Critical thinking refers to making reliable judgments through the objective analysis of factual information. The term ‘critical’ is derived from the Greek word kritikos that means discerning.
What Does A Critical Thinker Do?
- They formulate vital questions relevant to analyzing problems. For example, a graduate student looking for an internship might ask whether the internship would count as work experience relevant to their postgraduate studies.
- They gather pertinent information using hypothetical ideas to interpret and test its validity. For example, a young adult looking to be independent might plan their future using hypothetical future jobs and associated incomes.
- They think with an open mind using alternative paradigms of thought, recognizing the practical consequences of their assumptions. For example, a chef may be required to solve problems by substituting mainstream ingredients with alternative ones.
- They communicate productively with others while figuring out solutions to complicated problems. For example, surgeons from different specialities are required to communicate and work together to save lives.
Importance of Critical Thinking
- Critical thinking is universal: Critical thinking is a skill required in every domain, no matter what career you pursue. It is an asset in every field and always helps you succeed. For example, a first responder requires critical thinking to analyze a disaster site quickly, evaluate priorities and infer which actions need to be taken for maximum effectiveness. Additionally, parents should employ critical thinking while budgeting their expenses so that they may afford their children’s future education.
- Crucial for the economy: The global economy is dependent on information, technology and innovation. This increases the demand for people to have intellectual skills such as the ability to analyze information by integrating multiple sources of knowledge. For example, an environmentalist might adapt to alternative technology such as solar panels for sustainable energy use.
- Enhances language and presentation skills: Our ability to comprehend texts depends on how we analyze their logical structure. Critical thinking aids us in breaking down complicated ideas and expressing them clearly and systematically. For example, a student union representative would require good verbal skills to effectively communicate their ideas.
- Promotes creativity: Critical thinking encourages the formulation of new ideas that are relevant and useful to the task at hand. It ensures that from a plethora of creative ideas, the best ones are selected and modified if required. For example, a financial advisor might brainstorm new methods to reduce costs at the time of a budget crisis.
- Essential for self-reflection: Critical thinking provides us with the tools required for self-evaluation. This ensures that we lead a meaningful life that we can justify through our values and decisions. For example, a student might use self-reflection to remove distracting thoughts and behaviors during final exams.
- Lays the groundwork for science and democracy: Critical thinking encourages us to back up theories with knowledge and facts. This tool is essential in the field of science. Moreover, the effective functioning of a democracy requires its citizens to overcome inherent biases and make judgments about governance through critical analysis of social issues. For example, a citizen who employs critical thinking might ask questions like who published this, what their sources are, and what their intentions are to escape fake news and propaganda.
Benefits of Critical Thinking
- Promotes career success: According to a 2016 World Economic Forum report titled ‘The Future of Jobs’, critical thinking is one of the predicted skill sets required to thrive in the modern landscape. Critical thinking is crucial from the first step i.e., the job interview where applicants must communicate effectively and present themselves as suitable candidates.
- Improves decision-making: Critical thinking ensures that we make sound decisions independently through careful analysis of all the facts. For example, a detective must be able to objectively refer to facts surrounding a suspect without emotional interference.
- It can make you happier: With an increase in self-reflection and evaluation, critical thinking can help you understand yourself better. Moreover, it would help you focus on your strengths rather than any negative thoughts or beliefs.
- Improves relationships: Critical thinking encourages us to become open-minded and put ourselves in others’ shoes. This would enhance our relationships by letting us understand other peoples’ perspectives. For example, by employing self-reflection during an argument, you may see things from their point of view and thus make a more empathetic decision.
Process of Critical Thinking
The American philosopher John Dewey recognized five steps of critical thinking. First, is a suggestion wherein the mind recommends a conceivable solution to the issue. Next, the difficulty is transformed into a problem that must be solved. The third step involves using one suggestion after the other as a hypothesis. This helps to initiate observation and the collection of facts surrounding the problem. The next step is reasoning which refers to the mental interpretation of an idea. Finally, the whole process comes to an end by testing the hypothesis through overt or covert action.
Top 10 Critical Thinking Skills
Many mental actions occur in the process of critical thinking. The most important skills used are elaborated below:
- Identification: This skill requires you to determine the problem along with the factors involved in its formulation. After the situation has been diagnosed, you can delve deeper into its solution. For example, during a bombing, authorities may ask who is involved and what their agenda is.
- Analysis: Analysis refers to the careful examination of a problem and explaining its implication to others. This can be done by recognizing patterns, questioning evidence and interpreting qualitative and quantitative data. For example, policy analysts may predict the outcomes of governmental policies using statistical data.
- Reflection: It is essential to reflect on any personal biases, which may affect your judgment. For example, a surgeon must choose to not operate on a family member, since their emotions could cloud their judgment.
- Evaluation: Evaluating information refers to a thorough analysis of the situation instead of just looking at the obvious facts. This would help in judging the value of particular facts and further help in forming priorities. This skill is used by interviewers to judge applicants by investigating their motivations and thought processes.
- Reasoning: This skill involves both inductive and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning refers to drawing generalizations on the basis of a specific case. For example, you might draw the generalization that all crows are black based on the fact that every crow you have seen was black in colour. On the other hand, deductive reasoning includes using general truths to reach specific conclusions. For example, you might come to the conclusion that you are mortal based on the fact that all men are mortal.
- Research: Research is essential to verify details regarding arguments about a particular issue. Checking the sources of all information presented and checking their validity can help develop this skill. College students frequently employ research skills while writing academic papers.
- Inference: Inference refers to the ability to draw conclusions based on data presented to you. This skill can be honed by gathering all information before coming to a conclusion. Inferring helps you to draw potential outcomes while assessing a situation. For example, if a baby is crying, you might infer that he is hungry or sleepy.
- Communication: This critical thinking skill is vital while working in a group. Communication helps in sharing of ideas while attempting to find solutions to complex problems. Practising active listening can help improve this skill. For example, a teacher must effectively express herself while instructing students.
- Observation: Observation refers to paying close attention to one’s environment and drawing inferences based on collected data. For example, after observing that the ground is wet, you might draw the conclusion that it rained.
- Experimentation: While attempting to draw inferences of hypotheses, conducting experiments can help figure out if the results of a possible problem would occur in reality. For example, the Stanford prison experiment was used to investigate the social and psychological effects of power.