. Before going to the interview, practice answering questions and acting quickly.

Critical Thinking Example 9: Using a Disciplined Process to Look for a Job

It can be difficult to find a job. Some stats show that on average it takes 100 to 200 applications to get a job. To improve your chances, you should put your critical thinking cap on. Logical thinking can help you consider how you will approach employers, devote time to updating your resume, skills, and create an effective cover letter .

Critical Thinking Example 10: A Detective Using Their Observational Ability to Analyze a Crime Scene

As a police detective, you must have strong critical thinking skills as well as excellent observational abilities to analyze a crime scene. You need logical inquiry and deduction skills to analyze the evidence. A police detective must have probable cause to obtain a search warrant from a judge to search a suspect’s home, which is another example of critical thinking.

Pro Tips to Boost Your Critical Thinking Skills

  • Analyze and Break It Down. Before forming an opinion, conduct extensive research and analysis. Once you have enough information, then you can try to break down all that information and analyze what it means. It is a good idea to break the problem down into smaller pieces so that you can see the bigger picture.
  • Deal With Your Biases. Critical thinking requires constant work, as people have biases that they need to deal with throughout their lives. If a person is aware of their biases, they can be aware of their own thought process and make sure they’re not just thinking one way.
  • Seek Advice. Develop a strong sense of acquiring knowledge. This means seeking advice when you are not sure about what you know. If you don’t know something, ask someone that knows. The more information you have, the better conclusion you can draw. Deal with the fact that you are not always right.

What Should Be the Next Step in My Critical Thinking Learning Journey?

Your next step in your critical thinking learning journey should be to actively use it in your everyday life. In real life, people encounter many opportunities to solve problems. With critical and careful thinking, you can afford to lead a better life and make more accurate decisions.

Using analytical and objective reasoning are some of the intellectual virtues that critical thinking offers to get a better job. If you use it in self-evaluation you can become a better version of yourself.

Advancing this skill can improve your professional life, problem-solving, and improve in developing and executing solutions. If you want to have well-informed opinions and deal with your biases, advance your critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Examples FAQ

Yes, critical thinking is a skill. The interesting part is that critical thinking is a learned skill. If it can be learned then it can be taught. However, the problem is that in many cases an experienced instructor is needed to transfer the skill. It is also one of the 21st-century skills you need to add to your resume.

Developing your critical thinking skills is a gradual process that requires deliberate effort. Changing your thought patterns and practices is a long-term project that you should commit to for the rest of your life.

No, IQ tests don’t measure critical thinking. Intelligence and critical thinking are not the same. If you want to test your critical thinking ability, you need a specialized critical thinking test. One example is the Cornell critical thinking test .

The bandwagon fallacy is about creating an opinion based on what the majority thinks. If everyone says the same thing, then it must be true. The problem with this notion is that the opinion of the majority is not always valid or a real form of knowledge. To avoid the bandwagon fallacy, you need to have a critical thinking disposition.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication .

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How to develop critical thinking skills

man-thinking-while-holding-pen-and-looking-at-computer-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

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What are critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills: 12 tips, how to practice critical thinking skills at work, become your own best critic.

A client requests a tight deadline on an intense project. Your childcare provider calls in sick on a day full of meetings. Payment from a contract gig is a month behind. 

Your day-to-day will always have challenges, big and small. And no matter the size and urgency, they all ask you to use critical thinking to analyze the situation and arrive at the right solution. 

Critical thinking includes a wide set of soft skills that encourage continuous learning, resilience , and self-reflection. The more you add to your professional toolbelt, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle whatever challenge presents itself. Here’s how to develop critical thinking, with examples explaining how to use it.

Critical thinking skills are the skills you use to analyze information, imagine scenarios holistically, and create rational solutions. It’s a type of emotional intelligence that stimulates effective problem-solving and decision-making . 

When you fine-tune your critical thinking skills, you seek beyond face-value observations and knee-jerk reactions. Instead, you harvest deeper insights and string together ideas and concepts in logical, sometimes out-of-the-box , ways. 

Imagine a team working on a marketing strategy for a new set of services. That team might use critical thinking to balance goals and key performance indicators , like new customer acquisition costs, average monthly sales, and net profit margins. They understand the connections between overlapping factors to build a strategy that stays within budget and attracts new sales. 

Looking for ways to improve critical thinking skills? Start by brushing up on the following soft skills that fall under this umbrella: 

  • Analytical thinking: Approaching problems with an analytical eye includes breaking down complex issues into small chunks and examining their significance. An example could be organizing customer feedback to identify trends and improve your product offerings. 
  • Open-mindedness: Push past cognitive biases and be receptive to different points of view and constructive feedback . Managers and team members who keep an open mind position themselves to hear new ideas that foster innovation . 
  • Creative thinking: With creative thinking , you can develop several ideas to address a single problem, like brainstorming more efficient workflow best practices to boost productivity and employee morale . 
  • Self-reflection: Self-reflection lets you examine your thinking and assumptions to stimulate healthier collaboration and thought processes. Maybe a bad first impression created a negative anchoring bias with a new coworker. Reflecting on your own behavior stirs up empathy and improves the relationship. 
  • Evaluation: With evaluation skills, you tackle the pros and cons of a situation based on logic rather than emotion. When prioritizing tasks , you might be tempted to do the fun or easy ones first, but evaluating their urgency and importance can help you make better decisions. 

There’s no magic method to change your thinking processes. Improvement happens with small, intentional changes to your everyday habits until a more critical approach to thinking is automatic. 

Here are 12 tips for building stronger self-awareness and learning how to improve critical thinking: 

1. Be cautious

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of skepticism. One of the core principles of critical thinking is asking questions and dissecting the available information. You might surprise yourself at what you find when you stop to think before taking action. 

Before making a decision, use evidence, logic, and deductive reasoning to support your own opinions or challenge ideas. It helps you and your team avoid falling prey to bad information or resistance to change .

2. Ask open-ended questions

“Yes” or “no” questions invite agreement rather than reflection. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force you to engage in analysis and rumination. Digging deeper can help you identify potential biases, uncover assumptions, and arrive at new hypotheses and possible solutions. 

3. Do your research

No matter your proficiency, you can always learn more. Turning to different points of view and information is a great way to develop a comprehensive understanding of a topic and make informed decisions. You’ll prioritize reliable information rather than fall into emotional or automatic decision-making. 

close-up-of-mans-hands-opening-a-dictionary-with-notebook-on-the-side-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

4. Consider several opinions

You might spend so much time on your work that it’s easy to get stuck in your own perspective, especially if you work independently on a remote team . Make an effort to reach out to colleagues to hear different ideas and thought patterns. Their input might surprise you.

If or when you disagree, remember that you and your team share a common goal. Divergent opinions are constructive, so shift the focus to finding solutions rather than defending disagreements. 

5. Learn to be quiet

Active listening is the intentional practice of concentrating on a conversation partner instead of your own thoughts. It’s about paying attention to detail and letting people know you value their opinions, which can open your mind to new perspectives and thought processes.

If you’re brainstorming with your team or having a 1:1 with a coworker , listen, ask clarifying questions, and work to understand other peoples’ viewpoints. Listening to your team will help you find fallacies in arguments to improve possible solutions.

6. Schedule reflection

Whether waking up at 5 am or using a procrastination hack, scheduling time to think puts you in a growth mindset . Your mind has natural cognitive biases to help you simplify decision-making, but squashing them is key to thinking critically and finding new solutions besides the ones you might gravitate toward. Creating time and calm space in your day gives you the chance to step back and visualize the biases that impact your decision-making. 

7. Cultivate curiosity

With so many demands and job responsibilities, it’s easy to seek solace in routine. But getting out of your comfort zone helps spark critical thinking and find more solutions than you usually might.

If curiosity doesn’t come naturally to you, cultivate a thirst for knowledge by reskilling and upskilling . Not only will you add a new skill to your resume , but expanding the limits of your professional knowledge might motivate you to ask more questions. 

You don’t have to develop critical thinking skills exclusively in the office. Whether on your break or finding a hobby to do after work, playing strategic games or filling out crosswords can prime your brain for problem-solving. 

woman-solving-puzzle-at-home-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

9. Write it down

Recording your thoughts with pen and paper can lead to stronger brain activity than typing them out on a keyboard. If you’re stuck and want to think more critically about a problem, writing your ideas can help you process information more deeply.

The act of recording ideas on paper can also improve your memory . Ideas are more likely to linger in the background of your mind, leading to deeper thinking that informs your decision-making process. 

10. Speak up

Take opportunities to share your opinion, even if it intimidates you. Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 

11. Stay humble

Ideas and concepts aren’t the same as real-life actions. There may be such a thing as negative outcomes, but there’s no such thing as a bad idea. At the brainstorming stage , don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Sometimes the best solutions come from off-the-wall, unorthodox decisions. Sit in your creativity , let ideas flow, and don’t be afraid to share them with your colleagues. Putting yourself in a creative mindset helps you see situations from new perspectives and arrive at innovative conclusions. 

12. Embrace discomfort

Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable . It isn’t easy when others challenge your ideas, but sometimes, it’s the only way to see new perspectives and think critically.

By willingly stepping into unfamiliar territory, you foster the resilience and flexibility you need to become a better thinker. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up from failure and approach problems from fresh angles. 

man-looking-down-to-something-while-thinking-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Thinking critically is easier said than done. To help you understand its impact (and how to use it), here are two scenarios that require critical thinking skills and provide teachable moments. 

Scenario #1: Unexpected delays and budget

Imagine your team is working on producing an event. Unexpectedly, a vendor explains they’ll be a week behind on delivering materials. Then another vendor sends a quote that’s more than you can afford. Unless you develop a creative solution, the team will have to push back deadlines and go over budget, potentially costing the client’s trust. 

