41+ Critical Thinking Examples (Definition + Practices)

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Critical thinking is an essential skill in our information-overloaded world, where figuring out what is fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.

But why is critical thinking essential? Put, critical thinking empowers us to make better decisions, challenge and validate our beliefs and assumptions, and understand and interact with the world more effectively and meaningfully.

Critical thinking is like using your brain's "superpowers" to make smart choices. Whether it's picking the right insurance, deciding what to do in a job, or discussing topics in school, thinking deeply helps a lot. In the next parts, we'll share real-life examples of when this superpower comes in handy and give you some fun exercises to practice it.

Critical Thinking Process Outline

a woman thinking

Critical thinking means thinking clearly and fairly without letting personal feelings get in the way. It's like being a detective, trying to solve a mystery by using clues and thinking hard about them.

It isn't always easy to think critically, as it can take a pretty smart person to see some of the questions that aren't being answered in a certain situation. But, we can train our brains to think more like puzzle solvers, which can help develop our critical thinking skills.

Here's what it looks like step by step:

Spotting the Problem: It's like discovering a puzzle to solve. You see that there's something you need to figure out or decide.

Collecting Clues: Now, you need to gather information. Maybe you read about it, watch a video, talk to people, or do some research. It's like getting all the pieces to solve your puzzle.

Breaking It Down: This is where you look at all your clues and try to see how they fit together. You're asking questions like: Why did this happen? What could happen next?

Checking Your Clues: You want to make sure your information is good. This means seeing if what you found out is true and if you can trust where it came from.

Making a Guess: After looking at all your clues, you think about what they mean and come up with an answer. This answer is like your best guess based on what you know.

Explaining Your Thoughts: Now, you tell others how you solved the puzzle. You explain how you thought about it and how you answered. 

Checking Your Work: This is like looking back and seeing if you missed anything. Did you make any mistakes? Did you let any personal feelings get in the way? This step helps make sure your thinking is clear and fair.

And remember, you might sometimes need to go back and redo some steps if you discover something new. If you realize you missed an important clue, you might have to go back and collect more information.

Critical Thinking Methods

Just like doing push-ups or running helps our bodies get stronger, there are special exercises that help our brains think better. These brain workouts push us to think harder, look at things closely, and ask many questions.

It's not always about finding the "right" answer. Instead, it's about the journey of thinking and asking "why" or "how." Doing these exercises often helps us become better thinkers and makes us curious to know more about the world.

Now, let's look at some brain workouts to help us think better:

1. "What If" Scenarios

Imagine crazy things happening, like, "What if there was no internet for a month? What would we do?" These games help us think of new and different ideas.

Pick a hot topic. Argue one side of it and then try arguing the opposite. This makes us see different viewpoints and think deeply about a topic.

3. Analyze Visual Data

Check out charts or pictures with lots of numbers and info but no explanations. What story are they telling? This helps us get better at understanding information just by looking at it.

4. Mind Mapping

Write an idea in the center and then draw lines to related ideas. It's like making a map of your thoughts. This helps us see how everything is connected.

There's lots of mind-mapping software , but it's also nice to do this by hand.

5. Weekly Diary

Every week, write about what happened, the choices you made, and what you learned. Writing helps us think about our actions and how we can do better.

6. Evaluating Information Sources

Collect stories or articles about one topic from newspapers or blogs. Which ones are trustworthy? Which ones might be a little biased? This teaches us to be smart about where we get our info.

There are many resources to help you determine if information sources are factual or not.

7. Socratic Questioning

This way of thinking is called the Socrates Method, named after an old-time thinker from Greece. It's about asking lots of questions to understand a topic. You can do this by yourself or chat with a friend.

Start with a Big Question:

"What does 'success' mean?"

Dive Deeper with More Questions:

"Why do you think of success that way?" "Do TV shows, friends, or family make you think that?" "Does everyone think about success the same way?"

"Can someone be a winner even if they aren't rich or famous?" "Can someone feel like they didn't succeed, even if everyone else thinks they did?"

Look for Real-life Examples:

"Who is someone you think is successful? Why?" "Was there a time you felt like a winner? What happened?"

Think About Other People's Views:

"How might a person from another country think about success?" "Does the idea of success change as we grow up or as our life changes?"

Think About What It Means:

"How does your idea of success shape what you want in life?" "Are there problems with only wanting to be rich or famous?"

Look Back and Think:

"After talking about this, did your idea of success change? How?" "Did you learn something new about what success means?"

socratic dialogue statues

8. Six Thinking Hats 

Edward de Bono came up with a cool way to solve problems by thinking in six different ways, like wearing different colored hats. You can do this independently, but it might be more effective in a group so everyone can have a different hat color. Each color has its way of thinking:

White Hat (Facts): Just the facts! Ask, "What do we know? What do we need to find out?"

Red Hat (Feelings): Talk about feelings. Ask, "How do I feel about this?"

Black Hat (Careful Thinking): Be cautious. Ask, "What could go wrong?"

Yellow Hat (Positive Thinking): Look on the bright side. Ask, "What's good about this?"

Green Hat (Creative Thinking): Think of new ideas. Ask, "What's another way to look at this?"

Blue Hat (Planning): Organize the talk. Ask, "What should we do next?"

When using this method with a group:

  • Explain all the hats.
  • Decide which hat to wear first.
  • Make sure everyone switches hats at the same time.
  • Finish with the Blue Hat to plan the next steps.

9. SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis is like a game plan for businesses to know where they stand and where they should go. "SWOT" stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

There are a lot of SWOT templates out there for how to do this visually, but you can also think it through. It doesn't just apply to businesses but can be a good way to decide if a project you're working on is working.

Strengths: What's working well? Ask, "What are we good at?"

Weaknesses: Where can we do better? Ask, "Where can we improve?"

Opportunities: What good things might come our way? Ask, "What chances can we grab?"

Threats: What challenges might we face? Ask, "What might make things tough for us?"

Steps to do a SWOT Analysis:

  • Goal: Decide what you want to find out.
  • Research: Learn about your business and the world around it.
  • Brainstorm: Get a group and think together. Talk about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Pick the Most Important Points: Some things might be more urgent or important than others.
  • Make a Plan: Decide what to do based on your SWOT list.
  • Check Again Later: Things change, so look at your SWOT again after a while to update it.

Now that you have a few tools for thinking critically, let’s get into some specific examples.

Everyday Examples

Life is a series of decisions. From the moment we wake up, we're faced with choices – some trivial, like choosing a breakfast cereal, and some more significant, like buying a home or confronting an ethical dilemma at work. While it might seem that these decisions are disparate, they all benefit from the application of critical thinking.

10. Deciding to buy something

Imagine you want a new phone. Don't just buy it because the ad looks cool. Think about what you need in a phone. Look up different phones and see what people say about them. Choose the one that's the best deal for what you want.

11. Deciding what is true

There's a lot of news everywhere. Don't believe everything right away. Think about why someone might be telling you this. Check if what you're reading or watching is true. Make up your mind after you've looked into it.

12. Deciding when you’re wrong

Sometimes, friends can have disagreements. Don't just get mad right away. Try to see where they're coming from. Talk about what's going on. Find a way to fix the problem that's fair for everyone.

13. Deciding what to eat

There's always a new diet or exercise that's popular. Don't just follow it because it's trendy. Find out if it's good for you. Ask someone who knows, like a doctor. Make choices that make you feel good and stay healthy.

14. Deciding what to do today

Everyone is busy with school, chores, and hobbies. Make a list of things you need to do. Decide which ones are most important. Plan your day so you can get things done and still have fun.

15. Making Tough Choices

Sometimes, it's hard to know what's right. Think about how each choice will affect you and others. Talk to people you trust about it. Choose what feels right in your heart and is fair to others.

16. Planning for the Future

Big decisions, like where to go to school, can be tricky. Think about what you want in the future. Look at the good and bad of each choice. Talk to people who know about it. Pick what feels best for your dreams and goals.

choosing a house

Job Examples

17. solving problems.

Workers brainstorm ways to fix a machine quickly without making things worse when a machine breaks at a factory.

18. Decision Making

A store manager decides which products to order more of based on what's selling best.

19. Setting Goals

A team leader helps their team decide what tasks are most important to finish this month and which can wait.

20. Evaluating Ideas

At a team meeting, everyone shares ideas for a new project. The group discusses each idea's pros and cons before picking one.

21. Handling Conflict

Two workers disagree on how to do a job. Instead of arguing, they talk calmly, listen to each other, and find a solution they both like.

22. Improving Processes

A cashier thinks of a faster way to ring up items so customers don't have to wait as long.

23. Asking Questions

Before starting a big task, an employee asks for clear instructions and checks if they have the necessary tools.

24. Checking Facts

Before presenting a report, someone double-checks all their information to make sure there are no mistakes.

25. Planning for the Future

A business owner thinks about what might happen in the next few years, like new competitors or changes in what customers want, and makes plans based on those thoughts.

26. Understanding Perspectives

A team is designing a new toy. They think about what kids and parents would both like instead of just what they think is fun.

School Examples

27. researching a topic.

For a history project, a student looks up different sources to understand an event from multiple viewpoints.

28. Debating an Issue

In a class discussion, students pick sides on a topic, like school uniforms, and share reasons to support their views.

29. Evaluating Sources

While writing an essay, a student checks if the information from a website is trustworthy or might be biased.

30. Problem Solving in Math

When stuck on a tricky math problem, a student tries different methods to find the answer instead of giving up.

31. Analyzing Literature

In English class, students discuss why a character in a book made certain choices and what those decisions reveal about them.

32. Testing a Hypothesis

For a science experiment, students guess what will happen and then conduct tests to see if they're right or wrong.

33. Giving Peer Feedback

After reading a classmate's essay, a student offers suggestions for improving it.

34. Questioning Assumptions

In a geography lesson, students consider why certain countries are called "developed" and what that label means.

35. Designing a Study

For a psychology project, students plan an experiment to understand how people's memories work and think of ways to ensure accurate results.

36. Interpreting Data

In a science class, students look at charts and graphs from a study, then discuss what the information tells them and if there are any patterns.

Critical Thinking Puzzles

critical thinking tree

Not all scenarios will have a single correct answer that can be figured out by thinking critically. Sometimes we have to think critically about ethical choices or moral behaviors. 

Here are some mind games and scenarios you can solve using critical thinking. You can see the solution(s) at the end of the post.

37. The Farmer, Fox, Chicken, and Grain Problem

A farmer is at a riverbank with a fox, a chicken, and a grain bag. He needs to get all three items across the river. However, his boat can only carry himself and one of the three items at a time. 

Here's the challenge:

  • If the fox is left alone with the chicken, the fox will eat the chicken.
  • If the chicken is left alone with the grain, the chicken will eat the grain.

How can the farmer get all three items across the river without any item being eaten? 

38. The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

You are in a room with two long ropes hanging from the ceiling. Each rope is just out of arm's reach from the other, so you can't hold onto one rope and reach the other simultaneously. 

Your task is to tie the two rope ends together, but you can't move the position where they hang from the ceiling.

You are given a jar full of pebbles. How do you complete the task?

39. The Two Guards Problem

Imagine there are two doors. One door leads to certain doom, and the other leads to freedom. You don't know which is which.

In front of each door stands a guard. One guard always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. You don't know which guard is which.

You can ask only one question to one of the guards. What question should you ask to find the door that leads to freedom?

40. The Hourglass Problem

You have two hourglasses. One measures 7 minutes when turned over, and the other measures 4 minutes. Using just these hourglasses, how can you time exactly 9 minutes?

41. The Lifeboat Dilemma

Imagine you're on a ship that's sinking. You get on a lifeboat, but it's already too full and might flip over. 

Nearby in the water, five people are struggling: a scientist close to finding a cure for a sickness, an old couple who've been together for a long time, a mom with three kids waiting at home, and a tired teenager who helped save others but is now in danger. 

You can only save one person without making the boat flip. Who would you choose?

42. The Tech Dilemma

You work at a tech company and help make a computer program to help small businesses. You're almost ready to share it with everyone, but you find out there might be a small chance it has a problem that could show users' private info. 

If you decide to fix it, you must wait two more months before sharing it. But your bosses want you to share it now. What would you do?

43. The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia is a history expert. She's studying where a group of people traveled long ago. She reads old letters and documents to learn about it. But she finds some letters that tell a different story than what most people believe. 

If she says this new story is true, it could change what people learn in school and what they think about history. What should she do?

The Role of Bias in Critical Thinking

Have you ever decided you don’t like someone before you even know them? Or maybe someone shared an idea with you that you immediately loved without even knowing all the details. 

This experience is called bias, which occurs when you like or dislike something or someone without a good reason or knowing why. It can also take shape in certain reactions to situations, like a habit or instinct. 

Bias comes from our own experiences, what friends or family tell us, or even things we are born believing. Sometimes, bias can help us stay safe, but other times it stops us from seeing the truth.

Not all bias is bad. Bias can be a mechanism for assessing our potential safety in a new situation. If we are biased to think that anything long, thin, and curled up is a snake, we might assume the rope is something to be afraid of before we know it is just a rope.

While bias might serve us in some situations (like jumping out of the way of an actual snake before we have time to process that we need to be jumping out of the way), it often harms our ability to think critically.

How Bias Gets in the Way of Good Thinking

Selective Perception: We only notice things that match our ideas and ignore the rest. 

It's like only picking red candies from a mixed bowl because you think they taste the best, but they taste the same as every other candy in the bowl. It could also be when we see all the signs that our partner is cheating on us but choose to ignore them because we are happy the way we are (or at least, we think we are).

Agreeing with Yourself: This is called “ confirmation bias ” when we only listen to ideas that match our own and seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms what we already think we know or believe. 

An example is when someone wants to know if it is safe to vaccinate their children but already believes that vaccines are not safe, so they only look for information supporting the idea that vaccines are bad.

Thinking We Know It All: Similar to confirmation bias, this is called “overconfidence bias.” Sometimes we think our ideas are the best and don't listen to others. This can stop us from learning.

Have you ever met someone who you consider a “know it”? Probably, they have a lot of overconfidence bias because while they may know many things accurately, they can’t know everything. Still, if they act like they do, they show overconfidence bias.

There's a weird kind of bias similar to this called the Dunning Kruger Effect, and that is when someone is bad at what they do, but they believe and act like they are the best .

Following the Crowd: This is formally called “groupthink”. It's hard to speak up with a different idea if everyone agrees. But this can lead to mistakes.

An example of this we’ve all likely seen is the cool clique in primary school. There is usually one person that is the head of the group, the “coolest kid in school”, and everyone listens to them and does what they want, even if they don’t think it’s a good idea.

How to Overcome Biases

Here are a few ways to learn to think better, free from our biases (or at least aware of them!).

Know Your Biases: Realize that everyone has biases. If we know about them, we can think better.

Listen to Different People: Talking to different kinds of people can give us new ideas.

Ask Why: Always ask yourself why you believe something. Is it true, or is it just a bias?

Understand Others: Try to think about how others feel. It helps you see things in new ways.

Keep Learning: Always be curious and open to new information.

city in a globe connection

In today's world, everything changes fast, and there's so much information everywhere. This makes critical thinking super important. It helps us distinguish between what's real and what's made up. It also helps us make good choices. But thinking this way can be tough sometimes because of biases. These are like sneaky thoughts that can trick us. The good news is we can learn to see them and think better.

There are cool tools and ways we've talked about, like the "Socratic Questioning" method and the "Six Thinking Hats." These tools help us get better at thinking. These thinking skills can also help us in school, work, and everyday life.

We’ve also looked at specific scenarios where critical thinking would be helpful, such as deciding what diet to follow and checking facts.

Thinking isn't just a skill—it's a special talent we improve over time. Working on it lets us see things more clearly and understand the world better. So, keep practicing and asking questions! It'll make you a smarter thinker and help you see the world differently.

Critical Thinking Puzzles (Solutions)

The farmer, fox, chicken, and grain problem.

