How to Think Logically: Critical Thinking Skills for Every Day

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Critical thinking teaches students how to define and analyze problems while avoiding fallacies and cognitive biases. They develop the ability to make very strong and persuasive arguments based on logic and evidence, which are essential in the workplace or any situation that requires higher levels of analysis. Learning critical thinking skills doesn’t just happen overnight, though. It takes practice, reflection, and guidance from parents, teachers, and other influential adults to help students develop these important habits of mind. When it comes to learning how to think logically, there are many misconceptions about what it means and how to go about developing these important thinking skills.

What is critical thinking?

In its simplest form, critical thinking is a way of analyzing information by questioning it, examining it from all sides, avoiding logical fallacies, and considering alternative explanations. In short, people use critical thinking daily when making decisions or solving problems. Although critical thinking is a life skill that can be applied to many situations, it has particular relevance in education and business. So how does one practice critical thinking? The following is some pertinent information on how you can improve your own critical thinking skills.

Why do we need critical thinking?

We live in a world of information, but it’s only as good as how we process it. The thoughts and decisions we make depend on how well we can evaluate and process information. Whether you’re trying to win an argument or make a sound decision about something important, being able to think critically can help you do that—in any situation. Simply put, if you want to succeed in any endeavor, it will help immensely if you know how to reason and analyze issues logically. And that’s what critical thinking is all about!

critical thinking diagram on blackboard
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What are some examples of critical thinking in action?

In every profession, there are situations where critical thinking is an absolute necessity. When a doctor diagnoses and treats a patient, it is his or her job to use critical thinking skills when considering different hypotheses about what might be causing a patient’s symptoms. A police officer needs to consider different courses of action in any given situation and assess which course will cause less harm overall. In schools, teachers utilize critical thinking skills as they plan lessons, solve problems and respond to students’ thoughts and questions.

Critical questions to ask when reading something logically

How do you know that? Is there any evidence or reason to believe it? Who benefits from me believing it? What is at stake if I believe or disbelieve? Why might someone deceive me into believing something?

Avoiding logical fallacies or cognitive biases

A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. This can take many forms but often happens when someone assumes that something is true without offering any evidence or assumes that a premise is false without justification. In everyday conversation, it’s easy to overlook fallacies because they are often embedded in language as tropes (e.g., I hear you instead of I disagree with you). However, in academic writing, it’s important to avoid fallacies because students are expected to support their arguments with evidence and reasoning. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of how commonly fallacious reasoning occurs. It takes practice and critical thinking skills to learn how each specific logical fallacy manifests itself. The following section provides examples of some common logical fallacies along with explanations and examples from everyday life.   In addition to our ability to think critically, some cognitive biases affect our ability to reason and make decisions about complex problems. Here are just a few examples: 1) Anchoring bias: This refers to making an inference based on limited information. For example, let’s say you’re looking at apartments online and find one listed at $750 per month; after seeing that price, it becomes difficult for you to imagine paying more than $800 per month on rent—even if other listings suggest prices higher than $800 would be reasonable given your location and preferences. 2) Confirmation bias: If we have strong opinions about something (or even if we don’t have strong opinions), we tend to interpret new information in ways that fit our preexisting beliefs.

Some examples of logical fallacies are:

Ad hominem-Attacking your opponent’s personal traits or character in an attempt to undermine their argument; Ad populum-The fact that something is popular has no bearing on whether it is beneficial. Everyone drives over the speed limit, so it should not be against the law; Appeal to authority-When writers or speakers use appeal to authority, they are claiming that something must be true because someone believes it said to be an “authority” on the subject; appeal to ignorance-Argument from ignorance, also known as appeal to ignorance, is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false or a proposition is false because it has not yet been proven true. Those are just a few examples of logical fallacies. Some other examples include data manipulation and propaganda. Many of us have seen fallacious arguments firsthand in our daily lives. If you have ever told someone that their argument is not valid because how would they know if they are Christian, then you have committed what is known as an ad hominem fallacy by attacking their person instead of their argument or claim.–MM


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