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16 Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

Intuition is trustworthy after you have probed deeper to gain information and insight.

By Deep Patel • Oct 24, 2018

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud…these are just a few of the critical thinkers who have shaped our modern lives. Critical thinkers think clearly and rationally, and make logical connections between ideas -- they are crucial to exploring and understanding the world we live in.

Critical thinking is more than just the accumulation of facts and knowledge; it's a way of approaching whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion. Critical thinkers are focused on constantly upgrading their knowledge, and they engage in independent self-learning. They make some of the best leaders , because they can reach new planes of self-improvement and self-actualization.

If you're hoping to reach your full potential and make your mark on the world, cultivate the following 16 characteristics of critical thinkers.

1. Observation

Observation is one of the earliest critical thinking skills we learn as children -- it's our ability to perceive and understand the world around us. Careful observation includes our ability to document details, and to collect data through our senses. Our observations will eventually lead to insight and a deeper understanding of the world.

Related: 4 Eating Habit Changes That Can Boost Your Critical Thinking

2. Curiosity

Curiosity is a core trait of many successful leaders. Being inherently inquisitive and interested in the world and people around you is a hallmark of leaders who are critical thinkers. Instead of taking everything at face value, a curious person will wonder why something is the way it is.

As we get older, it's easier to put aside what may seem like childish curiosity. Curiosity forces you to keep an open mind and propels you to gain deeper knowledge -- all of which are also fundamental to being a lifelong learner.

3. Objectivity

Good critical thinkers are able to stay as objective as possible when looking at information or a situation. They focus on facts, and on the scientific evaluation of the information at hand. Objective thinkers seek to keep their emotions (and those of others) from affecting their judgment.

However, it's impossible for people to remain completely objective, because we're all shaped by our points of view, our life experiences and our perspectives. Being aware of our biases is the first step to being objective and looking at an issue dispassionately. Once you're able to remove yourself from the situation, you can more thoroughly analyze it.

Related: Use This Simple Math Problem to Kick Critical Thinking Into High Gear

4. Introspection

This is the art of being aware of your thinking -- or, to put it another way, thinking about how you think about things. Critical thinkers need introspection so they're aware of their own degree of alertness and attentiveness, as well as their biases. This is your ability to examine your inner-most thoughts, feelings and sensations. Introspection is closely related to self-reflection, which gives you insight into your emotional and mental state.

5. Analytical thinking

The best analytical thinkers are also critical thinkers, and vice versa. The ability to analyze information is key when looking at any almost anything, whether it is a contract, report, business model or even a relationship.

Analyzing information means to break information down to its component parts and evaluate how well those parts function together and separately. Analysis relies on observation; on gathering and evaluating evidence so you can come to a meaningful conclusion. Analytical thinking begins with objectivity.

6. Identifying biases

Critical thinkers challenge themselves to identify the evidence that forms their beliefs and assess whether or not those sources are credible. Doing this helps you understand your own biases and question your preconceived notions.

This is an important step in becoming aware of how biases intrude on your thinking and recognizing when information may be skewed. When looking at information, ask yourself who the information benefits. Does the source of this information have an agenda? Does the source overlook or leave out information that doesn't support its claims or beliefs?

Related: Most Grads Say College Taught Them Few Critical Thinking Skills

7. Determining relevance

One of the most difficult parts of thinking critically is figuring out what information is the most relevant, meaningful and important for your consideration. In many scenarios, you'll be presented with information that may seem valuable, but it may turn out to be only a minor data point to consider.

Consider if a source of information is logically relevant to the issue being discussed. Is it truly useful and unbiased, or it is it merely distracting from a more pertinent point?

8. Inference

Information doesn't always come with a summary that spells out exactly what it means. Critical thinkers need to assess the information and draw conclusions based on raw data. Inference is the ability to extrapolate meaning from data and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario.

It is also important to understand the difference between inference and assumptions . For example, if you see data that someone weighs 260 pounds, you might assume they are overweight or unhealthy. However, other data points like height and body composition may alter that conclusion.

Related: 6 Obstacles to Creative Thinking and How to Overcome Them

9. Compassion and empathy.

Having compassion and empathy may seem like a negative for critical thinkers. After all, being sentimental and emotional can skew our perception of a situation. But the point of having compassion is to have concern for others and to value the welfare of other people.

Without compassion, we would view all information and situations from the viewpoint of cold, heartless scientific facts and data. It would be easy to allow our cynicism to become toxic, and to be suspicious of everything we look at. But to be a good critical thinker, we must always take into account the human element. Not everything we do is about detached data and information -- it's also about people.

10. Humility

Humility is the willingness to acknowledge one's shortcomings and see one's positive attributes in an accurate way. When you have humility, you are aware of your flaws, but also your strengths, and this is an important element in critical thinking and being willing to stretch and open your mind.

When you have intellectual humility , you're open to other people's viewpoints, you recognize when you're wrong and you're willing to challenge your own beliefs when necessary.

