What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a term that we hear a lot, but many people don't really stop to think about what it means or how to use it. This lesson will tell you exactly what it means and make you realize that the average person largely ignores 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 are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved 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 can be divided into the following three core skills:

  1. Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
  2. Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to 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.

Using Critical Thinking Skills

Many people decide to make changes in their daily lives based on anecdotes, or stories from one person's experience. For example, let's say that your aunt told you that she takes a vitamin C supplement every day. Additionally, she told you that one morning she was running late for work and forgot to take her vitamin C supplement. That afternoon, she developed a cold. She now insists that you take vitamin C every day or you will get sick, just like she did in

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her story. Many people hearing this story would just accept this and think, 'To avoid getting sick I should take vitamin C.'

Although this type of logic is very common, it lacks critical-thinking skills. If we examine this anecdote a little more carefully, you should be able to understand why. For starters, we don't know where the idea for vitamin C stopping illness even came from. Why did your aunt decide to take vitamin C rather than vitamin D, or any other vitamin?

Also, there was never any indication given that there exists a direct link between not taking vitamin C and developing a cold. At first glance, it may seem that way. However, there could be many other variables involved that have nothing to do with vitamin C. Maybe she was already developing a cold and that particular day it just happened to manifest itself. Maybe a sick person sneezed on her in the elevator that morning. Any number of possibilities could have happened, and from just this story, we simply do not have enough information. All of this speculation as to the validity of this particular observation is considered skepticism.

Let's say that these thoughts of skepticism inspired your curiosity. After all, it wouldn't be fair to simply dismiss all new ideas, either. As a result, you looked up articles on the relationship between vitamin C and cold prevention. After reading several reports, you've found that scientific studies on whether vitamin C prevents the common cold have been conducted, and the results have been inconsistent. The overall conclusion found from these studies is that vitamin C is necessary for maintaining overall body function, but cannot be held responsible for preventing people from getting any colds or treating a cold once someone already has one.

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Category: Critical thinking

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