  • The farmer first takes the chicken across the river and leaves it on the other side.
  • He returns to the original side and takes the fox across the river.
  • After leaving the fox on the other side, he returns the chicken to the starting side.
  • He leaves the chicken on the starting side and takes the grain bag across the river.
  • He leaves the grain with the fox on the other side and returns to get the chicken.
  • The farmer takes the chicken across, and now all three items -- the fox, the chicken, and the grain -- are safely on the other side of the river.

The Rope, Jar, and Pebbles Problem

  • Take one rope and tie the jar of pebbles to its end.
  • Swing the rope with the jar in a pendulum motion.
  • While the rope is swinging, grab the other rope and wait.
  • As the swinging rope comes back within reach due to its pendulum motion, grab it.
  • With both ropes within reach, untie the jar and tie the rope ends together.

The Two Guards Problem

The question is, "What would the other guard say is the door to doom?" Then choose the opposite door.

The Hourglass Problem

  • Start both hourglasses. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out, turn it over.
  • When the 7-minute hourglass runs out, the 4-minute hourglass will have been running for 3 minutes. Turn the 7-minute hourglass over. 
  • When the 4-minute hourglass runs out for the second time (a total of 8 minutes have passed), the 7-minute hourglass will run for 1 minute. Turn the 7-minute hourglass again for 1 minute to empty the hourglass (a total of 9 minutes passed).

The Boat and Weights Problem

Take the cat over first and leave it on the other side. Then, return and take the fish across next. When you get there, take the cat back with you. Leave the cat on the starting side and take the cat food across. Lastly, return to get the cat and bring it to the other side.

The Lifeboat Dilemma

There isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Moral Principles: What values guide your decision? Is it the potential greater good for humanity (the scientist)? What is the value of long-standing love and commitment (the elderly couple)? What is the future of young children who depend on their mothers? Or the selfless bravery of the teenager?
  • Future Implications: Consider the future consequences of each choice. Saving the scientist might benefit millions in the future, but what moral message does it send about the value of individual lives?
  • Emotional vs. Logical Thinking: While it's essential to engage empathy, it's also crucial not to let emotions cloud judgment entirely. For instance, while the teenager's bravery is commendable, does it make him more deserving of a spot on the boat than the others?
  • Acknowledging Uncertainty: The scientist claims to be close to a significant breakthrough, but there's no certainty. How does this uncertainty factor into your decision?
  • Personal Bias: Recognize and challenge any personal biases, such as biases towards age, profession, or familial status.

The Tech Dilemma

Again, there isn’t one correct answer to this problem. Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the Risk: How severe is the potential vulnerability? Can it be easily exploited, or would it require significant expertise? Even if the circumstances are rare, what would be the consequences if the vulnerability were exploited?
  • Stakeholder Considerations: Different stakeholders will have different priorities. Upper management might prioritize financial projections, the marketing team might be concerned about the product's reputation, and customers might prioritize the security of their data. How do you balance these competing interests?
  • Short-Term vs. Long-Term Implications: While launching on time could meet immediate financial goals, consider the potential long-term damage to the company's reputation if the vulnerability is exploited. Would the short-term gains be worth the potential long-term costs?
  • Ethical Implications : Beyond the financial and reputational aspects, there's an ethical dimension to consider. Is it right to release a product with a known vulnerability, even if the chances of it being exploited are low?
  • Seek External Input: Consulting with cybersecurity experts outside your company might be beneficial. They could provide a more objective risk assessment and potential mitigation strategies.
  • Communication: How will you communicate the decision, whatever it may be, both internally to your team and upper management and externally to your customers and potential users?

The History Mystery

Dr. Amelia should take the following steps:

  • Verify the Letters: Before making any claims, she should check if the letters are actual and not fake. She can do this by seeing when and where they were written and if they match with other things from that time.
  • Get a Second Opinion: It's always good to have someone else look at what you've found. Dr. Amelia could show the letters to other history experts and see their thoughts.
  • Research More: Maybe there are more documents or letters out there that support this new story. Dr. Amelia should keep looking to see if she can find more evidence.
  • Share the Findings: If Dr. Amelia believes the letters are true after all her checks, she should tell others. This can be through books, talks, or articles.
  • Stay Open to Feedback: Some people might agree with Dr. Amelia, and others might not. She should listen to everyone and be ready to learn more or change her mind if new information arises.

Ultimately, Dr. Amelia's job is to find out the truth about history and share it. It's okay if this new truth differs from what people used to believe. History is about learning from the past, no matter the story.

Related posts:

  • Experimenter Bias (Definition + Examples)
  • Hasty Generalization Fallacy (31 Examples + Similar Names)
  • Ad Hoc Fallacy (29 Examples + Other Names)
  • Confirmation Bias (Examples + Definition)
  • Equivocation Fallacy (26 Examples + Description)

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Examples of Critical Thinking in Everyday Life

When students learn critical thinking skills in school, they can put those skills to use in aspects of everyday life..


Here’s some good news:

Americans now spend eleven hours every day with our closest friends.

The friends I’m referring to are our digital devices.

A 2018 post by Nielsen explains that 87% of American households currently own at least one smartphone, and those users spend an average of almost half a day with those devices.

So much exposure to information comes with both gifts and curses. Of course, we can connect with people from around the world, learn languages, skills, and fun facts, and have conversations with our own robotic personal assistants (my two-year-old son says, “Alexa, play Bruno Mars”).

But the downside is that the once-mundane decisions now require sifting through loads of information to ensure we’re making the best decisions, or coming to the right conclusions.

The only way to successfully navigate this flood of information is with a sharp set of critical thinking skills. This term, once regulated to the classroom, is now part of conversations in media, politics, and consumer culture, and for good reason. Here are some examples where the ability to decipher information, gather perspectives, and make an informed decision – in other words, to think critically – find us in everyday life.

Evaluating Online Information

Fake news, Twitter bots, altered images – how can we filter the noise and find truth? With increased access to information comes an increased need for critical thinking skills. As citizens, consumers, and workers, students need to answer questions like:

  • Who published this?
  • Why did they make it?
  • What are their sources?
  • What are their intentions?
  • Are they representing themselves or another interest?

Even when we do find sources that we consider credible and reliable, the increasing popularity of “native advertising” or “sponsored content” can leave trusting readers tricked into reading a brand’s pitch as objective editorial content. (ThinkCERCA offers a useful checklist for distinguishing real news from sponsored articles.)

Making Purchase Decisions

Fifteen years ago, buying boots was easy. I went to the mall, looked at the mannequins, found a pair I liked, tried them on, and made the purchase. The boots lasted for a few years.

Last year, it was a bit different. I saw a Facebook post from a friend wearing nice boots, and messaged him to ask for the brand. Then, I searched Google for reviews, searched Amazon for more reviews, and decided to buy. These boots are made so well, they may last me for life.

This scenario captures the critical thinking now required for savvy consumers. Built into each purchase are questions like:

  • Which review sites, forums, and blogs offer insight into the brands that provide the best value?
  • Is it worth buying expensive products that are made of better material? How about budgeting money to justify a hefty purchase?
  • And with all those reviews available, how do we sift through the positives and negatives to come to the best decision?

With so much information available online, it takes critical thinking to sort through it all.

Caring for Your Health

Have you ever searched for "Is ______ healthy?" The many available studies, often contradictory, are baffling. Online reading can leave us less certain about what to do than before we tried to inform ourselves.

As adults, every year it seems like a different diet becomes popular. Whether it's Whole 30, Keto, Gluten Free, or something else, choosing the diet that's best for your lifestyle requires critical thinking: weighing the benefits, cost, convenience, and drawbacks.

And exercise is certainly not easier. To begin, we need to ask ourselves about our goals. Which routine will help us achieve our goals? And then, after trying a system for few weeks, what are the results? We combine the information we knew going into the program with our current progress to make a decision about if and how to move forward with the plan. This looks a lot like critical thinking to me.

Choosing a Career Path

College or no college? Online courses from home? Part-time work? Startup, non-profit, or corporation? There are benefits and drawbacks to each of these options.

Choosing a career takes time. In a way, we must formulate an argument for each potential option. We must consider the context of financial, social, and professional life. We must ask ourselves: Why is  this the right option for me?

After settling on a choice, we must project the impact of that decision one, five, and ten years into the future.  And that's before we inevitably encounter a point where we may decide to adjust career paths. It all takes some critical thinking to make the right career choice.

When it comes to critical thinking, the applications of the skill extend far beyond use in the classroom. If we can help our students hone their critical thinking skills in school, we can empower them to make qualified decisions in the years to come.

Continue your learning with the webinar, "Deconstructing Critical Thinking," a panel discussion with the experts:

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Gerard Dawson is a full-time high school English and Journalism teacher. He is the author of Hacking Literacy and publishes articles on literacy, technology, and life as an educator at his site www.GerardDawson.org. Gerard lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons.

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Global Cognition

Critical thinking in everyday life.

by Winston Sieck updated September 19, 2021

critical thinking in everyday life

Have you ever been listening to one of your teacher’s lessons and thought that it had no relevance to your own life?

You’re not alone. Just about every student has felt the same way.

Sure, you use critical thinking skills in the classroom to solve word problems in math, write essays in English, and create hypotheses in science.

But how will you use critical thinking in everyday life?

First, keep in mind that critical thinking is simply a “deliberate thought process.”

Basically, it means that you are using reason and logic to come to a conclusion about an issue or decision you are tangling with.

And clear, sound reasoning is something that will help you every day.

To help you make the leap from classroom to real world, here are 3 concrete examples of critical thinking in everyday life.

Fake News vs. Real News

Take a moment to reflect on your media skills. Do you think you have what it takes to sort out a real news source from a piece of clever advertising?

According to a recent study from Stanford University, a whopping 82% of the teens surveyed could not distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a legitimate news story.

Part of the problem may come from schools cutting back on formal instruction of critical thinking skills and an assumption that today’s “digital native” teens can automatically tell the difference without practice or instruction.

You are good at lots of things. But, you know, you’ve practiced those things you’re good at. So, how can you practice telling fact from fiction?

One way (outside of school) is to chat with your family and friends about media sources. Find out how they stay informed, and why they choose those outlets. Ask each other routine questions for evaluating sources .

Do your Friends Know Everything?

It’s tempting to believe that the world begins and ends with your friends. Don’t get me wrong. Friends are definitely important. However, it pays to reflect a little on how a group influences our lives.

To practice critical thinking in everyday life, take a close look at your group of friends. Are there things that are “forbidden” in your social circle? Are you expected to act a certain way, dress a certain way?

Think a certain way?

It’s natural that when a group defines something as “cool”, all the people in the group work to fit into that definition. Regardless of what they individually believe.

The problem is that virtually every situation can be defined in multiple ways. What is “dumb” to one person may be “cool” to another.

Develop your ability to redefine the way you see the world around you. On your own terms.

Find a time when your friend group sees the negative in a situation. Is there a positive way to view it instead? Or at least a way that makes it seem not quite so bad?

You may not be ready to speak up with your independent view. And that’s ok. Just practice thinking differently from the group to strengthen your mind.

Critical Thinking in the Driver’s Seat

One of the core critical thinking skills you need every day is the ability to examine the implications and consequences of a belief or action. In its deepest form, this ability can help you form your own set of beliefs in everything from climate change to religion.

But this skill can also save your life (and your car insurance rate) behind the wheel.

Imagine you are cruising down the freeway when your phone alerts you to an incoming text message. The ability to examine your potential actions and their accompanying consequences will help you make the best choice for how to handle the situation.

Do you look at the text and risk getting into an accident? Do you wait and risk not responding to an urgent matter? Or do you pull over to look at the text and risk being late for your appointment?

The same skill can be applied when you are looking for a place to park, when to pull onto a busy street, or whether to run the yellow light.

Better yet, the more practiced you are at looking at the implications of your driving habits, the faster you can make split second decisions behind the wheel.

Why Critical Thinking in Everyday Life Matters

Literally everyone can benefit from critical thinking because the need for it is all around us.

In a philosophical paper , Peter Facione makes a strong case that critical thinking skills are needed by everyone, in all societies who value safety, justice, and a host of other positive values:

“Considered as a form of thoughtful judgment or reflective decision-making, in a very real sense critical thinking is pervasive. There is hardly a time or a place where it would not seem to be of potential value. As long as people have purposes in mind and wish to judge how to accomplish them, as long as people wonder what is true and what is not, what to believe and what to reject, strong critical thinking is going to be necessary.”

So, in other words, as long as you remain curious, purposeful, and ambitious, no matter what your interests, you’re going to need critical thinking to really own your life.

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About Winston Sieck

Dr. Winston Sieck is a cognitive psychologist working to advance the development of thinking skills. He is founder and president of Global Cognition, and director of Thinker Academy .

Reader Interactions

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July 27, 2019 at 7:20 am

Wonderful article.. Useful in daily life… I have never imagined the way critical thinking is useful to make judgments

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December 9, 2020 at 9:38 pm

My name is Anthony Lambert I am student at miller Motte. Critical Thinking is one my classes. I thank you for giving me the skills of critical thinking.

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Why and How to Use Critical Thinking in Everyday Life

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Written by Argumentful

Critical thinking is a helpful skill that allows you to analyze information and make informed decisions. It’s all about taking a step back and evaluating information objectively, considering multiple perspectives, and making sound judgments based on evidence. With critical thinking, you can tackle problems with confidence, communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly, and reduce the influence of emotions, biases, and misinformation. Plus, by using critical thinking, you can continue to grow and develop as a person by questioning your own beliefs and perspectives.

Elder and Paul’s article “ Critical Thinking: The Nature of Critical and Creative Thought ” argues that critical thinking is essential for success in everyday life. They explain that critical thinking involves analyzing and evaluating information, as well as generating new ideas and perspectives.

Overall, critical thinking is a valuable tool for all of us to navigate the complex and ever-changing world we live in.

Here are some examples of using critical thinking in our daily lives.


Using critical thinking in making smart health choices.

When it comes to taking care of yourself, using critical thinking to check the reliability of your sources and weigh the strength of the evidence can help you make better decisions for your health. If your doctor recommends a certain treatment or you come across a new health trend online, how can you be sure it’s the right choice for you? By using critical thinking, you can evaluate the credibility of sources, consider the evidence behind health claims, and make informed decisions that promote your well-being. Whether it’s choosing a fitness plan, exploring alternative therapies, or making dietary changes, critical thinking can help you take control of your health and make choices that are truly right for you. Don’t just blindly follow health advice, use critical thinking to help you make informed decisions for a healthier you!

Smart budgeting for a stable future

By taking a closer look at your income and expenses, you can use critical thinking to make informed decisions about your finances that will set you up for long-term stability. Should you invest now or should you save for a rainy day? What expenses can you cut back on to reach your financial goals? By using critical thinking, you can assess your financial situation, weigh the risks and benefits of different options, and make smart decisions that improve your financial stability.

Diane Halpern, award-winning educator and past president of the American Psychological Association, explains that critical thinking involves skills such as analyzing arguments, evaluating evidence, and making informed decisions.

Whether it’s creating a budget, setting savings goals, or making investments, critical thinking can help you make informed decisions that put you on a path towards financial security.

Problem solving at work

When you’re facing a problem on the job, using critical thinking can help you get to the bottom of it, weigh your options, and make a well-informed decision. Sometimes the solution may be simple, but other times, it can be complex and involve multiple factors. By using critical thinking, you can objectively analyze the problem, consider different perspectives, and determine the best course of action. This can lead to more effective problem-solving and decision-making in the workplace, helping you to tackle challenges and reach your goals with confidence.

Joe Lau, associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong explains how to identify and avoid common thinking errors, as well as how to use critical thinking to solve problems and make decisions.

So, when a problem arises on the job, don’t just react impulsively, take a step back and use critical thinking to find the best solution.