11. Willing to challenge the status quo.

Critical thinking means questioning long-established business practices and refusing to adhere to traditional methods simply because that's the way it's always been done. Critical thinkers are looking for smart, thoughtful answers and methods that take into account all the current and relevant information and practices available. Their willingness to challenge the status quo may seem controversial, but it's an essential part of the creative and innovative mind of a critical thinker.

12. Open-mindedness

Being able to step back from a situation and not become embroiled helps critical thinkers see the broader view. Critical thinkers avoid launching into a frenzied argument or taking sides -- they want to hear all perspectives. Critical thinkers don't jump to conclusions. They approach a question or situation with an open mind and embrace other opinions and views.

13. Aware of common thinking errors.

Critical thinkers don't allow their logic and reasoning to become clouded by illusions and misconceptions. They are aware of common logical fallacies , which are errors in reasoning that often creep into arguments and debates. Some common errors in thinking include:

Circular reasoning, in which the premise of an argument or a conclusion is used as support for the argument itself.

Cognitive shortcut bias, in which you stubbornly stick to a favored view or argument when other more effective possibilities or explanations exist.

Confusing correlation with causation. In other words, asserting that when two things happen together, one causes the other. Without direct evidence, this assumption isn't justified.

14. Creative thinking

Effective critical thinkers are also largely creative thinkers . Creative thinkers reject standardized formats for problem solving -- they think outside the box. They have a wide range of interests and adopt multiple perspectives on a problem. They're also open to experimenting with different methods and considering different viewpoints.

The biggest difference between critical thinkers and creative thinkers is that creativity is associated with generating ideas, while critical thinking is associated with analyzing and appraising those ideas. Creativity is important to bringing in novel ideas; critical thinking can bring those ideas into clearer focus.

15. Effective communicators

In many cases, problems with communication are based on an inability to think critically about a situation or see it from different perspectives. Effective communication starts with a clear thought process.

Critical thinking is the tool we use to coherently build our thoughts and express them. Critical thinking relies on following another person's thought process and line of reasoning. An effective critical thinker must be able to relay his or her ideas in a compelling way and then absorb the responses of others.

16. Active listeners

Critical thinkers don't just want to get their point across to others; they are also careful to engage in active listening and really hear others' points of view. Instead of being a passive listener during a conversation or discussion, they actively try to participate.

They ask questions to help them distinguish facts from assumptions. They gather information and seek to gain insight by asking open-ended questions that probe deeper into the issue.

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Description:  The Insider Threat Critical Thinking for Analyst course provides a high-level explanation of analytical and critical thinking as it relates to producing comprehensive analytic products for insider threat programs. Users will learn how critical thinking tools visually structure, facilitate, and empower thinking to help explain uncertainties, conclusions and judgments. This course will give users the skills to help support your insider threat program in the deterrence, detection, and mitigation of insider risks while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the workforce.

Course Resources:   Access this course's resources

Learning Objectives:  At the end of this course, students will have a board understanding of critical thinking, analytic thinking, and intellectual standards as it relates to Insider Threat Analyst. Students will be able to construct sound and in-depth insider threat analytic products using appropriate critical thinking tools.

Delivery Method:  eLearning

Length:  90 minutes

Target Audience:  This course is designed for DOD, industry, and federal agency personnel tasked to enact insider threat detection, deterrence, and mitigation procedures. This includes designated professional capability support personnel.


Prerequisites:  N/A

Credits Recommended/Earned:

System Requirements:   Check  if your system is configured appropriately to use STEPP.

CDSE courses are intended for use by Department of Defense and other U.S. Government personnel and contractors within the National Industrial Security Program.

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16 critical thinking skills

16 Critical Thinking Skills that Will Make You Stand Out

Developing your critical thinking skills is one of the best ways to set yourself up for ongoing professional and life success. In fact, it’s more important than IQ in determining how many negative life events you’ll experience – and fortunately, unlike IQ, it’s learnable.

The problem is that understanding how to build your critical thinking skills can be a bit like a child trying to pick up a yoga ball: it’s too large and unwieldy to get your arms around. To start, it helps to have a clear, simple definition of critical thinking, which we’ve described as providing robust answers to questions . From there, the Critical Thinking Roadmap makes this definition actionable by laying out four phases of growth.

The four phases provide a great starting point, but they are, in reality, just the tip of the iceberg. Within each of those skills – execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate – there are a host of sub-skills. A quick Google search of “critical thinking skills” reveals that there are a lot of opinions on what counts as a critical thinking skill and how many there are.

critical thinking 16

As we like to do, we reviewed ~10 different lists of critical thinking skills and organized them into a simple framework that starts with the four level one skills in the Critical Thinking Roadmap and enables you to determine which skills to focus on developing when.

