What is Critical Thinking?

Critical Thinking

What is Critical Thinking?

There is a lot of talk about Critical Thinking both online and offline. But what is critical thinking?

Critical thinking involves using various skills to gather, process, and analyze information to make informed decisions and judgments. It is a conscious and active process that requires individuals to question assumptions, evaluate evidence, and consider different viewpoints before concluding. People can effectively solve complex problems, communicate their ideas clearly, and make well-informed decisions using logical thinking.

If you google it, the dictionary tells us that critical thinking is “the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” The keyword here is the objective in our analysis and evaluation as we often use subjective thinking and our personal biases can get in the way.

Characteristics of critical thinking

One way to understand what critical thinking is, is to look at the characteristics of critical thinking. These characteristics will give you an overview of what thinking critically means.


Open-mindedness involves setting aside preconceived notions, biases, and beliefs and being receptive to new ideas, evidence, and perspectives. Open-minded individuals are willing to listen to and evaluate different points of view, even if they conflict with their own opinions or beliefs. They recognize that their understanding and knowledge may need to be improved. Therefore, they seek additional information and perspectives to understand a topic or issue comprehensively.


It entails a healthy level of doubt and a willingness to question assumptions and scrutinize evidence. A skeptical thinker approaches information with an open mind but only accepts it after evaluating its credibility and reliability. Skepticism encourages critical thinkers to examine evidence from different angles, ask probing questions, and consider alternative explanations before concluding.

Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking allows individuals to identify and evaluate the critical elements of a problem, concept, or argument and to break them down into smaller, more manageable components. It requires individuals to ask questions and challenge assumptions to arrive at a deeper understanding of the information they are working with. It involves examining evidence, data, and information from multiple perspectives and applying logic and reasoning to reach a sound conclusion.

Logical reasoning

This involves analyzing information and evidence to arrive at a reasoned and informed conclusion. A critical thinker with strong logical reasoning skills can identify the strengths and weaknesses of arguments and evaluate the validity and reliability of sources of information.

To draw valid conclusions, a critical thinker must be able to apply logical principles such as deductive and inductive reasoning, syllogisms, and propositional logic. They must also recognize and avoid common logical fallacies that can distort or undermine arguments.

Logical reasoning requires attention to detail, a willingness to consider alternative perspectives, and an ability to identify and evaluate assumptions underlying arguments.


Curiosity is a desire to seek out and understand new information and ideas. It involves questioning assumptions, challenging conventional wisdom, and exploring new possibilities. Curiosity enables individuals to uncover hidden beliefs, explore alternative perspectives, and identify gaps in knowledge or understanding.


This is the ability to generate and consider innovative solutions to problems. It requires individuals to think outside the box, challenge conventional thinking, and take a fresh approach to problem-solving. Critical thinkers with solid creative skills are unsatisfied with the status quo and seek new approaches to challenges.

Importance of critical thinking

When you ask both teachers and employers, they all say that critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can have. Its what higher educational institutions teach and its what gets you ahead and creates success in most careers.

  • Universal skill applicable to any field. Logical thinking is a skill that can be applied to any field, from science and technology to business and arts.
  • Essential for economic growth and problem-solving. It allows individuals and organizations to identify and analyze problems, develop creative solutions, and make informed decisions that lead to success.
  • Improves language and presentation skills. Creative thinking improves language and presentation skills, enabling individuals to convey their ideas effectively.
  • Promotes creativity and innovative ideas. By thinking critically, individuals can identify new and unconventional solutions to problems, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements.
  • Important for self-reflection and living a meaningful life. Analyzing your thoughts and actions critically helps you identify your values, goals, and beliefs, leading to a more fulfilling life.
  • Foundation of science and democracy. It involves questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and making informed decisions based on facts. This is crucial for scientific research and democratic decision-making.
  • Key for career success and desirable skills in the workforce. Employers nowadays seek individuals who can think critically, solve problems, and make informed decisions.
  • It can make you happier and improve relationships. By thinking critically about your thoughts and actions, you can identify and address negative behaviors, leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

