Critical thinking

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Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

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Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Republican Party of Texas 2012 platform

Critical thinking is an approach to gathering data, making inferences, and analyzing said inferences so as to determine rationally justifiable reasons to hold a certain belief. [1] In practice, critical thinking draws heavily on ideas from the scientific revolution, philosophy, and logic.

Critical thinking advocates a particular approach to data acquisition and rational assessment. People applying critical thinking often aim to collect as much relevant data as possible, and then to assess that data for accuracy, and finally use the data to arrive at the most justified conclusions possible. Critical thinking is an ongoing process and even ideas that one feels are well-supported need to be occasionally reevaluated to see if new information might change one's mind. It's particularly relevant to critical thinking that one evaluates the validity of a given argument, and whether or not the reasons in support of the presented conclusion are sound. For this reason, Critical thinking uses many aspects of formal logic and informal logic. It also focuses on discovering and unmasking bias, propaganda, delusion, and deception — both in the sources of one's information and in one's own views and approaches to reasoning problems out.

It is important to emphasize that thinking critically is not simply basing one's beliefs on the available evidence, but also knowing what sort of inferences and beliefs are rationally justifiable given the nature of the evidence itself.

Examples of critical thinking skills[edit]

Critical thinking is the key to success.
—Professor Hershel Layton of the Professor Layton video game series

According to the Collegiate Learning Assessment,[2] critical thinking skills typically include the following:

  • Determining what information is or is not relevant.
  • Distinguishing between rational and emotional claims.
  • Knowing how to separate fact from opinion.
  • Recognizing the ways in which evidence might be limited or compromised.
  • Spotting deception and holes in the arguments of others.
  • Being able to present a personal analysis of the data or information.
  • Recognizing logical flaws in various arguments.
  • Drawing connections between discrete sources of data and information.
  • Selecting the strongest set of supporting information.
  • Recognizing that a problem may have no clear answer or single answer.
  • Being able to articulate the argument and the context for that argument in a clear and fair manner.
  • How to correctly and precisely use evidence to defend the argument

The Foundation for Critical Thinking, however, has proffered a more complete list and detailed analysis of critical thinking skills.[3]

Having a basic understanding of formal logic, statistics, and probability no doubt aids in the pursuit of critical thinking. In fact, the more knowledge one has the more they may be able to successfully identify factual errors in the arguments of others. Basic scientific literacyWikipedia is also integral to the application of critical thinking.

In a nutshell[edit]

QualiaSoup provides a brief and educational look at some of the principles of critical thinking.

See also[edit]


  1. Vaughn, L., & MacDonald, C. (2013). The power of critical thinking. Oxford University Press.
  2. Defining Critical Thinking, Analytical Reasoning, Problem Solving and Writing Skills by Richard H. Hersh
  3. Strategy List: 35 Dimensions of Critical Thought