Critical Thinking Roadmap

Here are the level two skills within each of the four level one skills:

One Exclusion to Commonly Listed Critical Thinking Skills

In addition to this list of critical thinking skills, many academics often include another skill that we have intentionally chosen to exclude. This skill is called “verbal reasoning” by some and “explanation” by others. It includes your ability to state results, justify your opinion, and present arguments. This is an essential skill, without a doubt, but in our minds, it is a communication skill vs. a critical thinking skill. Critical thinking refers to the formulation of your thoughts, not the verbalization of thoughts.

Critical Thinking Mastermind

How to Understand These Skills in Relation to the Critical Thinking Roadmap

If you’ve read our Harvard Business Review article on critical thinking or gone through the critical thinking roadmap toolkit, then you may be wondering how to apply an understanding of these skills in light of what we have already articulated in the toolkit. In the toolkit, we describe a four-phase roadmap with five milestones in each phase. The four phases represent level one critical thinking skills, while the bulleted skills above represent level two critical thinking skills. By level one and two, we don’t mean to imply that generation is more important than strategic thinking, for example. We’re simply communicating organizational structure, in the same way that though we all agree that dogs are a type of mammal, it makes little sense to say that mammals are more important than dogs.

The roadmap provides measurable milestones so you can determine where you or team members are in the journey of developing critical thinking skills. The development exercises and questions help you develop the relevant level two skills for each stage in the roadmap. By enumerating the level two skills here, we’re making explicit what was already implicitly woven into the development exercises and questions.

A Deeper Look at these Critical Thinking Skills

We defined this level one skill as translating instructions into action and doing what is asked. Some have suggested that execute is too basic of a skill to be considered critical thinking. However, the majority of employees are never given opportunities to go beyond this skill. This is partially due to counterproductive corporate cultures and partially because it is more difficult than some might assume. If you disagree, try getting a child – even a teenager – to execute. Here are the level two skills required to execute well:


This level one skill is the ability to identify what’s important and combine information to create new insights. Before determining what’s important, you need to understand how different pieces of information relate to each other. For example, Wired’s feature article in September 2019 tells the story of a man in his nineties who is accused of killing his adult daughter-in-law sometime after dropping a pizza at her house. The fact that the daughter-in-law was wearing a Fitbit may seem irrelevant if you don’t realize that Fitbits collect location and heartbeat information, enabling detectives to determine the time and location of death. When you see the connection between pieces of information, you’re able to determine what is important and what is not. As a result, the first few level two skills in this section help you understand the relationship between information.

The third level one skill is the ability to determine a sensible path forward, taking into consideration alternatives. Many in the literature refer to this as inference: the ability to reach a conclusion based on reasoning and evidence. This skill is packed with several very in-demand level two skills. The first two may feel too academic to be relevant, but most people use them all the time without recognizing it.

While this fourth level one skill may seem similar to the previous one, the difference is that recommending is primarily about the selection of available options, while generation is the skill of creating new options that didn’t previously exist. Some may question the inclusion of creative thinking and strategic thinking as sub-skills of critical thinking, suggesting they should be considered equal peers. Yet, if we return to our definition of critical thinking – providing robust answers to questions – both creative and strategic thinking are approaches to providing robust answers to specific types of questions.

How to Build These Critical Thinking Skills

With 16 skills to choose from, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed. Before you do, download your copy of the Critical Thinking Roadmap Toolkit and determine where you fall on the roadmap. There are four level two skills for each level one skill (i.e., phase of the roadmap). If you find yourself in the beginning of the synthesize phase, start with one of the first two level two synthesize skills: recognizing patterns or categorizing.

We’ll be sharing more details on how to develop each of these level two skills. Until then, do what you can to engage in deliberate practice of these skills. Deliberate practice is the key to mastery, differentiating those who become experts from those who stay average. It involves four characteristics:

If you’d like some help building these critical thinking skills, you can:

Quick Summary

What is critical thinking.

While there are many complex definitions, we believe it is most useful to go with a simple, practical definition:  Critical thinking is the development of a robust answer to a question .

What does it mean to be a good critical thinker?

A good critical thinker is very good at answering questions, someone you would trust to answer your questions.

What are the 4 critical thinking skills?

The four primary critical thinking skills are: execute, synthesize, recommend, and generate. Within each, there are four sub-skills.

What are the next 16 critical thinking skills?

While there are four primary critical thinking skills, there are four important sub-skills under each: 1 – Execute: remembering, analytical thinking, interpreting, applying 2 – Synthesize: recognizing patterns, categorizing, identifying relevance, decoding significance 3 – Recommend: logistical reasoning, probabilistic thinking, evaluating, decision-making 4 – Generate: creative thinking, strategic thinking, problem-solving, hypothesis testing

Why are critical thinking skills important?

Higher critical thinking skills lead to better job and life outcomes. They influence: 1 – What type of job you get 2 – How long you can retain your job 3 – The number of negative life events you experience

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16 Characteristics Of A Critical Thinking Classroom

Critical Thinking classroom

What Are The Characteristics Of A Critical Thinking Classroom?

by Terry Heick

The premise here is straightforward: clarifying what critical thinking might ‘look like’ in the classroom. Put another way, what are some indicators that rational thought and careful, critical thinking is not just ‘visible,’ but a part of the culture of a classroom.

