By making habits of the following suggestions, you may become more effective as a critical thinker.
- An attitude of inquiry: Develop a practice of asking questions about information that is presented. The first question is, “How do we know?”
- Think twice about common knowledge. It was once common knowledge that the Sun revolved about the Earth. Consider what assumptions are being made, and question them.
- Inform yourself. If you don’t know all the details that went into developing some piece of information, find out.
- Be open-minded. We all have biases but it takes hard work to overcome them. Think about what it would take for you to change your mind, and then look for it.
- Take time away from emotional issues. If it is a matter involving illness, death, or loved ones, or if it is an issue that you have a personal stake in, sleep on it. Give your emotions a rest so that your mind can take over when you can think more clearly.
- Don’t judge so easily. Whether you are judging a person or an idea, there is no rush. Give it time and think about whether you really have enough information to make that judgment.
- Reconsider your position. Go beyond just being open-minded, and actively try to prove yourself wrong.
- Be reasonable. That is, base your understanding of the matter upon reasoning rather than convictions or feelings.
- Think broadly. There may be important information that you are missing, which you do not even know that you are missing. Consider what factors may be outside of your knowledge base.
- Understand that not everyone has these skills, and be patient with them. If you are arguing with someone, rather than going on the attack, walk through your thinking with them, and try to sympathize with their view.
This list was derived from the following document about critical thinking, in combination with personal experience:
Facione, Peter A. 1990. Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction; Executive Summary of The Delphi Report. Millbrae, CA: California Academic Press.