The process of critical thinking

  • Defining the problem. This involves identifying and clearly defining the problem or issue that needs to be addressed. This means asking questions like “What’s the problem?” “Why is it important?” and “What are the key factors contributing to the issue?”
  • Gathering information. This entails collecting relevant information and data from various sources such as books, articles, and online resources. Gathering reliable and unbiased information is crucial to avoid making flawed conclusions.
  • Analyzing information. After collecting the information, break it into smaller parts and evaluate each part critically. Ensure to look for patterns, connections, and inconsistencies in the information.
  • Evaluating evidence. It is important to assess the validity and reliability of the evidence gathered. This includes analyzing the sources of the evidence, checking for accuracy, and identifying any potential biases or conflicts of interest.
  • Considering different perspectives. This means looking at the issue from multiple angles and considering different arguments and opinions. It’s important to remain open-minded and consider all possibilities.
  • Making a decision. This involves using the information and evidence gathered to make an informed decision. Weighing the pros and cons, considering the potential outcomes, and deciding based on logical reasoning and critical analysis are involved. It’s important to be confident in the decision but remain open to new information and ideas.

Tools for critical thinking

  • Socratic questioning. This method of asking thought-provoking questions helps individuals think critically and deeply about an issue or problem. It encourages individuals to examine assumptions, evaluate evidence, and consider different perspectives before concluding.
  • Mind mapping. This visual tool organizes and structures ideas and information about a particular topic or problem. It involves creating a diagram that shows the relationships between different ideas and helps individuals identify patterns, connections, and gaps in their thinking.
  • Debating. This entails a structured discussion or argument in which individuals present and defend their opinions on a particular issue. It requires individuals to consider and respond to opposing viewpoints, develop persuasive arguments, and think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of their position.
  • SWOT analysis. This tool evaluates a particular decision or situation’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It involves identifying internal and external factors that may impact the decision and using this information to develop strategies and solutions.
  • Decision-making frameworks. These are structured approaches to decision-making that help individuals consider various factors and weigh the pros and cons of different options. They provide a systematic and logical way to analyze information, evaluate risks and benefits, and make informed decisions based on evidence and data.

Barriers to critical thinking

  • Confirmation bias. Humans tend to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.
  • Cognitive dissonance. When people are confronted with information that conflicts with their beliefs or values, they may experience discomfort or anxiety.
  • Emotional reasoning. People sometimes make decisions based on emotions rather than evidence or sound reasoning.
  • Stereotyping. People sometimes make assumptions about individuals or groups based on preconceived notions or stereotypes, leading to clouded judgment.
  • Groupthink. Sometimes, people tend to conform to the opinions or beliefs of a group rather than thinking critically about the issue at hand.

Methods of teaching critical thinking

  • Explicit instruction. This method teaches students creative thinking skills through lectures, workshops, or other structured means.
  • Problem-based learning. This approach involves using real-world issues as a starting point to encourage students to develop their logical thinking skills. They analyze information and develop solutions to these problems.
  • Collaborative learning. This method focuses on teamwork, where students work in groups to solve problems and share ideas. This allows them to develop their problem-solving skills by considering multiple perspectives.
  • Inquiry-based learning. This approach encourages students to ask questions and explore topics on their own. Students get to develop their problem-solving skills through exploration and discovery.

Critical thinking in different fields and disciplines

  • Science. Scientists must think critically to comprehend and assess scientific evidence. This skill enables scientists to make informed judgments regarding intricate scientific matters by thoroughly examining the evidence and arriving at reasonable conclusions.
  • Business. Thinking critically in business involves analyzing proposals, evaluating options, and considering potential outcomes to make the best decision for a business or organization.
  • Law. Creative thinking is essential for analyzing legal arguments and evidence. It helps lawyers and judges evaluate the strength of arguments and evidence presented in a case and make informed decisions based on the facts.
  • Education. Thinking critically is crucial for analyzing information and developing logical arguments in educational contexts. It involves evaluating sources, questioning assumptions, and synthesizing information to develop informed and persuasive arguments.


Critical thinking is a crucial skill that involves being open-minded, questioning things, analyzing information, using logic, being curious, and thinking creatively. This skill is valuable in any area and can contribute to personal growth, problem-solving, and economic progress.

It’s essential to be aware of logical fallacies that may mislead us, such as attacking a person instead of the argument, presenting false choices, or using circular reasoning. By practicing creative thinking and understanding logical fallacies, we can make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and live more fulfilling lives.

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