In Critical Thinking Is A Mindset , I offered that, “Just as math can be said to be a kind of language and science is a way of thinking, critical thinking (while also being a ‘way’ of thinking) is first a state of mind–a  willingness  to do so both preceded and proceeded by a motley collection of presuppositions and premises and tendencies and cognitive defaults and even eventually personality traits that manifest when you read a book or have a discussion or skim a news headline or research an idea.”

I also discussed this idea in Teaching Disruptively, when I said, “inquiry-based learning (or critical thinking) that doesn’t just encourage students to ‘discover’ some preselected poet you had in mind, but find their own reasons for reading poetry—then finding their own poets.And perhaps most of all, by creating self-directed learners that can ask the right question at the right time within the right community to affect the kind of change that lasts.”

This concept also surfaced in dozens of other things I’ve written over the years, from Characteristics Of High-Performing Classrooms to Are You Teaching Content Or Are You Teaching Thought? to Correcting The Deficit In Critical Thinking when I wondered if maybe we should, create “learning models that require critical thinking–learning models that cannot function if students (all students) don’t think critically. This would be much like a rowboat where everyone has to row and stops if someone stops rowing; alternatively, break apart the boats completely so every student must row themselves.) someone stops rowing; alternatively, break apart the boats completely so every student must row themselves.”

Which brings us to this post. How do you know if your students are ‘thinking critically’? Of course, the answer depends on a scores and scores of factors, from the grade level and content area you teach to your relationships with students and the nature of your curriculum, units, lessons, and activities. But below are some examples that, if witnessed with any consistency at all, might be a good sign that your students are thinking.

What Are Indicators Of Critical Thinking?

Beliefs and ‘stances’ change if/when new data emerges.

The quality of knowledge and data is more important than an intellectual ‘stance’ of personal opinion.

Claims made–by anyone from the teacher and students to the authors and experts they study–are required to withstand clinical, good faith intellectual scrutiny.

Emotions are separated from reason. That is, they are seen as effects of thoughts rather than equal to thoughts or worthy of similar scrutiny, application, validation, acclaim, etc.

Unpredictability and ‘disruption’ (of ideas, some planning, assessment forms, traditional thinking patterns, etc.)

‘Intellectual divergence’ where thinkers seek to be in the company of evidence, truth, data, and perspective and are ‘diverge’ from one another/you/authors, etc. not emotionally (though that’s okay at times) but conceptually and intellectually.

‘Truth’ is based in reason and affection rather than opinion and belief.

Learning is inquiry-driven (through curiosity and knowledge demands), not curriculum-driven.

Students ask–then improve–questions to drive lessons, projects, discussions, etc.

The language of reason is used: words and phrases that clarify and endorse uncertainty and the need for more knowledge/data, sentence stems that clarifying positions or seek to clarify others, neutral transitional statements, etc.

Literacy in fallacies and biases. That is, heuristics, cognitive biases, and logical fallacies are discussed frequently and without ‘great prompting’ and effort.

The legacy of ideas and their origin/momentum/endorsement/change over time in response to data and new thinking, etc.

Humility. (This is at the core of rational, critical thought. Humility says, ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion’ or ‘Let’s gain knowledge so that we can reduce uncertainty.’)

Students ask more questions than the teacher.

Questions are valued over answers.

Questions are revisited, updated, and revised.

About The Author

Terry heick.

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You must have heard for the expression “critical thinking” at least once in your lifetime. You must have read it in a newspaper article or heard a friend/neighbor/colleague say: “A friend of mine is an excellent critical thinker!”

Look and listen carefully, and you’ll see that this idea, or a mode of observing and analyzing the world, is given great importance in all facets of both personal and professional life.

If you ever wondered what that means, and what critical thinking is, you came to the right place – this text will try to explain just that.


As important as this mental discipline may be, a singular definition of it does not exist.

According to Peter A. Facione, Ph.D., critical thinking is

“Purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based”.

As for dictionaries, Collins dictionary states that critical thinking (or rather the notion of “critical”, to be more precise) stands for

“ examining and judging carefully ”,

while Meriam-Webster says it is

“ exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation ”.

Essentially, critical thinking is a way of examining the world around us with precision and care, all the while inspecting both the details and the bigger picture, and drawing logical conclusions from presented evidence in an objective and impassionate manner.

When employing the methods of critical thinking, you must do so without including our emotions into the equation so they wouldn’t cloud our judgment. All the conclusions must be inferred by using logic: for every cause, there is a consequence.

And of course, whatever conclusions we may reach must be unbiased – we must not succumb to our prejudices in any way.

Logic, however, is not the only thing important for critical thinking.

Depth, relevance, fairness, credibility, and accuracy of the examined data, their precision and relevance are also of key importance and should be taken into consideration at all times.