Fighting propaganda and misinformation with critical thinking

In today’s world with so much information at our fingertips, it’s important to use critical thinking skills to sort out credible sources from misinformation and propaganda. What if instead of relying on hearsay or biased sources, you could make informed decisions based on accurate information? That’s where critical thinking comes in handy. By evaluating the evidence and reasoning behind information, you can separate facts from fiction and make well-informed choices in all areas of your life. Whether it’s evaluating news articles, scientific studies, or even advertisements, critical thinking can help you navigate the maze of information and make informed decisions.

Making decisions about relationships

This might sound like we’re overthinking it, but even in the area of personal relationship you should use clear thinking. When making decisions about relationships, critical thinking can help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your relationships, and make informed choices about the future. Should you get married? Should you end the relationship with a friend that is not supportive of your life choices and goals? By using critical thinking, you can weigh the pros and cons of these important decisions, and make choices that align with your values and aspirations. You can work out the decisions to these challenges methodically when you think critically.

Shopping and consumer decisions

By critically evaluating product claims, advertisements, and customer reviews, you can make informed purchasing decisions that meet your needs and budget. No longer will you be swayed by flashy advertising or a single glowing review. With critical thinking skills, you can objectively assess the validity of product claims, compare prices and features, and determine what truly matches your needs and budget. This can lead to more informed and confident purchasing decisions, saving you time and money in the long run. So, before you click “add to cart,” take a moment to critically evaluate the information available and make an informed choice!

Planning for the future

When making decisions about education, career, and retirement, critical thinking skills will help you evaluate options and make informed choices about the future. Will you continue living driven by others or will you make choices that align with your own goals and values? Weigh the pros and cons of different options, consider long-term consequences, and make decisions that are truly right for you!

Evaluating political information

In a politically charged world, you need critical thinking skills to evaluate political information, identify biases and propaganda, and make informed decisions about political issues. Who will you vote for in the next election? What political issues matter most to you? By using critical thinking, you can examine political information with a skeptical eye, consider multiple perspectives, and make justified choices based on facts and evidence. This can help you navigate the complex world of politics. So, don’t just take political information at face value, use your critical thinking skills to help you make informed and impactful decisions.

Making decisions about personal safety

If you are faced with safety concerns, critical thinking skills can also help you evaluate potential risks, make informed decisions, and take action to protect yourself and your loved ones. It’s always better to be prepared and proactive when it comes to safety. By using critical thinking, you can assess potential dangers, weigh your options, and take steps to ensure the well-being of yourself and those around you. Whether it’s preparing for natural disasters, navigating unfamiliar territory, or making decisions about personal safety, critical thinking can help you make choices that promote peace of mind and security.

Managing stress and emotions by thinking critically

By critically evaluating the root causes of stress and emotions, individuals can make informed decisions about how to manage their mental health and well-being. When was the last time you took a step back and evaluated what’s causing your stress and emotions? By using critical thinking, you can dig deeper into the root causes of your feelings and identify patterns or triggers. For example, maybe you notice that you feel stressed every time you have a big project due at work. By recognizing this pattern, you can take proactive steps to manage your stress, such as breaking down the project into smaller tasks or seeking support from a colleague. Similarly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions, critical thinking can help you evaluate what might be contributing to those feelings and determine steps you can take to improve your emotional well-being. For example, perhaps you’re feeling down because you’re not spending enough time with friends and family.

By recognizing this, you can make an effort to reach out and connect with loved ones, which can help boost your mood and emotional health.

By now you can probably guess the benefits of thinking critically. Here are some of them.


  • Better decision making : By using critical thinking skills, you can evaluate information objectively, consider multiple perspectives, and make informed decisions that are based on evidence.
  • Improved problem solving : When faced with a challenge, critical thinking can help you identify the root cause, evaluate potential solutions, and make an informed decision.
  • Increased creativity : Critical thinking encourages you to challenge assumptions and consider new ideas, leading to increased creativity and innovation.
  • Better communication : By using critical thinking, you can organize your thoughts, clarify your ideas, and communicate effectively with others.
  • Reduced influence of emotions and biases : By using critical thinking, you can reduce the influence of emotions, biases, and misinformation and make decisions based on rational analysis and evidence.
  • Personal growth and development : By questioning your own beliefs and perspectives, critical thinking can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.
  • Enhanced analytical skills : By regularly practicing critical thinking, you can improve your ability to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and make sound judgments.
  • Increased confidence : By making informed decisions based on rational analysis and evidence, critical thinking can increase your confidence in your own abilities.
  • Improved critical evaluation skills : Critical thinking can help you evaluate information and arguments from multiple perspectives, leading to improved critical evaluation skills.
  • Better understanding of complex issues : By using critical thinking skills, you can gain a better understanding of complex issues and make informed decisions about important topics.

So what are some techniques that can help in building critical thinking?


  • Asking questions : Asking questions helps to clarify understanding, gather information, and challenge assumptions.
  • Examining evidence : Evaluate the evidence supporting a claim, and determine its relevance, reliability, and sufficiency.
  • Analyzing arguments : Evaluate the structure of arguments, including the premises, conclusions, and any underlying assumptions.
  • Considering multiple perspectives : Try to consider multiple viewpoints and understand the reasoning behind each perspective.
  • Practicing skepticism : Don’t accept information or arguments at face value, instead question their validity and seek additional evidence.
  • Checking for biases : Recognize your own biases and try to avoid them when evaluating information and arguments.
  • Seeking diverse sources of information : Look for information from a variety of sources, including those that challenge your beliefs.
  • Reflecting on your thought process : Regularly reflect on your own thought processes, and try to identify areas where you may be able to improve your critical thinking skills.
  • Engaging in discussion and debate : Engage in discussions and debates with others, and actively listen to their perspectives and arguments.
  • Continuously learning : Stay curious and actively seek out new information and knowledge, as this can help you to expand your understanding and improve your critical thinking skills.

It’s important to also be aware of the many challenges that can divert us from thinking critically.


Challenges to critical thinking can arise from a variety of sources, such as emotions, biases, lack of information, and cognitive biases. However, these challenges can be overcome with practice and a few helpful tips.

  • Emotional involvement : Emotions can cloud your judgment and make it difficult to think critically. To overcome this challenge, try to recognize when you are feeling emotional and take a step back to assess the situation objectively.
  • Confirmation bias : Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms your existing beliefs. To overcome this, seek out diverse sources of information and try to consider multiple perspectives.
  • Lack of information : When making decisions or evaluating arguments, it can be challenging to think critically when you don’t have all the necessary information. To overcome this challenge, gather information from credible sources and be transparent about what you don’t know.
  • Cognitive biases : Cognitive biases refer to systematic errors in thinking that can impact our decision making and critical thinking skills. To overcome this, try to recognize and avoid common cognitive biases, such as the sunk cost fallacy or the availability heuristic.
  • Fear of being wrong : Sometimes, fear of being wrong can prevent you from thinking critically. To overcome this challenge, try to approach situations with an open mind and embrace the opportunity to learn and grow.

Final words

In conclusion, critical thinking is a valuable skill that can be improved with practice and by being aware of the challenges that can impact our ability to think critically.

Richard Paul, an expert in critical thinking and co-founder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, emphasized the importance of critical thinking in everyday life and provided several insights on how to apply it effectively.

One of the key things that Paul said about critical thinking for everyday life is that it involves actively and skillfully analyzing information and ideas, rather than simply accepting them at face value. He stressed the importance of questioning assumptions, considering different perspectives, and evaluating evidence in order to arrive at well-reasoned conclusions.

Paul also emphasized the need to be aware of our own biases and assumptions, as well as the influence of external factors such as media and advertising. He encouraged us to develop a habit of reflection and self-assessment, constantly questioning our own thought processes and seeking out new information and perspectives.

By recognizing these challenges and taking steps to overcome them, you can become a more effective critical thinker and make better decisions in your everyday life.

References :

  • “Critical Thinking: The Nature of Critical and Creative Thought” by Richard Paul and Linda Elder
  • “Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking” by Diane Halpern
  • “An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better” by Joe Lau
  • “Critical Thinking: An Introduction” by Alec Fisher
  • “Thinking Critically” by John Chaffee
  • “A Rulebook for Arguments” by Anthony Weston
  • “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren
  • “The Art of Reasoning” by David Kelley
  • “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
  • “Thinking About Thinking: A Guide to Metacognition” by John Dunlosky and Katherine Rawson

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. These skills are especially helpful at school and in the workplace, where employers prioritize the ability to think critically. Find out why and see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews the evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter and during your interview.

How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in a Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your work history, include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your resume summary, if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand skills in mind as you refine your critical thinking practice —whether for work or school.

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with analytical skills can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of classmates or colleagues. You need to be able to communicate with others to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing


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

  • Objectivity
  • Observation


Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Best Critical Thinking Examples to Help You Improve Your Critical and Analytical Skills

Critical thinking has been studied since ancient times. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato provided us with good critical thinking examples and the foundations for this field. Socrates is widely regarded as one of the fathers of critical thinking and deductive reasoning, a valuable skill in a world plagued with fake news and overwhelming amounts of information.

However, what is critical thinking? How can we use it in everyday life? In this article, we will explain what critical thinking is and why it is important, provide tips for improving your critical thinking skills, and offer the best examples of critical thinking.

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What is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and logically about what to do or believe. To do so, you must establish logical connections between ideas, evaluate arguments, approach problems systematically, and reflect on your values and beliefs. Logical thinking and scientific thinking are types of thinking that depend on these skills.

Additionally, the critical thinking process involves challenging knowledge to discover the truth. It involves reviewing knowledge and information to make an informed decision. You can improve your critical thinking skills by becoming more adept at analyzing problems, identifying biases, practicing active listening and inductive reasoning, and avoiding emotional reasoning.

Where Is Critical Thinking Used?

  • Progressive education
  • Risk assessment
  • Programming
  • SAT standardized tests

Why Is Critical Thinking Important?

Critical thinking is important because it allows you to better synthesize, analyze and interpret information. Other critical thinking skills like problem-solving , observation, and communication, can help you advance in your career. All of these skills can enable you to understand yourself better and make better life decisions.

Many people believe they are critical thinkers. However, when drawing conclusions in real life most people rely on common sense and numerous fallacies. To avoid this, we must have critical thinking dispositions to gain more insight, learn to identify a weak argument, and make better decisions. Understanding critical thinking concepts is crucial if you want to understand your thoughts, emotions, or live a better life.

Real-World Examples of Critical Thinking

People live their lives based on the choices they make. As a result, they require critical thinking skills and a constructive approach to problem-solving to make their lives easier. For example, if you need to deliver to multiple locations, don’t just go there by chance.

To save time, determine which location is closest and devise an efficient pattern for the next locations you will need to visit. This is just one of many examples of critical thinking for the following section. Below are more critical thinking examples.

  • Self-evaluation of your actions
  • HR manager resolving conflict between staffs
  • A military officer working on tactical plans
  • Professor guiding students to fresh ideas with creative questioning
  • Student defending a master’s thesis
  • Basketball coach seeking out new tactics during a timeout
  • Writer organizing content ideas
  • Applicant preparing for a job interview
  • Using a disciplined process to look for a job
  • A detective using their observational ability to analyze a crime scene

10 Great Examples of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking example 1: self-evaluation of your actions.

Self-evaluation is essential for improving your overall performance. When you use reflective thinking or try to evaluate yourself, you analyze what went wrong and how you can improve in the future. You attempt to understand what happened and figure out what you need to change to get different results.

Many universities and schools use special questionnaires that test critical thinking abilities. For example, Cambridge, a school with over 20 years of experience in assessing critical thinking, uses a student self-assessment critical thinking questionnaire .

Critical Thinking Example 2: HR Manager Resolving Conflict Between Staffs

Employees have disagreements in every organization. In many cases, it is the HR manager who steps in to solve the problem. However, the HR manager must first listen to both sides, determine the source of the problem, assess the situation, and decide how to proceed. As a result, a soft skill such as problem-solving or management is essential for HR.

Critical Thinking Example 3: A Military Officer Working on Tactical Plans

A military officer working on tactical plans for extracting fellow soldiers in a dangerous military zone is another example. In this case, the military officer must find an effective way to get the soldiers out of the danger zone while minimizing casualties, which requires logical thinking.

Critical Thinking Example 4: Professor Guiding Students to Fresh Ideas With Creative Questioning

Creative questioning is an interesting process because it can promote critical thinking. By asking creative open-ended questions, the professor makes students think more deeply about a subject. Therefore, they need to discern what information to pick and share. Analysis of arguments is another way to foster analytical thinking among students.

Critical Thinking Example 5: Student Defending a Master’s Thesis

Writing a master’s thesis requires applying critical thinking. You seek and gather information, conduct research, perform calculations, analyze data, and draw conclusions. You also demonstrate what critical skills you used to create the thesis by explaining all of the steps and methodology you used in the research process.

Critical Thinking Example 6: Basketball Coach Seeking Out New Tactics During a Timeout

In some cases, if the match does not go well, the basketball coach may call a timeout to reassess the team’s strategy. During the timeout, a basketball coach looks for new tactics that reveal the vulnerabilities of the opposing team. The coach needs to find a way to assess the potential risks and provide a new strategy that will lead the team to victory.

Critical Thinking Example 7: Writer Organizing Content Ideas

When writing articles, writers must distinguish between good and bad information. They must also make the article flow. To accomplish this, writers must adhere to the core concept of writing format: title, introduction, body, and conclusion. This means that they have to choose certain information to insert in certain sections of the text.

Critical Thinking Example 8: Applicants Preparing for a Job Interview

If you apply for a job and go to the interview blindly, there is a high chance you will not be hired. It is preferable to arrive prepared and apply critical thinking to the interview. One tip for interview preparation is to ask yourself outcome-based questions about the job. Before going to the interview, practice answering questions and acting quickly.

Critical Thinking Example 9: Using a Disciplined Process to Look for a Job

It can be difficult to find a job. Some stats show that on average it takes 100 to 200 applications to get a job. To improve your chances, you should put your critical thinking cap on. Logical thinking can help you consider how you will approach employers, devote time to updating your resume, skills, and create an effective cover letter .

Critical Thinking Example 10: A Detective Using Their Observational Ability to Analyze a Crime Scene

As a police detective, you must have strong critical thinking skills as well as excellent observational abilities to analyze a crime scene. You need logical inquiry and deduction skills to analyze the evidence. A police detective must have probable cause to obtain a search warrant from a judge to search a suspect’s home, which is another example of critical thinking.

Pro Tips to Boost Your Critical Thinking Skills

  • Analyze and Break It Down. Before forming an opinion, conduct extensive research and analysis. Once you have enough information, then you can try to break down all that information and analyze what it means. It is a good idea to break the problem down into smaller pieces so that you can see the bigger picture.
  • Deal With Your Biases. Critical thinking requires constant work, as people have biases that they need to deal with throughout their lives. If a person is aware of their biases, they can be aware of their own thought process and make sure they’re not just thinking one way.
  • Seek Advice. Develop a strong sense of acquiring knowledge. This means seeking advice when you are not sure about what you know. If you don’t know something, ask someone that knows. The more information you have, the better conclusion you can draw. Deal with the fact that you are not always right.

What Should Be the Next Step in My Critical Thinking Learning Journey?

Your next step in your critical thinking learning journey should be to actively use it in your everyday life. In real life, people encounter many opportunities to solve problems. With critical and careful thinking, you can afford to lead a better life and make more accurate decisions.

Using analytical and objective reasoning are some of the intellectual virtues that critical thinking offers to get a better job. If you use it in self-evaluation you can become a better version of yourself.

Advancing this skill can improve your professional life, problem-solving, and improve in developing and executing solutions. If you want to have well-informed opinions and deal with your biases, advance your critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Examples FAQ

Yes, critical thinking is a skill. The interesting part is that critical thinking is a learned skill. If it can be learned then it can be taught. However, the problem is that in many cases an experienced instructor is needed to transfer the skill. It is also one of the 21st-century skills you need to add to your resume.