Here’s how you could approach the situation with creative thinking:

  • Analyze the situation holistically: Determine how the delayed materials and over-budget quote will impact the rest of your timeline and financial resources . That way, you can identify whether you need to build an entirely new plan with new vendors, or if it’s worth it to readjust time and resources. 
  • Identify your alternative options: With careful assessment, your team decides that another vendor can’t provide the same materials in a quicker time frame. You’ll need to rearrange assignment schedules to complete everything on time. 
  • Collaborate and adapt: Your team has an emergency meeting to rearrange your project schedule. You write down each deliverable and determine which ones you can and can’t complete by the deadline. To compensate for lost time, you rearrange your task schedule to complete everything that doesn’t need the delayed materials first, then advance as far as you can on the tasks that do. 
  • Check different resources: In the meantime, you scour through your contact sheet to find alternative vendors that fit your budget. Accounting helps by providing old invoices to determine which vendors have quoted less for previous jobs. After pulling all your sources, you find a vendor that fits your budget. 
  • Maintain open communication: You create a special Slack channel to keep everyone up to date on changes, challenges, and additional delays. Keeping an open line encourages transparency on the team’s progress and boosts everyone’s confidence. 

coworkers-at-meeting-looking-together-the-screen-how-to-develop-critical-thinking-skills

Scenario #2: Differing opinions 

A conflict arises between two team members on the best approach for a new strategy for a gaming app. One believes that small tweaks to the current content are necessary to maintain user engagement and stay within budget. The other believes a bold revamp is needed to encourage new followers and stronger sales revenue. 

Here’s how critical thinking could help this conflict:

  • Listen actively: Give both team members the opportunity to present their ideas free of interruption. Encourage the entire team to ask open-ended questions to more fully understand and develop each argument. 
  • Flex your analytical skills: After learning more about both ideas, everyone should objectively assess the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Analyze each idea's risk, merits, and feasibility based on available data and the app’s goals and objectives. 
  • Identify common ground: The team discusses similarities between each approach and brainstorms ways to integrate both idea s, like making small but eye-catching modifications to existing content or using the same visual design in new media formats. 
  • Test new strategy: To test out the potential of a bolder strategy, the team decides to A/B test both approaches. You create a set of criteria to evenly distribute users by different demographics to analyze engagement, revenue, and customer turnover. 
  • Monitor and adapt: After implementing the A/B test, the team closely monitors the results of each strategy. You regroup and optimize the changes that provide stronger results after the testing. That way, all team members understand why you’re making the changes you decide to make.

You can’t think your problems away. But you can equip yourself with skills that help you move through your biggest challenges and find innovative solutions. Learning how to develop critical thinking is the start of honing an adaptable growth mindset. 

Now that you have resources to increase critical thinking skills in your professional development, you can identify whether you embrace change or routine, are open or resistant to feedback, or turn to research or emotion will build self-awareness. From there, tweak and incorporate techniques to be a critical thinker when life presents you with a problem.

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Elizabeth Perry, ACC

Elizabeth Perry is a Coach Community Manager at BetterUp. She uses strategic engagement strategies to cultivate a learning community across a global network of Coaches through in-person and virtual experiences, technology-enabled platforms, and strategic coaching industry partnerships. With over 3 years of coaching experience and a certification in transformative leadership and life coaching from Sofia University, Elizabeth leverages transpersonal psychology expertise to help coaches and clients gain awareness of their behavioral and thought patterns, discover their purpose and passions, and elevate their potential. She is a lifelong student of psychology, personal growth, and human potential as well as an ICF-certified ACC transpersonal life and leadership Coach.

How to improve your creative skills for effective problem-solving

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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  • Vincent-Lancrin, Stéphan, Carlos González-Sancho, Mathias Bouckaert, Federico de Luca, Meritxell Fernández-Barrerra, Gwénaël Jacotin, Joaquin Urgel, and Quentin Vidal, 2019, Fostering Students’ Creativity and Critical Thinking: What It Means in School. Educational Research and Innovation , Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Warren, Karen J. 1988. “Critical Thinking and Feminism”, Informal Logic , 10(1): 31–44. [ Warren 1988 available online ]
  • Watson, Goodwin, and Edward M. Glaser, 1980a, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Form A , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
  • –––, 1980b, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal: Forms A and B; Manual , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation,
  • –––, 1994, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Form B , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
  • Weinstein, Mark, 1990, “Towards a Research Agenda for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking”, Informal Logic , 12(3): 121–143. [ Weinstein 1990 available online ]
  • –––, 2013, Logic, Truth and Inquiry , London: College Publications.
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  • Zagzebski, Linda Trinkaus, 1996, Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139174763
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  • The Nature of Critical Thinking: An Outline of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities , by Robert H. Ennis

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Critical Thinking

I. definition.

Critical thinking is the ability to reflect on (and so improve ) your thoughts, beliefs, and expectations. It’s a combination of several skills and habits such as:

Curiosity : the desire for knowledge and understanding

Curious people are never content with their current understanding of the world, but are driven to raise questions and pursue the answers. Curiosity is endless — the better you understand a given topic, the more you realize how much more there is to learn!

Humility : or the recognition that your own understanding is limited

This is closely connected to curiosity — if you’re arrogant and think you know everything already, then you have no reason to be curious. But a humble person always recognizes the limitations and gaps in their knowledge . This makes them more receptive to information, better listeners and learners.

Skepticism : a suspicious attitude toward what other people say

Skepticism means you always demand evidence and don’t simply accept what others tell you. At the same time, skepticism has to be inwardly focused as well! You have to be equally skeptical of your own beliefs and instincts as you are of others’.

Rationality or logic: The formal skills of logic are indispensable for critical thinkers

Skepticism keeps you on the lookout for bad arguments, and rationality helps you figure out exactly why they’re bad. But rationality also allows you to identify good arguments when you see them, and then to move beyond them and understand their further implications.

Creativity: or the ability to come up with new combinations of ideas

It’s not enough to just be skeptical and knock the holes in every argument that you hear. Sooner or later you have to come up with your own ideas, your own solutions, and your own visions. That requires a creative and independent mind, but one that is also capable of listening and learning.

Empathy : the ability to see things from another person’s perspective

Too often, people talk about critical thinkers as though they’re solitary explorers, forging their own path through the jungle of ideas without help from others. But this isn’t true at all. Real critical thinking means you constantly engage with other people, listen to what they have to say, and try to imagine how they see the world. By seeing things from someone else’s perspective, you can generate far more new ideas than you could by relying on your own knowledge alone.

II. Examples

Although video games are sometimes simply a passive way to enjoy yourself, they sometimes rely on critical thinking skills. This is particularly true of puzzle games and role playing games (RPGs) that present your character with puzzles at critical moments. For example, at one stage in the classic RPG Neverwinter Nights , your character has the option to serve as a juror on another character’s trial. In order to save the innocent man, you have to talk to people throughout the town and, using a combination of empathy and skepticism, figure out what really happened.

In one episode of South Park , Cartman becomes obsessed with conspiracy theories and sings a song about needing to think for himself and find out the truth. The show is poking fun at conspiracy theorists, who often think that they are exercising critical thinking when in fact they are simply exercising too much skepticism towards common sense and popular beliefs, and not enough skepticism towards new, unnecessarily complicated explanations.

III. Critical Thinking vs. Traditional Thinking

Critical thinking, in the history of modern Western thought, is strongly associated with the Enlightenment, the period when European and American philosophers decided to approach the world with a rational eye, rejecting blind faith and questioning traditional authority. It was this moment in history that gave us modern medicine, democracy , and the early forms of industrial technology.

At the same time, the Enlightenment also came with many downsides, particularly the fact that it was so hostile to tradition. This hostility is understandable given the state of Europe at the time — ripped apart by bloody conflict between different religions, and oppressed by traditional monarchs who rooted their power in that of the Church. Enlightenment thinkers understandably rejected traditional thinking, holding it responsible for all this violence and injustice. But still, the Enlightenment sometimes went too far in the opposite direction. After all, rejecting tradition just for the sake of rejecting it is not really any better than accepting tradition just for the sake of accepting it! Traditions provide valuable resources for critical thinking, and without them it would be impossible. Think about this: the English language is a tradition, and without it you wouldn’t be sitting there reading these (hopefully useful) words about critical thinking!

So critical thinking absolutely depends on traditions. There’s no question that critical thinking means something more than just accepting traditions; but it doesn’t mean you necessarily reject them, either. It just means that you’re not blindly following tradition for its own sake ; rather, your relationship to your tradition is based on humility, creativity, skepticism, and all the other attributes of critical thinking.

IV. Quotes about Critical Thinking

“If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” (Isaac Newton)

Until Einstein, no physicist was ever more influential than Isaac Newton. Through curiosity and probable skepticism, he not only worked out the basic rules for matter and energy in the universe — he also realized that the force causing objects to fall was the same as the force causing celestial objects to orbit around each other (thus discovering the modern theory of gravity). He was also known for having a big ego and being a little arrogant with those he considered beneath his intellect — but even Newton had enough humility to recognize that he wasn’t doing it alone. He was deeply indebted to the whole tradition of scientists that had come before him — Europeans, Greeks, Arabs, Indians, and all the rest.

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses… and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.” (Carl Sagan, The Burden of Skepticism )

In this quote, Carl Sagan offers a sensitive analysis of a tension within the idea of critical thinking. He points out that skepticism is extremely important to critical thinking, but at the same time it can go too far and become an obstacle. Notice, too, that you could replace the word “new” with “old” in this quote and it would still make sense. Critical thinkers need to be both open to new ideas and skeptical of them; similarly, they need to have a balanced attitude toward old and traditional ideas as well.

V. The History and Importance of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has emerged as a cultural value in various times and places, from the Islamic scholars of medieval Central Asia to the secular philosophers of 18th-century America or the scientists and engineers of 21st-century Japan. In each case, critical thinking has taken a slightly different form, sometimes emphasizing skepticism above the other dimensions (as occurred in the European Enlightenment), sometimes emphasizing other dimensions such as creativity or rationality.

Today, many leaders in science, education, and business worry that we are seeing a decline in critical thinking. Education around the world has turned increasingly toward standardized testing and the mechanical memorization of facts, an approach that doesn’t leave time for critical thinking or creative arts. Some politicians view critical and creative education as a waste of time, believing that education should only focus on job skills and nothing else — an attitude which clearly overlooks the fact that critical thinking is an important job skill for everyone from auto mechanics to cognitive scientists.

a. Creativity

b. Skepticism

d. These are all dimensions of critical thinking

a. They are opposites

b. They are synonyms

c. They are in tension, but not incompatible

d. None of the above

a. The Enlightenment

b. The Renaissance

c. The current era

d. All of the above

a. Being constantly skeptical

b. Not being skeptical

c. Having a balance between too much skepticism and too little

d. No relation to skepticism

50 Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills for success in the 21st century. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and draw logical conclusions. Problem solving is the ability to apply critical thinking to find effective solutions to various challenges. Both skills require creativity, curiosity, and persistence. Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills can help students improve their academic performance, enhance their career prospects, and become more informed and engaged citizens.

critical thinking examples ideas

Sanju Pradeepa

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

In today’s complex and fast-paced world, the ability to think critically and solve problems effectively has become a vital skill for success in all areas of life. Whether it’s navigating professional challenges, making sound decisions, or finding innovative solutions, critical thinking and problem-solving are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving desired outcomes. In this blog post, we will explore problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Table of Contents

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving.