Asking questions – logical questions relevant to the topic you’re analyzing – are the proper way of applying this technique.

Through questioning and critical analysis, we reach our conclusions and find ways of improving ourselves and the world around us in a positive and creative way.

Thus, we adapt, and we grow.


Critical thinking and independent thought are of great importance in all facets of our lives, from personal to professional relationships. It gives you the edge necessary to properly examine a situation or a conflict and resolve it accordingly.

It’s a highly desirable skill, especially when it comes to your work.

For example, when presented with a lot of data, having great critical thinking skills will help you differentiate important data from the trivial ones, and that increases your working efficiency and shows your capabilities.

The better your problem-solving skills are, the faster you’ll advance.

A manager with good critical thinking skills can easily determine which one of his employees is suited for which role and is able to utilize the skills of all the individuals in his team to achieve optimal results.

That way, everybody wins.

Critical thinking is crucial for science and politics.

Being critical of social issues and politics is one of the cornerstones of democracy and the advancement of a society depends on it.

As for science, to analyze new data stemming from experimentation, we need to think logically and derive precise conclusions so as to, for example, prove or disprove a specific theory.

Language presentation, personal improvement, and growth, creative problem-solving – critical thinking can be used to the betterment of all aspects of life.

Having all this in mind, we must ask: what are the characteristic of good critical thinkers?


Now that we know what critical thinking is, and now that we’ve glimpsed the amazing versatility of this way of thinking. Some are universal, while others are pretty particular.

Let us consider some of the characteristics of good critical thinkers.

If you wish to become a good critical thinker, these are the skills you should try to practice and develop.

They include, but are not limited to, the following features:

1. Observation 

Observation is one of the general skills we acquire as children and is one of the cornerstones of successful and efficient critical thinking. It is a primary way for us to learn about the world around us, its laws and limitations.

We observe by utilizing our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Once we acquire this sensory input, we analyze it and use the data thus received to reach the conclusions which logically follow the question/input.

The older we are, the more experienced we get in regards to observing the details of the world around us and the situations and problems we face.

These observations are what gives us a deeper understanding of the world and people in general, but also about ourselves and our own motivations, which is essential for our personal growth and development.

2.  Inquisitiveness 

One of the inherent qualities of all good critical thinkers is their curiosity. Being inquisitive and asking constructing questions in order to learn new things is one of their defining traits.

Critical thinkers take a healthy interest in the world and the people around them, thus becoming good and effective  leaders  in their respective communities/fields of expertise.

Critical thinkers rarely take anything as it appears – everything and everyone is subjected to their scrutiny, but such a curiosity is not the dry and dispassionate curiosity of a manipulator, put a passionate curiosity of a child eager to understand something or someone new, whether that is a scientific concept or a particular detail of an as yet unfamiliar culture.

This is the trait makes critical thinkers the lifelong learners – a person learns as long as they live, and this perfectly describes all good critical thinkers.

3. Objectivity 

We have already stressed the importance of objectivity.

When critical thinkers approach a problem, they do so without using their emotions. They rely on their ration, on pure facts and scientific evaluation.

They carefully consider the causes and consequences of an action and determine the best possible outcome.

However, being perfectly objective is easier said than done.

Our previous experiences, all that we have seen and heard, is what defy us, so our points of view are sure to influence our judgment.

For that reason, identifying our biases is paramount for successful objective observation.

Consider carefully your previous experiences and cast them aside, then remove yourselves from the situation and absorb both the bigger picture and the minute details as dispassionately as possible.

4 .  Introspection 

To be able to identify our own biases, this is how we do it.

Essentially, introspection is our ability to think about the way we think. That is essential for critical thinkers. Through introspection, critical thinkers question themselves and their points of view, and how attentive and engaged they are in observation and analysis of the problem in question.

We don’t simply examine our views – introspection provides us insight both into our mental state and into our emotions as well. Due to its nature, introspection is tied to what is known as self-reflection. Bear in mind, however, that for some of us this anything but easy.

5. Analytical Thinking 

When people say for someone that they are an analytical thinker, they are refereeing to that person’s ability to approach a problem with all sides, examine the possible consequences of all possible decisions, and once the best course of action is determined, one then acts accordingly.

Needless to say, the best analytical thinkers out there are actually critical thinkers.

An objective approach to an analysis of any and all information is crucial for this type of thinking, which makes sifting through piles of reports and contracts, or maintaining both personal and business relationships.

When we analyze a piece of information, we essentially break it into smaller pieces, and then we inspect the pieces in order to find out how they work, both individually and when put together.

Objectivity is the key for analytical thinking: we gather all the evidence at our disposal and then follow it to a specific conclusion.

6. Identifying Biases 

Whether we are aware of it or not, having biases is inevitable.

These preconceived notions shape our point of view, often in negative ways. In order to identify them and successfully overcome their influence, critical thinkers challenge and question their own attitudes before making a decision, all in order to give a better judgment of a situation and perfect their personal and professional skills.

