Last updated December 4, 2021.
Edited and medically reviewed by Patrick Alban, DC. Written by Deane Alban.
By improving the quality of your thoughts and your decisions, better critical thinking skills can bring about a big positive change in your life. Learn how.
The quality of your life largely depends on the quality of the decisions you make.
Amazingly, the average person makes 35,000 conscious decisions every day!
Imagine how much better your life would be if there were a way to make the best possible decisions, day in and day out?
Well, there is and it’s called critical thinking.
Learning to master the skill of critical thinking can have a profoundly positive impact on nearly every aspect of your life.
What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?
The first documented account of critical thinking is the teachings of Socrates as recorded by Plato.
Over time, the definition of critical thinking has evolved.
Most definitions of critical thinking are fairly complex and best understood by philosophy majors or psychologists.
For example, the Foundation for Critical Thinking, a nonprofit think tank, offers this definition:
“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”
If that makes your head spin, here are some definitions that you can relate to more easily.
Critical thinking is “reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
[Learn 14 ways to enhance the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of your thoughts.]
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Or, a catchy way of defining critical thinking is “deciding what’s true and what you should do.”
But my favorite uber-simple definition is that critical thinking is simply “thinking about thinking.”
6 Major Benefits of Good Critical Thinking Skills
Whether or not you think critically can make the difference between success and failure in just about every area of your life.
Our humanbrains are imperfect and prone to irrationality, distortions, prejudices, and cognitive biases.
Cognitive biases aresystematic patterns of irrational thinking.
While the number of cognitive biases varies depending on the source, Wikipedia, for example, lists nearly 200 of them!
Some of the most well-known cognitive biases include:
- catastrophic thinking
- confirmation bias
- fear of missing out (FOMO)
Critical thinking will help you move past the limitations of irrational thinking.
Here are some of the most important ways critical thinking can impact your life.
1. Critical Thinking Is a Key to Career Success
There are many professions where critical thinking is an absolute must.
Lawyers, analysts, accountants, doctors, engineers, reporters, and scientists of all kinds must apply critical thinking frequently.
But critical thinking is a skill set that is becoming increasingly valuable in a growing number of professions.
Critical thinking can help you in any profession where you must:
- analyze information
- systematically solve problems
- generate innovative solutions
- plan strategically
- think creatively
- present your work or ideas to others in a way that can be readily understood
And, as we enter the fourth industrial revolution, critical thinking has become one of the most sought-after skills.
According to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking and complex problem-solving are the two top in-demand skills that employers look for.
Critical thinking is considered a soft or enterprise skill — a core attribute required to succeed in the workplace.
According to The University of Arizona, other soft skills include:
- interpersonal skills
- communication skills
- digital literacy
- team work
- work ethic
Critical thinking can help you develop the rest of these soft skills.
Developing your critical thinking can help you land a job since many employers will ask you interview questions or even give you a testto determine how well you can think critically.
It can also help you continually succeed in your career, since being a critical thinker is a powerful predictor of long-term success.
2. Critical Thinkers Make Better Decisions
Every day you make thousands of decisions.
Most of them are made by your subconscious, are not very important, and don’t require much thought.
But the most important decisions you make can be hard and require a lot of thought, such as when or if you should change jobs, relocate to a new city, buy a house, get married, or have kids.
At work, you may have to make decisions that can alter the course of your career or the lives of others.
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Critical thinking helps you cope with everyday problems as they arise.
It promotes independent thinking and strengthens your inner “BS detector.”
It helps you make sense of the glut of data and information available, making you a smarter consumer who is less likely to fall for advertising hype, peer pressure, or scams.
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3. Critical Thinking Can Make You Happier
Knowing and understanding yourself is an underappreciated path to happiness.
We’ve already shown how your quality of life largely depends on the quality of your decisions, but equally as important is the quality of your thoughts.
Critical thinking is an excellent tool to help you better understand yourself and to learn to master your thoughts.
You can use critical thinking to free yourself from cognitive biases, negative thinking, and limiting beliefs that are holding you back in any area of your life.
Critical thinking can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses so that you know what you have to offer others and where you could use improvement.
Critical thinking will enable you to better express your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.