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving

It is not enough to simply recognize an issue; we must use the right tools and techniques to address it. To do this, we must learn how to define and identify the problem or task at hand, gather relevant information from reliable sources, analyze and compare data to draw conclusions, make logical connections between different ideas, generate a solution or action plan, and make a recommendation.

The first step in developing these skills is understanding what the problem or task is that needs to be addressed. This requires careful consideration of all available information in order to form an accurate picture of what needs to be done. Once the issue has been identified, gathering reliable sources of data can help further your understanding of it. Sources could include interviews with customers or stakeholders, surveys, industry reports, and analysis of customer feedback.

After collecting relevant information from reliable sources, it’s important to analyze and compare the data in order to draw meaningful conclusions about the situation at hand. This helps us better understand our options for addressing an issue by providing context for decision-making. Once you have analyzed the data you collected, making logical connections between different ideas can help you form a more complete picture of the situation and inform your potential solutions.

Once you have analyzed your options for addressing an issue based on all available data points, it’s time to generate a solution or action plan that takes into account considerations such as cost-effectiveness and feasibility. It’s also important to consider the risk factors associated with any proposed solutions in order to ensure that they are responsible before moving forward with implementation. Finally, once all the analysis has been completed, it is time to make a recommendation based on your findings, which should take into account any objectives set out by stakeholders at the beginning of this process as well as any other pertinent factors discovered throughout the analysis stage.

By following these steps carefully when faced with complex issues, one can effectively use critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to achieve desired outcomes more efficiently than would otherwise be possible without them, while also taking responsibility for decisions made along the way.

what does critical thinking involve

What Does Critical Thinking Involve: 5 Essential Skill

Problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Problem-solving and critical thinking are key skills that are highly valued in any professional setting. These skills enable individuals to analyze complex situations, make informed decisions, and find innovative solutions. Here, we present 25 examples of problem-solving and critical thinking. problem-solving scenarios to help you cultivate and enhance these skills.

Ethical dilemma: A company faces a situation where a client asks for a product that does not meet quality standards. The team must decide how to address the client’s request without compromising the company’s credibility or values.

Brainstorming session: A team needs to come up with new ideas for a marketing campaign targeting a specific demographic. Through an organized brainstorming session, they explore various approaches and analyze their potential impact.

Troubleshooting technical issues : An IT professional receives a ticket indicating a network outage. They analyze the issue, assess potential causes (hardware, software, or connectivity), and solve the problem efficiently.

Negotiation : During contract negotiations, representatives from two companies must find common ground to strike a mutually beneficial agreement, considering the needs and limitations of both parties.

Project management: A project manager identifies potential risks and develops contingency plans to address unforeseen obstacles, ensuring the project stays on track.

Decision-making under pressure: In a high-stakes situation, a medical professional must make a critical decision regarding a patient’s treatment, weighing all available information and considering potential risks.

Conflict resolution: A team encounters conflicts due to differing opinions or approaches. The team leader facilitates a discussion to reach a consensus while considering everyone’s perspectives.

Data analysis: A data scientist is presented with a large dataset and is tasked with extracting valuable insights. They apply analytical techniques to identify trends, correlations, and patterns that can inform decision-making.

Customer service: A customer service representative encounters a challenging customer complaint and must employ active listening and problem-solving skills to address the issue and provide a satisfactory resolution.

Market research : A business seeks to expand into a new market. They conduct thorough market research, analyzing consumer behavior, competitor strategies, and economic factors to make informed market-entry decisions.

Creative problem-solvin g: An engineer faces a design challenge and must think outside the box to come up with a unique and innovative solution that meets project requirements.

Change management: During a company-wide transition, managers must effectively communicate the change, address employees’ concerns, and facilitate a smooth transition process.

Crisis management: When a company faces a public relations crisis, effective critical thinking is necessary to analyze the situation, develop a response strategy, and minimize potential damage to the company’s reputation.

Cost optimization : A financial analyst identifies areas where expenses can be reduced while maintaining operational efficiency, presenting recommendations for cost savings.

Time management : An employee has multiple deadlines to meet. They assess the priority of each task, develop a plan, and allocate time accordingly to achieve optimal productivity.

Quality control: A production manager detects an increase in product defects and investigates the root causes, implementing corrective actions to enhance product quality.

Strategic planning: An executive team engages in strategic planning to define long-term goals, assess market trends, and identify growth opportunities.

Cross-functional collaboration: Multiple teams with different areas of expertise must collaborate to develop a comprehensive solution, combining their knowledge and skills.

Training and development : A manager identifies skill gaps in their team and designs training programs to enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.

Risk assessment : A risk management professional evaluates potential risks associated with a new business venture, weighing their potential impact and developing strategies to mitigate them.

Continuous improvement: An operations manager analyzes existing processes, identifies inefficiencies, and introduces improvements to enhance productivity and customer satisfaction.

Customer needs analysis: A product development team conducts extensive research to understand customer needs and preferences, ensuring that the resulting product meets those requirements.

Crisis decision-making: A team dealing with a crisis must think quickly, assess the situation, and make timely decisions with limited information.

Marketing campaign analysis : A marketing team evaluates the success of a recent campaign, analyzing key performance indicators to understand its impact on sales and customer engagement.

Constructive feedback: A supervisor provides feedback to an employee, highlighting areas for improvement and offering constructive suggestions for growth.

Conflict resolution in a team project: Team members engaged in a project have conflicting ideas on the approach. They must engage in open dialogue, actively listen to each other’s perspectives, and reach a compromise that aligns with the project’s goals.

Crisis response in a natural disaster: Emergency responders must think critically and swiftly in responding to a natural disaster, coordinating rescue efforts, allocating resources effectively, and prioritizing the needs of affected individuals.

Product innovation : A product development team conducts market research, studies consumer trends, and uses critical thinking to create innovative products that address unmet customer needs.

Supply chain optimization: A logistics manager analyzes the supply chain to identify areas for efficiency improvement, such as reducing transportation costs, improving inventory management, or streamlining order fulfillment processes.

Business strategy formulation: A business executive assesses market dynamics, the competitive landscape, and internal capabilities to develop a robust business strategy that ensures sustainable growth and competitiveness.

Crisis communication: In the face of a public relations crisis, an organization’s spokesperson must think critically to develop and deliver a transparent, authentic, and effective communication strategy to rebuild trust and manage reputation.

Social problem-solving: A group of volunteers addresses a specific social issue, such as poverty or homelessness, by critically examining its root causes, collaborating with stakeholders, and implementing sustainable solutions for the affected population.

Problem-Solving Mindset

Problem-Solving Mindset: How to Achieve It (15 Ways)

Risk assessment in investment decision-making: An investment analyst evaluates various investment opportunities, conducting risk assessments based on market trends, financial indicators, and potential regulatory changes to make informed investment recommendations.

Environmental sustainability: An environmental scientist analyzes the impact of industrial processes on the environment, develops strategies to mitigate risks, and promotes sustainable practices within organizations and communities.

Adaptation to technological advancements : In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, professionals need critical thinking skills to adapt to new tools, software, and systems, ensuring they can effectively leverage these advancements to enhance productivity and efficiency.

Productivity improvement: An operations manager leverages critical thinking to identify productivity bottlenecks within a workflow and implement process improvements to optimize resource utilization, minimize waste, and increase overall efficiency.

Cost-benefit analysis: An organization considering a major investment or expansion opportunity conducts a thorough cost-benefit analysis, weighing potential costs against expected benefits to make an informed decision.

Human resources management : HR professionals utilize critical thinking to assess job applicants, identify skill gaps within the organization, and design training and development programs to enhance the workforce’s capabilities.

Root cause analysis: In response to a recurring problem or inefficiency, professionals apply critical thinking to identify the root cause of the issue, develop remedial actions, and prevent future occurrences.

Leadership development: Aspiring leaders undergo critical thinking exercises to enhance their decision-making abilities, develop strategic thinking skills, and foster a culture of innovation within their teams.

Brand positioning : Marketers conduct comprehensive market research and consumer behavior analysis to strategically position a brand, differentiating it from competitors and appealing to target audiences effectively.

Resource allocation: Non-profit organizations distribute limited resources efficiently, critically evaluating project proposals, considering social impact, and allocating resources to initiatives that align with their mission.

Innovating in a mature market: A company operating in a mature market seeks to innovate to maintain a competitive edge. They cultivate critical thinking skills to identify gaps, anticipate changing customer needs, and develop new strategies, products, or services accordingly.

Analyzing financial statements : Financial analysts critically assess financial statements, analyze key performance indicators, and derive insights to support financial decision-making, such as investment evaluations or budget planning.

Crisis intervention : Mental health professionals employ critical thinking and problem-solving to assess crises faced by individuals or communities, develop intervention plans, and provide support during challenging times.

Data privacy and cybersecurity : IT professionals critically evaluate existing cybersecurity measures, identify vulnerabilities, and develop strategies to protect sensitive data from threats, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.

Process improvement : Professionals in manufacturing or service industries critically evaluate existing processes, identify inefficiencies, and implement improvements to optimize efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Multi-channel marketing strategy : Marketers employ critical thinking to design and execute effective marketing campaigns across various channels such as social media, web, print, and television, ensuring a cohesive brand experience for customers.

Peer review: Researchers critically analyze and review the work of their peers, providing constructive feedback and ensuring the accuracy, validity, and reliability of scientific studies.

Project coordination : A project manager must coordinate multiple teams and resources to ensure seamless collaboration, identify potential bottlenecks, and find solutions to keep the project on schedule.  

These examples highlight the various contexts in which problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are necessary for success. By understanding and practicing these skills, individuals can enhance their ability to navigate challenges and make sound decisions in both personal and professional endeavors.