Once we overcome our biases, we come to a very important realization: all information we receive is incomplete, one way or another.

Imagine getting a report detailing a business transaction, or describing a particular procedure or an event. Never take it for granted! Always ask: “Is there an agenda behind the data presented here? Who benefits and who suffers losses if the given situation is resolved in a particular way? Is there anything my source has left unsaid, and why?”

Asking these questions should help you determine all the hidden issues behind the data presented, and help you reach the decision which brings the best possible outcome.

7. Determining Relevance 

Not all data you receive are equally important. When faced with a great number of reports to review, it might seem challenging to successfully sift through all of them efficiently. But in order to do that, you must determine which information is relevant for your needs, and which are not.

Determining the relevance of a particular detail or information is one of the crucial elements of critical thinking.

Bear in mind that a great deal of information you’re presented with has little importance for you and/or your work, or are there to misguide you.

Focus on those pieces of information which are logically connected to the topic you’re researching or a problem you’re trying to solve.

Always check if the information is truly as useful as it appears, or if it’s there to distract you from the real problem.

8. Inference 

When tasked to examine a great deal of information (for example, a number of business reports) and determine their legitimacy, you will often receive them disorganized and out of order, especially if they are collected in a hurry, or in a highly stressful situation.

It is up to you to organize and analyze all this raw data, and offer logical and correct conclusions, and this is where inference is important.

Not only are they good at reaching the right conclusions based on more or less raw data, but all good critical thinkers can infer all possible outcomes of taking particular actions based on the conclusions they offered.

They know the difference between inference and assumption, and they rely on actual data, not on preconceived notions of the said data.

Don’t assume, observe the data – with critical thinking, the facts are the only thing that matters.

9. Empathy and Compassion 

You may be wondering what compassion and empathy have to do with critical thinking and data analysis.

After all, we have already stated that our judgment must not be led by emotions and that all our conclusions must rational and logical.

As it turns out, however, compassion and empathy are a very important factor.

Having concern for the wellbeing of people around us is what makes us human. We are not robots who can view the word only as a source of cold, soulless scientific data to analyze and store.

In a large number of situations, we must take into consideration the human factor of our decisions, for what we say and do, and the way we resolve conflict can affect people in a number of ways.

Do not allow yourself to become obsessed with blind analysis and pure data.

Always bear in mind that the consequences of your decisions can have serious consequences for some people, so consider your decisions and actions carefully!

That consideration is crucial for all good critical thinkers.

10. Being Humble 

One of the great qualities of critical thinkers is the fact that they’re essentially modest and humble folk. It is great having confidence in all your stronger qualities and talents, but humility teaches us to acknowledge our flaws as well.

This is a self-reflection element of critical thinking, the realization that we’re not perfect, that no one is, in fact, infallible, and knowing that should foster eagerness for personal growth, the desire to better oneself for the betterment of others.

We examine our attitude and that which we believe in and become more open to other people’s points of view.

11. Willingness to Question Status Quo 

Critical thinkers are never satisfied with the current state of affairs as long as they see even the tiniest bit of a chance to change something for the better. They’ll zealously question current practices in all facets of their lives, especially professional.

They are fine with traditional approaches as long as they’re not the source of stagnation, and will actively look for ways to improve upon it.

Questioning the established order may seem radical, but that is what critical thinkers do: they find new and more effective and creative ways of solving a particular problem, or new ways to approach a particular topic, is their second nature.

12. Having an Open Mind

To be able to see the bigger picture, one needs to have an open mind. That especially counts for critical thinkers. Their goal is always to see the issue/topic in its entirety.

Taking side or getting overly invested into a discussion can be only detrimental to what wish to achieve – a fair and appropriate resolution of conflict and/or solution of a particularly troublesome conundrum.

Listen to all side equally, and carefully consider the information received.

Be open for points of view of other people, and never jump to conclusions!

13. Being Aware of the Most Common Errors in Thinking

To be a good critical thinker, you’ll need to polish your way of thinking and avoid any and all misconceptions.

You do so by becoming aware of what is known as common logical fallacies.

Common logical fallacies are errors occurring while judging a situation, reaching a conclusion, or presenting an argument in a discussion. They include, but are not at all limited to, the following errors:

14. Creativity 

Creativity  is a natural aspect of critical thinking. Many true critical thinkers are also creative thinkers as well.

They refuse to rely solely on established ways of solving a particular issue – if there is an alternative, more creative and effective way of dealing with a particular situation, they would rather use that than the old patterns. They prefer thinking outside of the box; patterns only slow them down.

However, it must be mentioned that critical thinkers and creative thinkers are indeed separated by one specific detail.

Creative thinking is connected to creating new ideas; critical thinking is connected to the analysis of both new and old ideas, and choosing the most effective ones.

Thus, through critical thinking, we can discover new and inventive ideas and bring them to the fore.

