Are you thinking critically?
A term I hear tossed around a lot is ‘critical thinking’. But what exactly does that look like? To start off with, it involves the strengthening of five key skills; communication, open-mindedness, problem-solving, analysis and creativity. As this is a skillset, we can improve and deepen it via time, education, and experience.
As I’ve said in previous articles, critical thinking is not a skill taught or encouraged in the vast majority of schools in America and Canada. Consequently, most students graduate with disturbingly poor critical thinking skills.
This is how you end up with people who read headlines and assume they have enough information to not warrant reading the article. These are individuals who can produce talking points but cannot support them when pressed.
Instead of presenting facts they commonly start debates by hurling ad hominems. They’re individuals who are resistant to thinking independently.
We each have areas to involve within our own critical thinking skills, so let’s look at each component individually while reflecting on that. Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text.
People with analytical skills can examine information. Next, they work to understand what it means, and what it represents. These are the typical behaviors we would display:
Asking thoughtful questions
Analysing data objectively
Seeking additional information
Unbiased interpretation of the findings
Coming to an impartial judgment
Questioning evidence for validity
Recognizing differences and similarities
We need to be able to communicate with others to share our ideas effectively. We might also need to engage in critical thinking with a group (think school or work). In these situations, we will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.
The behaviours needed to be successful within this skill include:
Asking important questions
Collaborating with others
Explaining in a way that is understood by others
Expressing opinions and ideas respectfully and impersonally
Leveraging interpersonal skills
Presenting your ideas in a clear, concise way
Working successfully in a team
Effective verbal communication skills
Strong written communication skills
Critical thinking often involves some level of creativity. We might need to spot patterns in the information we are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before.
All of this involves a creative eye and could include the following behaviours:
Possessing strong cognitive flexibility
Leveraging your imagination
Making abstract connections
Envisioning a concept
To think critically, we need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information we receive. We need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.
As a result, this would require us to be able to harness the following behaviour:
Embracing different cultural perspectives
Problem-solving is another crucial critical thinking skill that first involves analyzing a problem. And then generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Identifying a problem is one thing, but we also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.
The behaviours around this skill include:
Paying attention to details
Using logical reasoning
The Next Step
So, we’ve covered not only the skills requires but also the behaviors. By this point, I’m sure you’re reflecting on times you’ve debated people who displayed weak or non-existent critical thinking skills.
What’s encouraging is that the stronger our critical thinking skills are, the easier it is to persuade others. Most importantly, the more enriched our critical thinking skills become, the interesting everything we reflect on becomes.
Question of the Week
Should the internet be selectively censored?
Studies have proven that exposure to certain forms of online content leads to an increased likelihood to dehumanize a specific group of people or even commit violent acts against them. Two significant examples to point to are violent porn and hate crimes. What are your thoughts on online censorship for some types of content? Should censorship exist? If so, who controls it, and to what extent? Can we trust them to remain ethical with this control? If not, how do we justify the harm that comes to people as a result of a lack of censorship? Who would be most negatively impacted and why?
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