Developing your critical thinking skills is a gradual process that requires deliberate effort. Changing your thought patterns and practices is a long-term project that you should commit to for the rest of your life.

No, IQ tests don’t measure critical thinking. Intelligence and critical thinking are not the same. If you want to test your critical thinking ability, you need a specialized critical thinking test. One example is the Cornell critical thinking test .

The bandwagon fallacy is about creating an opinion based on what the majority thinks. If everyone says the same thing, then it must be true. The problem with this notion is that the opinion of the majority is not always valid or a real form of knowledge. To avoid the bandwagon fallacy, you need to have a critical thinking disposition.

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what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Work Life is Atlassian’s flagship publication dedicated to unleashing the potential of every team through real-life advice, inspiring stories, and thoughtful perspectives from leaders around the world.

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Dr. Mahreen Khan

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what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 


It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.


Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 


3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

Advice, stories, and expertise about work life today.

50 Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills for success in the 21st century. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and draw logical conclusions. Problem solving is the ability to apply critical thinking to find effective solutions to various challenges. Both skills require creativity, curiosity, and persistence. Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills can help students improve their academic performance, enhance their career prospects, and become more informed and engaged citizens.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Sanju Pradeepa

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

In today’s complex and fast-paced world, the ability to think critically and solve problems effectively has become a vital skill for success in all areas of life. Whether it’s navigating professional challenges, making sound decisions, or finding innovative solutions, critical thinking and problem-solving are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving desired outcomes. In this blog post, we will explore problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Table of Contents

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving.

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving

It is not enough to simply recognize an issue; we must use the right tools and techniques to address it. To do this, we must learn how to define and identify the problem or task at hand, gather relevant information from reliable sources, analyze and compare data to draw conclusions, make logical connections between different ideas, generate a solution or action plan, and make a recommendation.

The first step in developing these skills is understanding what the problem or task is that needs to be addressed. This requires careful consideration of all available information in order to form an accurate picture of what needs to be done. Once the issue has been identified, gathering reliable sources of data can help further your understanding of it. Sources could include interviews with customers or stakeholders, surveys, industry reports, and analysis of customer feedback.

After collecting relevant information from reliable sources, it’s important to analyze and compare the data in order to draw meaningful conclusions about the situation at hand. This helps us better understand our options for addressing an issue by providing context for decision-making. Once you have analyzed the data you collected, making logical connections between different ideas can help you form a more complete picture of the situation and inform your potential solutions.

Once you have analyzed your options for addressing an issue based on all available data points, it’s time to generate a solution or action plan that takes into account considerations such as cost-effectiveness and feasibility. It’s also important to consider the risk factors associated with any proposed solutions in order to ensure that they are responsible before moving forward with implementation. Finally, once all the analysis has been completed, it is time to make a recommendation based on your findings, which should take into account any objectives set out by stakeholders at the beginning of this process as well as any other pertinent factors discovered throughout the analysis stage.

By following these steps carefully when faced with complex issues, one can effectively use critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to achieve desired outcomes more efficiently than would otherwise be possible without them, while also taking responsibility for decisions made along the way.

what does critical thinking involve

What Does Critical Thinking Involve: 5 Essential Skill

Problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Problem-solving and critical thinking are key skills that are highly valued in any professional setting. These skills enable individuals to analyze complex situations, make informed decisions, and find innovative solutions. Here, we present 25 examples of problem-solving and critical thinking. problem-solving scenarios to help you cultivate and enhance these skills.

Ethical dilemma: A company faces a situation where a client asks for a product that does not meet quality standards. The team must decide how to address the client’s request without compromising the company’s credibility or values.

Brainstorming session: A team needs to come up with new ideas for a marketing campaign targeting a specific demographic. Through an organized brainstorming session, they explore various approaches and analyze their potential impact.

Troubleshooting technical issues : An IT professional receives a ticket indicating a network outage. They analyze the issue, assess potential causes (hardware, software, or connectivity), and solve the problem efficiently.

Negotiation : During contract negotiations, representatives from two companies must find common ground to strike a mutually beneficial agreement, considering the needs and limitations of both parties.

Project management: A project manager identifies potential risks and develops contingency plans to address unforeseen obstacles, ensuring the project stays on track.

Decision-making under pressure: In a high-stakes situation, a medical professional must make a critical decision regarding a patient’s treatment, weighing all available information and considering potential risks.

Conflict resolution: A team encounters conflicts due to differing opinions or approaches. The team leader facilitates a discussion to reach a consensus while considering everyone’s perspectives.

Data analysis: A data scientist is presented with a large dataset and is tasked with extracting valuable insights. They apply analytical techniques to identify trends, correlations, and patterns that can inform decision-making.

Customer service: A customer service representative encounters a challenging customer complaint and must employ active listening and problem-solving skills to address the issue and provide a satisfactory resolution.

Market research : A business seeks to expand into a new market. They conduct thorough market research, analyzing consumer behavior, competitor strategies, and economic factors to make informed market-entry decisions.

Creative problem-solvin g: An engineer faces a design challenge and must think outside the box to come up with a unique and innovative solution that meets project requirements.

Change management: During a company-wide transition, managers must effectively communicate the change, address employees’ concerns, and facilitate a smooth transition process.

Crisis management: When a company faces a public relations crisis, effective critical thinking is necessary to analyze the situation, develop a response strategy, and minimize potential damage to the company’s reputation.

Cost optimization : A financial analyst identifies areas where expenses can be reduced while maintaining operational efficiency, presenting recommendations for cost savings.

Time management : An employee has multiple deadlines to meet. They assess the priority of each task, develop a plan, and allocate time accordingly to achieve optimal productivity.

Quality control: A production manager detects an increase in product defects and investigates the root causes, implementing corrective actions to enhance product quality.

Strategic planning: An executive team engages in strategic planning to define long-term goals, assess market trends, and identify growth opportunities.

Cross-functional collaboration: Multiple teams with different areas of expertise must collaborate to develop a comprehensive solution, combining their knowledge and skills.

Training and development : A manager identifies skill gaps in their team and designs training programs to enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.

Risk assessment : A risk management professional evaluates potential risks associated with a new business venture, weighing their potential impact and developing strategies to mitigate them.

Continuous improvement: An operations manager analyzes existing processes, identifies inefficiencies, and introduces improvements to enhance productivity and customer satisfaction.

Customer needs analysis: A product development team conducts extensive research to understand customer needs and preferences, ensuring that the resulting product meets those requirements.

Crisis decision-making: A team dealing with a crisis must think quickly, assess the situation, and make timely decisions with limited information.

Marketing campaign analysis : A marketing team evaluates the success of a recent campaign, analyzing key performance indicators to understand its impact on sales and customer engagement.

Constructive feedback: A supervisor provides feedback to an employee, highlighting areas for improvement and offering constructive suggestions for growth.

Conflict resolution in a team project: Team members engaged in a project have conflicting ideas on the approach. They must engage in open dialogue, actively listen to each other’s perspectives, and reach a compromise that aligns with the project’s goals.

Crisis response in a natural disaster: Emergency responders must think critically and swiftly in responding to a natural disaster, coordinating rescue efforts, allocating resources effectively, and prioritizing the needs of affected individuals.

Product innovation : A product development team conducts market research, studies consumer trends, and uses critical thinking to create innovative products that address unmet customer needs.

Supply chain optimization: A logistics manager analyzes the supply chain to identify areas for efficiency improvement, such as reducing transportation costs, improving inventory management, or streamlining order fulfillment processes.

Business strategy formulation: A business executive assesses market dynamics, the competitive landscape, and internal capabilities to develop a robust business strategy that ensures sustainable growth and competitiveness.

Crisis communication: In the face of a public relations crisis, an organization’s spokesperson must think critically to develop and deliver a transparent, authentic, and effective communication strategy to rebuild trust and manage reputation.

Social problem-solving: A group of volunteers addresses a specific social issue, such as poverty or homelessness, by critically examining its root causes, collaborating with stakeholders, and implementing sustainable solutions for the affected population.

Problem-Solving Mindset

Problem-Solving Mindset: How to Achieve It (15 Ways)

Risk assessment in investment decision-making: An investment analyst evaluates various investment opportunities, conducting risk assessments based on market trends, financial indicators, and potential regulatory changes to make informed investment recommendations.

Environmental sustainability: An environmental scientist analyzes the impact of industrial processes on the environment, develops strategies to mitigate risks, and promotes sustainable practices within organizations and communities.

Adaptation to technological advancements : In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, professionals need critical thinking skills to adapt to new tools, software, and systems, ensuring they can effectively leverage these advancements to enhance productivity and efficiency.

Productivity improvement: An operations manager leverages critical thinking to identify productivity bottlenecks within a workflow and implement process improvements to optimize resource utilization, minimize waste, and increase overall efficiency.

Cost-benefit analysis: An organization considering a major investment or expansion opportunity conducts a thorough cost-benefit analysis, weighing potential costs against expected benefits to make an informed decision.

Human resources management : HR professionals utilize critical thinking to assess job applicants, identify skill gaps within the organization, and design training and development programs to enhance the workforce’s capabilities.

Root cause analysis: In response to a recurring problem or inefficiency, professionals apply critical thinking to identify the root cause of the issue, develop remedial actions, and prevent future occurrences.

Leadership development: Aspiring leaders undergo critical thinking exercises to enhance their decision-making abilities, develop strategic thinking skills, and foster a culture of innovation within their teams.

Brand positioning : Marketers conduct comprehensive market research and consumer behavior analysis to strategically position a brand, differentiating it from competitors and appealing to target audiences effectively.

Resource allocation: Non-profit organizations distribute limited resources efficiently, critically evaluating project proposals, considering social impact, and allocating resources to initiatives that align with their mission.

Innovating in a mature market: A company operating in a mature market seeks to innovate to maintain a competitive edge. They cultivate critical thinking skills to identify gaps, anticipate changing customer needs, and develop new strategies, products, or services accordingly.

Analyzing financial statements : Financial analysts critically assess financial statements, analyze key performance indicators, and derive insights to support financial decision-making, such as investment evaluations or budget planning.

Crisis intervention : Mental health professionals employ critical thinking and problem-solving to assess crises faced by individuals or communities, develop intervention plans, and provide support during challenging times.

Data privacy and cybersecurity : IT professionals critically evaluate existing cybersecurity measures, identify vulnerabilities, and develop strategies to protect sensitive data from threats, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.

Process improvement : Professionals in manufacturing or service industries critically evaluate existing processes, identify inefficiencies, and implement improvements to optimize efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Multi-channel marketing strategy : Marketers employ critical thinking to design and execute effective marketing campaigns across various channels such as social media, web, print, and television, ensuring a cohesive brand experience for customers.

Peer review: Researchers critically analyze and review the work of their peers, providing constructive feedback and ensuring the accuracy, validity, and reliability of scientific studies.

Project coordination : A project manager must coordinate multiple teams and resources to ensure seamless collaboration, identify potential bottlenecks, and find solutions to keep the project on schedule.  

These examples highlight the various contexts in which problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are necessary for success. By understanding and practicing these skills, individuals can enhance their ability to navigate challenges and make sound decisions in both personal and professional endeavors.


Critical thinking and problem-solving are indispensable skills that empower individuals to overcome challenges, make sound decisions, and find innovative solutions. By honing these skills, one can navigate through the complexities of modern life and achieve success in both personal and professional endeavors. Embrace the power of critical thinking and problem-solving, and unlock the door to endless possibilities and growth.

  • Problem solving From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Critical thinking From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • The Importance of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills for Students (5 Minutes)

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what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

Julia Martins contributor headshot

Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 

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  • What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

What Is Critical Thinking? | Definition & Examples

Published on May 30, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment .

To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources .

Critical thinking skills help you to:

  • Identify credible sources
  • Evaluate and respond to arguments
  • Assess alternative viewpoints
  • Test hypotheses against relevant criteria

Table of contents

Why is critical thinking important, critical thinking examples, how to think critically, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is important for making judgments about sources of information and forming your own arguments. It emphasizes a rational, objective, and self-aware approach that can help you to identify credible sources and strengthen your conclusions.

Critical thinking is important in all disciplines and throughout all stages of the research process . The types of evidence used in the sciences and in the humanities may differ, but critical thinking skills are relevant to both.

In academic writing , critical thinking can help you to determine whether a source:

  • Is free from research bias
  • Provides evidence to support its research findings
  • Considers alternative viewpoints

Outside of academia, critical thinking goes hand in hand with information literacy to help you form opinions rationally and engage independently and critically with popular media.

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what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Critical thinking can help you to identify reliable sources of information that you can cite in your research paper . It can also guide your own research methods and inform your own arguments.

Outside of academia, critical thinking can help you to be aware of both your own and others’ biases and assumptions.

Academic examples

However, when you compare the findings of the study with other current research, you determine that the results seem improbable. You analyze the paper again, consulting the sources it cites.

You notice that the research was funded by the pharmaceutical company that created the treatment. Because of this, you view its results skeptically and determine that more independent research is necessary to confirm or refute them. Example: Poor critical thinking in an academic context You’re researching a paper on the impact wireless technology has had on developing countries that previously did not have large-scale communications infrastructure. You read an article that seems to confirm your hypothesis: the impact is mainly positive. Rather than evaluating the research methodology, you accept the findings uncritically.

Nonacademic examples

However, you decide to compare this review article with consumer reviews on a different site. You find that these reviews are not as positive. Some customers have had problems installing the alarm, and some have noted that it activates for no apparent reason.

You revisit the original review article. You notice that the words “sponsored content” appear in small print under the article title. Based on this, you conclude that the review is advertising and is therefore not an unbiased source. Example: Poor critical thinking in a nonacademic context You support a candidate in an upcoming election. You visit an online news site affiliated with their political party and read an article that criticizes their opponent. The article claims that the opponent is inexperienced in politics. You accept this without evidence, because it fits your preconceptions about the opponent.

There is no single way to think critically. How you engage with information will depend on the type of source you’re using and the information you need.

However, you can engage with sources in a systematic and critical way by asking certain questions when you encounter information. Like the CRAAP test , these questions focus on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

When encountering information, ask:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?
  • What do they say? Is their argument clear? Can you summarize it?
  • When did they say this? Is the source current?
  • Where is the information published? Is it an academic article? Is it peer-reviewed ?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence? Does it rely on opinion, speculation, or appeals to emotion ? Do they address alternative arguments?

Critical thinking also involves being aware of your own biases, not only those of others. When you make an argument or draw your own conclusions, you can ask similar questions about your own writing:

  • Am I only considering evidence that supports my preconceptions?
  • Is my argument expressed clearly and backed up with credible sources?
  • Would I be convinced by this argument coming from someone else?

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own.

Like information literacy , it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

Critical thinking skills include the ability to:

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Information literacy refers to a broad range of skills, including the ability to find, evaluate, and use sources of information effectively.

Being information literate means that you:

  • Know how to find credible sources
  • Use relevant sources to inform your research
  • Understand what constitutes plagiarism
  • Know how to cite your sources correctly

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search, interpret, and recall information in a way that aligns with our pre-existing values, opinions, or beliefs. It refers to the ability to recollect information best when it amplifies what we already believe. Relatedly, we tend to forget information that contradicts our opinions.

Although selective recall is a component of confirmation bias, it should not be confused with recall bias.

On the other hand, recall bias refers to the differences in the ability between study participants to recall past events when self-reporting is used. This difference in accuracy or completeness of recollection is not related to beliefs or opinions. Rather, recall bias relates to other factors, such as the length of the recall period, age, and the characteristics of the disease under investigation.

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Examples of Critical Thinking in Everyday

Examples of Critical Thinking in Everyday

Most people think of high academia when they hear the phrase “critical thinking.” They have a natural tendency to associate it with higher learning. While that may be true, it may surprise people to know that everyone uses critical thinking skills every day.