15. Highly Developed Communicative Skills 

It is often the case that issues with communication stem from the inability of one of the participants of a discussion (or all of them!) to observe the issue in question from a distance, with a calm and clear mind.

This clarity of thought is one of the building blocks of  effective communication .

Since coherence is important for communication, we can rely upon critical thinking to relay our messages.

Critical thinkers pay close attention to the thinking process of their interlocutors and observe just how logical or illogical, biased or unbiased their reasoning may be.

They’re able to systematically and coherently express their opinions, but also to absorb and understand the attitudes of the people around them.

16. Attentive Listeners 

Critical thinkers are everything but passive conversationalists. They do listen carefully to what other people are saying in order to absorb as many important pieces of information as possible, but they’re also asking creative and constructive questions in order to find out more.

As we have stated, asking the right questions is important for all good critical thinkers.

This is the way they differentiate important details from the trivial ones, picking out the facts while discarding all assumptions.

Once all the facts are gathered, they reach a logical conclusion based upon it. Asking open-ended questions to examine a topic more deeply is a specialty of theirs.

These are some of the essential skills necessary for you to become a successful critical thinker.

The best thing about critical thinking is the absolute versatility of this way of thinking. It can be applied in any and all segments of your personal and professional life, and it simply has no downsides to it.

Question the given norms, actively find the way to improve upon both yourselves and the world around you, and don’t accept things simply because someone told you they’ve always been like this.

Ask constructive questions, identify your biases, and try to be as objective as you can, but do not forget the people around you – your colleagues, friends, and family – and turn into a cold, cynical person unable to trust anyone and anything.

Consider your beliefs and actions as well as those of others, and you will constantly grow, both as a professional and as a person.

16 Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

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16 traits of critical thinkers that separate them from everyone else

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It’s easier than ever before to fall for the trends without even realizing it.

We’re surrounded by media and influencers who tell us what we’re supposed to think, and it takes less effort to follow instead of thinking for ourselves.

But following trends won’t help you reach your true potential, which is why critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can master.

But what does it actually mean to think critically?

Is thinking critically just questioning everything around you and being disagreeable?

Not at all.

Critical thinking is more than just about the way you think, but also about the way you live.

Here are 16 characteristics that make critical thinkers so different from everyone else:

1. They’re Aware Of Their Own Biases

Our personal experiences color our worldview. Whether we admit to them or not, we each have our own internalized biases.

Our minds have built subconscious preferences for ideas, objects, and even people.

If a stranger did something wrong, we’d be quick to label them as bad.

But if our closest friends did something equally wrong, we’re more likely to forgive them.

Our personal biases skew the perception of situations, stopping us from seeing situations clearly. Critical thinkers recognize this.

Their self-awareness makes way for fairer and more balanced judgments.

2. They Can Be Objective

Critical thinkers always concern themselves with the facts; what they can observe and the information that they can gather.

In difficult social situations, such as in an argument, they are able to set aside their emotions and take a step back. It isn’t cold — it’s necessary.

True objectivity is impossible. We are all born with a default, personal bias.

The best that critical thinkers can do is gather as much evidence and raw data as they can to make the most rational decision in the given circumstance.

3. They Don’t Passively Accept Things

Going with the flow of the trends is much easier nowadays.

When we observe that other people are doing something, we can’t help but to conform.

But conformity stops you, and others, from achieving your highest potential — it might even be working against you.

That’s why in work settings, critical thinkers are willing to ask “Why is our workflow and process this way?

Couldn’t we sell our products at a better price?”;

“Because that’s how it’s always been” isn’t an answer they’re going to accept.

4. They Like Asking Questions

Critical thinkers are the curious types. They aren’t quick to jump to any conclusions.

It’s a slow process of gathering as much information as they can.

To do this, they use a timeless yet still effective method: raising their hands and asking questions.

There’s always going to be vital information hiding behind engaging questions.

It could clarify project briefs, support arguments, or even dispel some illusions to show others that there might actually be a better solution to their problems.

All this can be achieved because of a few questions.

5. They Have A Diverse Information Diet

The way that social media algorithms work is that it promotes information that it thinks will appeal to you while hiding those that it thinks won’t.

Sounds simple enough, right?

But the consequences are detrimental to your ability to think critically.

When all you’re seeing is information that you agree with, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a digital echo chamber; a bubble of your own biases. It blinds you to the reality around you.

Critical thinkers open themselves up to opposing views.

By following people who hold opposing views or adding them as friends, they allow themselves to exercise their critical thinking and test their beliefs.

6. They’re Sensitive To The Details

People who think critically don’t skim the project briefs.

They read each line and think about its implications not just for their clients but also for the company as a whole.

There are usually implicit deliverables that neither the client nor your boss is aware of — they just know it when they see it.

This project might solidify your relationship with the client or, with enough success, could make your company the most attractive one to work with.

It takes critical thinking to see the bigger picture.

7. They Can Connect The Dots

When critical thinkers make their assumptions, there is a logical path they take to get there.