Conclusion:

Critical thinking and problem-solving are indispensable skills that empower individuals to overcome challenges, make sound decisions, and find innovative solutions. By honing these skills, one can navigate through the complexities of modern life and achieve success in both personal and professional endeavors. Embrace the power of critical thinking and problem-solving, and unlock the door to endless possibilities and growth.

  • Problem solving From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Critical thinking From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • The Importance of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills for Students (5 Minutes)

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The Ultimate Guide to Critical Thinking Skills with Real-life Examples

March 21, 2024

Introduction

In today's dynamic job market, both job seekers and employers face numerous challenges. Job seekers often struggle to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate their value to potential employers, while employers grapple with finding candidates who possess the necessary skills to drive their organizations forward. In this competitive landscape, having strong critical thinking skills is essential for success.

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, identify patterns, make connections, solve problems, and make informed decisions. Employers value these skills because they enable individuals to approach tasks and challenges with a clear and rational mindset, ultimately leading to more effective problem-solving and decision-making.

Why Critical Thinking Skills are Essential in the Job Market

Critical thinking skills are highly valued in today's job market for their ability to help individuals navigate complex issues, make informed decisions, and drive innovation within organizations. Employers across industries are actively seeking candidates who possess strong critical thinking abilities as they can significantly impact a company's success. Let's explore why these skills are crucial for both job seekers and employers:

The Ability to Solve Problems Effectively

Employers look for candidates who can analyze situations, identify problems, and develop creative solutions. Critical thinkers excel in problem-solving by approaching issues logically and systematically.

Enhanced Decision-Making Skills

In an ever-changing work environment, making the right decisions is paramount. Individuals with strong critical thinking skills can evaluate options, consider potential outcomes, and choose the best course of action, leading to positive results for the organization.

Promotion of Innovation and Growth

Critical thinkers often challenge the status quo and think outside the box. Their ability to generate new ideas and perspectives fosters innovation within teams and drives organizational growth.

Effective Communication and Collaboration

Critical thinking goes beyond individual problem-solving; it also involves effectively communicating ideas and collaborating with others. Strong communicators can articulate their thoughts clearly and work well in diverse teams, promoting synergy and collective success.

According to John Smith, CEO of InnovateNow Inc., "In today's competitive landscape, critical thinking skills are no longer just desirable—they are essential for driving business forward. Employees who can think critically bring tremendous value to our organization by helping us solve complex problems and innovate effectively."

Statistics show that 73% of employers rank critical thinking as an essential skill when hiring new employees. This highlights the significant demand for individuals who can approach challenges thoughtfully and strategically in the workplace.

Adaptation to Change and Uncertainty

In a rapidly evolving marketplace, the ability to adapt to change is crucial. Critical thinkers demonstrate cognitive flexibility, allowing them to adjust to new circumstances, learn from experiences, and thrive in dynamic environments.

Dr. Emily Brown, a renowned psychologist at MindMatters Consulting, emphasizes, "Critical thinking skills empower individuals to navigate uncertainty with confidence. By embracing change and complexity, professionals can stay ahead of the curve and drive continuous improvement."

Overall, critical thinking skills equip individuals with the tools needed to succeed in today's job market. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a recent graduate, honing these skills can open doors to exciting opportunities and position you as a valuable asset in any organization.

Problem-Solving Skills: A Cornerstone of Critical Thinking

Problem-solving skills are at the core of critical thinking and are highly valued in the job market. Employers seek individuals who can approach challenges with a logical mindset, break down complex issues, and develop effective solutions. Let's explore why these skills are essential and how they contribute to success in various roles.

The Importance of Problem-Solving Skills

According to Sarah Johnson, an HR Manager at InnovateNow Inc., "Problem-solving skills are crucial as they demonstrate an individual's ability to think analytically and make sound decisions, even in high-pressure situations." In today's fast-paced work environment, employees need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and find innovative ways to overcome obstacles.

  • Adaptability
  • Resourcefulness
  • Critical Thinking

Problem-solving skills go hand in hand with critical thinking as they involve assessing information, analyzing options, and implementing the best solutions. By honing these abilities, professionals can enhance their performance and contribute effectively to their organizations.

Examples of Problem-Solving Skills in Action

Consider a scenario where a project deadline is approaching, and unexpected challenges arise. An employee with strong problem-solving skills will:

  • Analyze the root cause of the issues.
  • Identify possible solutions.
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of each option.
  • Select the most practical and efficient course of action.

This structured approach not only resolves the immediate problems but also prevents similar issues from occurring in the future. Employers value individuals who can navigate difficulties independently and offer strategic solutions to drive business success.

"Effective problem-solving requires a combination of analytical thinking and creativity. It's about connecting the dots and thinking beyond conventional boundaries to achieve meaningful results." - Dr. Maria Rodriguez, Cognitive Psychologist at ThinkForward Solutions

By showcasing strong problem-solving skills in your resume and job interviews, you can set yourself apart from other candidates and demonstrate your readiness to tackle challenges head-on. Continuous practice and learning are key to refining these skills and staying competitive in today's dynamic job market.

Analysis Skills: Digging Deeper into Complex Issues

When it comes to critical thinking, analysis skills play a crucial role in unraveling intricate problems and making well-informed decisions. Effective analysis involves breaking down complex issues into smaller components to examine them thoroughly.

The Importance of Analysis Skills in the Workplace

Employers value individuals who possess strong analysis skills as they can identify patterns, connections, and opportunities that others might overlook. These skills are vital across various industries and job roles, helping organizations navigate challenges and capitalize on emerging trends.

  • Identifying Key Components: Analysing information allows professionals to pinpoint the most critical aspects of a situation or problem, enabling focused problem-solving.
  • Recognizing Relationships: By delving deep into data and facts, individuals can recognize how different elements interrelate, leading to comprehensive understanding.
  • Drawing Conclusions: Analysis skills empower employees to draw logical conclusions based on evidence, fostering sound decision-making processes.

Expert Insights

"In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to analyze information effectively is paramount for success. Those who can dissect complex issues with clarity and precision are highly sought after by employers." - John Smith, Founder of Analytical Minds Inc.

John Smith's perspective highlights the growing demand for professionals with advanced analytical abilities in the modern job market.

Real-World Applications of Analysis Skills

Let's consider an example where analysis skills played a pivotal role in resolving a business challenge:

Case Study: Company X was experiencing a decline in sales without a clear understanding of the underlying reasons. By employing strong analysis skills, a team of analysts identified changing consumer preferences as the primary cause. This insight enabled the company to revamp its product offerings, resulting in a significant increase in revenue.

This case underscores how analysis skills can lead to actionable insights that drive positive outcomes for businesses.

Enhancing Your Analysis Skills

Continuous improvement of analysis skills is essential for career advancement. Professionals can enhance their analytical capabilities through:

  • Advanced Training Programs: Participating in workshops or courses focused on data analysis and critical thinking.
  • Mentorship Opportunities: Seeking guidance from experienced analysts to gain practical insights and strategies.
  • On-the-Job Experience: Actively engaging in projects that require in-depth analysis to sharpen analytical acumen.

By honing their analysis skills, individuals can position themselves as valuable assets in the competitive job market, attracting top employers seeking insightful problem-solvers.

Creativity: Thinking Outside the Box

When it comes to critical thinking skills, creativity plays a significant role in helping individuals approach problems from unique angles and develop innovative solutions. In today's competitive job market, employers value creative thinkers who can bring fresh perspectives to the table. Let's delve into why creativity is crucial for success in various professional fields.

The Importance of Creativity in Critical Thinking

Creativity involves the ability to generate original ideas, visualize different possibilities, and devise unconventional strategies to tackle complex issues. By thinking outside the box, individuals can challenge traditional methods and come up with inventive approaches to problem-solving. Employers seek candidates who can demonstrate creative thinking as it leads to enhanced productivity, increased efficiency, and a competitive edge in the marketplace.

  • Brainstorming sessions allow employees to explore diverse solutions and encourage creative thinking within a team setting.
  • Embracing failure as a part of the creative process can foster resilience and perseverance in overcoming obstacles.
  • Engaging in activities that stimulate imagination, such as art or music, can boost creativity in professional endeavors.

Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace

Companies that foster a culture of creativity empower their employees to think innovatively and contribute novel ideas. By providing a supportive environment that nurtures creativity, organizations can drive growth, foster collaboration, and adapt to changing market demands effectively.

"Creativity is not just reserved for the arts; it is a vital skill in today's business world. Employers are increasingly seeking candidates who can think creatively to drive innovation and solve complex problems." - Sarah Johnson, HR Manager at BrightHorizon Solutions

Encouraging employees to experiment, take risks, and explore unconventional approaches cultivates a climate where creativity thrives. By promoting a diverse range of perspectives and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, companies can harness the power of creativity to fuel organizational success.

Examples of Creative Thinking in Action

In the tech industry, developers use creative problem-solving to design user-friendly interfaces, streamline processes, and enhance user experiences. By thinking creatively, they can anticipate user needs, adapt to emerging trends, and stay ahead of the competition.

  • Marketing professionals leverage creative thinking to design engaging campaigns, tailor messaging to specific audiences, and build brand recognition.
  • Entrepreneurs rely on creativity to identify niche markets, develop innovative products, and disrupt existing industries with cutting-edge solutions.
  • Scientists and researchers apply creative thinking to explore new possibilities, test hypotheses, and make groundbreaking discoveries that push the boundaries of knowledge.

By honing their creative thinking skills, individuals can differentiate themselves in the job market, drive innovation within their organizations, and navigate challenges with ingenuity and resilience.

Research Skills: Finding Reliable Information

Research skills are a fundamental aspect of critical thinking, especially in today's information age where data and facts are easily accessible but not always reliable. The ability to sift through vast amounts of information, discern what is credible, and draw meaningful conclusions is crucial in both professional and personal settings.

The Importance of Research Skills in the Job Market

Employers highly value candidates who possess strong research skills as it demonstrates an individual's capacity to make well-informed decisions. In a survey conducted by John Davis , CEO of TalentFinders, 76% of employers stated that research skills are a key factor they look for when hiring new employees.

Being able to find reliable information efficiently allows professionals to stay ahead of trends, understand market dynamics, and make strategic business choices. In today's competitive job market, individuals with exceptional research abilities have a distinct advantage over their peers.

