Life Style

Mastering Critical Thinking: Your Key to Smart Living!


Today’s world is a very fast-paced one. To survive in it, one needs to constantly improve their performance in all areas of life. To lead a fulfilling life, individuals must focus on the development of their hard skills, which refers to the ability to do hands-on jobs, as well as their soft skills that are integrated with their behaviours and personality. Critical thinking is one such skill that is essential to live smart. A person’s ability to think critically further affects other skills such as problem-solving or decision-making.

This article focuses on explaining what critical thinking means, how it is useful, and how the development of this skill can be encouraged in individuals.

What is Critical Thinking?

You already know that critical thinking is an essential skill. Many people might have constantly asked you to think critically, whether at school or your workplace. But what does it truly mean? How does one think critically?

Critical thinking is one’s ability to analyze the information in their surroundings effectively, further evaluating it to form judgments or decisions that are supported by reason. Critical thinkers always find themselves to be ahead in the race of society, since these individuals are not passive consumers of the information they receive. Their ability to question things that they are told leads them to make smart decisions. This ability also lets them look past biases and identify information for what it is.

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Critical thinking is not just one process, it involves multiple. These include analyzing, interpreting, inferring, evaluating, and explaining, all done with the aim of problem-solving. Some people may look at critical thinking as though it’s an inherent skill one possesses, but that is not the case. It can be fostered slowly with constant practice. People high in emotional intelligence, however, are likely to find it easier to get into this practice.

Why is it Important?

Humans are constantly subjected to a large amount of information today, and the matter of fact is that the majority of these are misinformation. As a person who can think critically, filtering through this bundle of information becomes easier, letting a person stay true to their beliefs. This further helps them to avoid being cheated or supporting something harmful. Critical thinking encourages people to challenge their own beliefs and, in the process, refine them. Further, it makes individuals more capable of articulating their thoughts and ideas intelligently.

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Critical thinking is highly valued in professional settings as employees who are critical thinkers are likely to take the company to a place of prosperity. These employees come up with innovative strategies for problem-solving. It is important to note here that critical thinking is not the same as creative thinking, which lets an individual come up with new and valuable ideas. Critical thinking skills are also highly valued in education or research settings. Students with this ability can engage in a deeper understanding of concepts. Researchers need to necessarily have this skill since these are individuals who find new information in different domains. Without this skill, it wouldn’t be possible to address new findings. Upcoming research would also become weaker.

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A 2018 survey conducted by the Reboot Foundation, based in Paris, looked at people’s attitudes towards critical thinking and its incorporation in education. It found that 94% of people believed that critical thinking is extremely important. 60% of the people surveyed informed that they had not learnt strategies of critical thinking in school. Many of the respondents believed that it was necessary to start teaching critical thinking skills from an early age.

Psychological Bases of Critical Thinking:

Considering that critical thinking is a cognitive process, it is sure to have some ties with concepts those concepts that are dealt with in psychology. Let’s look at these concepts to better enable you to foster critical thinking from its roots.

Cognitive Bias:

These are those errors that occur in the process of thinking. Cognitive biases exist to simplify the processing of information. However, it also affects the quality of critical thinking since individuals easily look past information that they are faced with. To think effectively, it is necessary to identify these cognitive biases and fight those using practices such as questioning and reflecting. It is important to challenge yourself to escape these biases. For example, the availability heuristic is a cognitive bias that encourages human beings’ tendency to rely on easily accessible information.

Read more: Cognitive Biases in Everyday Life

Emotions and Motivation:

Knowing that critical thinking is a cognitive process might be one reason that makes it hard to believe that emotions might play a role in critical thinking. However, it might be a hindrance in the process. One’s emotions come into play as their expectations and wants can lead to the formation of biased opinions. On the other hand, emotions can make a person overestimate information. Motivation has a different effect on critical thinking as the will to obtain accurate information can increase effort and persistence in evaluating information.

Strategies in Problem Solving:

Critical thinking contributes to effective problem-solving. However, it is important to instil strategies to systematically reach conclusions. This starts by proposing a hypothesis. Further, this hypothesis is repeatedly tested and evaluated before arriving at the results. An individual can also alternatively identify a problem. This is then tackled by looking at possible alternatives and choosing the most appropriate one to solve the problem at hand.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills:

Some people are indeed naturally inclined to think critically. However, this is a skill that can be learned. Let’s look at some steps to focus on, to encourage your ability to think critically.

  • Identify Biases: To think critically, you should be able to tell when cognitive biases come into play, whether displayed by others or those of your own. Start by being informed of the possible biases that might occur.
  • Question Assumptions: Before assuming something, or believing what others say, ask yourself why it makes sense. Don’t blindly believe in words unless you can effectively justify it.
  • Research: Before concluding, look at what multiple sources have to say about a certain topic. This is not just important for information that you encounter online, but also for those things that you are told in person.
  • Be Curious: Many people avoid questioning to escape any embarrassment that may tag along. Don’t be afraid to question those information that you aren’t satisfied with, instead of settling for it.
  • Always Reflect: Set aside some time for yourself to reflect on the information you encounter, as well as your own beliefs. This lets you gain a deeper insight into the information available to you and how you interact with it.

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Summing up

You can go as far as to say that the ability to think critically is essential to survival. It is a skill that lets you navigate this world full of information. It is a necessity that one should start learning from a young age. It isn’t easy for everyone to develop critical thinking skills. However, being aware of its constituents and practising skills, such as questioning and evaluating, can help in forming these skills. However, it is important to remember that this is not a day’s task. This is a practice that you continuously need to work on. Only then can you develop the ability to think critically.

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