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.” In Webster’s New World Dictionary, the relevant entry reads “characterized by careful analysis and judgment” and is followed by the gloss, “critical — in its strictest sense — implies an attempt at objective judgment so as to determine both merits and faults.”
The critical 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 open mindedly 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
- Avoids superstition
- Avoids seeing what we “expect” or “wish” to see
- Disregards “accepted wisdom” and treats every question on its own merits
- Will make lists, graphs and charts when appropriate
- Will reject sunk cost bias when making choices
- Will always look to the motives of a speaker i.e. what does this person stand to gain by persuading me?
- Makes their analysis or decision without emotion, bias or prejudice
- Knows the basic logical fallacies logical fallacies and how to apply them.
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.
Here is a handy infographic on the subject: