Critical Thinking: Definition, Characteristics, Skills, and Importance

Thinking critically is a term we hear a lot, but many people do not stop to think about what it means or how to use it. The word “critical” can mean different things in different contexts. For example, it can refer to the importance of something, or it can also mean pointing out the negative aspects of something, that is, criticizing something.

However, critical thinking does not mean looking only for the essential aspects of a topic or only criticizing an idea. It is also about not accepting what you read or hear with the naked eye but constantly questioning the information, pictures, and arguments you find in their studies.

What is critical thinking?

It is the objective analysis of the facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex. There are several different definitions, including rational, skeptical, impartial analysis, or the evaluation of objective evidence. It is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-controlled, and self-correcting. It was presupposed to pass rigorous standards of excellence and conscious control of its use. It implies effective communication and problem-solving skills and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

In another definition, it can be said that critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do or what to believe. It includes the ability to participate in reflective and independent thinking.

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with good memory and who knows many facts is not necessarily good at this type of thinking. A critical thinker can deduce the consequences of what he knows, use the information to solve problems and look for relevant information sources to inform himself.

It should not be confused with being argumentative or being critical of other people; although necessary thinking skills can be used to expose fallacies and flawed reasoning, they can play an essential role in a collective sense and constructive tasks, it can help us gain knowledge, improve our theories and strengthen the arguments, can be used to improve work processes and improve social institutions.

History of critical thinking

This term to describe an educational objective dates back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910). He commonly called it “reflective thinking.” He defined it as active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge simultaneously—the light of the reasons that support it and the additional conclusions to which it tends.

The earliest documentation of critical thinking is the teachings of Socrates, recorded by Plato, who established that one could not depend on those in “authority” for sound knowledge and insight, demonstrated that people can have power and a high position and yet be deeply confused and irrational. He established the importance of asking deep, thought-searching questions before accepting ideas as believable.

He established the importance of looking for evidence, closely examining reasoning and assumptions, analyzing basic concepts, and tracing the implications of what is said and what is done. His method of questioning is now known as “Socratic Questioning” and is the best known critical thinking teaching strategy. Socrates stressed the need to think for clarity and logical consistency in his questioning mode.

Socrates asked people questions to reveal their irrational thinking or lack of reliable knowledge, demonstrated that having authority does not guarantee accurate understanding, established the method of questioning beliefs, closely inspecting assumptions, and relying on evidence and rational logic. . Plato recorded the teachings of Socrates and continued the tradition of critical thinking.

Aristotle and later Greek skeptics refined the teachings, using systematic thinking and asking questions to determine the true nature of reality beyond the way things appear at a glance.

Socrates set the agenda of the critical thinking tradition, that is, reflectively questioning common beliefs and explanations, carefully distinguishing views that are reasonable and logical from those that are attractive to our native egocentricity, however much they serve our vested interests, although they are comfortable. or they can be comforting: they lack adequate evidence or rational grounds to justify the belief.

Critical thinking characteristics

Features include:

  • Be quick and decisive:  One of the most admirable leadership qualities is the ability to be fast and powerful with decisions. There are times when you only need to give one answer right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to decide to make one; sometimes, quick decisions can fall flat.
  • Be resourceful and creative: Over the years, my workforce members have presented me with challenges and have needed some creativity and ingenuity. As they explain the situation, they listen to the problem, analyze their dilemma, and guide them in the best possible way. Thinking outside the box and sharing how to get there is the hallmark of a great leader.
  • Be systematic and organized: Martin Gabel says, “Don’t just do something. Stay there.” Sometimes taking a minute to be routine and follow an organized approach makes all the difference. This is where critical thinking meets problem-solving. Define the problem, create a list of solutions, select the best answer, implement it, make an assessment tool, and adjust.

How do you develop critical thinking skills?

How to develop critical thinking skills?

Some skills can significantly improve your ability to make objective and effective decisions and arguments. Without these skills, ideas can be one-sided. Criticism can feel like a personal attack on your character rather than an opportunity to open dialogue and communicate productively.

Let’s take a look at how to develop critical thinking skills to step into any situation with the tools you need to put intense emotions aside and make insightful decisions.

Become a self-critic.

The first and most crucial step in developing critical thinking skills is to become a critic of your thoughts and actions. Without self-reflection, there can be no growth. You can break your thoughts by wondering why you believe in something. When you do this, you should clarify your thoughts by evaluating this information objectively and finding a solid logic for what you think, rather than a confusing idea. When we reflect, we can observe how we respond to a situation, in our mind and out loud.

Another aspect of becoming a self-critic is recognizing your strengths, weaknesses, personal preferences, and biases. When you know this information, you can understand why you approach certain situations from a specific perspective, and then you can change that point of view because you are aware of their presence.

Active listening.

Thinking and listening are almost impossible to do at the same time. To become a critical thinker, you must listen to the ideas, arguments, and criticisms of others without thinking about their response or reaction as they speak. You can’t properly absorb the information someone is trying to convey to you if you don’t take the time to listen.

Listening allows us to feel empathy. We listen to the story, the struggles, the ideas, the successes, and the passions of another person and how they came to them. When we listen to their perspective, we can take that information and analyze it. When we use active listening skills, we can fully understand what someone is trying to tell us. That conversation continues until all parties can reiterate what the other person is trying to say.

We are analyzing the information.

