Critical thinking is highly acclaimed as the best way to train your mind to think better. It is a way to improve your quality of thinking through rational and unbiased evaluation of factual evidence. People use critical thinking skills every day and they are extremely important in several situations such as the academic and work world.
There are many characteristics of a good critical thinker and plenty of processes and strategies you can use to become a better critical thinker.
There are also certain things that completely derail critical thinking and lead to an unproductive, biased and closed-minded way of thinking contributes to many of the problems we face in the world today.
If more people used critical thinking skills as often as possible, it could lead to immense innovation, deep conversations and the elimination of a lot of the prejudices that are experienced everywhere.
Critical thinking is difficult to learn. Not everyone is born a natural critical thinker and to become a critical thinker requires long and consistent practice.
In that case, you might think, why should I even learn critical thinking? What if I’m not a natural-born critical thinker?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can start practicing critical thinking skills no matter what age you are. If you use them as often as possible, before you know it; you will find yourself able to take in large quantities of information, quickly summarize important details, clearly communicate and justify your own arguments and more.
The world of critical thinking is vast and can be hard to know where to begin, but taking it one step at a time and going at your own pace, you will soon find yourself thinking clearer, solving problems in a more organized way and seeing the world in a different way.
Basics of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is something that people use every day, likely without even realizing they are actually doing it.
There may have been a time where a friend has needed support. Although they did not say it out loud, through interpreting their emotions and body language, you could tell that they needed help and could offer them advice. Perhaps there was a dispute at work and you found a way to compromise between opposing ideas. Or maybe you have budgeted your monthly paycheck to determine how much you will have to spend after necessities such as rent and food.
These are all examples of critical thinking. People use it every day to a certain extent and some use it more than others. However, developing critical thinking skills is essential to starting to live a better quality of life and opening your mind to new possibilities .
According to The Foundation For Critical Thinking, critical thinking is defined as a way of thinking where a person improves their quality of thinking by analyzing, assessing and reconstructing the particular subject at hand. These can be any subject, content or problem.
It is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking which involves effective communication and problem-solving abilities
It is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking which involves effective communication and problem-solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our own egocentrism and sociocentrism, or preconceived notions about ourselves and the world we are familiar with.
Characterized by careful analysis and judgment, critical thinkers aim their thoughts at the well-founded judgment of a situation based on an appropriate evaluation of their surroundings determining its truth, worth or value before determining the outcome.
Research into critical thinking shows that typically human thoughts are predisposed to prejudice, over-generalization, common fallacies, self-deception, rigidity, and narrowness. However, when critical thinking skills are applied, it is a way of training the mind to see past the usual errors in the way people think. It also proves that although people’s mind tends to gravitate towards things like narrowness and prejudice without training, the mind can develop good reasoning abilities.
There are two intellectual tendencies that people usually fall into:
The Majority : One is the tendency of the majority to accept whatever most people believe to be true. In this way of thinking, people look at situations uncritically and feel that because things have been a certain way for a period of time and because most people feel that way, then it must be true and they do not take it upon themselves to come up with something different.
The Minority : Another tendency is to question what is commonly accepted and to seek out answers for oneself. People who fall into this category actively utilize their critical thinking skills in their day-to-day life. They have established more reflective criteria for determining their own standards of judgment and do not take something as being true just because they are told so and the people around them believe it.
As you embark on your journey to becoming a better thinker, you will no doubt pass through the phases of critical thinking. There are six stages of development you can expect to pass through as you practice and cultivate your critical thinking skills over time.
The Unreflective Thinker : Assuming that you are starting at the very beginning when improving your critical thinking skills, the first stage you will go through is the unreflective thinker. Those in phase one are mainly unaware of the important role that critical thinking plays in their lives and also lack the ability to assess their thought patterns and improve them. Although it is possible for The Unreflective Thinker to have developed a variety of skills up to this point, they are unaware that they possess them.
