ELI5 The Difference Between Logical Thinking And Critical Thinking

The origins of logical thinking and critical thinking are close in time. Philosophers and theorists like Piaget and Dewey have talked about each of them differently, evaluating each of the thinking’s broad characteristics. However, one thing which is common among such theorizing is the discussion of specific dispositions and habits that such thinkers possess. 

Even though critical thinking and logical thinking go far back in time, the differences are still very overlapping and not fully explored by contemporary research. And even if there are, not many people can correctly distinguish between the two. Whether critical thinking and logical thinking are the same or whether they have the same underlying processes, let’s explore them below.

The blog dives deeper into the root-level differences between those high-order cognitive functions alongside their examples.

What are the basic differences between Logical Thinking and Critical Thinking?

Logical Thinking and critical thinking are often used interchangeably today. However, both are higher-order cognitive skills needed for efficient functioning. Critical Thinking, as proposed by John Dewey, is reflective thinking. According to him, critical thinking involves careful consideration of a belief or information as per their supporting evidence. Dewey elaborated on the five phases in which critical thinking is undertaken: 

logical thinking

(i) taking suggestions, which are more solution-oriented

(ii) intellectualization of the difficulty, or turning the problem into a question for which answers are to be found

(ii) hypothesizing, or coming up with tentative answers to the problem

(iv) mental elaboration of these tentative answers or hypotheses, logical reasoning

(v) putting the hypothesis to test in reality or imaginatively

For him, critical thinkers possess some distinct dispositions, however, each individual has them at differing levels too. 

  • Attentiveness
  • Habit of Inquiry
  • Self-confidence
  • Courage
  • Willingness to suspend judgment
  • Trust in reason
  • Seeking the truth

Dewey and several other researchers consider logical thinking to be an important phase in the critical thinking phase. Logical argumentation or reasoning is crucial to the study of critical thinking. Hence, both rationality and logical reasoning are the pillars of the process of critical thinking. Logical thinking engages itself with the correctness or incorrectness of a value or belief, using patterns and connections between concepts. 

So, while critical thinking wants to rely on skepticism and open-mindedness, logical reasoning binds itself with previously given facts and draws inferences and conclusions. And even though the process of critical thinking is vast enough to include 3 more phases, the 2nd last phase comprises all the processes involved in logical thinking. 

Is one more advantageous than the other?

Skepticism is the cornerstone of all critical thinking work, whereas evaluating the arguments arising out of this skepticism is a work of logic. Critical thinking isn’t just a mental ability, it becomes a habit, and the intellectually gifted are the ones who indulge in it more often. Logical reasoning, on the other hand, needs to be practiced by all of us most of the time. 

critical thinking

If accessibility is concerned, logical reasoning can be regarded as the more accessible branch of the brain. Using past patterns to derive conclusions is what all of us do on a regular basis, but introspecting, hypothesizing, and then carrying out the work to check a concept’s truthfulness that’s not something that can be done regularly. 

Critical thinking also involves more disagreements with others, as the use of skepticism is central to this thinking ability. Logical thinking, on the other hand, tries to find connections that make it a much smoother and socially desirable form of inquiry. 

The downsides of both the thinking modules explained

Critical thinking and logical thinking are considered to be superior to all forms of mental operations. This leads to a bias in our own thinking. Here are some downsides of the two:

Overly critical – Both logical thinkers and critical thinkers are taught to question and practice skepticism, which sometimes leads to heavy reliance on the critical mindset. A critical mindset promotes rationality at the cost of optimism and completely focuses on the negatives rather than taking a neutral approach.

Sidelining of emotions – The right hemisphere of the brain is involved with more emotional processing, and the left thinkers completely chuck out emotions when making decisions. Emotions can provide great guidance during important matters but are often overlooked due to the unnecessary criticism they get from critical and logical thinkers. In the present time, emotional intelligence is considered to be an important component of critical thinking.

Perfectionism – Perfection is a myth; however, for a critical thinker, this pattern of thinking becomes a lifestyle and involuntary behavior. Often individuals with perfectionist tendencies are dealing with an overly critical inner self and lack of satisfaction with themselves. Perfectionism leads to hypercriticism, which is the price most brilliant minds pay. 

Is there any difference in usage?

Critical thinking and logical thinking are controlled by the same parts of the brain – the left hemisphere. Both are important higher-order cognitive skills that one needs for survival. Even though logical thinking is a part of critical thinking, individuals resort to logical thinking on a daily basis. As it just involves the analysis of facts and deduction based on them, logical thinking is far more widely practiced than critical thinking. 

Many people, in order to save mental effort, use logical reasoning rather than the initial 3 phases of critical thinking given by Dewey. While scientists, when engaged in a scientific inquiry, follow all the phases of critical thinking, lawyers heavily rely on logical reasoning. Neither of them is wrong; with different professional demands, different cognitive processes are put to work. 

Differentiating through examples

Examples Logical ThinkingCritical Thinking
Problem-SolvingUsing prior knowledge to look for solutionsComing up with several solutions, by reviewing their strengths and weaknesses and then testing them
Team-ExercisesUsing previous data to prove how multiple working together have made a project successfulUsing suggestions, previous data, and introspection to form find new patterns of doing work
Self-evaluationRelying on past performances to form a perspectiveUnderstanding the root past performance, analyzing present situations, and then coming up with new strategies for a better performance

Can an individual be both a logical and a critical thinker? 

As per the classic theory of critical thinking, for a person to be a critical thinker, logical reasoning is a necessary prerequisite. But can the same be said for a logical thinker? Absolutely! Logical thinkers and critical thinkers are not born with this manner of thinking, they are shaped through daily-life encounters. 

The present education reforms encourage critical thinking and just like John Dewey, consider critical thinking to be the ultimate goal of education. But what about logical thinking? 

Due to the overlapping nature of the two, a logical thinker is made out of a critical thinker. In the paper[1] by Steven D. Schafersman, logical thinking as a skill constitutes the critical thinking ability that can be imparted to students through formal education.


Critical thinking is an over-arching term for a range of mental operations, under which falls logical thinking or reasoning. While logical thinking can be practiced independently of critical thinking, both of them exert crucial influence on each other. At the same time, the former is often more stressed upon as people think that it can be hampered amongst kids and individuals with learning disabilities, however,  Critical thinking is a larger process than logical thinking, and one can definitely improve on their critical thinking and logical reasoning abilities at any age. 


  1. D. Schafersman, S. (1991, January). AN INTRODUCTION TO CRITICAL THINKING.

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