Analyzing information is essential for critical thinking. No one thinks critically at all times. Sometimes our joy, anger, sadness, or other emotions are too great, and other times we struggle to focus on the central issue. To achieve success, we need to analyze the information we have before us, whether it is information in our minds or if we share it with others.

We can break it down by evaluating what is being said and making sure we understand what needs to happen. Then we can analyze and consider all the arguments, including our own, and think about how the decisions would affect others and the conclusion. When we can step back and analyze a statement, it allows us to approach it from an objective point of view.

Non-violent communication.

Critical thinking is not of much help if you cannot communicate in a non-violent and productive way. When listening and analyzing different arguments, you first need to recognize valid logic. Then you need to be able to communicate with other people productively.

The basis of nonviolent communication is compassion, observation, and collaboration. When we approach any scenario with understanding, we are already in a peaceful mindset rather than a defensive one. We can keep our arguments and others without judgment and evaluation when we observe. We can separate our emotions from an idea.

Develop foresight.

The ability to predict the future impact of a decision is foresight, a critical component for success in all aspects of your life.

When you move somewhere, you plan to see the job and safety outlook for a neighborhood. If you are moving a business, it is wise to examine the impact of that decision. Will it be too far for some of your talented employees to drive? Will you lose business due to the change? What will you win? Each decision must be weighed carefully, keeping in mind how the choice affects your bottom line and the people working toward success alongside you.

Critical thinking requires the ability to reflect on one’s own beliefs and someone else’s ideas and then see the connections between those things. It requires actively listening to others, evaluating, dissecting, and evaluating arguments, and separating the views—intense emotions of the subject in question.

What are critical thinking skills?

While there is no universal standard for the skills included in the process, we have narrowed it down to the following. Focusing on this can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker.


Part of critical thinking is scrutinizing something, be it a problem, a data set, or a text. People with analytical skills can read information and then understand what it means and what it represents.

Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups, or factors that may be influenced, you can begin to dig into a problem and its possible solutions.

  • Ask thoughtful questions.
  • Data analysis.
  • Look for information.
  • Interpretation.
  • Judgment.
  • Recognize differences and similarities.
  • Skepticism.


You will often have to share your findings with your employers or a group of colleagues. You need to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You may also need to engage in critical thinking with a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to solve complex problems.

  • We are asking essential questions.
  • Evaluation.
  • Collaboration.
  • Explanation.
  • They are expressing opinions and ideas.
  • Interpersonal.
  • Presentation.
  • Teamwork.
  • Verbal communication.
  • Written communication.


Critical thinking involves a certain level of creativity. You may need to spot patterns in the information you are looking for or find a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye.

  • Cognitive flexibility.
  • Conceptualization.
  • Curiosity.
  • Imagination.
  • Make abstract connections.
  • Make inferences.
  • Prediction.
  • Visionary.


To think critically, you must be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Observe different cultural perspectives.
  • Humble.
  • Inclusive.
  • Objective.
  • Reflexive.

Identifying biases

This skill can be challenging, as even the most intelligent may not recognize biases. Solid critical thinkers go to great lengths to evaluate information objectively. Think of yourself as a judge, as you want to consider the claims on both sides of an argument, but you will also need to consider the biases that each side may have.

It is equally important, and possibly more challenging, to learn to put aside your personal biases that can cloud your judgment. “Have the courage to debate and argue with your thoughts and assumptions” is essential to learn to see things from different points of view.

Problem resolution

Problem-solving is another crucial critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and evaluating the plan’s success. After all, employers don’t just want employees who can think critically about information. They also need to be able to find practical solutions.

  • Apply rules.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Clarification.
  • Collaboration.
  • Decision making.
  • Evaluation.
  • It is identifying patterns.
  • Innovative.
  • Logic reasoning.


The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented is another essential skill for mastering critical thinking. The information does not always come with a summary explaining its meaning; you will often need to evaluate the information provided and draw conclusions based on raw data.

The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when evaluating a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs 260 pounds, you could infer that they are overweight or unhealthy. However, other data points such as height and body composition may alter that conclusion.

Importance of critical thinking

Critical thinking is a general domain thinking skill; the ability to think clearly and rationally is essential regardless of what we decide to do. If you work in education, research, finance, management, or the legal profession, critical thinking is vital, but skills are not limited to a particular subject area. Being able to think well and problem-solve systematically is an asset to any career.

Critical thinking is critical in the new knowledge economy driven by information and technology. One has to be able to deal with changes quickly and effectively. The new economy imposes increasing demands for flexible intellectual skills and the ability to analyze information and integrate various sources of knowledge to solve problems. Good critical thinking promotes such skills. Review is essential in the rapidly changing workplace.

Critical thinking improves language and presentation skills. Thinking clearly and systematically can improve how we express our ideas by learning to analyze the logical structure of texts and strengthen comprehension skills.

Critical thinking promotes creativity. You have new ideas to arrive at a creative solution to a problem. It must also be the case that the generated new ideas are valuable and relevant to the task. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in evaluating new ideas, selecting the best ones, and modifying them if necessary.

Critical thinking is crucial for self-reflection. To have a meaningful life and structure our lives accordingly, we must justify and reflect on our values ​​and decisions. Critical thinking provides the tools for this self-assessment process.

Good critical thinking is the foundation of science and democracy. Science requires the necessary use of reason in experimentation and confirmation of the theory. The proper functioning of a liberal democracy requires that citizens who can think critically about social issues inform their judgments about good governance and overcome prejudices and prejudices.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.