Critical Thinking Skills

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a form of active, reflective and reasoned thinking that emphasises the cognitive processes used to identify, analyse, and evaluate arguments.

If you want to improve your critical thinking skills then this article is for you. Here are 10 ways how:

1. Understand the difference between knowledge and opinion: You need to first understand the difference between knowledge and opinion. Opinion is what you feel or believe about something, whereas knowledge is based on facts and evidence. When we make a decision or take action based on an opinion then there’s always that nagging doubt in your mind – What if I’m wrong? But guess what! You’re never going to be completely sure you’re right about everything; but that’s ok. Accepting uncertainty is the first step to effective critical thinking and learning.

2. Face your fears and practice self-control: If fear holds you back or stops you from acting, then try to face them in a controlled setting. Stop yourself if you are about to do something stupid or harmful, and then think about WHY you are doing it. What is the consequence likely to be? Seek out alternative action, and practice that until it becomes a habit.

3. Learn how your mind tricks you into irrational thinking: Our minds have thousands of biases which cause us to create patterns and believe lies. The media is a good example of this, as well as the gossiping neighbours down the street. We all have our own biases, and it’s important to know what they are in order to be able to overcome them. For example, if you believe that college students are smarter than high school students then you will be more likely to hire a college student over a high school student because you believe that their intelligence is superior, even though this may not be true.

4. Understand how to effectively evaluate information: How do we know what is credible and what’s not? Which opinions are based on fact and which are not? What sources should we consult when trying to find out something about the world? These questions will lead you to understand that credibility isn’t always an indicator of validity. For example, scholarly articles and textbooks may be valid sources of information but they’re also well known for their bias. So how do you choose? Get your news from a variety of sources that include advocacy groups, scientific organizations, magazines and newspaper reporters, investigative journalists etc.

5. Find the argument: Before you can learn how to critically analyze an argument you need to know how one works. Here’s a simple example:

The government should repeal the law requiring students to wear seatbelts in school busses because 1) students distract the driver, and 2) they will not use them anyway.

What is wrong with this argument?

a) Assumptions: The first assumption is that wearing a seatbelt distracts the driver. This has not been proven to be true, and may in fact have no correlation to distracted driving whatsoever.

b) Inappropriate comparison: The second assumption is that students won’t use the seatbelts when they are required to wear them. However, even if we assume this to be true, it doesn’t make sense because the government is not planning on making students wear their seatbelts 24/7.

6. Learn how to spot logical fallacies: Once you understand how an argument works, you need to learn how to spot logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are mistakes in reasoning that can lead us to false conclusions.

7. Question your sources: How do we know that the knowledge that we source from others is true? If a web page says one thing then how do you know it’s not written in good faith? On the other hand, if an article was published in a major newspaper or magazine, why should you believe it? You won’t be able to find answers to these questions unless you start doing some research on your own.

8. Don’t be a know-it-all: You may read this and get defensive, thinking that nobody is as smart as you, but I’m not talking about intelligence here (I’ll talk about that in another article). I’m talking about the ability to say “I don’t know”. By saying you don’t know something, you acknowledge that there is a gap in your learning and prevent yourself from sounding like an idiot. Your lack of knowledge is not only acceptable but also to be expected since no one knows everything!

9. Don’t be afraid of being wrong:  Sometimes we are wrong about something even if we think we are right. Nevertheless, this will not make us go bald or turn us into a toad, so don’t worry. What will happen is that you’ll lose a bit of your ego and realize how little you know about the world.

10. Be curious about things: Curiosity is one of the most important qualities you can have in life. It opens your mind to new possibilities and helps you make sense of this crazy world. And curiosity isn’t just about asking questions, it’s also about coming up with answers on your own too!

11. Learn about the origins of your thoughts and feelings:   How do we know why we have certain emotions or beliefs in the first place? Did they come from our parents, the media, memes on Facebook, logical reasoning? This is an important step towards critical thinking because it can help us identify what may be triggering certain beliefs or emotions within us.

12. Don’t be a slave to your emotions: While feelings are sometimes wild, it’s important that we don’t act upon them impulsively. If you feel angry at someone then take a moment to ask yourself why you feel this way before making any rash decisions . This will help you make smarter and healthier choices for yourself.

13. Think about what you’re told:   There are two ways to critically analyze an argument. The first is to push it aside and not think about what the person is saying at all (the typical approach that most people take). This will allow you to avoid any sort of cognitive dissonance but it doesn’t help you learn anything new. The second, and much better method, is to start thinking about why you are being told something or believe in it in the first place. Ask yourself questions like:

a) Does this make sense? Really think about if what you’re hearing makes any sense at all i.e. does the source have a good argument to back it up?

b) What is the source’s agenda?   If you don’t know who the source is, do some research. If your friend says something then ask yourself what he or she might have to gain from telling you this information.

c) Is this a logical fallacy ? Are they trying to confuse me by using an emotional appeal or a logical fallacy?

d) What else can this mean?   Try to push the information in question to the limits of its interpretation by asking yourself other questions. For example, if someone tells you that ” You should always do what your parents say because they know best “, ask yourself “What if my parent is wrong” or “Am I a child forever? Do I have to do what my parents say for the rest of my life?”.

14. Think about how you feel:   Try not to fall into the trap of believing that your feelings or emotions are a way forward but rather think deeply about them and ask yourself some questions like:

a) Am I acting on a whim?   In other words, are you taking action right away before thinking about it logically?

b) What are my emotions telling me?   As mentioned above, don’t simply let an emotion take over; try to understand why you feel this way.

15. Make connections:   With all of the information that we see and hear on a daily basis, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the information out there. However, our brains are wired to make connections between different pieces of information so look for links between things that you learn and start making those associations . This will help your brain make sense of what you’re learning and connect it with what you already know.

16. Have an open mind:   It’s important that we keep our minds open to ideas and possibilities even if we don’t agree with them. This is especially true when it comes to new information or evidence that challenges your currently held beliefs . Your current beliefs may be wrong or incomplete so give yourself an opportunity to change your mind by keeping an open mind!

I hope these tips will help more people understand how to critically analyze an argument and learn how to apply critical thinking to everyday situations.

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