In every report, presentation, or even talk, there is going to be the question: So what does this all mean?

Critical thinkers are able to make sense of the data that they encounter — even seeing through any possible lapses in the reasoning that others might’ve missed.

8. They Can Agree To Disagree

Arguments can be healthy. It’s a chance for you to test out your beliefs to see if it’s credible — if not to others, then at least to you.

Debates reveal how much you believe in your idea or if you’re merely spouting what everyone else is saying because others said it’s right.

The ability to engage in debates without coming out of it resentful of the other person is a good indicator that someone is a critical thinker.

They disagree respectfully. Everyone has their own perspectives. They can’t force their opinions on you any more than you can on them.

9. They’re Open-Minded

Learning from others is a dynamic process. It keeps your mind active and strengthens your critical thinking muscle.

Critical thinkers aren’t the ones to close their minds to opposing ideas.

In this way, a critical thinker never stagnates. They continually refresh themselves with new ideas and new ways to view the world; they’re lifelong learners .

10. They Can Change Their Mind

Critical thinkers have humility . In an argument, if they’ve found that what they thought was right turned out to be wrong, a good critical thinker would be willing to change their mind.

They aren’t being fickle. It doesn’t mean that they’re still willing to defend what they believe in.

They carefully think through the logic behind their argument and the arguments of others.

They don’t simply adopt a different idea — they step back and assess if they believe that it’s credible enough.

11. They Communicate Clearly

People who are able to reason out their opinions tend to be better communicators.

Have you tried explaining something that you yourself hasn’t fully grasped yet? It isn’t easy.

Since critical thinkers work out problems, concepts, even the meaning behind a movie or the plot of a book beforehand, they can better express it to other people.

Thinking critically can improve the various communications that’s going on in your life; among your colleagues, between friends, family, and even with your significant other.

12. They’re Active Listeners

Critical thinkers don’t only have sharp eyes for observing but also train their ears for listening.

Advertisers carefully construct their messaging to appeal to you.

Copywriters use language to hide the catch — be it an additional fee for signing up or even the fact that the discount for the membership ends after the first month.

When you encounter these types of ads — on the radio, on social media, on your TV — active listening and critical thinking help you avoid any unwanted spending.

13. They’re Introspective

It’s easy to set your mind on cruise control and go along with the flow of mainstream media.

Critical thinkers, however, don’t partake in that. They look inward. They think about how they think.

This is related to the ability of self-reflection; analyzing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, even reactions can help you learn more about yourself and think more critically

14. They Can Think Outside The Box

The adage “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” might actually hinder meaningful progress.

Reverting to the “It’s how it’s always been done” reasoning blinds you to fresher and improved solutions to your problems.

By exposing themselves to differing opinions and material — talking to people of the opposite political party or reading a different newspaper publication — critical thinkers can pick apart the different opinions and combine them to form an unexpected approach and solution.

15. They Come Up With Their Own Opinions

An essential ability needed for learning is explaining things in your own words. When you explain something this way, you’re forced to think critically about it.

Forming your own opinion and thoughts on matters is more effective to your personal and mental growth than adopting someone else’s beliefs.

You’re no longer a blind follower but an original thinker.

16. They Weigh Their Options

One of the areas of life where critical thinking is the most beneficial is in decision-making.

In a group setting, critical thinkers may consider other opinions but they don’t allow themselves to be swayed by them.

Instead, they arrive at their decision by viewing the facts of the situation, looking at it objectively, and weighing the potential consequences of their actions rationally.

Skipping this portion of the decision-making process increases your risk of any potential loss or regret.

Practicing your critical thinking skills doesn’t mean you have to disagree with everything and everyone that you encounter.

You don’t have to impose your critically thought beliefs on anyone as well.

What you’ll find when you think critically is that you regain mental control.

You stop allowing others to shape you and your mind because you’ve learned to do that yourself.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life . If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter .

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The Critical Thinking Skills Series includes over 400 pages of step-by-step activities that have been carefully structured to give stu dents the thinking and logic skills they need to master every area of learning. The delightful exercises challenge students to think by using a variety of methods such as analogies, clas si fi ca tion, drawing solutions, and more! Each book is arranged se quen tial ly to help learners develop critical thinking in easy-to-digest steps. A terrific way to give your students the tools they need for success in school as well as their daily lives!

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Thinking critically about critical-thinking assessment.

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Critical Thinking

Why might an epidemiological population in a state not be the same size as the number of people in a state? Use an example.

Many people find that they become ill with a cold after traveling by airplane. The air circulation systems of commercial aircraft use HEPA filters that should remove any infectious agents that pass through them. What are the possible reasons for increased incidence of colds after flights?

An Atlantic crossing by boat from England to New England took 60–80 days in the 18th century. In the late 19th century the voyage took less than a week. How do you think these time differences for travel might have impacted the spread of infectious diseases from Europe to the Americas, or vice versa?

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