What is critical thinking and how to develop it?
We can read that man came to the Moon or that he never succeeded, to observe the report of the results of a scientific experiment or we can see on television what we believe can be a multitudinous manifestation.
We can believe in it or not, taking into account that what comes to us from the media, what we read, what we are told ... all this can be the product of an error or due to biased interests or opinions.
Nowadays we have to be able to doubt everything, reflecting and evaluating what we perceive and / or what it communicates to us. That is why we can ask about the ability to perform this screen. What is critical thinking and how to develop it?
- Related article: "The 9 types of thought and their characteristics"
Critical thinking: defining the concept
Critical thinking is the ability expressed by the human being to analyze and evaluate the existing information regarding a specific topic or topic, trying to clarify the truth of this information and reach a justified idea in this regard, ignoring possible external biases.
We apply critical thinking to try to discern the reality of what we are told and perceive from the analysis of the reasoning used to explain it . In a way analogous to what Descartes proposed, it is about doubting the absolute information, dogmas and axioms that surround us until we can give them truthfulness or otherwise ignore them. With this, we seek to have a justified idea of reality and not blindly accept what others tell us.
This kind of thinking, linked with skepticism , helps the human being to create his own identity, appearing throughout the development and being especially visible in adolescence and from it. It is not about taking the opposite to the world, but about being able to elaborate our own point of view based on the verification and comparison of data. What is intended with critical thinking is to eliminate fallacies and biases that compromise the objectivity of the researched data.
Critical thinking is closely related to other abilities such as creativity, logic or intuition, allowing us to develop new strategies and ways of seeing and perceiving things. Having good critical thinking skills helps us to avoid conformism and to advance as human beings, avoiding that there is only one way of seeing the world.
Critical thinking and not desiderative
We have previously indicated that critical thinking helps us not to get carried away by the opinion of others and to consider this something totally true and correct. However, we must not confuse critical thinking with acting on our impulses.
While being critical of what is given by the way is very helpful to improve ourselves and create new ways of seeing the world, that does not mean that we have to depend on what we create without more. This could lead us to think that what we want or think of something is the truth, which in turn can lead us to commit cognitive biases.
For example, a person with major depression may believe that their condition will never change and that everything they try does not matter at all. This does not mean that this is the case, finding (either alone or with professional help) in your life positive things that will help you improve your condition.
Critical thinking itself it implies being able to put aside the different fallacies and biases to focus on finding a truth as justified and reasonable as possible, looking for evidence and evidence that what is said or done is true. It is based on the search for objectivity, ignoring the subjective and manipulative elements that other people or even oneself can introduce in the analysis of information.
- Maybe you're interested: "The 10 types of logical and argumentative fallacies"
What skills do you have to have critical thinking?
We have made a description of what critical thinking is. However, it is worth wondering what exactly is necessary to have it? Having a critical thinking assumes that the individual who has it possesses to some degree the following abilities or traits.
1. Reflection capacity
To be able to have a critical mindset is necessary be able to reflect on things in abstract terms . That is, to be able to associate the information that reaches us with its meaning on a superficial as well as a deep level, as well as the implications that this information has with respect to the rest of reality.
Critical thinking implies the ability to doubt that what we perceive or believe we perceive is true, accepting the possibility that there are other different alternatives of the proposal (s).Thus, a certain mental flexibility is necessary that allows us to visualize that other perspectives different from the usual one can be objective and produce the desired results.
3. Logic and detection of bias
The capacity of visualize the logic or lack of it in the things that we analyze, as well as the possible failures and biases may have the affirmations and thoughts about them, it is fundamental in this aspect. If we are not able to detect specific aspects of the argument that do not finish correspond with reality or those that lack explanation, it is not possible to make a well-founded criticism.
4. Theory of the mind
It is necessary to take into account that all statements and opinions are made by human beings, who present their opinions based on what they consider correct. So that, the knowledge may be biased even on purpose , if an objective is sought with its transmission.
- Related article: "Theory of the Mind: what is it and what does it tell us about ourselves?"
5. Ability to doubt things
To not accept any explanation it is necessary to be able to question the veracity of it. But nevertheless, it is necessary that the doubts be circumscribed to the reasonable , otherwise you could doubt any existing principle. And while it would be a kind of critical thinking, excessive skepticism would not lead to any resolution.
6. Motivation and curiosity
To doubt something is very useful that what we doubt is significant. We can be critical of something that does not matter to us, but the presence of a high motivation and curiosity about the subject or the given arguments implies that will try to find a truthful and justifiable solution .
Methods to enhance critical thinking
Critical thinking is a capacity of great utility and today much sought by society, both at work and in other aspects of life. It is therefore of great interest to be able to enhance it . To this end we have various activities and habits that can be useful.
1. Try to keep an open mind
We all have our opinions about what surrounds us. However, to think critically it is necessary to bear in mind that ours or the explanation that society offers may not be the only or the most accurate. It's more complicated than it seems , but we must allow in our mind the acceptance of other positions, however different they may be from our own.
2. Try to train empathy
Being able to put yourself in the shoes of others makes it easier to understand how they have come to the conclusions they have reached. Some activity that can facilitate empathy is the realization of role-playings , the theater, or the expression and communication of emotions and thoughts to others.
3. Actively participate in debates
The best way to increase competence in a capacity is to exercise it. Thus, Participation in forums and debates It is very useful when confronted with the opinions, beliefs and data found by different people.
4. Analyze texts and videos
The analysis of different materials can help improve critical thinking skills. It is especially important to observe the possible objectives or the reasons that a person may have to create such material. It can be started by simple material and clearly based on subjective elements , such as opinion columns or advertising elements. Later we can move forward incorporating more technical and apparently objective material.
5. Avoid bandwagon and underdog effects
Many people join an opinion because it is either supported by the majority or ignored by it . It is necessary that our thinking is not influenced by the fact that others pay more or less attention to the fact or information in question.
- Maybe you're interested: "Gregariousness: the Bandwagon effect and the Underdog effect"
6. Question stereotypes
Society constantly generates stereotypes regarding a large number of topics. Try to choose one of them and look for information that puts it in question to see to what extent it serves to explain reality .
7. Find and compare contradictory elements
It is easy to find publications on controversial topics about which there is no clear general opinion or absolutely certain. Find two opinions confronted and analyze each of them allows observe what weak points these arguments have , helping to be able to analyze other future information.
8. Investigate and prepare yourself
In order to discuss something it is necessary to know what we are talking about. Be informed about what is happening in the world It will allow us to put in perspective the information that we receive from abroad, including the very medium through which we have informed.
9. Learn to separate information from what it causes you
Emotions help us to give an internal meaning to what happens to us and we live. However, in many cases they cause us to behave or think in a certain way solely based on such sensations . This can lead us to consider what makes us feel like the only truth.
10Try to pay attention to your intuition
Despite what has been said in the inner point, sometimes our mind acts in a concrete way that we can not explain rationally. Intuition is sometimes conceptualized as the result of the unconscious processing of information , that is, as the realization of an internal analysis of the information that we have not processed at a conscious level. However, keep in mind that this intuition can also be biased.