Better communication helps others to understand you better, resulting in less frustration for both of you.
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Critical thinking fosters creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that can be applied to any area of your life.
It gives you a process you can rely on, making decisions less stressful.
4. Critical Thinking Ensures Your Opinions Are Well-Informed
We have access to moreinformation than ever before.
Astoundingly, more data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of mankind.
Critical thinking can help you sort through the noise.
American politician, sociologist, and diplomat Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
Critical thinking ensures your opinions are well-informed and based on the best available facts.
You’ll get a boost in confidence when you see that those around you trust your well-considered opinions.
5. Critical Thinking Improves Relationships
You might be concerned that critical thinking will turn you into a Spock-like character who is not very good at relationships.
But, in fact, the opposite is true.
Employing critical thinking makes you more open-minded and better able to understand others’ points of view.
Critical thinkers are more empathetic and in a better position to get along with different kinds of people.
Critical thinking keeps you from jumping to conclusions.
You can be counted on to be the voice of reason when arguments get heated.
You’ll be better able to detect when others:
- are being disingenuous
- don’t have your best interests at heart
- try to take advantage of or manipulate you
6. Critical Thinking Makes You a Better, More Informed Citizen
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
This quote has been incorrectly attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but regardless of the source, its words of wisdom are more relevant than ever.
Critical thinkers are able to see both sides of any issue and are more likely to generate bipartisan solutions.
They are less likely to be swayed by propaganda or get swept up in mass hysteria.
They are in a better position to spot fake news when they see it.
5 Steps to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
Some people already have well-developed critical thinking skills.
These people are analytical, inquisitive, and open to new ideas.
And, even though they are confident in their own opinions, they seek the truth, even if it proves their existing ideas to be wrong.
They are able to connect the dots between ideas and detect inconsistencies in others’ thinking.
But regardless of the state of your critical thinking skillstoday, it’s a skill set you can develop.
While there are many techniques for thinking rationally, here’s a classic 5-step critical thinking process.
How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
Clearly Define Your Question or Problem
This step is so important that Albert Einstein famously quipped:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Gather Information to Help You Weigh the Options
Consider only the most useful and reliable information from the most reputable sources.
Disregard the rest.
Apply the Information and Ask Critical Questions
Scrutinize all information carefully with a skeptic’s eye.
Not sure what questions to ask?
You can’t go wrong starting with the “5 Ws” that any good investigator asks: Who. What. Where. When. Why.
Then finish by asking “How.”
You’ll find more thought-provoking questions on this Critical Thinking Skills Cheatsheet.
Consider the Implications
Look for potential unintended consequences.
Do a thought experiment about how your solution could play out in both the short term and the long run.
Explore the Full Spectrum of Viewpoints
Examine why others are drawn to differing points of view.
This will help you objectively evaluate your own viewpoint.
You may find critical thinkers who take an opposing view and this can help you find gaps in your own logic.
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Why Critical Thinking Is Important: Take the Next Step
Critical thinking is one of the most important cognitive skills that you can develop.
By improving the quality of both your decisions and your thoughts, critical thinking can significantly improve your life, both personally and professionally.
Too many people criticize without thinking or think without being critical.
You don’t have to be one of them.
Follow the five steps above to develop your “critical thinking muscle.”
As a side benefit, critical thinking has the power to make the world a more rational, reasonable place.
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- Increase your capacity to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.
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Critical thinking will enable you to better express your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. Better communication helps others to understand you better, resulting in less frustration for both of you. Critical thinking fosters creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that can be applied to any area of your life.
Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.
Critical Thinking enhances language and presentation skills. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve the way we express our ideas. In learning how to analyse the logical structure of texts, critical thinking also improves comprehension abilities.
- Ask questions. It is often seen that students hesitate to ask questions in the classroom. ...
- Participate in discussions. ...
- Practice active learning. ...
- Study with the help of examples. ...
- Go beyond academic learning.
One of the most important skills in developing successful personal and professional relationships is critical thinking. Critical thinking is a high level skill that allows somebody to process information (especially external information) in order to make a decision, come to a conclusion, or solve a problem.