The Challenged Thinker : It is this phase where you realize the important role that critical thinking plays in your life. They realize that high-quality thinking comes through reflective thinking and they recognize that most thinking is flawed. Although they have limited critical thinking skills, they might feel that the skills they have unconsciously developed make them better thinkers than they are, and they have to accept the challenge to improve.
The Beginning Thinker : In the third phase, you have accepted the challenge to become a better thinker and are already taking steps to improve. At this stage, people realize the basic problem in their thinking and are taking steps to correct them. At this phase, you also realize the key concepts of critical thinking such as concepts, assumptions, inferences, implications, and points of view. Additionally, beginner thinkers can appreciate criticism of their current thought processes because it allows them to see how they can improve.
The Practicing Thinker : At this phase, people have a sense of the habits they need to develop to become full-fledged critical thinkers. They also understand the need to fix their thinking in a systematic way and can actively analyze their thinking in different domains. At this phase, you will have enough skills to monitor your thoughts regularly and correct them on the spot. You can also recognize your own egocentricities, the role they play in your critical thinking, and how to correct them.
The Advanced Thinker : At this point, the good habits of thought you have established are starting to pay off. You are actively analyzing your thinking in all of the specific domains of your life and have insight into problems on a deeper level. Advanced thinkers are very knowledgeable of what it takes to regularly assess their own thinking for clarity and precision. So, they are always on the road to improvement.
The Accomplished Thinker : Being at the final stage does not mean you would have mastered critical thinking completely because critical thinking is always an ongoing learning process. However, at this stage, you will have deeply internalized the basic skills of thought so your critical thinking is conscious and highly intuitive.
In addition to improving your quality of thinking, critical thinking serves to help you organize your thoughts. Instead of letting emotions get in the way of your thinking, it allows you to take a step back, regroup, and approach your thoughts from a more objective standpoint. With this self-guided and self-disciplined type of thinking attempts to help you to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.
Utilizing critical thinking skills make a positive impact on your quality of life as people who think critically tend to live rationally, reasonably, and empathically. This is because they do not let emotions and subjectivity get in the way of seeing things for what they truly are. They know of the flawed nature of human thinking when it is left unchecked and strive to not let their own ego or their social environment get in the way.
Critical thinking also involves thinking outside of the box. However, if you want to think outside of the box, you need to establish creativity within your mind.
Critical thinking and creativity go hand in hand. While critical thinking involves thinking clearly and rationally, following the rules of logic and scientific reasoning, creativity involves coming up with new and useful ideas as well as alternative possibilities. Creativity is necessary to solve problems; however, critical thinking is essential when it comes to evaluating and improving these ideas. Both are necessary and both are needed for people to ultimately prosper.
Benefits of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking leads us to unlock our intellectual independence. It helps to move us away from rushed conclusions, mystification, and reluctance to question received wisdom, tradition, and authority.
Unlike passive thinking, it moves us towards intellectual discipline, a clear expression of ideas and acceptance of personal responsibility for our own thinking.
There are quite a few benefits of critical thinking:
- Critical thinkers can raise vital questions when it comes to solving problems. They can form their questions clearly and precisely.
- Critical thinkers can gather and assess information related to a particular topic. Even better, they can use abstract ideas to interpret the topic more effectively.
- Critical thinkers can come to well-reasoned conclusions as well as test them among relevant criteria and standards.
- Critical thinkers are open-minded when it comes to alternative systems of thought. They can recognize and assess their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences of them.
- Critical thinkers can communicate effectively with others, able to figure out solutions to complex problems.
Critical thinking allows you to keep an open mind to new information as well as test new experiences and information against past experiences and information. Upon testing the information given to you, you will have a well-rounded frame of reference to either keep the opinion you held at first or form a new opinion
Critical thinking takes practice, and no one will use critical thinking every second of every day. The mind has a tendency to wander so everyone will have a tendency towards irrational or passive thought every now and then.
As a self-directed and self-disciplined mode of thought, critical thinking yields results and benefits when used correctly. This is where creativity comes into play. Thinking critically is the basis for coming up with new and innovative solutions to problems we face every day.”