Do You Possess Good Critical Thinking?

Do you look at and process reality from a critical perspective? Some take it for granted that they possess this competence, and yet they're victims of misinformation and media manipulation. Find out if you fit the profile of a critical thinker.
Do You Possess Good Critical Thinking?

Written by Valeria Sabater

Last update: 20 October, 2022

In a world that’s increasingly rushed, hyper-connected, and dominated by constant information, patience is in danger of extinction. You barely have time to pause and reflect and your ability to see reality from a more skeptical point of view is pushed into the background. In fact, you tend to believe issues that are consistent with your original beliefs, which makes self-criticism difficult.

Reflecting on the ideas that you incorporate into your mental schemas has become your lifeline for dealing with an increasingly diffuse and complex reality. Thanks to this metacognitive process, you can differentiate what’s true from what’s false, and what’s important from what’s insubstantial. You need to train your curious brain and separate the scientific facts from the opinions of the various so-called ‘experts’ you’re faced with on a daily basis. However, you haven’t been taught how to develop this skill.

For example, as a child, you were guided to acquire reading skills, but not to establish resources with which to detect manipulation in the printed word. Along similar lines, today, when a child turns 12 or 14 and is starting to use their first cell phone, they’re not always told what to expect. Therefore, they don’t how the digital universe can distort their self-esteem and identity.

Acquiring a critical approach, being prudent when taking something for granted, and being eager to contrast the information that reaches you, can be of indisputable help. So… what if you put yourself to the test to find out if you have this tool or not?

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can no longer believe you.” 
-Friedrich Nietzsche-

Sad teenager with mobile thinking how to develop good critical thinking
Social media and the information that flows through them put our critical thinking to the test every day

Keys to knowing if you have good critical thinking

We all have the ability to think and reason, and most assume that they do it wonderfully (when they don’t). In fact, if we were to ask anyone on the street if they possess good critical thinking, without a doubt, they’d emphatically say yes.

As a rule, we rely far too much on our mental resources and skills so as not to let ourselves be manipulated. However, a large part of the population develops what we know as pseudo-critical thinking. In other words, they have extreme confidence in their opinions and defend them as absolute truths.

These people don’t admit opposite approaches, they simplify reality, they don’t know how to provide arguments when they’re contradicted and they end up, most of the time, having childish tantrums when they lose their patience. The good news is that thinking well (being more critical, reflective, curious, and free from cognitive bias ) is a skill that can be learned.

First, you have to check if you possess good critical thinking. Take a look at the following keys and be honest with yourself when it comes to admitting whether or not you carry out each of these practices.

1. You realize that your conceptions or beliefs aren’t always accurate and correct them

We all spend many years taking certain realities for granted until, suddenly, we find information that contradicts them. Possessing critical thinking means discovering your biased ideas and deactivating them, correcting them, and cleaning them up. Surprising as it may seem, not everyone does this.

In fact, some people believe that nothing can be worse than discarding a mistaken belief. They feel that doing so would affect their self-image and self-concept, so they resort to all kinds of psychological tricks to continue giving truth to their original ideas. No matter how old they are.

2. You’r concerned about how you think and want to ‘think better’

Think about how you think. It seems like a tongue twister as well as a convoluted task. However, developing self-awareness of your own thinking allows you to reason, decide, and act more effectively. Indeed, only those who are capable of asking themselves how they reason are capable of detecting biases, prejudices, and irrational beliefs.

Your mind houses a whole cognitive armory that hinders good critical thinking. Being able to ask yourself how you think and how you arrive at certain deductions will allow you to be more efficient.

3. You like to have conversations with others who think differently

Do you have the patience to converse with those who think differently from you? Or, do you feel threatened when talking to a person who has different beliefs from yours? Having a critical approach allows you to be able to have conversations in which you can attend to approaches other than yours.

Sometimes, it’s enriching to have debates with figures who provide you with new data capable of opening up other perspectives.

If you’re a person with a good critical approach, you’ll be defined by  humility and the ability to admit what you don’t know and don’t understand. After all, it’s when you’re too trusting and assume that you know everything, that you make mistakes and fall prey to manipulation.

4. You’re curious and inquisitive

In an interesting study conducted at McMaster University, in Canada, they highlighted the relevance of transmitting the competence of critical thinking to students. In this work, they defined the critical thinker as someone impartial with an open mind who looks for evidence.

Critical thinkers are inquisitive people who always try to be well-informed, taking into account the points of view of others to review their own beliefs. Also, good critical thinking requires motivation, curiosity, and a constant interest in being informed.

Man listening to woman kindly on how to develop good critical thinking
People with good critical thinking enjoy talking to those who think differently because they’re always trying to test their own beliefs.

5. You tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty

The world isn’t black and white and not everything is based on resounding truths. In fact, it’s not always easy to have quick responses to unexpected events. A critical look knows and understands that reality is full of nuances. Furthermore, it’s uncertain, and it’s not easy to predict or provide immediate solutions to great challenges.

The mind that knows how to be patient and accept without despair the nuances of daily chaos is a wise and successful one.

6. Good critical thinking requires you to separate your identity from your beliefs

There are those who assume that “I am my opinions and my beliefs”. Therefore, when someone thinks differently from them, they feel threatened. In effect, they feel that their ideas are their identity. However, if you have an open and critical mind, you don’t tie your identity to your beliefs. That’s because you know that they can be modified and updated.

Your only need is to validate realities that are true and not allow yourself to be manipulated. This is how you reinforce your self-image and feel good. However, that requires you to be critical, meticulous, curious, and patient. You also need to contrast each piece of information that comes to you. Such a task implies time, something that’s quite scarce.

Finally, it’s true that maintaining a critical focus can be exhausting. However, always remember that the best way to avoid being deceived and manipulated is to take control of your way of thinking.

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