Critical thinking is defined as looking at an issue objectively, gathering information, analyzing it, and then forming a judgment about it. It is void of emotionally-responsive decision making but takes an analytical approach. People unknowingly participate in examples of critical thinking in everyday life. 

Critical Thinking On the Job

Employers love those who have critical thinking skills and will promote those employees to management. The key plus here is those who can use these skills can solve problems that are bound to occur in a workplace daily.

For instance, someone with critical thinking skills is going to be able to put together an effective team for a project and be able to manage the team. They can understand all team members’ talents and contributions while inputting their own.

Specific Examples Demonstrating Critical Thinking

Examples of critical thinking in everyday life abounds in all parts of life. A triage nurse will use it to prioritize patients for treatment and a plumber uses it when he decides what materials he needs to complete a job

Critical Thinking in Your Personal Life

Everyone uses critical thinking at some point. Small business owners need it to figure out how to increase costs, keep employees happy or reduce costs and a soccer coach uses it to create a tactic to maximize his team’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

One perfect example is when a spouse comes home after a hard day at work. Someone with critical thinking skills immediately assesses the situation to see how they can help. They stand back for a few moments to gather information, to hear what their spouse has to say.

What All Does Critical Thinking Involve?

Critical thinking happens quickly for most people so it can be difficult to break down into segments. However, six aspects of it are important.

Gathering information

Communication skills, thinking creatively.

This is especially true in areas of customer service, medicine, the law, and even in professional services such as wedding coordinating.

Being open-minded

Problem-solving skills, can children learn critical thinking.

Parents who encourage learning and allow children to debate them on some subjects will find their child is more confident in their critical learning skills. This is how they practice analytically expressing their thoughts.

8 Ways Parents Can Support Critical Thinking At Home
Fifteen Positive Examples of Critical Thinking

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what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Examples Of Critical Thinking At The Workplace & In Real Life

Work from home (WFH) has created many problems for people such as long working hours, neck and back pain, and…

Examples Of Critical Thinking At The Workplace & In Real Life

Work from home (WFH) has created many problems for people such as long working hours, neck and back pain, and even having multiple cups of coffee every day. Now that organizations are prioritizing fully remote or blended working models, such scenarios are impossible to ignore.

An extremely unhealthy habit that is a product of working at home is the high consumption of coffee. Studies suggest that several coffee aficionados use the beverage as a substitute for breakfast.  Drinking coffee may seem harmless but search the internet and you will find a long list of its disadvantages—from restlessness and insomnia to weight gain, anxiety and risk of heart attacks in young adults. But then you will find as many links listing the advantages of drinking coffee (if it’s within a certain limit).

Does that sound confusing? Which source should you trust then? By thinking critically, you can come to a conclusion that is logical.

This is just one of the examples of critical thinking in everyday life and its importance. We face many more small and big critical thinking examples in real life.

If you think it may not always be possible to apply critical thinking, you can follow the Ladder of Inference framework from Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course. It is a four-step approach to understand how you can process information. The course covers several examples of critical thinking to explain it in detail.

To understand this better, let’s see some examples of critical thinking:

Critical thinking examples in the workplace.

Here are some common examples of critical thinking that will help you understand why it’s an essential skill in professional life:

Promoting a teamwork approach to problem-solving

As a team leader, the job of encouraging your team to work towards solving a problem falls on your shoulders. But every individual in a team may come up with different inputs and points of view.

You must logically analyze team members’ inputs. And then offer constructive criticism while sharing your own opinion on the situation. This is one of the common critical thinking examples in the workplace.

Self-evaluating your contributions

Imagine that your chief operating officer creates a new target for the organization. Now it’s your right and responsibility to use critical thinking skills examples and evaluate your contribution to reach the target.

Knowing how your contribution is important will help you discover ways to improve your performance. The result will show the impact your work has made, whether it’s solving a critical bug or coming up with a creative way to approach possible clients. Studying a few critical thinking skills examples will help you analyze your situation better.

This is among the most common critical thinker examples you can find and follow in every organization.

It’s evident from these examples of critical thinking that it’s a valuable skill every employee should strengthen. From efficient decision-making to navigating conflicts, thinking critically help you evaluate situations better instead of jumping to hasty and half-baked conclusions.

Examples of Critical Thinking in Real Life

Choosing a Career Path

Should I go for a full-time college or enroll in an online course? Which stream do I choose? Should I try to get a job in a private organization, work as a consultant, or move towards opening a start-up? We all face such dilemmas in our lives at some point or the other. But every option comes with its pros and cons and, therefore, it’s important to choose carefully.

Such critical thinking examples in everyday life highlight the importance of this process. Choosing the right career path certainly takes time. So as a critical thinker, you weigh the pros and cons of every option.

Also, consider the professional, financial and social context in the form of some critical thinking examples in real life. Know your interest and skill set. Answer questions such as “What is important for me?” and “Why is this important for me?”

Don’t go ahead right after making a choice. If you look at some critical thinker examples, you will understand the impact your chosen path will have in the next one, five and 10 years. Accordingly, you may like to rethink your career path. To be able to do this, some critical thinking will be required.

Evaluating Online Information

There are other examples of critical thinking in everyday life as well. There are hundreds of fake news items that we come across every day on the internet or social media. How do we find the truth among so much noise? Critical thinking can come to your aid.

We come across these and many more critical thinking skills examples in the digital world. With the exchange of information increasing by the minute, the need for critical thinking skills is only increasing.

But asking certain questions will help you process such information.

Who published the article?

What are their sources of information?

What are their intentions?

Are they representing themselves or someone else?

Don’t you think if most social media users ask themselves these questions, social media wars will reduce?

Critical thinker examples and applications can be found inside as well as outside classrooms and meeting rooms. So start working on your critical thinking skills now. Join Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course, which explains the essential techniques with the help of a few great critical thinker examples. Empower yourself to make qualified decisions.

Explore topics such as Critical Thinking , How to Improve Critical Thinking & Ladder of Inference from our Harappa Diaries blog section and develop your strategic thinking skills .


What Critical Thinking Is—And 7 Ways to Improve Yours

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Making a hire. Debugging a website glitch. Deciding how to tell your boss they have a stain on their shirt.

All of these tasks, and more, require critical thinking skills. And whether you think you have them or not, they’re critical (see what we did there?) for your career—here’s why.

What is critical thinking and why is it so important?

Critical thinking “requires us to give a second thought to our own interpretations” as we’re making a decision or trying to understand a given situation, Constance Dierickx , a clinical psychologist and decision-making coach for CEOs and executives, told The Muse.

There are three steps to critical thinking, according to Lily Drabkin, a graduate student specializing in organizational psychology who facilitates a class called “Developing Critical Thinkers” at Columbia University:

  • Becoming aware of our assumptions : This is the process of tuning into what we’re believing or thinking, otherwise known as metacognition.
  • Researching our assumptions: This is the process of checking our assumptions using a wide range of sources. “Generally, it can be helpful to involve other people who can help us see ourselves in our actions from unfamiliar perspectives,” Drabkin said.
  • Testing our analysis: This step involves putting our research into action to see if it’s accurate, as well as being open to our initial assumptions being wrong and ready to change our perspective.

Critical thinking is beneficial for building relationships, starting or pivoting your career, or even just doing your everyday job. It’s also a highly-sought-after skill in job seekers. “You want someone who has good critical thinking skills because they're not going to be an attention sponge,” Muse career coach Yolanda Owens said. “They're going to be able to figure things out and…be more resourceful.”

Here are two other ways it’s helpful to be good at critical thinking:

Critical thinking leads to better decision-making

Owens pointed out that good critical thinkers always seek to understand the “why.” “When they can do that, they're better problem solvers,” she said. “It really helps people analyze situations and viewpoints.”

Critical thinking can also prevent you from having knee-jerk reactions that backfire in the long run, Dierickx said. “Decisions based on critical thinking are more likely to be ones that we feel confident about,” Drabkin added.

Critical thinking makes you look smart

Dierickx said when we use critical thinking, we have more proof to back up our statements or decisions, making it easier to influence and earn the respect of others.

“You build up a reputation as somebody who's a reliable thinker,” Dierickx said. “It makes you stand out because in most organizations, a lot of people say the same things.”

7 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

The following habits are worth incorporating into your daily routine—that is, if you want to impress your colleagues and avoid falling into a spiral of poor choices.

1. Ask questions

Good critical thinkers, Owens said, aren’t afraid to ask others when they’re unsure about something. This allows them to have as much information in front of them as possible before making a decision. It also ensures they’re never so confident in their assumptions that they ignore better options.

2. Practice reflection

Dierickx advised baking time for reflection into your day, particularly after an emotional situation is resolved or a big project is completed. Consider:

  • What was the context?
  • What was I thinking and feeling in the moment?
  • What were other people thinking and feeling in the moment?
  • What could I have done differently knowing what I know now?

It can be helpful, too, to loop in someone you trust or admire for feedback on how you handled it and what they would have done differently.

3. Be open to change

Owens and Dierickx agreed that people who are open minded have more success when it comes to critical thinking. “My biggest pet peeve is when people say, ‘Well, we've always done it that way.’ Don't become that person,” Owens said. “There's always an alternate way to do something, and understanding that your way is not always the only way or the right way to do something.”

Dierickx advised being “willing to let go of what you believed was true yesterday in the face of new evidence.”

“We need to be certain and uncertain,” she added. “You can't be so certain that you never question. That's not critical thinking. That's blind ignorance.”

4. Build a diverse network

You’ll never learn to think critically if you’re only faced with perspectives that mimic your own. So make the effort to surround yourself with people of different backgrounds, expertise, interests, and viewpoints and actively seek out their advice, feedback, and ideas on a regular basis.

“Learning from peers is one of the most important ways that adults learn something, which is great actually for critical thinking, because critical thinking skills are often learned in conversation,” Drabkin said.

“Even if there might be somebody whose views you disagree with, it's still helpful to hear them out,” she added.

5. Get good at active listening

When you’ve developed a diverse network of friends, colleagues, and mentors, it’s important that you’re really engaged with what they’re saying to you so you can leverage those insights for your own critical thinking.

Here’s our guide to becoming an active listener , or someone who listens with intent and strategy (and most definitely doesn’t scroll on their phone while chatting with others).

6. Read and study widely

Just as it’s important to interact with different types of people to get better at critical thinking, Dierickx said, it’s also important to take in new information outside your profession or area of expertise.

She suggested setting aside time in your schedule to read scholarly articles or books on topics you’re not as familiar with or even ideas you disagree with.

Similarly, she said, it can be helpful to take on new hobbies or study up on activities that are unfamiliar.

7. Take on stretch assignments

Critical thinking can come into play when you put yourself outside your comfort zone, and there’s no better way to do that than to tackle something new and different in your job.

That isn’t to say that you should raise your hand to lead an important project without understanding what it requires or flagging to your boss where your knowledge gaps are. But you should be open to being the dumbest person in the room or having your skill set and confidence questioned by other people and new ideas.

How to show off your critical thinking skills in the job search

Employers value critical thinkers because they’re often autonomous, innovative, and enjoyable to work with, so it’s key to incorporate examples of your critical thinking in action at several points in your job search process.

In a resume or cover letter

Job search wisdom states your resume bullets and cover letter should focus on your accomplishments instead of your duties. Owens added this is a great way to imply you’re a good critical thinker on paper.

She suggested including not just ways that you moved the needle or added value but “how you made those types of decisions, or what it was that influenced you to do things the way that you've done them.”

In a job interview

Critical thinking skills are frequently assessed by employers through behavioral questions , skills tests, and case studies. Owens said when approaching any job assessment, think out loud—“not just necessarily telling them your answer, but helping them understand how you got to the answer.”

And don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions before providing a response. “Ask for some context as to why they're asking you that question so you can understand the type of example you need to give them in order to frame your answers,” Owens said. “And that's all part of critical thinking—knowing what questions to ask or knowing that you have to ask a question in order to be able to come up with a solution.”

Drabkin noted that part of critical thinking is seeing beyond what’s in front of you. In an interview, this could mean looking for and pointing out gaps in a job or team where you could be a unique asset. “Finding that and demonstrating that will show your interviewer and show the company that you have these critical thinking skills because you're able to analyze the role in a way that maybe they haven't,” she said.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, what is critical thinking, critical thinking and decision-making what is critical thinking.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: What is Critical Thinking?

Lesson 1: what is critical thinking, what is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a term that gets thrown around a lot. You've probably heard it used often throughout the years whether it was in school, at work, or in everyday conversation. But when you stop to think about it, what exactly is critical thinking and how do you do it ?

Watch the video below to learn more about critical thinking.

Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions . It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better.

illustration of the terms logic, reasoning, and creativity

This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a broad skill that can be applied to so many different situations. You can use it to prepare for a job interview, manage your time better, make decisions about purchasing things, and so much more.

The process

illustration of "thoughts" inside a human brain, with several being connected and "analyzed"

As humans, we are constantly thinking . It's something we can't turn off. But not all of it is critical thinking. No one thinks critically 100% of the time... that would be pretty exhausting! Instead, it's an intentional process , something that we consciously use when we're presented with difficult problems or important decisions.

Improving your critical thinking

illustration of the questions "What do I currently know?" and "How do I know this?"

In order to become a better critical thinker, it's important to ask questions when you're presented with a problem or decision, before jumping to any conclusions. You can start with simple ones like What do I currently know? and How do I know this? These can help to give you a better idea of what you're working with and, in some cases, simplify more complex issues.  

Real-world applications

illustration of a hand holding a smartphone displaying an article that reads, "Study: Cats are better than dogs"

Let's take a look at how we can use critical thinking to evaluate online information . Say a friend of yours posts a news article on social media and you're drawn to its headline. If you were to use your everyday automatic thinking, you might accept it as fact and move on. But if you were thinking critically, you would first analyze the available information and ask some questions :

  • What's the source of this article?
  • Is the headline potentially misleading?
  • What are my friend's general beliefs?
  • Do their beliefs inform why they might have shared this?

illustration of "Super Cat Blog" and "According to survery of cat owners" being highlighted from an article on a smartphone

After analyzing all of this information, you can draw a conclusion about whether or not you think the article is trustworthy.

Critical thinking has a wide range of real-world applications . It can help you to make better decisions, become more hireable, and generally better understand the world around you.

illustration of a lightbulb, a briefcase, and the world


  • Published on January 10, 2020
  • January 10, 2020

Critical Thinking Examples That Will Influence the World Around You

Critical Thinking Examples That Will Influence the World Around You

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If you’re working on improving your critical thinking, nothing will serve you better than a collection of critical thinking examples . And you’re in luck because we’re going to take things a step further.

In this article, we will answer the following questions:

  • What is critical thinking?
  • Critical thinking examples in questioning
  • Critical thinking examples in everyday life
  • Critical thinking examples in the workplace
  • Critical thinking examples in the history of the world

Let’s begin!

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the process of skillfully conceptualizing, applying, and evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, reflection, or communication.

To summarize, critical thinking is the ongoing application of intellectual honesty in the examination of information.

The unexamined life is not worth living because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world. – Linda Elder


Critical Thinking Examples in Questioning

The best way to apply critical thinking is to know what questions to ask in any area of life. Using the questioning techniques below will allow you to get more information and open up a better flow of communication.

The following are examples of critical thinking in the process of questioning:

1. Open-ended questions: provoking elaborated answers

  • In the movie Titanic, why did Rose turn her back on a privileged life?
  • What are your thoughts on the current state of the world’s ecology and how would you go about addressing it? 
  • What is the most inspiring part of your work and what elements make this so inspiring?

2. Outcome-based questions: reveal personal traits

  • How would you explain coding to a 5-year-old?
  • If could you choose only 2 exercises to keep in shape what would they be and why?
  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information? What did you do? 

3. Hypothetical questions: created scenarios

  • If you found out that a friend was sleeping with another friend’s wife, how would you handle this information?
  • If two employees under your management started arguing aggressively at the workplace, how would you handle this situation? What could be the possible backlashes?