Critical thinking requires deeper analysis of the lesson. Deeper analysis produces deeper understanding, resulting in better grades and higher test scores. Critical thinking empowers students to be independent, innovative, and helps them succeed in school and in life.
Critical thinking skills are all about being aware of the things happening around you and making well-informed decisions.
Critical Thinking is important because companies require people who can analyze problems based on evidence and facts and make well-informed decisions and backed by logic.. A critical thinker questions every opinion presented, and that is why critical thinking is very important.. When you analyze situations from all perspectives, you develop a complete understanding of the situation and the possible solutions, backed by evidence.. We have seen how critical thinkers are important to the company, but what is the importance of various critical thinking skills ?. Observation skills are the most important skills when learning to become a critical thinker.. Once the problem has been identified, it is important to analyze the situation based on the facts and evidence.. Identifying and analyzing the problems is done, but it is also important to draw inferences and conclusions from the data you have gathered using the information you have gained and based on your personal experiences.. It could be to understand a problem, explain solutions, and even listen to different opinions.. To improve critical thinking skills, always distinguish your perceptions and opinions from the facts and evidence available.. Developing and understanding the connections between the opinions and facts will help identify patterns and is a great way to improve your critical thinking.. Work towards identifying the causes and effects of the problem, which will help you develop opinions.. Critical thinking is an important soft skill that recruiters look for because critical thinking is a combination of skills that help make informed decisions and also develop stronger teams.
Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following:
Critical thinking should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people.. Although critical thinking skills can be used in exposing fallacies and bad reasoning, critical thinking can also play an important role in cooperative reasoning and constructive tasks.. Some people believe that critical thinking hinders creativity because critical thinking requires following the rules of logic and rationality, whereas creativity might require breaking those rules.. If anything, critical thinking is an essential part of creativity because we need critical thinking to evaluate and improve our creative ideas.. Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill.. Good critical thinking promotes such thinking skills, and is very important in the fast-changing workplace.. Good critical thinking skills require more than just knowledge and practice.. 2) The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (1980) is a well-known psychological test of critical thinking ability.. 3) A very well-known and influential definition of critical thinking comes from philosopher and professor Robert Ennis in his work “A Taxonomy of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities” (1987):. Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.. Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.. The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fairminded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit.
Check what the top 8 critical thinking skills are. Learn how to develop and improve them. Use our examples of critical thinking skills in your CV.
We’ll try to find out if drinking coffee is good for you.. But something you can start doing today to improve your critical thinking skills is apply the 7 steps of critical thinking to every problem you tackle—either at work or in your everyday life.. The problem in question was: “is drinking coffee good for you?”. The only conclusion that can be reached is: according to the data we gathered, drinking coffee might or might not be good for our hearts, depending on many factors and variables we failed to take into account.. Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Nursing. Critical Thinking Skills on a Resume—Engineering. In order 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 communicate.
It is time to triple your memory Join over 102,406 others who are using the method and transform your memory today. Anthony Metivier has taught as a professor, is the creator of the acclaimed Magnetic Memory Method and the author behind a dozen bestselling books on the topic of memory and language learning.
Improve your performance at school or work Help you make better decisions Assist in avoiding mistakes that crush others Improve profits as an entrepreneur Using creative thinking and critical processes of understanding that improve your memory. The new process is the Memory Palace technique , something that every memory competitor and many students use and refine year after year, usually by repeating this same critical thinking strategy.. As a way of stimulating more critical thinking, you would get a bunch of items together and keep asking, Why don’t these items go together?. Example : If you’re trying to solve a problem involving thousands of people, scale down to thinking about how to solve it for just ten people, or even one.. Can you imagine yourself using any of these critical thinking strategies?
How to Develop Critical Thinking? And why do you need Critical Thinking? Well, the answer to this question can be summed up in another question: Why do you do what you do? This is what Critical Thinking is all about! Find out all about it here
When it comes to understanding what problem-solving is about we enter a fascinating world that requires an understanding of the big picture of analytical thinking.. You’ll understand from this article that the first thing about problem-solving & Analytical thinking is that the solution to the problem can’t be found where the problem is.. Locate the problem – Understand the problem thoroughly, which means what actually caused it Engage in short term and long term analytical thinking Critical Thinking – Ask open-ended questions to reveal the big picture- Why and What questions.. Avoid How question before you thoroughly understood What and Why questions Remember that solving a problem is measured by long term solutions Protect your problem-solving by making sure that you don’t provide the problem with a fertile ground to grow in the future.. Part of understanding the problem is to understand what caused that which requires neutral analytical thinking without hiding anything.. The Thinking Coach Leadership Training Seminars which are part of a broad Soft Skills Corporate Training Programs take professionals through a series of workshop exercises to achieve a critical thinking state of mind that helps professionals engage in a high-level of decision-making & problem-solving.
