Being a Critical Thinker
Being a critical thinker is less about being right or wrong, and more about deciding what is right and wrong. It’s a skill that is becoming increasingly more important, as more and more fake news and unverified information is being published to the internet every minute. A critical thinker has the ability to form their own views and opinions, and does not blindly follow others. So, next time you’re being fed some new info, consider how likely it is to be true before accepting it as the truth. Sometimes it pays to be skeptical…
Approaching a Theory With Critical Thinking
There are a multitude of conflicting views and opinions in the world. Contradicting evidence and research being used to prove one theory and exclude another makes it very difficult to know what is true, and what isn’t. That’s why we’ve compiled this short list of 5 questions to help you become a critical thinker and better decision-maker. So, give it a try next time you need to approach a situation with critical thinking!
1. What am I being asked to believe?
First, make sure you understand exactly what the person/source is telling you. Build your understanding with further research into the theory and try to decide whether it makes sense to you or not. Sometimes the use of language and vocabulary can make it difficult to understand exactly what is being communicated, so it might be worth finding out if there is another source that is supporting this same theory. This might help you get a better understanding of the theory, or even help you make a decision on whether or not your original source knows what they’re talking about!
2. Who is asking me to believe it?
Considering the source of the information you are analysing is a major part of being a critical thinker. This point raises further questions like ‘why do they want me to believe this theory?’, and ‘what is in it for them?’. This brings us to the point of potential bias. Sometimes, a person/source might stand to benefit from having people believe their theory. Depending on who is telling the story, the presence of bias might exist in persuasive language. Then again, a person can be both persuasive and truthful, no? This is another reason to research other sources who are offering the same/similar information. Is there any variation between different versions of the same theory/information. Has something been lost in translation? Do your research.
3. Is there evidence to support this theory?
Speaking of research, is the source claiming to present evidence-based information? Where and how have they collected their research? The various methods of collecting data can present many challenges in itself, and make way for serious bias. Now it’s time to research the research. If the source of information is claiming to have supporting evidence, you should review this evidence, and decide if you believe it is relevant. There’s always a chance that it’s completely invalid, or that the results of the research have simply been misinterpreted by the source of information. With too many variables that can cause an error in the information offered, it pays to do some independent research of your own.
4. What are the alternatives?
For almost every theory offered, there are conflicting/contradicting ones to match. Some people might still believe that the earth is flat, for example. No matter how certain you may be, it’s likely somebody, somewhere is certain of something else. This doesn’t mean that you’re wrong of course, but in some cases, it might mean that exploring the alternative theories offered is a good idea. You might agree with parts of one theory, and parts of another, forming your own views as a critical thinker. Fill yourself with knowledge, keep on learning, and foster independent thought.
5. What is the most reasonable conclusion?
‘Based on my knowledge, understanding and research, what makes the most sense to me?’ Once you’ve answered all of the above questions, it’s time to draw some conclusions. How reliable is the source? Could the information/data be biased? Does this theory actually make sense to you? A combination of your research, and your opinion based on experience should be considered. Rationality can be used to form theories and opinions, although it does need to be supported by research and experience/observation.
The ability to be a competent critical thinker is something that we all need to develop. Critical thinking will help you to make sense of the world, forming your own views and opinions. Don’t blindly accept the truth, and don’t mistake rationalism for certainty. Always do your research, and you’ll be better equipped to start developing some theories of your own… Once again, thanks for reading! If you’ve got a critical thinking question you’d like to add, you can leave it in the comments section below.