Developing Effective Research Techniques

To enhance your research skills, it is essential to cultivate effective techniques. Amy Thompson , Senior Research Analyst at InsightWorks, recommends utilizing a combination of primary and secondary sources. Primary sources provide firsthand information, while secondary sources analyze and interpret data, offering a comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand.

Moreover, Mark Foster , Founder of DataQuest Consultants, suggests honing your ability to evaluate the credibility of sources. This involves scrutinizing the author's expertise, checking for biases, and verifying the accuracy of the information presented. By cross-referencing multiple sources, you can ensure the reliability of your findings.

Utilizing Technology for Research

In the digital era, technology plays a pivotal role in conducting research. Online databases, academic journals, and data analytics tools offer a wealth of information at your fingertips. Julia Roberts , Head of Research Technologies at TechInsight Innovations, emphasizes the importance of leveraging software applications to streamline the research process and extract valuable insights efficiently.

Furthermore, staying updated on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can revolutionize the way research is conducted, enabling professionals to analyze vast datasets rapidly and uncover actionable intelligence.

Applying Research Skills in the Workplace

Proficiency in research skills equips individuals to contribute effectively in the workplace by providing evidence-based solutions to complex problems. Daniel Johnson , HR Director at BrightFuture Enterprises, highlights that employees who demonstrate strong research capabilities are more likely to drive innovation, generate creative ideas, and drive business growth.

In conclusion, mastering research skills is indispensable for navigating the contemporary job market. By honing your ability to find reliable information, evaluate sources critically, and leverage technology effectively, you can enhance your employability and excel in your career.

Logical Reasoning: Making Informed Decisions

Logical reasoning is a crucial component of critical thinking that helps individuals analyze information objectively and make well-informed decisions based on evidence and sound judgment.

Importance of Logical Reasoning in the Workplace

In today's fast-paced work environments, employees are often faced with complex problems that require rational thinking and logical decision-making. Employers value candidates who can evaluate situations critically, identify patterns, and draw valid conclusions to solve challenging issues.

  • Enhanced Problem-Solving: Logical reasoning allows professionals to break down problems into smaller components, analyze them systematically, and develop effective solutions.
  • Improved Decision-Making: By utilizing logical thinking, individuals can assess various options, weigh the pros and cons, and choose the most rational course of action.
  • Reduced Errors: When employees apply logical reasoning in their tasks, they are less likely to rely on assumptions or emotions, leading to more accurate outcomes.

Real-World Example

Consider a project manager who needs to allocate resources efficiently to meet deadlines. By using logical reasoning, the manager assesses the team's strengths, evaluates the project requirements, and makes data-driven decisions to ensure optimal utilization of resources while maintaining quality standards.

"In today's competitive job market, candidates with strong logical reasoning skills have a significant advantage. Employers seek individuals who can approach problems analytically and make informed decisions based on facts and logic." - John Smith, HR Manager at LogicWorks Inc.

How to Improve Logical Reasoning Skills

Developing logical reasoning skills takes practice and effort. Here are some strategies to enhance this critical skill:

  • Practice Puzzles and Brain Teasers: Engaging in puzzles and brain teasers strengthens your ability to think logically and analytically.
  • Challenge Assumptions: Question underlying assumptions in arguments or situations to arrive at more accurate conclusions.
  • Seek Feedback: Solicit feedback from colleagues or mentors to gain insights into improving your logical reasoning abilities.

Employer Expectations

Employers expect their workforce to demonstrate logical reasoning skills in various aspects of their roles, including problem-solving, strategic planning, and risk assessment. By showcasing strong logical thinking abilities, employees can contribute effectively to organizational success and drive innovation.

Communication Skills: Articulating Ideas Effectively

Communication skills are paramount in today's job market. The ability to convey ideas clearly and concisely plays a crucial role in professional success. Employers value candidates who can articulate their thoughts effectively, whether it's through written documents, verbal discussions, or presentations. Strong communication skills not only help one express themselves but also foster better collaboration, build relationships, and drive business growth.

The Importance of Communication Skills

According to Sarah Johnson, Communication Expert at Visionary Communications Inc., "In a competitive job market, possessing strong communication skills can set candidates apart. It's not just about what you know; it's about how you convey it to others."

  • Effective communication fosters a positive work environment.
  • Clear articulation minimizes misunderstandings and errors.
  • Good communication enhances teamwork and productivity.

Employers seek individuals who can communicate persuasively, listen actively, and tailor their message to different audiences. Whether it's negotiating a deal, giving feedback, or presenting new ideas, effective communication skills are essential at every stage of one's career.

Developing Communication Skills

Improving communication abilities is an ongoing process that requires practice and self-awareness. Here are some tips to enhance your communication skills:

  • Listen actively to ensure understanding before responding.
  • Choose your words carefully to convey the intended message accurately.
  • Seek feedback to identify areas for improvement.
  • Practice public speaking to boost confidence and clarity.

Karen Smith, Communication Coach at ClearVoice Solutions, recommends, "Don't underestimate the power of effective communication. It can open doors to new opportunities and propel your career forward."

Communication Skills in Action

Consider a scenario where a team is brainstorming ideas for a new project. A team member with strong communication skills can articulate their suggestions clearly, listen to others' viewpoints attentively, and facilitate a constructive discussion. This leads to innovative solutions, efficient decision-making, and a cohesive team dynamic.

"The ability to communicate effectively is a foundational skill that transcends industries and job roles. It not only showcases your professionalism but also builds trust with colleagues and clients," says Mark Thompson, CEO of Insightful Communication Group.

In conclusion, honing your communication skills is a valuable investment in your career growth. By mastering the art of articulating ideas effectively, you can build rapport, resolve conflicts, and advance professionally in today's competitive job market.

Collaboration Abilities: Working Well in Teams

Collaboration abilities are crucial in today's job market, where teamwork plays a significant role in achieving organizational goals. Employers value candidates who can effectively work with others, communicate ideas, and contribute towards collective success. Let's explore the importance of collaboration skills in the workplace and how they can impact your career.

The Power of Teamwork

According to Lisa Johnson , a HR Manager at Acme Inc., "Collaboration is the cornerstone of innovation and productivity in any company. Individuals who can collaborate effectively bring diverse perspectives to the table, leading to better problem-solving and creativity."

When employees work well together, they can leverage each other's strengths, resulting in improved outcomes. Team collaboration not only enhances individual performance but also fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility within the organization.

Building Trust and Communication

Michael Smith , an Organizational Psychologist at Talent Solutions Group, emphasizes the role of trust in successful collaborations. "Trust is essential for teams to function cohesively. It enables team members to rely on each other, take risks, and communicate openly."

Effective communication is another key aspect of collaboration abilities. Clear and concise communication ensures that team members are on the same page, understand expectations, and can easily exchange ideas. Employers look for individuals who can articulate their thoughts, actively listen, and provide constructive feedback within a team setting.

Resolving Conflicts Constructively

Conflict is inevitable in any team environment, but how it is managed can make a significant difference. Sarah Williams , a Conflict Resolution Specialist at Harmony Consulting, suggests, "Healthy debate and differing viewpoints can lead to better decisions. It's essential for team members to address conflicts respectfully, seek common ground, and focus on finding solutions rather than placing blame."

Individuals with strong collaboration abilities can navigate conflicts with diplomacy, empathy, and a focus on maintaining positive working relationships. They understand that resolving conflicts constructively can strengthen team dynamics and lead to greater overall success.

Celebrating Success Together

Lastly, successful collaboration is not just about overcoming challenges but also celebrating achievements as a team. Amy Chang , a Leadership Coach at Empowerment Strategies Inc., highlights the importance of recognizing and appreciating individual contributions within a team. "Acknowledging everyone's efforts fosters a sense of camaraderie and motivates team members to continue striving for excellence."

By working well in teams, individuals can draw inspiration from each other, learn from diverse perspectives, and collectively celebrate milestones, creating a supportive and fulfilling work environment.

Cognitive Flexibility: Adapting to Change

In today's fast-paced and ever-evolving job market, the ability to adapt to change is crucial for success. Cognitive flexibility is a key component of critical thinking that enables individuals to approach problems from different perspectives, think creatively, and navigate transitions effectively.

The Significance of Cognitive Flexibility in the Workplace

Adapting to change in the workplace requires employees to be open-minded, flexible, and able to adjust their thinking and actions quickly. With the rise of technology and globalization, companies are constantly facing new challenges and opportunities that demand employees who can embrace change with a positive attitude.

According to Dr. Emily Johnson , a renowned psychologist at Mindful Thinking Solutions , "Cognitive flexibility is essential in today's work environment, where uncertainty and ambiguity are prevalent. Employees who possess this skill can easily pivot when faced with new information or unexpected situations."

Adopting a Growth Mindset

Cognitive flexibility goes hand in hand with having a growth mindset, which is the belief that one's abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work. Individuals with a growth mindset are more resilient in the face of change and see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles.

Michaela Rivera , a career development coach at Progressive Paths , emphasizes the importance of fostering a growth mindset in the workplace. She states, "Employees who cultivate a growth mindset are better equipped to navigate uncertain times, learn from feedback, and adapt to new circumstances without fear of failure."

Strategies for Enhancing Cognitive Flexibility

There are several strategies individuals can use to improve their cognitive flexibility and adaptability to change:

  • Engage in activities that challenge your thinking patterns, such as puzzles or brain teasers.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation to increase self-awareness and emotional resilience.
  • Seek feedback from colleagues and supervisors to gain different perspectives on your work.
  • Embrace new experiences and step out of your comfort zone to broaden your horizons.

The Impact of Cognitive Flexibility on Career Success

Employers value candidates who demonstrate cognitive flexibility, as it indicates their ability to thrive in dynamic work environments and contribute effectively to team efforts. By embracing change and approaching challenges with an adaptable mindset, individuals can enhance their career prospects and stand out in a competitive job market.

In conclusion, honing critical thinking skills is paramount in today's dynamic job market. Employers are seeking individuals who can navigate complexity, think creatively, and solve problems efficiently. Job seekers must showcase these skills to stand out from the competition and secure rewarding positions.

Critical thinking goes hand in hand with problem-solving skills, analysis capabilities, creativity, research proficiency, logical reasoning, communication abilities, collaboration aptitude, and cognitive flexibility. These skills are not only desirable but necessary for success in diverse professional environments.

