Critical Thinking

What is Critical Thinking?

The concept of critical thinking is derived from ancient roots in Greek. The word ’’critical’’ derives etymologically from two Greek roots: “kriticos” (meaning discerning judgment) and “kriterion” (meaning standards). Etymologically, then, the word implies the development of “discerning judgment based on standards.” Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

A well cultivated 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 openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences 
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

How Critical Thinking Pertains to your Teen

A Case Study

Heather A. Butler started research to explore whether critical thinking ability or intelligence (IQ) was a better predictor of real life events. Community adults and college students completed a critical thinking assessment, an intelligence test, and an inventory of life events. 

The Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment (HCTA) was used to measure critical thinking ability. The assessment measures five facets of critical thinking including: (a) verbal reasoning, (b) argument analysis, (c) hypothesis testing, (d) likelihood and uncertainty, and (e) problem solving. The INSBAT was used to measure intelligence, which can measure up to 14 facets of intelligence, but for the purposes of this research – they tested fluid intelligence, crystalized intelligence, visual processing, quantitative reasoning, short-term memory, and long term memory. 

And the real-world outcomes (RWO) inventory was used to measure the proportion of negative life events experienced by the participants. The self report inventory measures life negative life events from many domains (e.g., interpersonal, work, financial, health, education). These life events vary in severity from mildly negative (e.g., paying late fees for a movie rental) to severely negative (e.g., contracting a sexually transmitted disease because you did not wear a condom). 

Results – The research found that individuals with high critical thinking skills reported fewer negative life events. It also found that individuals with high intelligence reported fewer life events. Although, interestingly enough, critical thinking more strongly predicted life events than intelligence and significantly added to the variance explained by IQ. The good news is there is ample evidence that critical thinking can be taught, so there is hope that teaching critical thinking skills might prevent the occurrence of negative events.


Proven and Predicted Outcomes of High Critical Thinkers

Good Decision Making

Good Communicator

Enhances Language and Presentation Skills

Promotes Creativity

Think smarter, live better.

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