4. Reflective questions: to reflect on the process

  • What have you personally gained from this experience?
  • Do you think there was a more effective way to accomplish what you accomplished and how would you utilize it in the future?
  • How has this process made it easier for you to accomplish similar things in the future?

5. Structural questions: helps understand the process

  • What are the key points to this subject?
  • What order is the process executed in and why this order?
  • Which elements of this subject would you find unnecessary?  

Critical Thinking Examples in Everyday Life

The process of becoming a better critical thinker also allows the process of personal growth to accelerate. When you start getting a better and more objective viewpoint, you start to see where you, yourself can improve and grow.

When the following examples are applied to your everyday life, you can begin to really think critically and discover the magic of questioning everything.

This video can help to show you the immense power of knowing how to question everything:

The following are examples of where critical thinking affects your everyday life:

1. Self-reflection: analyzing your personal shortcomings

  • Researching an issue on racial differences and inequality, you start seeing things from other cultural perspectives and begin to see where you hold certain cultural biases.
  • Reflecting on your behavior in a certain confrontation with a person, you see things from their perspective and realize that the way you have behaved isn’t to your liking.
  • After completing a certain task, you reflect on what you have learned and how you could have improved and gained more experience from the situation.

2. Decision-making: more informed decision-making

  • Reviewing a confrontation with a loved one you start seeing things from their point of view. This takes away your personal emotions and you begin to see the bigger picture. From here you can make a more conscious decision. 
  • You are asked to advise on building a big factory in a small town near the town’s forest. You do research and play out scenarios with the benefits and drawbacks from the perspective of the people of the town, the ecological perspective of the forest, and the benefit of the company you are advising for. Once you see all perspectives you can make a more informed and rational decision.

3. Time utilization analysis: recognize the value you bring

  • You review what actions you take in a day and how long you take to do them. You see that you waste way too much time watching silly shows on TV that don’t bring you that much joy. You decide to only watch one good show a day and use that time to learn a new language daily.
  • Looking at your schedule you break down the impact of each task. You see who this task helps, how it helps, and to what extent. With this information, you start focusing and spending more time on the most impactful tasks.

a group of people in the meeting

Critical Thinking Examples in the Workplace

1. teamwork: promoting group problem-solving.

As the team leader in your department, you have to come up with a strategy to improve a specific product. You allow the entire team to list all concerns, recommend a solution, and openly yet constructively criticize other solutions.

All the while you have someone take notes. At a certain point, you stop the discussion and list all the notes on the board as perspectives and obstacles. You and your team can now create a solution based on all the information given by your team.  

2. Adding value: recognizing and improving your contribution

Your company has an aim to achieve a certain target by the end of the year. You analyze your position in the company and in what way you can contribute to this target.

Then, you list all the ways in which your actions help achieve this target and then attribute the impact of each action and to what person or area it is impacting. You think of ways you can do more of the most impacting action, increase the impact or do something else within your position to make more impact on reaching this target.

Critical Thinking Examples in the History of the World

1. albert einstein.

Albert Einstein was faced with great opposition when he questioned the current beliefs of certain scientific principles of his time.  Einstein used critical thinking to challenge and debunk these principles and create more useful ones of his own.

One of [Einstein’s] greatest intellectual gifts, in small matters as well as great, was to strip off the irrelevant frills from a problem. – C.P. Snow

2. Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was able to come up with his theories by making connections between certain situations. He used a critical thinking mindset to link seemly unrelated parts of information.

His theory of evolution was a perfect case of questioning and connecting the aspects of his field of study to others.

3. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions with his speech “I have a dream”. He used the ability of critical thinking to structure his arguments and present his point of view.

4. Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton researched, applied, revised, and tested everything he learned thoroughly. This sequence of learning is a great example of a critical thinking mindset.  

There are probably thousands of critical thinking examples in your life where you have applied critical thinking to either solving a problem, creating a new perspective, or presenting yourself in a clear and relevant way. 

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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Why Is Critical Thinking Important? A Survival Guide

Updated: December 7, 2023

Published: April 2, 2020


Why is critical thinking important? The decisions that you make affect your quality of life. And if you want to ensure that you live your best, most successful and happy life, you’re going to want to make conscious choices. That can be done with a simple thing known as critical thinking. Here’s how to improve your critical thinking skills and make decisions that you won’t regret.

What Is Critical Thinking?

You’ve surely heard of critical thinking, but you might not be entirely sure what it really means, and that’s because there are many definitions. For the most part, however, we think of critical thinking as the process of analyzing facts in order to form a judgment. Basically, it’s thinking about thinking.

How Has The Definition Evolved Over Time?

The first time critical thinking was documented is believed to be in the teachings of Socrates , recorded by Plato. But throughout history, the definition has changed.

Today it is best understood by philosophers and psychologists and it’s believed to be a highly complex concept. Some insightful modern-day critical thinking definitions include :

  • “Reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do.”
  • “Deciding what’s true and what you should do.”

The Importance Of Critical Thinking

Why is critical thinking important? Good question! Here are a few undeniable reasons why it’s crucial to have these skills.

1. Critical Thinking Is Universal

Critical thinking is a domain-general thinking skill. What does this mean? It means that no matter what path or profession you pursue, these skills will always be relevant and will always be beneficial to your success. They are not specific to any field.

2. Crucial For The Economy

Our future depends on technology, information, and innovation. Critical thinking is needed for our fast-growing economies, to solve problems as quickly and as effectively as possible.

3. Improves Language & Presentation Skills

In order to best express ourselves, we need to know how to think clearly and systematically — meaning practice critical thinking! Critical thinking also means knowing how to break down texts, and in turn, improve our ability to comprehend.

4. Promotes Creativity

By practicing critical thinking, we are allowing ourselves not only to solve problems but also to come up with new and creative ideas to do so. Critical thinking allows us to analyze these ideas and adjust them accordingly.

5. Important For Self-Reflection

Without critical thinking, how can we really live a meaningful life? We need this skill to self-reflect and justify our ways of life and opinions. Critical thinking provides us with the tools to evaluate ourselves in the way that we need to.

Woman deep into thought as she looks out the window, using her critical thinking skills to do some self-reflection.

6. The Basis Of Science & Democracy

In order to have a democracy and to prove scientific facts, we need critical thinking in the world. Theories must be backed up with knowledge. In order for a society to effectively function, its citizens need to establish opinions about what’s right and wrong (by using critical thinking!).

Benefits Of Critical Thinking

We know that critical thinking is good for society as a whole, but what are some benefits of critical thinking on an individual level? Why is critical thinking important for us?

1. Key For Career Success

Critical thinking is crucial for many career paths. Not just for scientists, but lawyers , doctors, reporters, engineers , accountants, and analysts (among many others) all have to use critical thinking in their positions. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, critical thinking is one of the most desirable skills to have in the workforce, as it helps analyze information, think outside the box, solve problems with innovative solutions, and plan systematically.

2. Better Decision Making

There’s no doubt about it — critical thinkers make the best choices. Critical thinking helps us deal with everyday problems as they come our way, and very often this thought process is even done subconsciously. It helps us think independently and trust our gut feeling.

3. Can Make You Happier!

While this often goes unnoticed, being in touch with yourself and having a deep understanding of why you think the way you think can really make you happier. Critical thinking can help you better understand yourself, and in turn, help you avoid any kind of negative or limiting beliefs, and focus more on your strengths. Being able to share your thoughts can increase your quality of life.

4. Form Well-Informed Opinions

There is no shortage of information coming at us from all angles. And that’s exactly why we need to use our critical thinking skills and decide for ourselves what to believe. Critical thinking allows us to ensure that our opinions are based on the facts, and help us sort through all that extra noise.

5. Better Citizens

One of the most inspiring critical thinking quotes is by former US president Thomas Jefferson: “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” What Jefferson is stressing to us here is that critical thinkers make better citizens, as they are able to see the entire picture without getting sucked into biases and propaganda.

6. Improves Relationships

While you may be convinced that being a critical thinker is bound to cause you problems in relationships, this really couldn’t be less true! Being a critical thinker can allow you to better understand the perspective of others, and can help you become more open-minded towards different views.

7. Promotes Curiosity

Critical thinkers are constantly curious about all kinds of things in life, and tend to have a wide range of interests. Critical thinking means constantly asking questions and wanting to know more, about why, what, who, where, when, and everything else that can help them make sense of a situation or concept, never taking anything at face value.

8. Allows For Creativity

Critical thinkers are also highly creative thinkers, and see themselves as limitless when it comes to possibilities. They are constantly looking to take things further, which is crucial in the workforce.

9. Enhances Problem Solving Skills

Those with critical thinking skills tend to solve problems as part of their natural instinct. Critical thinkers are patient and committed to solving the problem, similar to Albert Einstein, one of the best critical thinking examples, who said “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Critical thinkers’ enhanced problem-solving skills makes them better at their jobs and better at solving the world’s biggest problems. Like Einstein, they have the potential to literally change the world.

10. An Activity For The Mind

Just like our muscles, in order for them to be strong, our mind also needs to be exercised and challenged. It’s safe to say that critical thinking is almost like an activity for the mind — and it needs to be practiced. Critical thinking encourages the development of many crucial skills such as logical thinking, decision making, and open-mindness.

11. Creates Independence

When we think critically, we think on our own as we trust ourselves more. Critical thinking is key to creating independence, and encouraging students to make their own decisions and form their own opinions.

12. Crucial Life Skill

Critical thinking is crucial not just for learning, but for life overall! Education isn’t just a way to prepare ourselves for life, but it’s pretty much life itself. Learning is a lifelong process that we go through each and every day.

How to Think Critically

Now that you know the benefits of thinking critically, how do you actually do it?

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking

  • Define Your Question: When it comes to critical thinking, it’s important to always keep your goal in mind. Know what you’re trying to achieve, and then figure out how to best get there.
  • Gather Reliable Information: Make sure that you’re using sources you can trust — biases aside. That’s how a real critical thinker operates!
  • Ask The Right Questions: We all know the importance of questions, but be sure that you’re asking the right questions that are going to get you to your answer.
  • Look Short & Long Term: When coming up with solutions, think about both the short- and long-term consequences. Both of them are significant in the equation.
  • Explore All Sides: There is never just one simple answer, and nothing is black or white. Explore all options and think outside of the box before you come to any conclusions.

How Is Critical Thinking Developed At School?

Critical thinking is developed in nearly everything we do. However, much of this important skill is encouraged to be practiced at school, and rightfully so! Critical thinking goes beyond just thinking clearly — it’s also about thinking for yourself.

When a teacher asks a question in class, students are given the chance to answer for themselves and think critically about what they learned and what they believe to be accurate. When students work in groups and are forced to engage in discussion, this is also a great chance to expand their thinking and use their critical thinking skills.

How Does Critical Thinking Apply To Your Career?

Once you’ve finished school and entered the workforce, your critical thinking journey only expands and grows from here!

Impress Your Employer

Employers value employees who are critical thinkers, ask questions, offer creative ideas, and are always ready to offer innovation against the competition. No matter what your position or role in a company may be, critical thinking will always give you the power to stand out and make a difference.

Careers That Require Critical Thinking

Some of many examples of careers that require critical thinking include:

  • Human resources specialist
  • Marketing associate
  • Business analyst

Truth be told however, it’s probably harder to come up with a professional field that doesn’t require any critical thinking!

Photo by  Oladimeji Ajegbile  from  Pexels

What is someone with critical thinking skills capable of doing.

Someone with critical thinking skills is able to think rationally and clearly about what they should or not believe. They are capable of engaging in their own thoughts, and doing some reflection in order to come to a well-informed conclusion.

A critical thinker understands the connections between ideas, and is able to construct arguments based on facts, as well as find mistakes in reasoning.

The Process Of Critical Thinking

The process of critical thinking is highly systematic.

What Are Your Goals?

Critical thinking starts by defining your goals, and knowing what you are ultimately trying to achieve.

Once you know what you are trying to conclude, you can foresee your solution to the problem and play it out in your head from all perspectives.

What Does The Future Of Critical Thinking Hold?

The future of critical thinking is the equivalent of the future of jobs. In 2020, critical thinking was ranked as the 2nd top skill (following complex problem solving) by the World Economic Forum .

We are dealing with constant unprecedented changes, and what success is today, might not be considered success tomorrow — making critical thinking a key skill for the future workforce.

Why Is Critical Thinking So Important?

Why is critical thinking important? Critical thinking is more than just important! It’s one of the most crucial cognitive skills one can develop.

By practicing well-thought-out thinking, both your thoughts and decisions can make a positive change in your life, on both a professional and personal level. You can hugely improve your life by working on your critical thinking skills as often as you can.

Related Articles

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283 Philosophical Questions to Spark Deep Critical Thinking

Philosophy has implications for daily life. Pick a handful of these 255 questions as a starting point for thinking critically.

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It can be easy to get so caught up in daily life that we forget to stop and think about our world. Thinking about philosophical questions can help you think critically.

Building a practice of thinking critically of the world will empower you to make decisions that you feel confident in—whether it’s how you vote, spend your time, or use your resources. 

If you’re looking for where to start, check out this list of philosophical questions! 

What is a Philosophical Question?

A philosophical question often doesn’t have a clear, straightforward answer. They are questions that usually require deep thought and sometimes don’t have answers.

Philosophical questions typically involve human nature, the origins of the universe, morality, ethics, and the afterlife. 

Philosophical Questions About Behavior

Humans are complex beings, and our world is also complicated. This can make it hard to parse the good from the bad and right from wrong. Take a moment to consider some of these philosophical questions about behavior and human nature. 

  • What is the difference between good and bad people? 
  • Is it essential to be a “good person”? 
  • What makes people feel more attached to some people than others? 
  • Is tribalism, or looking out for others like you, innately good, bad, or neutral? 
  • If one existed apart from other humans, would they still value goodness? 
  • Are there moral commonalities amongst diverse people groups and cultures? 
  • Are individuals important, and if so, in what ways? 
  • Are humans more important than other animals? Why or why not? 
  • Are some people more important than others? 
  • Is the death penalty right or wrong? 
  • What should be the repercussions for wronging someone else?  
  • What is wisdom? 
  • Is wisdom a helpful tool? 
  • Why is wisdom often associated with age? 
  • If a person has an accident and is no longer able to contribute to society, has their value as a person decreased, increased, or stayed the same? 
  • Can people change? 
  • How does one become a “good person”? 
  • If someone’s personality changes, does that mean they have also changed?
  • Can you ever honestly know another person? 
  • If someone’s intentions were good but the outcome of an action is terrible, at that moment, is the person good or bad? 
  • If someone does a kind deed but has a selfish motive, does that impact the goodness of the deed? 
  • When babies are born, are they good? 
  • If identical twins grew up never knowing each other, how similar and different would they be? 
  • Is there ever a justifiable reason to kill someone? 
  • Are people born with a specific personality, or is the character the result of their circumstances? 
  • Is lying ever a good thing? 
  • If you steal money but use it to save someone’s life, does that justify the theft? 
  • Should someone being ignorant be a valid excuse for their rudeness? 
  • Can we choose our emotions, or do they happen to us? 

Watch our video below to learn how to start a conversation with anyone using these killer conversation starters:

Philosophy Questions About Love

“Love is a biological necessity. We cannot live without it” —Stephanie Cacioppo, neuroscientist specializing in love and loneliness 

As people, we need to love and be loved. You can express love in many different ways. Use these questions to spark some critical thought on the topic of love, or check out these truth or dare questions while you’re at it.

