Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyse information and evaluate it rationally, while understanding the link between ideas and concepts. It involves problem-solving and reasoning, and taking action, making a decision or forming an argument based on observations and interpretation of information. In simpler terms, you can think of it as the ability to question ideas or events, and not necessarily take them at face value. It’s an important skill which will inform the development of your own opinions and ideas. If you’d like to nurture your critical thinking skills, here’s some advice from a prep school in the UK which you might find useful.
Get into the habit of questioning information you’re presented with or questioning yourself when you’re faced with a decision to make. Ask why?, what?, who?, and how? when you’ve observed something or when you’re faced with different options or a problem to solve. In addition, try to question your own assumptions about events or ideas; ask why you’ve formed that assumption and whether there could be different viewpoints to explore. This ability to question the perceived norms is an important aspect of critical thinking, and getting into this habit will allow you to approach life with an open-minded attitude.
Evaluate the evidence
Another key part of being able to think critically is assessing evidence and deciding whether it’s useful in helping you solve a problem or reach a conclusion. Try to get to the bottom of where the evidence has come from and how that might affect its validity. Being able to spot where bias is involved is also a useful critical thinking skill as this can inform your decision making process.
Seek out different views
Our natural tendency is to align ourselves with people who think and act the same as us, but this can narrow our perspective and limit our thinking. This is particularly relevant in the age of social media where we can get lost in what’s often described as an ‘echo chamber’ – that is, a space where we only ever hear viewpoints similar to our own. This stifles our ability to change our thinking and beliefs based on new information we receive. Try to seek out thoughts and opinions different to your own. Step outside your normal social circle and have debates with people who hold contrasting beliefs and viewpoints. This will enable you to consider information from a different perspective and question any assumptions you might have made about people or events.
Reverse your thinking
Thinking in reverse can be an effective way of solving a problem that you’re stuck on. This entails flipping your thoughts and knowledge on their head, and considering them backwards; so instead of assuming that A causes B, you could ask yourself: “What if B actually causes A?” Doing this disrupts your normal thinking process and allows you to discover alternative solutions.
Consider all angles
When you’re faced with a decision to make, practise considering the available options from a variety of different angles. Think about the potential consequences of pursuing each one, and how that might affect you or other people. Again, you’ll want to ask questions when considering each scenario, and carefully analyse the answers. On a practical level, you can boost this important critical thinking skill by writing a pros and cons list whenever you face a decision and going through each item on your list and thinking about its impact on whoever is involved.
Getting into the habit of questioning information, evaluating evidence, challenging your thinking and considering things from different perspectives will improve your critical thinking skills; you’ll be able to rely on your own decision-making and develop informed opinions which will stand you in good stead throughout life.