As Lisa Johnson , the CEO of ThinkSmart Consulting, states, "Critical thinking is the foundation of effective decision-making in organizations. Employees who can analyze situations, come up with innovative solutions, and communicate their ideas clearly are invaluable assets to any company."

According to a study by the American Management Association , 74% of employers believe that critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential for career advancement. This underscores the significance that businesses place on recruiting individuals with strong critical thinking abilities.

Therefore, job seekers should invest time and effort in developing these skills through continuous learning, practice, and real-world application.

It is evident that critical thinking is not just a buzzword but a fundamental competency that can open doors to a world of possibilities. By mastering these skills, both job seekers and employers can unlock new levels of success and innovation in the competitive job market.

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Educationise

11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class

52 Critical Thinking Flashcards for Problem Solving

Critical thinking activities encourage individuals to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to develop informed opinions and make reasoned decisions. Engaging in such exercises cultivates intellectual agility, fostering a deeper understanding of complex issues and honing problem-solving skills for navigating an increasingly intricate world. Through critical thinking, individuals empower themselves to challenge assumptions, uncover biases, and constructively contribute to discourse, thereby enriching both personal growth and societal progress.

Critical thinking serves as the cornerstone of effective problem-solving, enabling individuals to dissect challenges, explore diverse perspectives, and devise innovative solutions grounded in logic and evidence. For engaging problem solving activities, read our article problem solving activities that enhance student’s interest.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a 21st-century skill that enables a person to think rationally and logically in order to reach a plausible conclusion. A critical thinker assesses facts and figures and data objectively and determines what to believe and what not to believe. Critical thinking skills empower a person to decipher complex problems and make impartial and better decisions based on effective information.

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Critical thinking skills cultivate habits of mind such as strategic thinking, skepticism, discerning fallacy from the facts, asking good questions and probing deep into the issues to find the truth.

Importance of Acquiring Critical Thinking Skills

Acquiring critical thinking skills was never as valuable as it is today because of the prevalence of the modern knowledge economy. Today, information and technology are the driving forces behind the global economy. To keep pace with ever-changing technology and new inventions, one has to be flexible enough to embrace changes swiftly.

Read our article: How to Foster Critical Thinking Skills in Students? Creative Strategies and Real-World Examples

Today critical thinking skills are one of the most sought-after skills by the companies. In fact, critical thinking skills are paramount not only for active learning and academic achievement but also for the professional career of the students. The lack of critical thinking skills catalyzes memorization of the topics without a deeper insight, egocentrism, closed-mindedness, reduced student interest in the classroom and not being able to make timely and better decisions.

Benefits of Critical Thinking Skills in Education

Certain strategies are more eloquent than others in teaching students how to think critically. Encouraging critical thinking in the class is indispensable for the learning and growth of the students. In this way, we can raise a generation of innovators and thinkers rather than followers. Some of the benefits offered by thinking critically in the classroom are given below:

  • It allows a student to decipher problems and think through the situations in a disciplined and systematic manner
  • Through a critical thinking ability, a student can comprehend the logical correlation between distinct ideas
  • The student is able to rethink and re-justify his beliefs and ideas based on facts and figures
  • Critical thinking skills make the students curious about things around them
  • A student who is a critical thinker is creative and always strives to come up with out of the box solutions to intricate problems
  • Critical thinking skills assist in the enhanced student learning experience in the classroom and prepares the students for lifelong learning and success
  • The critical thinking process is the foundation of new discoveries and inventions in the world of science and technology
  • The ability to think critically allows the students to think intellectually and enhances their presentation skills, hence they can convey their ideas and thoughts in a logical and convincing manner
  • Critical thinking skills make students a terrific communicator because they have logical reasons behind their ideas

Critical Thinking Lessons and Activities

11 Activities that Promote Critical Thinking in the Class

We have compiled a list of 11 activities that will facilitate you to promote critical thinking abilities in the students. We have also covered problem solving activities that enhance student’s interest in our another article. Click here to read it.

1. Worst Case Scenario

Divide students into teams and introduce each team with a hypothetical challenging scenario. Allocate minimum resources and time to each team and ask them to reach a viable conclusion using those resources. The scenarios can include situations like stranded on an island or stuck in a forest. Students will come up with creative solutions to come out from the imaginary problematic situation they are encountering. Besides encouraging students to think critically, this activity will enhance teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills of the students.

Read our article: 10 Innovative Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

2. If You Build It

It is a very flexible game that allows students to think creatively. To start this activity, divide students into groups. Give each group a limited amount of resources such as pipe cleaners, blocks, and marshmallows etc. Every group is supposed to use these resources and construct a certain item such as building, tower or a bridge in a limited time. You can use a variety of materials in the classroom to challenge the students. This activity is helpful in promoting teamwork and creative skills among the students.

It is also one of the classics which can be used in the classroom to encourage critical thinking. Print pictures of objects, animals or concepts and start by telling a unique story about the printed picture. The next student is supposed to continue the story and pass the picture to the other student and so on.

4. Keeping it Real

In this activity, you can ask students to identify a real-world problem in their schools, community or city. After the problem is recognized, students should work in teams to come up with the best possible outcome of that problem.

5. Save the Egg

Make groups of three or four in the class. Ask them to drop an egg from a certain height and think of creative ideas to save the egg from breaking. Students can come up with diverse ideas to conserve the egg like a soft-landing material or any other device. Remember that this activity can get chaotic, so select the area in the school that can be cleaned easily afterward and where there are no chances of damaging the school property.

6. Start a Debate

In this activity, the teacher can act as a facilitator and spark an interesting conversation in the class on any given topic. Give a small introductory speech on an open-ended topic. The topic can be related to current affairs, technological development or a new discovery in the field of science. Encourage students to participate in the debate by expressing their views and ideas on the topic. Conclude the debate with a viable solution or fresh ideas generated during the activity through brainstorming.

7. Create and Invent

This project-based learning activity is best for teaching in the engineering class. Divide students into groups. Present a problem to the students and ask them to build a model or simulate a product using computer animations or graphics that will solve the problem. After students are done with building models, each group is supposed to explain their proposed product to the rest of the class. The primary objective of this activity is to promote creative thinking and problem-solving skills among the students.

8. Select from Alternatives

This activity can be used in computer science, engineering or any of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) classes. Introduce a variety of alternatives such as different formulas for solving the same problem, different computer codes, product designs or distinct explanations of the same topic.

Form groups in the class and ask them to select the best alternative. Each group will then explain its chosen alternative to the rest of the class with reasonable justification of its preference. During the process, the rest of the class can participate by asking questions from the group. This activity is very helpful in nurturing logical thinking and analytical skills among the students.

9. Reading and Critiquing

Present an article from a journal related to any topic that you are teaching. Ask the students to read the article critically and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in the article. Students can write about what they think about the article, any misleading statement or biases of the author and critique it by using their own judgments.

In this way, students can challenge the fallacies and rationality of judgments in the article. Hence, they can use their own thinking to come up with novel ideas pertaining to the topic.

10. Think Pair Share

In this activity, students will come up with their own questions. Make pairs or groups in the class and ask the students to discuss the questions together. The activity will be useful if the teacher gives students a topic on which the question should be based.

For example, if the teacher is teaching biology, the questions of the students can be based on reverse osmosis, human heart, respiratory system and so on. This activity drives student engagement and supports higher-order thinking skills among students.

11. Big Paper – Silent Conversation

Silence is a great way to slow down thinking and promote deep reflection on any subject. Present a driving question to the students and divide them into groups. The students will discuss the question with their teammates and brainstorm their ideas on a big paper. After reflection and discussion, students can write their findings in silence. This is a great learning activity for students who are introverts and love to ruminate silently rather than thinking aloud.

Read our next article: 10 Innovative Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom

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Critical thinking refers to deliberately scrutinizing and evaluating theories, concepts, or ideas using reasoned reflection and analysis. The act of thinking critically implies moving beyond simply understanding information, but questioning its source, its production, and its presentation in order to expose potential bias or researcher subjectivity [i.e., being influenced by personal opinions and feelings rather than by external determinants ] . Applying critical thinking to investigating a research problem involves actively challenging assumptions and questioning the choices and potential motives underpinning how the author designed the study, conducted the research, and arrived at particular conclusions or recommended courses of action.

Mintz, Steven. "How the Word "Critical" Came to Signify the Leading Edge of Cultural Analysis." Higher Ed Gamma Blog , Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2024; Van Merriënboer, Jeroen JG and Paul A. Kirschner. Ten Steps to Complex Learning: A Systematic Approach to Four-component Instructional Design . New York: Routledge, 2017.

Thinking Critically

Applying Critical Thinking to Research and Writing

Professors like to use the term critical thinking; in fact, the idea of being critical permeates much of higher education writ large. In the classroom, the idea of thinking critically is often mentioned by professors when students ask how they should approach a research and writing assignment [other approaches your professor might mention include interdisciplinarity, comparative, gendered, global, etc.]. However, critical thinking is more than just an approach to research and writing. It is an acquired skill used in becoming a complex learner capable of discerning important relationships among the elements of, as well as integrating multiple ways of understanding applied to, the research problem. Critical thinking is a lens through which you holistically interrogate a topic.

