Critical Thinking – Applications


Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you have but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions.

  • It requires wanting to see the involved evidence to support a particular argument or conclusion.
  • People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as,
    • ‘How do you know that?
    • ‘Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?’ and
    • ‘Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?’
  • Additionally, critical thinking divided into the following three core skills:
    1. Firstly, Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
    2. Secondly, Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you get to know and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
    3. Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.

Steps of Critical Thinking.

1. Identify the problem or question- Be as precise as possible: the narrower the issue, the easier it is to find solutions or answers.
2. Gather data, opinions, and arguments- Try to find several sources that present different ideas and points of view.
3. Analyze and evaluate the data- Are the sources reliable? Are their conclusions have back data or just argumentative? Is there enough information or data to support given hypotheses?
4. Identify assumptions- Are you sure the sources you found are unbiased? Are you sure you weren’t biased in your search for answers?
5. Establish significance- What piece of information is most important? Is the sample size sufficient? Are all opinions and arguments even relevant to the problem you’re trying to solve?
6. Make a decision/reach a conclusion- Identify various conclusions that are possible and decide which (if any) of them are sufficiently supported. Weigh strengths and limitations of all possible options.
7. Present or communicate- Once you’ve reached a conclusion, present it.

A well cultivated critical thinker”:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively.
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

7 Ways to Improve Critical Thinking.

1. Ask Basic Questions.

  • Sometimes an explanation becomes so complex that the original question get lost.
  • To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.
      • What do you already know?
      • How do you know that?
      • What are you trying to prove, disprove, demonstrated, critique, etc.?
      • What are you overlooking?
  • Some of the most breathtaking solutions to problems are astounding not because of their complexity, but because of their elegant simplicity. Seek the simple solution first.

2. Question Basic Assumptions.

  • The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem.
  • It’s quite easy to make an ass of yourself simply by failing to question your basic assumptions.
  • Some of the greatest innovators in human history were those who simply looked up for a moment and wondered if one of everyone’s general assumptions was wrong.
  • From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang, questioning assumptions is where innovation happens.
  • You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions.
      • That trip you’ve wanted to take?
      • That hobby you’ve wanted to try?
      • That internship you’ve wanted to get?
      • That attractive person in your World Civilizations class you’ve wanted to talk to?
  • All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.

3. Be Aware of Your Mental Processes

  • Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically.
  • Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.
  • This was beneficial to humans when we were hunting large game and fighting off wild animals, but it can be disastrous when we’re trying to decide who to vote for.
  • A critical thinker is aware of their cognitive biases and personal prejudices and how they influence seemingly “objective” decisions and solutions.
  • All of us have biases in our thinking. Becoming aware of them is what makes critical thinking possible.

4. Try Reversing Things.

  • A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things. It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?
  • The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this. At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. The chicken lays the egg, after all.
  • But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first. Or did it?
  • Even if it turns out that the reverse isn’t true, considering it can set you on the path to finding a solution.

5. Evaluate the Existing Evidence

  • When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area.
  • There’s no reason to start solving a problem from scratch when someone has already laid the groundwork.
  • It’s important, however, to evaluate this information critically, or else you can easily reach the wrong conclusion.
  • Ask the following questions of any evidence you encounter:
    • Who gathered this evidence?
    • How did they gather it? Why?
  • Take, for example, a study showing the health benefits of a sugary cereal.
  • On paper, the study sounds pretty convincing.
  • That is, until you learn that a sugary cereal company funded it.
  • You can’t automatically assume that this invalidates the study’s results.
  • But you should certainly question them when a conflict of interests is so apparent.

6. Remember to Think for Yourself.

  • Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself–sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.
  • Don’t be overconfident, but recognize that thinking for yourself is essential to answering tough questions.
  • I find this to be true when writing essays–it’s so easy to get lost in other people’s work that I forget to have my own thoughts. Don’t make this mistake.

7. Understand That No One Thinks Critically 100% of the Time.

  • You can’t think critically all the time, and that’s okay.
  • Critical thinking is a tool that you should deploy when you need to make important decisions or solve difficult
    problems, but you don’t need to think critically about everything.
  • And even in important matters, you will experience lapses in your reasoning.
  • What matters is that you recognize these lapses and try to avoid them in the future.


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