Critical thinking definition – psychologyalltopics


Critical means “ involving or exercising skilled judgment or observation.” In this sense, critical thinking means thinking clearly and intelligently.

Critical thinking definition

Robert Ennis – Critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do.

Critical thinking is the general term given to a wide range of cognitive skills and intellectual dispositions needed to effectively identify, analyze, and evaluate arguments and truth claims; to discover and overcome personal preconceptions and biases; to formulate and present convincing reasons in support of conclusions; and to make reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and what to do.

     Put somewhat differently, critical thinking is disciplined thinking governed by clear intellectual standards. Among the most important of these intellectual standards are clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, consistency, logical correctness, completeness, and fairness. Let’s begin our introduction to critical thinking by looking briefly at each of these important critical thinking standards.

Thinking is the foundation of everything we do. Every action, every solution, and every decision we make is the result of thinking. We think when we decide what to eat for lunch, how to meet a project schedule, and what to say during a conversation. We think when we drive a car (although, unfortunately, we’re not always thinking about driving). We’re thinking all the time, and although not always filled with valuable thinking, our brains are always in gear. Even when sleeping, we’re thinking.

Critical thinking is thinking but in a different way. Many people describe this process using terms such as analytical, thoughtful, questioning, probing, nonemotional, organized, innovative, Socratic, logical, methodical, not taking things for granted, examining, details, exhaustive, outside the box, scientific, and procedural. Odds are that you’ve heard and probably used a few of these terms. But what exactly do they mean?

      Some paraphrase critical thinking as “thinking smarter.”Most would agree that critical thinking is not our everyday, automatic, not-really-thinking-about-it thinking.

Critical thinking is:

  • manual thinking (not automatic);
  • purposeful;
  • being aware of the partiality of your thinking;
  • a process; and
  • thinking that uses a toolset.

Critical thinking is manual rather than automatic thinking: Let’s first take a look at automatic thinking, the kind of thinking we do the most. Have you ever driven your car to work but didn’t remember the drive when you got there? How about intending to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work—then realizing as you approached your home that you completely forgot about that errand? What about a time when you put your keys down and had no idea where they went a few minutes later? This is what happens when you’re in automatic thinking mode. It is still thinking, but you’re not necessarily aware of what you are thinking.

       Your brain’s automatic mode is extremely helpful in guiding your thinking. However, unbeknownst to you, it also discards, distorts, and creates information. Although this tendency can be extremely helpful in many situations—such as your drive to work—it can also be a drawback. When you have to think about something important, you want to get out of automatic mode and go into manual—that is, critical thinking.

Critical thinking is purposeful:

You make a conscious effort to leave automatic mode as you start to consider a certain situation. You begin to think a little bit differently using some of the techniques of critical thinking. You are very aware of what you are thinking and are thinking purposefully. For example, when you are learning something for the very first time, you are very attentive; you listen carefully to determine whether you understand; you’re aware that your goal is to learn something.

Critical thinking means that you’re aware of the partiality of your thinking: Most of the people we ask assume critical thinking is nonemotional thinking. That would be great if humans could actually achieve it. But if you are reading this book, you are undoubtedly a human being—and humans have emotions, biases, and prejudices that stem from our values. 

Although it is possible to be aware of these, it is impossible to ignore them. Your values are a part of you, and as you will read later, play an important role in how you come to conclusions. You cannot be completely impartial, but you can be aware of the components of your partiality and how they influence you.

Critical thinking is a process:

This process requires that you understand a situation, come to a conclusion about what to do, and take action on that conclusion. We have many processes in business—the steps we follow to get us from A to B. For example, a customer who has a problem may call customer care. A typical process there might include understanding why the customer is calling, assessing the situation, asking a series of questions, perhaps looking information up in a database, and coming to conclusions about what the issue is, what you can do about it, or whether you have to escalate it.

Critical thinking is conducted within a framework and toolset: The framework consists of a three-step process. The toolset consists of the individual critical thinking techniques used in each step to guide your manual thinking.

Critical thinking skills 

Analysis means identifying the key parts of a text and reconstructing it in a way that fully and fairly captures its meaning. This is particularly relevant to arguments, especially complex ones.

Evaluation means judging how successful a text is: for example, how well an argument supports its conclusion; or how strong some piece of evidence is for a claim it is supposed to support. A further argument is self-explanatory. It is the student’s opportunity to give his or her own response to the text in question, by presenting a reasoned case for or against the claims it makes.



As well as being an exercise of skill and method, critical thinking also relates to an attitude, or set of attitudes: a way of thinking and responding.

( also single types )

  •     fair and open-minded
  •     active and informed
  •     sceptical
  •     independent.


  • Critical thinking consists of making informed, evaluative judgments about claims and arguments.
  • The main strands of critical thinking are analysis (interpretation), evaluation, and further argument.
  • Critical thinking is characterized by being: fair and open-minded; active and informed; sceptical; independent.

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