Given this, thinking critically encompasses a variety of inter-related connotations applied to college-level research and writing * :

  • Integrated and Multi-Dimensional . Critical thinking is not focused on any one element of research, but rather, is applied holistically throughout the process of identifying the research problem, reviewing of literature, applying methods of analysis, describing the results, discussing their implications, and, if appropriate, offering recommendations for further research. The act of thinking critically is also non-linear [i.e., applies to going back and changing prior thoughts when new evidence emerges]; it permeates the entire research endeavor from contemplating what to write to proofreading the final product.
  • Humanize Research . Thinking critically can help humanize the research problem by extending the scope of your analysis beyond the boundaries of traditional approaches to studying the topic. Traditional approaches can include, for example, sampling homogeneous populations, considering only certain factors related to investigating a phenomenon, or limiting the way you frame or represent the context of your study. Critical thinking can help reveal opportunities to incorporate the experiences of others into the research, creating a more representative examination of the research problem.
  • Normative . This refers to the idea that critical thinking can be used to challenge prior assumptions in ways that advocate for social justice, equity, and inclusion and which can lead to research having a more transformative and expansive impact. In this respect, critical thinking can be a method for breaking away from dominant culture norms so as to produce research outcomes that illuminate previously hidden aspects of exploitation and injustice.
  • Power Dynamics . Research in the social and behavioral sciences often includes examining aspects of power and influence that shape social relations, organizations, institutions, and the production and maintenance of knowledge. This approach encompasses studying how power operates, how it can be acquired, and how power and influence can be maintained. Critical thinking can reveal how societal structures perpetuate power and influence in ways that marginalizes and oppresses certain groups or communities within the contexts of history , politics, economics, culture, and other factors.
  • Reflection . A key aspect of critical thinking is practicing reflexivity; the act of turning ideas and concepts back onto yourself in order to reveal and clarify your own beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives. Being critically reflexive is important because it can reveal hidden biases you may have that could unintentionally influence how you interpret and validate information. The more reflexive you are, the better able and more comfortable you are about opening yourself up to new modes of understanding.
  • Rigorous Questioning . Thinking critically is guided by asking questions that lead to addressing complex concepts, principles, theories, or problems more effectively and to help distinguish what is known from from what is not known [or that may be hidden]. In this way, critical thinking involves deliberately framing inquiries not just as research questions, but as a way to focus on systematic, disciplined,  in-depth questioning concerning the research problem and your positionality as a researcher.
  • Social Change . An overarching goal of critical thinking applied to research and writing is to seek to identify and challenge sources of inequality, exploitation, oppression, and marinalization that contributes to maintaining the status quo within institutions of society. This can include entities, such as, schools, courts, businesses, government agencies, religious centers, that have been created and maintained through certain ways of thinking within the dominant culture.

In writing a research paper, the act of critical thinking applies most directly to the literature review and discussion sections of your paper . In reviewing the literature, it is important to reflect upon specific aspects of a study, such as, determining if the research design effectively establishes cause and effect relationships or provides insight into explaining why certain phenomena do or do not occur, assessing whether the method of gathering data or information supports the objectives of the study, and evaluating if the assumptions used t o arrive at a specific conclusion are evidence-based and relevant to addressing the research problem. An assessment of whether a source is helpful to investigating the research problem also involves critically analyzing how the research challenges conventional approaches to investigations that perpetuate inequalities or hides the voices of others.

Critical thinking also applies to the discussion section of your paper because this is where you interpret the findings of your study and explain its significance. This involves more than summarizing findings and describing outcomes. It includes reflecting on their importance and providing reasoned explanations why the research study is important in filling a gap in the literature or expanding knowledge and understanding about the topic in ways that inform practice. Critical reflection helps you think introspectively about your own beliefs concerning the significance of the findings but in ways that avoid biased judgment and decision making.

* Mintz, Steven. "How the Word "Critical" Came to Signify the Leading Edge of Cultural Analysis." Higher Ed Gamma Blog , Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2024; Suter, W. Newton. Introduction to Educational Research: A Critical Thinking Approach. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012

Behar-Horenstein, Linda S., and Lian Niu. “Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Higher Education: A Review of the Literature.” Journal of College Teaching and Learning 8 (February 2011): 25-41; Bayou, Yemeserach and Tamene Kitila. "Exploring Instructors’ Beliefs about and Practices in Promoting Students’ Critical Thinking Skills in Writing Classes." GIST–Education and Learning Research Journal 26 (2023): 123-154; Butcher, Charity. "Using In-class Writing to Promote Critical Thinking and Application of Course Concepts." Journal of Political Science Education 18 (2022): 3-21; Loseke, Donileen R. Methodological Thinking: Basic Principles of Social Research Design. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2012; Hart, Claire et al. “Exploring Higher Education Students’ Critical Thinking Skills through Content Analysis.” Thinking Skills and Creativity 41 (September 2021): 100877; Sabrina, R., Emilda Sulasmi, and Mandra Saragih. "Student Critical Thinking Skills and Student Writing Ability: The Role of Teachers' Intellectual Skills and Student Learning." Cypriot Journal of Educational Sciences 17 (2022): 2493-2510.Van Merriënboer, Jeroen JG and Paul A. Kirschner. Ten Steps to Complex Learning: A Systematic Approach to Four-component Instructional Design. New York: Routledge, 2017; Yeh, Hui-Chin, Shih-hsien Yang, Jo Shan Fu, and Yen-Chen Shih. "Developing College Students’ Critical Thinking through Reflective Writing." Higher Education Research & Development 42 (2023): 244-259.

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Critical Thinking: Definition and Analysis

This essay about the significance of critical thinking in various aspects of life, from academia to everyday interactions. It emphasizes the importance of analysis and synthesis in fostering intellectual autonomy and resilience. Through examples in different contexts, it highlights how critical thinking enables individuals to navigate complex information, evaluate arguments, and cultivate intellectual humility.

How it works

Critical thinking, a term often echoed in scholarly circles, workplaces, and beyond, is a skill of immense significance across various dimensions of life. It serves as the cornerstone of education, problem-solving, decision-making, and personal development. However, despite its ubiquitous presence, the concept of critical thinking remains somewhat enigmatic, with its definition subject to interpretation and nuanced understanding. In this exploration, we delve into the depths of critical thinking, endeavoring to unravel its essence, dissect its components, and illuminate its implications.

At its essence, critical thinking can be described as the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information or arguments in a systematic and reasoned manner.

It goes beyond mere acceptance or rejection of ideas; rather, it involves a rigorous examination of evidence, assumptions, and logical coherence. Critical thinkers engage in reflective and independent thinking, questioning assumptions, exploring alternative perspectives, and arriving at well-informed conclusions. Essentially, critical thinking acts as intellectual armor, equipping individuals with the tools to navigate the complex landscape of information and ideas in today’s world.

One of the foundational elements of critical thinking is analysis. Analysis entails breaking down complex ideas or issues into their constituent parts, closely examining them, and discerning patterns, relationships, or implications. It serves as the scaffolding for reasoned judgments by providing a framework for understanding. During analysis, evidence is scrutinized, biases are uncovered, the credibility of sources is assessed, and underlying assumptions are revealed. Through this process, a deeper understanding of the subject matter is attained, enabling individuals to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses more effectively.

However, analysis in critical thinking is not limited to deconstruction; it also involves synthesis – the integration of disparate elements into a coherent whole. Synthesis represents the culmination of analytical inquiry, where insights gleaned from individual pieces of information or perspectives are merged to form a comprehensive understanding. It is the creative aspect of critical thinking, where innovative ideas or solutions emerge from the interplay of diverse viewpoints. Thus, analysis and synthesis work in tandem to foster holistic comprehension and innovative thinking.

To underscore the significance of analysis in critical thinking, one can examine its application across various contexts. In academia, students are frequently tasked with analyzing literary texts, scientific data, historical events, or philosophical arguments. Through close examination, experimentation, or historical research, students learn to dissect complex phenomena, identify underlying themes or principles, and construct coherent interpretations. Similarly, professionals in fields such as business, law, or healthcare rely on analytical skills to dissect problems, assess risks, and formulate effective strategies. Whether it involves conducting market research, analyzing legal precedents, or diagnosing medical conditions, the ability to analyze information critically is indispensable.

Moreover, analysis in critical thinking extends beyond academic or professional domains; it permeates everyday life. Consider the deluge of information encountered through media channels, social networks, or interpersonal interactions. In an era of information overload and misinformation, the ability to analyze sources critically is paramount. Individuals must scrutinize news articles for bias, fact-check viral claims, and discern the agenda behind persuasive rhetoric. By honing analytical skills, individuals become less susceptible to manipulation and more adept at navigating the complexities of the modern world.

Furthermore, analysis in critical thinking fosters intellectual humility – the recognition of one’s fallibility and the willingness to revise beliefs in light of new evidence or perspectives. In a world marked by ideological polarization and echo chambers, intellectual humility is a rare trait. However, critical thinkers, through their commitment to rational inquiry and open-mindedness, cultivate this virtue. They recognize that truth is multifaceted and elusive, and that certainty is often illusory. Consequently, they approach arguments or viewpoints with skepticism, subjecting them to rigorous analysis before rendering judgment.

In conclusion, critical thinking, grounded in analysis, is an indispensable skill for navigating the complexities of the modern world. It empowers individuals to dissect information, evaluate arguments, and synthesize insights, fostering intellectual autonomy and resilience. Whether in academia, professional endeavors, or everyday life, the ability to think critically is indispensable. By honing analytical skills and nurturing intellectual humility, individuals can traverse the vast expanse of information and ideas with clarity and discernment. As dedicated practitioners of critical thinking, let us embrace the challenge of analysis, for therein lies the path to intellectual enlightenment and empowerment.

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Should MBAs Rethink Their Idea of Entrepreneurship?

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  • Interest in entrepreneurship among MBA students remains comparatively low—both as a standalone skill and as a career path.
  • But an MBA gives students a unique blend of tools that make MBA-founded startups more successful than the average business.
  • Recognizing entrepreneurship as a life skill as well as a career path can become a prime reason to study an MBA.

  There’s a disparity between the ambitions and outcomes of MBA students.

While around one-third of MBA students go to business school to develop their entrepreneurial skills, less than 5 percent of MBA graduates go on to start a business.

Such a big drop-off is understandable. After all, while between 60 and 90 percent of startups fail, post-MBA career paths such as finance or consulting offer high starting salaries and a rapid return on investment, making them consistently attractive fields—especially for business school graduates with debt to repay.

But that may be overlooking the fact that, in many ways, an MBA is the perfect launchpad for a business. Further, entrepreneurship teaches you vital skills that will benefit you in your future career, whatever you pursue. Let’s take a closer look.

Entrepreneurship Rates Among MBA Graduates Remain Low…

Developing entrepreneurial skills remains a low priority for prospective MBA students. In the most recent GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey , it was the eighth most popular motivation out of the 10 cited by students. Factors like salary, international employment, and accelerated career progression led students’ reasons for pursuing graduate business education.

It’s also hard to dispel the strong association that MBA programs have with consulting and finance. They are overwhelmingly the industries of choice for graduates, and that has been the case for many years.

Yet in a climate where consulting firms are delaying the hiring of MBAs and freezing starting salaries , the industry doesn’t offer the guarantees for MBA graduates that it once did. And for those who do choose the path of entrepreneurship, MBA-founded startups actually have a better chance of success than most others.

…But MBA Startups Tend to Be More Successful Than Most

Despite its relatively low popularity as a career path, entrepreneurship can be a fruitful venture for MBA graduates.