  • What is love? 
  • How do you know you are loved? 
  • How do you know that you love someone? 
  • Is the desire to be loved an innate human desire? 
  • Why do people desire love? 
  • Does love necessitate action, or can it exist simply as a feeling? 
  • In what ways are love, lust, and sexual desire different from one another? 
  • Is an understanding of pain necessary to appreciate love? 
  • Does the loss of love change one’s outlook on life?
  • Can one show love without first being loved? Is love an intrinsic aspect of human nature or a reciprocated act? 
  • Are there different forms of love such as parental, friendship, or romantic? Or are they all diverse expressions of the same substance? 
  • Can romantic love for one person last forever? 
  • Can love ever be a bad thing? 
  • How does unreciprocated love affect people? 
  • What does falling in love mean? 
  • What causes someone to fall in love?  
  • Does love feel different to different people? 
  • Is love, health, or money more important? 
  • Can you choose to feel love for someone? 
  • Does being loved by more people correlate to a person’s value?
  • Is there a difference in depth of love versus quantity of love? 
  • To love someone well, do you need to show their love how they want to be loved, or can you love them the way you naturally show love? 

Pro Tip: If you’re interested in learning more about different ways to show love, read up on the five love languages . 

  • Is there “The one?”
  • What does it mean to love yourself? 
  • Do you need to love yourself before you can love others? 
  • Is loving yourself selfish? 
  • Is it essential to have a friendship with your partner? 
  • If your partner grew up in an abusive household, are you more understanding of unhealthy behavior? 
  • Would you rather be respected or loved? 

Fun Philosophical Questions

Philosophy can be fun! If you think philosophy is all heavily intellectual, overwhelming, abstract, or existential-crisis-inducing, take a moment to ponder if a hot dog is a taco. 

  • Are you currently dreaming, and how do you know? 
  • Do memories exist even if you forget them? 
  • Does grass feel pain when you step on it? 
  • Can trees feel pain? 
  • Does 1+1 always equal 2? 
  • Would it be ethical, unethical, or neutral if time travel were possible? 
  • If time travel were possible, would it be wrong to change history? 
  • What is the purpose of humor? 
  • Why are jokes funny? 
  • If one person doesn’t find a joke funny, does it mean they have a lousy sense of humor, or is the joke flawed? 
  • Are humans responsible in any way for caring for wild animals? 
  • Can inanimate objects be either bad or good? 
  • Does morality bind animals? 
  • Is water wet? 
  • Are hot dogs tacos? 
  • Is it wrong to visit a zoo, thereby financially supporting an establishment that isn’t ideal for the animals? 
  • Is it wrong to purchase fast fashion , rapidly produced clothing that uses manufacturing methods that negatively impact the environment and exploit workers? 
  • In a fictional world, could you have a five-sided square? 
  • How do we know what words mean? 
  • Why do some people feel scared while watching a horror movie even though they know it is not real? 
  • What would you say if you had five minutes to defend the human race in front of a group of aliens who were going to obliterate humanity? 
  • Are there any physiological changes you would make humans make us a better species? 
  • Should the legal age for alcohol consumption be different than it is? 
  • If your life expectancy suddenly increased to 500 years, would you live differently than you currently are? What about if your life expectancy decreased and you only had five more years to live? 
  • If immortality were possible, would you want to be immortal? 

Questions from Philosophy About Human Rights

What are human rights? Whose job is it to ensure that all humans have rights? These types of questions can be multifaceted and hard. It can be easy to avoid them or think they’re someone else’s job. 

However, your daily choices can have a ripple effect on other people’s lives. Whether with who you vote for or how you spend your money, how you live impacts others. 

Take some time to consider what you believe human rights are if everyone is entitled to them, and whose job it is to ensure everyone has rights. 

  • What are human rights? 
  • Is autonomy a human right? 
  • Is liberty a human right? 
  • Is free speech a human right?
  • What is the difference between a human right and a privilege? 
  • Is it the responsibility of privileged individuals or the government to bridge gaps between privileged and disadvantaged people? 
  • If people are spreading misinformation, should they still be allowed to continue? 
  • Should abortion be legal? 
  • At what point in human development, from a fetus to a baby, does one become a person and gain rights? 
  • Is war ever necessary or even reasonable? 
  • How can societies work to dismantle systemic racism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination? 
  • If two people’s opinions differ, how should they resolve their differences? 
  • Has technology made it easier or harder to advance human rights? 
  • Is it the responsibility of wealthy countries to support impoverished countries? 
  • Should women’s rights be a priority to men? Why or why not? 
  • What makes a person a person? 
  • If a person has lost consciousness and doctors know they will not regain it, but their organs are still functioning, are they still a person? 
  • Is the internet good, bad, or neutral? 
  • Is being able to financially support a family a human right, or is having a large family a privilege? 
  • Do more humans have fundamental rights in the modern world, or have we lost human rights as time has progressed? 
  • If you could ensure every person on the planet would have access to a single human right, which one would you choose? Would there be any repercussions? 
  • What rights should prisoners of war have? 
  • Do you think those serial killers have an equal value to other people, or do their actions impact their value? 
  • Is privacy a human right? 
  • Is technological advancement minimizing our privacy? 

Philosophical Questions About Society and Government 

When we look at the societies we live in, they often have good and bad elements. These questions can help you think critically about the structures in place in your country. 

  • Are there any innately evil governmental structures? 
  • What would a perfect society look like? 
  • How involved should governments be in caring for the individuals in their country? 
  • If you could create your society, what would look different from the one where you live now? 
  • What role should the government have in the lives of individuals? 
  • What makes a good leader? 
  • Can someone do a bad thing and still be a good person? 
  • Is prison the best way to protect society and correct individuals? 
  • Does the legal system function fairly? 
  • Is technology good? 
  • Can technology advance society in a way that is beneficial? 
  • Are taxes morally right? 
  • Should it be lawful for citizens to hold protests? What if a handful of the protestors make it violent? 
  • What makes people work together despite differences? 
  • Does societal advancement only happen with collaboration? 
  • In what ways can disagreements advance society? 
  • What makes a crime a crime? 
  • How should citizens who believe the laws in their country be unjust behave? Is it okay for them to ignore those laws and are still bound to do what the law asks of them? 
  • Is it morally wrong to abstain from voting? 
  • Is it wrong for governments not to have healthcare available to all citizens? 
  • Should things that are bad for people be banned by the government, or is it the individual’s responsibility to avoid harmful substances? 
  • Is there an age at which people should be answerable for their actions? 
  • Is it discriminatory not to allow certain people to run for government office?
  • Is it okay to limit immigration if a country is worried it will lose its culture? 
  • Should the government regulate what food manufacturers can and can’t put in their food? 
  • Is the government responsible for ensuring people receive a livable wage? 
  • Should those who live an unhealthy lifestyle have decreased access to healthcare? 
  • What would the ideal government look like? 

Philosophical Questions Related to Culture

Culture can be a complicated issue to wrap your head around. When you travel or talk to someone from a different background, you may immediately notice surface-layer cultural differences such as what food people eat and what type of clothing they wear. 

However, as you get to know a culture better, you may realize there are deep-seated differences, perspectives, and traditions. 

These questions will help you think about the differences between cultures and if there are any aspects of culture that are innately good or bad. 

  • What is culture? 
  • How does culture form? 
  • Is it important to be mindful of other cultures, and if so, why? 
  • Are some cultures better than others? 
  • Is morality developed within a culture, or is it intrinsic? 
  • Is there a wrong way to discipline children? 
  • In what way is a family-oriented culture better or worse than an individualistic culture? 
  • Are individualistic cultures intrinsically selfish? 
  • What is success? 
  • Does income play a part in how you define success? 
  • Does the culture you were raised in impact your outlook on life? 
  • If someone has recently relocated to a new country, should there be leniency for breaking minor laws they did not know about, or should they be prosecuted the same as their counterpart raised in that culture? 
  • If a group practices human sacrifice as part of their culture, does that make it okay? Would you be wrong to try to save the person they would sacrifice?  
  • Is attractiveness a cultural construct? 

Philosophical Questions About Space and the Universe

Humans have long been in awe of space. Our recorded fascination with space reaches back to ancient philosophers. 

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward and leads us from this world to another.” —Plato

However, it has only been in the past 75 years that humanity has started studying space up-close—and there’s still so much we don’t know about the universe we live in. These questions can help you find new ways to think about the world around you and how that informs your day-to-day life.  

  • Where does the Earth come from? 
  • Did a deity or event start the universe? 
  • Does the universe’s origin affect how one lives, and if so, how? 
  • Does the vastness of space impact the way you perceive yourself? 
  • Do things about the universe imply it exists due to chance or design? 
  • Is it the duty of those currently alive to be ecologically responsible? 
  • Is the Earth the only planet inhabited by living beings? 
  • Is anything in the world eternal? 
  • Is time eternal? 
  • Did time, as we now perceive it starts at a specific moment? 
  • Will time continue to run after the human species no longer exists? 
  • If we find another inhabitable planet, would there be any moral implications if humans left the earth and moved there? 
  • Should space travel be accessible to all people? 
  • Is it good, bad, or neutral that humans have invested so many resources into space exploration? 
  • Is there a difference between faith and superstition? 
  • If a deity exists, would it exist within our understanding of morality? 

Philosophical Questions to Ask Kids

Philosophical questions can be challenging for children. Philosophy is often large and abstract. Because they’ve been alive for less time, children typically have fewer life experiences than adults to draw on when answering philosophical questions. 

However, some of these questions are ones that small children are already wondering about. You may have heard them ask what happened to their goldfish after it died or struggle with differentiating emotions like happiness and sadness. 

Introducing a few of these conversations may help the children in your life realize these are conversations you are ready and willing to have any time they have questions. 

  • What does it mean to feel happy? 
  • Why are some things right and some things wrong? 
  • Is it necessary to be nice to people, and why? 
  • What is kindness? 
  • Is being kind and being nice the same thing? 
  • What is the difference between good and evil? 
  • What happens to pets when they die? 
  • What are things that you know to be certain? 
  • What is something that you believe and why? 
  • If superheroes were real, would they be more responsible for protecting people than you are or equally accountable? 
  • Does helping people make you feel good? Why or why not? 
  • What is the difference between adults and children? 
  • What, if anything, makes a person different from an animal? 
  • Is social media good, bad, or neutral? 
  • How do you know that you belong? 

Challenging Ethical Questions to Consider

The philosophical subtopic of ethics involves weighing between challenging scenarios and deciding which option is morally right. The challenges raised within ethics can often be incredibly challenging to sort out, and they are ones you may run into in life. 

Remember, even if someone sees a topic differently than you do, it’s essential to be respectful and have conversations without getting vertigo from the “dizzying heights of your moral ground.” 

  • Is it wrong to kill one person if it might save the lives of hundreds of others? 
  • Is using euthanasia to intentionally end a life to prevent further pain and suffering immoral? 
  • Should people be allowed to commit medically induced suicide? 
  • Was former President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs unethical? Some argue that it saved many lives by ending the war quicker. Does that change the ethics of killing civilians during a time of war? 
  • Is bribery ever acceptable or ethical? 
  • If your friend’s significant other drinks too much alcohol and flirts with you, should you tell your friend about it and probably hurt them with the knowledge, or wait and see if it was a one-time thing that won’t ever happen again?
  • Is eating animals unethical or not? 
  • Is it ethical to test products on animals? 
  • If someone passed away in a car accident and their lungs could save someone’s life who would otherwise die before another donor became available, would it be wrong to use the lungs as a transplant if the person who passed was not a registered organ donor? 
  • Is it okay to harm one person if it means protecting others? 
  • Is being a billionaire in a world where people are starving unethical or do you feel that it is alright if they worked hard and earned their wealth? 
  • Is war ever ethical? 

Questions About Religion and Morality

These are profound questions that have to do with one’s worldview. Many of these topics, such as life after death, cannot know with certainty, but they are worth thinking about anyway. 

  • Is it possible to not believe anything, or does everyone have beliefs? 
  • What happens after death? 
  • Is there a god? 
  • Is there an afterlife? 
  • Do people have free will? 
  • Is your soul reborn after you die? 
  • Does your worldview impact the way you make day-to-day decisions? 
  • Where do people come from? 
  • Is there an age at which people are morally responsible for their decisions? 
  • Is there such a thing as fate? 
  • Is luck a real thing? 
  • Does chance exist? 
  • Does life have meaning? If so, what is the meaning of life? 
  • Does having a religious experience prove the existence of a god? 
  • Is there absolute truth? 
  • Who determines right from wrong? 
  • Is the world progressively becoming worse? 
  • Why does evil exist? 

Abstract Philosophical Questions

Topics like pain, suffering, beauty, and joy are a part of daily life, but how often do you stop to think about them? 

Use these questions to help you do just that! 

  • What is beauty? 
  • Are pain and beauty interconnected? 
  • Is it a shared element between a beautiful person, experience, or memory? 
  • Why do people value happiness, beauty, or joy? 
  • If your life were to end tomorrow, would you be happy with how you had spent your time? 
  • What would you want it to say if someone were to write a book about you? 
  • What gives your life meaning and purpose? 
  • Can pain be a good thing? 
  • Does learning a valuable lesson through suffering make it worth it? 
  • Is it essential to care for yourself, or is it more important to care for others? 
  • What is “failure?” 
  • Does failing at something mean you’re bad at it? 
  • Would getting rid of negative traits like aggression in all humans have any negative consequences? 
  • Would removing loss, sorrow, and pain impact one’s ability to enjoy life and love? 
  • What is the difference between happiness and joy?
  • What makes you happy? 
  • Can you choose to feel joy? 
  • What is friendship? 
  • Why do friendships sometimes end? 

Philosophical Questions About Art, Music, and Literature 

Art, music, and literature are essential ways that people express themselves and preserve culture. 

“Art is the window to man’s soul. Without it, he would never be able to see beyond his immediate world; nor could the world see the man within.” —Lady Bird Johnson

Here are some questions to help you think critically about what art is and how it impacts you. 

  • What makes something “art?”
  • Is some art better than other art? 
  • Does art need to make a statement or have a deeper meaning? 
  • Is music art? 
  • Should artists be held responsible for the message of their art? 
  • Are artists morally obligated to give trigger warnings if their art could mentally or physically negatively impact someone? 
  • Should there be age restrictions on specific pieces of art? 
  • Should public nudity be acceptable when being presented as performance art? 
  • Should everyone be able to interpret a piece of art as they see it, or is there a “correct” interpretation of an art piece? 
  • Is it morally wrong for museums to display art that depicts slavery? Why or why not?
  • Should art taken as spoils of war be returned to the country it originated in? 
  • Is it wrong for educators to assign reading that demonstrates racism? 
  • Is it necessary to preserve history? 
  • Is it morally acceptable to enjoy art made by someone who did horrible things? 
  • Why do people enjoy looking at art? 
  • Why does music connect people? 
  • Should music be beautiful?
  • Is it essential for art to “make a statement?”
  • Would it be music if you and your friends were to hit pots and pans randomly? 
  • If it comes together when you’re hitting pots and pans and sounds nice, would it be music? 
  • If there is a room full of people talking, could that be categorized as music? 
  • What is the difference between “good” taste in art or music and “bad” taste? 
  • Can cooking be a form of art? 
  • What is the critical difference between a functional and artistically designed room? 
  • Is it possible that what one person sees as “yellow” is what someone else sees as “green,” but they’ve both learned to call it “yellow,” so they will never know? 

Society, Government, and Philosophical Dilemmas

  • Are there any innately evil governmental structures?
  • What would a perfect society look like?
  • How involved should governments be in caring for the individuals in their country?
  • If you could create your society, what would look different from the one where you live now?
  • What role should the government have in the lives of individuals?
  • What makes a good leader?
  • Can someone do a bad thing and still be a good person?
  • Is prison the best way to protect society and correct individuals?
  • Does the legal system function fairly?
  • Is technology good?
  • Can technology advance society in a way that is beneficial?
  • Are taxes morally right?
  • Should it be lawful for citizens to hold protests? What if a handful of the protestors make it violent?
  • What makes people work together despite differences?
  • Does societal advancement only happen with collaboration?
  • In what ways can disagreements advance society?
  • What makes a crime a crime?
  • How should citizens who believe the laws in their country be unjust behave? Is it okay for them to ignore those laws and are still bound to do what the law asks of them?
  • Is it morally wrong to abstain from voting?
  • Is it wrong for governments not to have healthcare available to all citizens?
  • Should things that are bad for people be banned by the government, or is it the individual’s responsibility to avoid harmful substances?
  • Is there an age at which people should be answerable for their actions?
  • Is it okay to limit immigration if a country is worried it will lose its culture?
  • Should the government regulate what food manufacturers can and can’t put in their food?
  • Is the government responsible for ensuring people receive a livable wage?
  • Should those who live an unhealthy lifestyle have decreased access to healthcare?
  • What would the ideal government look like?