Want to get better at creative thinking and innovation? Follow these 5 tips, based on recipes that have worked for successful innovators.
Summer is the time for internships and summer jobs for many students, and it is also a great time to work on your creative thinking and innovation skills so you’ll be in good shape to get that dream job after graduation.. For last few years I have been talking to various startups and have heard many interesting recipes for innovation.. Here are six ways to improve your own creative thinking and innovation skills…. He just took an existing cell phone and asked a very simple question: how can we improve it to make it better – or the best?. That said, I usually suggest my students build creative thinking around three “ifs”:. (2) What would I change or improve about this object if I wanted to use it in 10 years?. It is a matter of regularly training your imagination, practicing your powers of observation and dreaming, big or small.. Every textbook on creativity affirms to the importance of setting aside clearly defined time for creative thinking and innovation.. For example, Google asks its teams to allocate at least 20% of their time to creative thinking or new projects.. There is simple truth in the fact that Steve Jobs of Apple was great at exploring and explaining innovations based on existing products – laptops, cell phones, music players.. Like any other skill, the ability to articulate in this way can only come through much practice.. Even a great innovator needs people around her or him to discuss – or “bounce” – new creative ideas and innovations.. All of them were created by teams of people who stayed together to conceive the idea, plan their innovative projects, take them to investors and the public, and most importantly jointly brainstorm those innovations within the team – bouncing ideas, questions and improvements until the product was perfected to become the next multi-billion dollar “eureka.”
Hidden processes involved in intuition & their effect on decision making.
While understanding intuition offers a considerable challenge for science, broadly speaking, it involves “ learned responses that are not the outcomes of deliberate processes ” (Hogarth, 2010).. In this article, we look at the lightning-fast, mostly hidden processes involved in intuition, their effect on decision making, and their role in creativity.. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the world’s most influential businesspeople admit to making decisions based on intuition rather than logical, deliberate thinking.. In Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking , Malcolm Gladwell (2005) describes the two different approaches as blinking , when intuition is used, and thinking , when an analysis is performed.. Intuition (or blinking) typically refers to the use of knowledge that is not explicit and in popular culture might be described as a “hunch” or “women’s intuition.”. Hogarth (2010) suggests “ the essence of intuition or intuitive responses is that they are reached with little apparent effort, and typically without conscious awareness.. Intuition offers a reduction in overall cognitive load and the ability to respond instantly while providing confidence in our knowledge and decision making – even though it may defy analysis (Hogarth, 2010).. While we may be mostly unaware of our day-to-day decision making, it is likely to be a mix of intuitive and deliberate thinking (Hogarth, 2010).. And the role of intuition appears to be no different in our everyday thought processes than in more crucial decisions.. Intuitive decision making is based on our past experiences and, therefore, repeatedly successful in similar situations, where previous outcomes and learning were useful and accurate.. Research at the University of South Wales confirmed that intuition significantly benefits decision making while adding that nonconscious information can increase decision accuracy, speed, and confidence (Lufityanto, Donkin, & Pearson, 2016).. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell ( Amazon ) Educating Intuition – Robin Hogarth ( Amazon ) The Myth of Experience: Why We Learn the Wrong Lessons, and Ways to Correct Them – Emre Soyer and Robin Hogarth ( Amazon ) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ( Amazon ) Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions – Gerd Gigerenzer ( Amazon ) Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious – Gerd Gigerenzer ( Amazon ) Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman ( Amazon ). Developing and Training Intuition is an article that can take you further on your intuition journey, and shares five exercises for your clients as well.. Intuition: A challenge for psychological research on decision making.. Clinical decision making – Choosing between intuition, experience, and scientific evidence.