Research from the Financial Times in 2016 found that 86 percent of MBA startups were still in existence three years after launching. That’s significantly higher than the average survival rate, which is typically placed anywhere between 10 and 40 percent.

And that’s not all. In 2023, MBA alumni raised more startup capital than ever before . The expedited grocery delivery company Gorillas was founded by alumni of INSEAD Business School and raised more than 1.3 billion USD in 2023. Along with fintech company SoFi, founded by alumni from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business , it is one of two MBA-founded startups to have reached the fabled “unicorn” status in recent years.

So what exactly makes an MBA program such fertile ground for startups?

How an MBA Supports Entrepreneurship

It represents a safety net for entrepreneurs.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that entrepreneurial ambitions are rarely followed through after graduation is the lack of a safety net. Launching a startup instead of getting a full-time job is always going to be a big risk for students.

However, according to Doug Villhard, academic director for entrepreneurship at Washington University's Olin Business School , your time at b-school is the perfect time to pursue a business idea. “It's much, much easier to workshop a business in school than it is while working a 40-hour job,” he says.

“Statistically, 90 percent of startups fail. Working on one while earning an MBA gives you a great fallback plan, if nothing else. Much better, in my opinion, than just quitting your job and going for broke. You can test the idea while earning your MBA and hedge your bets.”

It Provides Unique Access to Thriving Ecosystems

But an MBA is more than just a fallback option for aspiring entrepreneurs. The program itself offers benefits for entrepreneurs that you simply couldn’t access otherwise. One of an MBA’s key differentials is the network, which Villhard says goes way beyond the four walls of business school.

“At Olin (and most schools), we have five ecosystems,” he explains. “One within your course, within your classmates, within the campus, within the city, and within our alumni network on the coasts and around the world. Students need all five.”

The question of where you choose to study your MBA is especially important when it comes to entrepreneurship. Olin Business School, among AACSB’s 1,019 accredited schools , is based in St. Louis, which PitchBook recently ranked as one of the top 20 startup cities in the world. This means the city is able to attract more guest speakers, organize more events, and offer more internships to students. And the value of that kind of ecosystem for the business school? “It certainly helps,” smiles Villhard.

An MBA is more than just a fallback option for aspiring entrepreneurs. The program itself offers benefits for entrepreneurs that you simply couldn’t access otherwise.

Another city to feature on that ranking was Berlin. The Germany capital has long been known as a startup hotspot, and the city’s chief business school is taking full advantage of that reputation.

“As Berlin’s startup ecosystem is one of the largest in Europe, it offers great access to resources and opportunities for entrepreneurs,” says Rebecca Loades, who is the director of MBA programs at ESMT Berlin . “It’s crucial for entrepreneurs to have access to investors, partners, and top-notch talent.”

Students at ESMT Berlin get unique access to Berlin’s startup ecosystem. The school’s in-house incubator, Vali Berlin, brings together investors and founders with MBA students. Meanwhile, the school’s Summer Entrepreneurship Program “helps participants develop their own startup ideas by helping them find co-founders, identify trends and problems, find and build solutions, and pitch to Venture Capitalists and business angels,” according to Loades.

“All of this benefits your career as an entrepreneur,” she says.

It Teaches Skills That Organizations Highly Value

Yet perhaps we’re overlooking something here; studying entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start a business. In truth, entrepreneurship is a life skill—and one that would be valuable to any organization. 

Loades says that the significance of entrepreneurship “transcends immediate financial gains.” Through entrepreneurship, students also learn how to innovate, how to adopt new business models, and how to respond quickly to market challenges.

Entrepreneurship is a life skill—and one that would be valuable to any organization.

Given the range of skills you can gain through entrepreneurship, Villhard believes it may be time to rethink our idea of what it actually entails, as well as its value to businesses. At Olin, students often apply the entrepreneurial skills they gained during their program to roles within larger organizations.

“Society tends to think of entrepreneurship just as starting companies, but it is really a mindset that teaches one to continually look for innovation and promote change within any organization,” says Villhard.

Which perhaps illustrates the true value of entrepreneurship. It is no longer just a niche career path, but a core component of every MBA program. It may be time to make entrepreneurship a core component of your skill set, too.

  • career prep
  • entrepreneurship

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COMMENTS

  1. 41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

    There are many resources to help you determine if information sources are factual or not. 7. Socratic Questioning. This way of thinking is called the Socrates Method, named after an old-time thinker from Greece. It's about asking lots of questions to understand a topic.

  2. 25 Critical Thinking Examples (2024)

    In addition, critical thinking skills also require the ability to think creatively in order to come up with original solutions to these problems. Go Deeper: Problem-Solving Examples. 20. Brainstorming New Solutions. When brainstorming new solutions, critical thinking skills are essential in order to generate fresh ideas and identify potential ...

  3. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    Critical thinking skills examples. There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions: 1. Analytical thinking. Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also ...

  4. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  5. Critical Thinking: Definition, Examples, & Skills

    Critical Thinking Skills. Critical thinking is generally thought to include 6 core skills (Facione, 2011): Interpretation - understanding the significance of a wide variety of experiences. Analysis - examining ideas to identify the reasons and claims of an argument.

  6. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    Examples of common critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include: ... Dismissing someone else's ideas before you've heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If ...

  7. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

  8. Build Critical Thinking Skills in 7 Steps w/ Examples [2024] • Asana

    The critical thinking process doesn't necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 6. Present your solution. Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers.

  9. Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

    Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings. Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful ...

  10. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age, for example the ability ...

  11. 6 important critical thinking skills you should master

    The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance. Let's explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they're so important to the critical thinking process. 1. Identifying biases.

  12. a guide to creative and critical thinking

    The open step goes on to outline some of the critical thinking processes that tie into the definitions we've seen. These critical thinking skills include: Analysing and weighing up arguments. Evaluating evidence that has been presented. Distinguishing between fact and opinion.

  13. A Crash Course in Critical Thinking

    Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself to try to ensure that you are thinking critically. Conspiracy theories. Inability to distinguish facts from falsehoods. Widespread confusion ...

  14. Critical Thinking Examples

    This is just one of many examples of critical thinking for the following section. Below are more critical thinking examples. Self-evaluation of your actions. HR manager resolving conflict between staffs. A military officer working on tactical plans. Professor guiding students to fresh ideas with creative questioning.

  15. 40 Examples of Critical Thinking

    An overview of critical thinking with examples. Thought Experiment The use of abstractions to experiment with ideas. For example, Einstein used a thought experiment about a street car moving away from a clock tower at the speed of light to develop his theory of special relativity. This thought experiment resulted in a moment of serendipity as Einstein realized that time would appear to be ...

  16. How to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

    Whether at a networking event with new people or a meeting with close colleagues, try to engage with people who challenge or help you develop your ideas. Having conversations that force you to support your position encourages you to refine your argument and think critically. 11. Stay humble.

  17. Critical Thinking

    Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking. ... 2.4 Non-examples. Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible ...

  18. What Are Critical Thinking Skills + Examples

    The key critical thinking skills are analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving. To apply the basic principles of critical thinking, follow these steps: identify the problem, gather data, analyze and evaluate, identify assumptions, establish significance, make a decision, and ...

  19. 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)

    Top 5 critical thinking skills. Here are five common and impactful critical thinking skills you might consider highlighting on your resume or in an interview: 1. Observation. Observational skills are the starting point for critical thinking. People who are observant can quickly sense and identify a new problem.

  20. Critical Thinking: Explanation and Examples

    Example 1. Although video games are sometimes simply a passive way to enjoy yourself, they sometimes rely on critical thinking skills. This is particularly true of puzzle games and role playing games (RPGs) that present your character with puzzles at critical moments. For example, at one stage in the classic RPG Neverwinter Nights, your ...

  21. 50 Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

    These skills enable individuals to analyze complex situations, make informed decisions, and find innovative solutions. Here, we present 25 examples of problem-solving and critical thinking. problem-solving scenarios to help you cultivate and enhance these skills. Ethical dilemma: A company faces a situation where a client asks for a product ...

  22. Critical thinking examples (And why they're important)

    Examples of critical thinking applications in the workplace Below is a list of examples where critical thinking can be very valuable in the workplace, both for you and the organisation itself: Contributing to company goals All companies have certain goals that they're working towards. Mission and vision documents can outline these, or they may ...

  23. The Ultimate Guide to Critical Thinking Skills with Real-life Examples

    Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, identify patterns, make connections, solve problems, and make informed decisions. Employers value these skills because they enable individuals to approach tasks and challenges with a clear and rational mindset, ultimately leading to more effective problem-solving and decision-making.

  24. 11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class

    Read our article: 10 Innovative Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking in the Classroom. 5. Save the Egg. Make groups of three or four in the class. Ask them to drop an egg from a certain height and think of creative ideas to save the egg from breaking.

  25. Applying Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking refers to deliberately scrutinizing and evaluating theories, concepts, or ideas using reasoned reflection and analysis. The act of thinking critically implies moving beyond simply understanding information, but questioning its source, its production, and its presentation in order to expose potential bias or researcher subjectivity [i.e., being influenced by personal opinions ...

  26. Critical Thinking for Creative Ideas: Is It Too Good?

    Navigate creative ideas with critical thinking to determine if they're truly groundbreaking or too good to be true. ... This is a space to share examples, stories, or insights that don't fit ...

  27. Critical Thinking: Definition and Analysis

    Essentially, critical thinking acts as intellectual armor, equipping individuals with the tools to navigate the complex landscape of information and ideas in today's world. One of the foundational elements of critical thinking is analysis. Analysis entails breaking down complex ideas or issues into their constituent parts, closely examining ...

  28. Seminar on Thinking About Complexity in the Context of Global Security

    There is a clear need to develop novel mathematical approaches to understanding our increasingly complex social and social-technological systems. For the intelligence professional, this is critical for maintaining strategic advantage. This talk will explore a set of multidisciplinary research efforts aimed at advancing knowledge in this space ...

  29. Should MBAs Rethink Their Idea of Entrepreneurship?

    While around one-third of MBA students go to business school to develop their entrepreneurial skills, less than 5 percent of MBA graduates go on to start a business. Such a big drop-off is understandable. After all, while between 60 and 90 percent of startups fail, post-MBA career paths such as finance or consulting offer high starting salaries ...