8 Characteristics Of Critical Thinking

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The famous British-American Author Christopher Hitchens once said ‘The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.’’ These lines are the very core of critical thinking. This attribute might look like a complex and complicated subject to understand, but situations as basic as searching about something on the internet and then using the most relevant matter involves critical thinking. 

Critical thinking can be thought of as a virtue for an individual. Everyone is born with a mind to think critically, rationally, and logically. But, some people ordinally indulge in practices that elevate their critical thinking power. 

In this post, we will be looking into what critical thinking is, the benefits and characteristics of critical thinking, and then how to improve critical thinking.

Critical Thinking- A Trait Requisite For Success?

Critical thinking- the one attribute due to which the understanding level differs from individual to individual. Critical thinking, by definition, is the process by which an individual conceptualizes and analyzes the information that they gathered and then makes informed decisions as needed. Individuals can elevate it when they are self-regulated and open-minded. 

The driving factor for this attribute is the inquisitiveness to understand the world around us. The enthusiasm to analyze and create solutions for problems makes critical thinkers. Brainstorming teaches people the right way to reflect on the information they’ve acquired. Thus, it is often evaluated in essay writing tasks, where the student has to brainstorm to present the best. 

According to Oliver and Utermohlen[1] (1995), most children do not respond or react perceptibly. Moreover, in recent times, technology has given them a lot of access to information, but all this might not be accepted or absorbed well by the child. This is where critical thinking in them becomes crucial. 

Moreover, in a world where people are free to think independently, critical thinking is a must, which helps us to make sound decisions factually. 

Importance of critical thinking

Sometimes our brains may be imperfect, irrational, and distorted on a cognitive basis. All those bad adjectives aside, conceptualizing helps to make the difference between success and failure at every level of life. Critical thinking has more than one benefit apart from this. 

Brainstorming is a huge part of an individual’s success; Whatever your profession be, critical thinking helps to analyze information, solve problems systematically, generate innovative solutions, think creatively, plan strategically, and thus present ideas in a way that is easily understood. 

When individuals carefully analyze and reason, they solve their problems, which helps them make more informed choices and ease their path. These individuals believe that there is a way out of every obstacle, making them positive thinkers. 

Freethinkers end up with great relationships because they are empathetic, social, and they respect other people’s opinions. They look at an issue from both sides to provide a neutral and unbiased solution. 

Characteristics of Critical Thinking 

Critical thinkers possess more than essential skills of analysis, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and empathy. There are scientific terms for each of these attributes. They are listed below:

  1. Metacognition

Metacognition is the awareness of one’s own thinking, ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. This is used to perform specific tasks with particular awareness so that they can have control over what they are doing. This refers to the planning, monitoring, and accessing part of one’s own opinions, understanding, and performance. Critical thinking demands self-examination and self-evaluation. 

  1. Argument

Critical thinkers identify and evaluate things to construct valid arguments. This argument allows the individual to utilize and apply critical thinking skills through logical reasoning. The argument has a body, and the thinker must be able to draw a conclusion to the set of statements. It is all about understanding the context and the reasons to be able to argue better, and in the end, derive a verdict. 

  1. Reasoning

Critical thinkers logically perceive everything to form a conclusion. Their reasoning abilities make them know both sides of the matter to end with appropriate assumptions. Reasoning is crucial because it evaluates the person’s capacity to think logically and reason well. This also involves differentiating between facts and thoughts and then deriving out possible outcomes. 

  1. Point of view

Point of view refers to how the person views things; different views give different assumptions. Critical thinkers, however, consider all the phenomena from all points of view. Having a point of view is imperative while being rational and logical as this aspect makes the thoughts, ideas, and views unique. With a point of view, we look at different perspectives and the way others perceive the world.

  1. Criteria applying procedures

Critical thinkers see things from a different point of view and have varied criteria to compartmentalize things like questions, judgments, and assumptions. Questions are asked to clear the queries. Judgments and assumptions are made based on precise, multi-dimensional observation. And finally, the procedure would involve drawing out an outcome. A person who brainstorms for a conclusion often follows a procedure, so that it can be logical and well-reasoned. 

  1. Avoiding oversimplification

Critical thinkers never overestimate or underestimate anyone or anything. Making exact observations without oversimplifying it leads them to perfect assumptions. This is also crucial because this overestimation or underestimation often clouds the conclusions, and an individual who thinks critically, and analyzes the situation profoundly would never want that. 

  1. Examining the evidence

Evidence is the proof of every argument and statement. Critical thinkers don’t stop at the sight of evidence; instead, they will never make assumptions before examining the evidence. Brainstormers would want to see the proof and then believe a certain thing. Without proof, and legitimate evidence, deep thinkers do not like to draw out conclusions. 

  1. Tolerating Ambiguity

Ambiguity implies the inexactness of information and resources. Ambiguity is common in every area. A critical thinker is always comfortable with uncertainty, unpredictability, conflicting directions, and multiple demands. Tolerating confusion, or bewilderment allows the individual to deal with a problem that does not have a defined nature. This comes in handy when people are working on problems in a group since they can easily consider the vast options available. 

Improving Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking may not be a by-birth attribute for some individuals. However, the good news is that such a fruitful characteristic is often teachable. 

All of this starts with the formulation of questions. Formulation of questions on basic things can break and bring to the base level. For instance, if you want to go to the gym, formulate a question, why are you joining the gym?—to put on weight or to lose weight. 

The second thing is gathering information. Once the question is formed, all the information related to its needs can be assembled with the help of experts, the internet, books, and other resources. Now, it’s time to apply the information in finding the answer to the question. You may consider answering questions like What assumptions exist? Is the information logical? Among others.

Assumptions and conclusions are not always temporary; thus, always consider the long-term implications of the decision taken. Understanding how the decision will shape things in the future can make you understand if you are going wrong. 

Conclusively, don’t forget to explore others’ points of view. Understanding different perspectives will make you understand and reflect on the information to help you understand better exactly how you feel. Moreover, understanding different perspectives can give a better experience.

The bottom line

Due to the increase in volatility and loads of available information, critical thinking has been turning crucial to making appropriate decisions. Essential characteristics of thinking would help to understand it better and check if you are a critical thinker. Remember, critical thinking is not always a by-birth skill. You can inculcate some best practices to improve your necessary thinking skills. Critical thinking is a personal process and thus has a high chance of personal ambiguity.

References :

[1] Oliver and Utermohlen: An Innovative Teaching Strategy: Using Critical Thinking To Give Students a Guide to the Future by Oliver, Helen; Utermohlen, Robert. 

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