Critical Thinking Isn’t What You Think! – Part 1

Posted by: michael  :  Category: DIY Brain Health

Critical thinking isn’t about what you think – it’s about how you think! Let me try to explain what I mean.

Many people think that critical thinking is really all about being critical. In other words, one criticizes what one hears or sees.

In small part that interpretation is correct. One may well end up being ‘critical’ of the content of an article or speech, for example. However, there is a marked difference between simply being ‘critical’ and being ‘critical’ as a result of a balanced, rational analysis of the material before you.

Critical thinking involves processes such as the gathering, analysis and evaluation of information, decision-making and formation of a conclusion(s).

In contrast, being ‘critical appears as a response based on a pre-programmed mindset. In chronic cases it’s more or less an automated reaction to just about any material one receives.

Critical thinking then is all about thinking for yourself – simply being critical is letting others think for you.

The first step in developing the capability of critical thinking is learning how to organise and arrange information. So let’s look at that…

When you want to think about something your brain has to search in your memory for stored information relevant to the subject.

If the information stored in your memory is disorganised it becomes more difficult to find what you are looking for, It follows then that the more organised the stored information the more efficient you will be in finding what you want.

And the more relevant the information is to the particular topic the more pertinent your analysis of it and the more creativity it fosters.

So what does this mean in terms of developing critical thinking skills? In short, it means you should pay attention to noting and recording things about things – properties, characteristics, features or whatever you like to call them.

Let me give an example…
To those who wish to develop their critical thinking skills – a pencil, for example, is not just a pencil… something with which to write.
Observe your pencil more closely:
                        * Pencils are made of wood – why?
                        * Pencils have a core of graphite – why?
                        * Pencils are often hexagonal rather than round – why?

                        * Pencils are light rather than heavy – why?
                        * How might you recognise a pencil from the properties you have identified?

So it’s a process of asking (and answering) yourself questions about that which you are observing. Now when you answer your questions you might not always get the answer ‘right’ in the conventional wisdom. But you know what – that’s absolutely fine! Why? Because you will be fostering your creativity and who knows what unique perspective might emerge.

Suggested action:
Pick out 2 or 3 common objects. Ask yourself questions about them – just as we did with the pencil. Don’t rule out creative answers simply because you feel they are unconventional.

For each object you choose, once you have completed your identification of properties and answered to your satisfaction the questions of why, structure the information. What I mean is arrange the information for storage in such a way that it will be easy to recall. This process is much like arranging the files in a filing cabinet so you can find the file you want without an extended search.

Next time we’ll look at the process of analysing information – until then “good observing”.

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