Final Thoughts: Talk Philosophy with Other People 

When it comes to challenging topics like those raised by philosophy, it can be helpful to talk through them with others. Others can help raise perspectives that you may not have considered yourself. 

Philosophical questions can also make for interesting conversations with people you already know relatively well. Just remember to be respectful of people who have different viewpoints! 

Here are some ways you can use these questions: 

  • Over dinner with a few friends . How would your friends react if you asked about beauty’s nature or the purpose of life? It might be unexpected, but give it a try the next time you see them! Philosophy might not be the best topic if you’re with a big crowd of friends, but it can make for an exciting conversation with a group of four or five. 
  • With your significant other . How you perceive the world informs how you spend your money, what you believe about raising a family, and how you use your free time. It can be stressful, but deal-breaker conversations are essential if you want a relationship to become serious. 
  • With a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or another child in your life . Children have big questions about the world but may not know how to find the words for those questions. Try asking the children in your life an occasional philosophical question to help them begin to strengthen their critical thinking muscles. 

If you’re hosting a dinner party and want to talk about something a little less serious, consider using one of these 257 questions .

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Defining Critical Thinking

Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and
imposing intellectual standards upon them.

Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008)

Teacher’s College, Columbia University, 1941)

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

A philosopher makes the case for a thoughtful life – but life is more than a thought experiment

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Assistant Professor in Philosophy and History, Bond University

Disclosure statement

Oscar Davis does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Svend Brinkmann’s Think is a book in praise of the thoughtful life and an easygoing exploration of the role of thinking in our lives today.

The book is essentially in two parts. The first is descriptive. It explores questions like “what do we mean by thinking?”, “why has it become difficult to think in today’s world?” and “where does thinking come from?”

The second part is prescriptive. Brinkmann provides some quick and relatively simple strategies for bringing more thoughtfulness into our everyday lives.

Think: In Defence of a Thoughtful Life – Svend Brinkmann (Polity)

The reader is introduced to a variety of important and complicated philosophical questions. Brinkmann introduces, for example, the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and refers to a challenge that Plato’s brother, Glaucon, raises in The Republic .

Glaucon asks Socrates to imagine that the existence of a ring capable of making one invisible whenever the wearer desired. Anyone with such a power, Glaucon argues, would steal and murder and “in all respects be like a god among men”.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

At the heart of Glaucon’s challenge is the claim that it is the possibility of being discovered that compels us to be good. If we could safely be unjust, then we would be.

Brinkmann summarises Socrates’ important response to this challenge, which involves Plato’s views on the intrinsic value of justice, understood as harmony within the soul.

But he does not settle the question of whether or not Socrates’ response is adequate. His point here, and with the many other “thought experiments” that appear in his book, is to exercise our thoughtfulness: “the act of rationally thinking about questions to which there is no single answer”.

Read more: Guide to the classics: Plato’s Republic

What Brinkmann means by thoughtfulness must be distinguished from other popular treatments of rational thinking. For example, he opens his book with references to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). Kahneman distinguishes between “System 1” and “System 2” modes of thought. System 1 is thinking that is fast, intuitive and automatic. System 2 thinking is slower and more analytical.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Consider the famous Wason selection task . Imagine you are presented with four cards, each with a number on one side and a colour on the other. You are dealt the cards in the following order: 3, 8, Blue, Red.

You are then asked which card or cards you must turn over in order to prove the rule that a card showing an even number is blue on its opposite face. Which card or cards do you turn over?

The test seems simple, but the original experiment found that about one in ten of us answer it correctly.

The Wason test probes our ability to apply rules of classical logic surrounding hypothetical syllogisms, or conditional reasoning. Intuitive answers to the test which utilise only System 1 modes of thought won’t cut it here. It takes slow and careful deliberation, the kind of rational thinking Kahneman attributes to System 2, to deduce that we should turn over the 8 card and the red card to prove the rule.

Brinkmann’s idea of thoughtfulness, however, is not just about exercising our rational powers to solve puzzles like this one. He calls for a greater emphasis on what he calls “the existential dimensions of thinking”.

Just as the mindfulness movement seeks to bring our attention to our being in time and space, Brinkmann’s thoughtfulness is about exercising our capacity to contemplate ourselves and the world around us.

Read more: Finding your essential self: the ancient philosophy of Zhuangzi explained

  • Thought experiments

The breadth of Brinkmann’s exploration of thought-provoking ideas is likely to please the curious reader. In just the first two chapters, he briefly introduces the ideas of Aristotle , Martin Heidegger , Hannah Arendt , John Dewey , Judith Jarvis Thomson and John Rawls .

Each of these philosophers, either in the study of their work or in the exercise of their thought experiments, offers important lessons in the significance of the thoughtful life.

Each chapter ends with an exercise – mostly famous thought-experiments from various fields of philosophy – which Brinkmann offers as a practical applications of the kind of thoughtfulness he explores.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

The second part of his book, the prescriptive part, is unfortunately the shortest part. But Brinkmann offers seven different ways we can all better incorporate thoughtfulness into our lives.

We can think with the world, by which he means we can curate our environments in such a way that is conducive to living a thoughtful life. This might involve learning how best to externalise certain cognitive exercises (for example, by keeping a journal) and creating an “ecology of attention” for ourselves.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

We can think with our bodies and think while moving. There is a long tradition of walking and thinking. Socrates famously walked with the citizens of Athens as he practised his distinct line of philosophical questioning. Aristotle’s school in Athens also became known as the peripatetic school, after his habit of walking while lecturing.

We can think with books, so long as we take the time to read slowly, carefully and thoughtfully. We can think with children, who constantly inspire us to imagine, question everything, and think creatively. And we can think in conversation because, Brinkmann argues, “all thinking is dialogical”. Thinking with others and thinking with ourselves requires the time and patience of inquiry in the form of dialogue.

Finally, we can think with history. We ought to direct a thoughtful attention to the past, according to Brinkmann, because the better you understand “the historical forces that shape you, the better you can think”.

Instructing and teaching

The final experiment that Brinkmann leaves us with is thought-provoking. “Leave behind philosophical reflections on ethics, politics, and personal identity,” he says, and instead “undertake a more personal and existential thought experiment”.

Imagine that our lives are to be turned into books. What would the chapters be named? How would the book begin? How would the book end?

Brinkmann here envisions a personal framing of the thoughtful life. Our reflexivity and contemplative abilities are supposedly what distinguish us, homo sapiens (literally “wise human”), from non-human animals. So if we are to lead more meaningful and fulfilling lives, then:

we need to practise thoughtfulness and create better conditions for thinking, particularly in a society that has focused for so long on efficiency over immersion, and utility over meaning.

Despite its merits, this is a book in praise of thoughtfulness which may ultimately fail to prompt the meaningful contemplation it espouses. Its pace and brevity are likely to make the book more accessible and appealing to the modern reader, but Brinkmann risks falling prey to the very “efficiency” and “utility” he criticises.

The philosopher is a lover of wisdom. Inspiring thoughtfulness, and so inspiring the process of being and becoming a philosopher, must involve loving attention, wonder and awe towards the world, and towards our existence as members of a global community.

Reminding us that thinking is what makes us human, Immanuel Kant wrote:

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not merely conjecture them and seek them as though obscured in darkness or in the transcendent region beyond my horizon: I see them before me, and I associate them directly with the consciousness of my own existence.

what is an example of critical thinking in daily life

Perhaps the flaw of Brinkmann’s book can be best summarised in an analogy. A great science teacher does not just lay out the laws that govern the natural world and list the many achievements and discoveries that have resulted from humanity’s collective efforts over millennia. This is merely instruction.

A great science teacher, with the aim of inspiring his students to truly become scientists, fosters the curiosity within them. This is teaching.

The many thought experiments that Brinkmann offers are removed from the context of their debates. They are used as trials of thoughtfulness. But it is not clear how Trolley Problems (to take one example from the book) inspire meaningful thinking about the particularities of our complex and dynamic moral lives.

Instead of being asked yet again if we would pull the lever, Brinkmann should perhaps spend more time challenging us to rethink what thinking really involves. Living more thoughtful lives is hard and not always convenient. Meaningful thought must be done slowly and carefully. It is also easy to forget that it requires practice, patience and guidance from good teachers.

The project of creating a short and accessible book in praise of thoughtfulness and its significance to the modern world is timely and important. Brinkmann is right to remind us of this.

But he also takes on the more challenging task of guiding his readers’ thinking, in an attempt to model what thoughtfulness involves, and this is where he may be underestimating them – where he does more instructing than teaching.

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How is Algebra Used in Real Life – 10 Practical Examples Explained


The Role of Algebra in Everyday Life

Role of algebra in budgeting and expenses, role of algebra in managing loans and interest rates, role of algebra in investment and profits, role of algebra in construction and engineering, role of algebra in travel planning and scheduling, role of algebra in computer programming and technology, role of algebra in logical thinking and critical analysis, role of algebra in patterns, formulas, and rules, role of algebra in gaming, sports, and hobbies, role of algebra in cooking, crafting, and interior decorating.

How is Algebra Used in Real Life 10 Practical Examples Explained

To use algebra in real life , I first grasp the fundamental concepts of variables and equations. Algebra stretches far beyond the walls of my classroom, seamlessly integrating into my daily routines and responsibilities. It’s the silent partner in my budgeting, where balancing expenses becomes a balancing act of numbers.

In my career, algebra unlocks a deeper understanding of various systems . For example, robotics use algebraic geometry to study the motion of robots with multidimensional search spaces. By applying algebra , I can model and solve problems with an array of possible outcomes and constraints. 

Algebra is a cornerstone of mathematics that pops up in numerous daily activities , often without my even noticing. From budgeting to cooking, the use of variables , equations , and the algebraic expressions simplifies complex tasks.

Illustration of The Role of Algebra in Everyday Life

Knowing how to manipulate these allows me to solve practical problems effectively. Here’s how I apply algebra in real life:

Budgeting : Crafting a monthly budget requires balancing income and expenses . Variables represent the amounts, while equations make sure everything adds up. For example, if my income is $I$ and my monthly expenses are a sum of individual costs $c_1, c_2, …, c_n$, the algebraic expression looks like this: $I = c_1 + c_2 + … + c_n$.

Cooking : Modifying a recipe based on servings involves ratios and proportions , which are algebraic concepts. For a recipe that serves $4$ and I need it for $6$, I’ll use a simple formula : Multiply each ingredient quantity by $\frac{6}{4}$.

Shopping Discounts : When I’m out shopping and there’s a $20%$ sale, I calculate the discounted price using the original price $P$. The sale price $S$ is $S = P – (0.20 \times P)$ or simply $S = 0.80P$.

Fitness Tracking : Keeping up with my fitness regimen involves calculating calories and exercise durations. If a workout burns $C$ calories per minute and I exercise for $t$ minutes, the total calories burned is $Ct$.

Here’s a quick table summarizing the use of algebra in everyday situations:

SituationVariablesAlgebraic Expression
Budgeting$I, c_1, c_2, …$$I = \sum_{i=1}^{n} c_i$
CookingServings (e.g., $4, 6$)Ingredient $\times \frac{6}{4}$
ShoppingOriginal price ($P$)$S = 0.80P$
FitnessCalories per minute ($C$), Time ($t$)Total calories = $Ct$

Algebra is not just an abstract tool; it is a vital part of managing finances in my everyday life. When I sit down to create a budget, I’m essentially using algebraic equations to plan my spending, savings, and investments.

For example, when planning monthly expenses, I might use a simple equation:

 $\text{Income} – \text{Expenses} = \text{Savings}$

Here’s how algebra becomes practical:

  • Income : I calculate my total income from different sources, such as my salary, freelance work, and any other passive income.
  • Expenses : I then sum up my monthly bills, groceries, transport, and other known costs.
  • Savings : What I aim to save is the variable I need to solve for in the equation.

I use algebra to calculate my monthly payments using the formula for an ordinary annuity, which is:

$M = P \frac{r(1 + r)^n}{(1 + r)^n – 1}$

  • ( M ) is the monthly payment,
  • ( P ) is the principal loan amount,
  • ( r ) is the monthly interest rate (annual rate divided by 12 months),
  • ( n ) is the number of payments (loan term in years multiplied by 12 months).

By plugging in the values, I can budget my monthly expenses effectively, ensuring I don’t overspend and land myself in financial hot water.

When I assess the impact of an interest rate on my loan, I recognize that a lower rate can significantly reduce the total amount of interest I’ll pay over time. For instance, if I consider two loans with different interest rates, algebra helps me determine which is more cost-effective for my budget and long-term financial goals.

Here’s a quick comparison of two different interest rates on a $10,000 car loan over 5 years:

Interest RateMonthly PaymentTotal Interest Paid

Investing is a financial strategy I use to grow my income and savings over time. To make informed decisions, I rely heavily on algebra to predict potential profits and manage my investments. For instance, when considering the future value of an investment, I calculate compound interest using the formula:

$A = P \left(1 + \frac{r}{n}\right)^{nt}$

Here’s a breakdown of this equation:

  • ( A ) is the amount of money accumulated after ( n ) years, including interest.
  • ( P ) is the principal amount (the initial money I put in).
  • ( r ) is the annual interest rate (decimal).
  • ( n ) is the number of times that interest is compounded per year.
  • ( t ) is the time in years.

When planning my budget, algebra aids me in balancing my income, expenses, and savings. The basic structure of a budget can be summarized by:

$\text{Income} – \text{Expenses} = \text{Savings}$

I also assess loans and manage finances by understanding the interest rates and calculating monthly payments using amortization formulas.

( PMT )Monthly Payment
( P )Principal Loan Amount
( r )Monthly Interest Rate
( n )Total Number of Payments (Months)

The formula for figuring out the monthly payment (( PMT )) on a loan is:

$PMT = \frac{P \times \frac{r}{n}}{1 – (1 + r)^{-n}}$

Calculating taxes is another essential use of algebra. To find out my after-tax income, I subtract the tax, which is a percentage of my income, as follows:

$\text{After-Tax Income} = \text{Income} – (\text{Income} \times \text{Tax Rate}) $

By mastering these algebraic operations , I ensure my investments are profitable and my financial future secure.

In my career as a construction engineer, I’ve constantly engaged with algebra. It’s vital for creating stable structures and ensuring buildings can withstand stress. For example, calculating loads involves algebraic equations, so I can determine if a beam will support the weight using the formula:

$$ Load = \frac{Weight}{Area} $$

In the realm of construction scheduling, I integrate algebra to manage timelines efficiently. By establishing critical paths and resource allocations, I can pinpoint areas that need attention, making sure that my projects stay on track.

In my approach to technology and computer programming, I’ve also noticed a strong reliance on algebra. Whether it’s algorithm development or designing complex structures through Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, algebraic concepts are crucial. Let me give you a brief glimpse at how algebra intersects across various applications:

Application AreaUse of Algebra
ConstructionCalculating dimensions and loads
EngineeringAnalyzing forces and stresses
TravelOptimizing routes and schedules
Computer ProgrammingDeveloping algorithms
Computer ScienceData structure design
TechnologyEnhancing software functionality

When I plan a trip, algebra becomes a trusty companion, particularly in managing schedules and budgets. The use of algebra in travel planning is not just theoretical; it’s a practical tool that helps me make the most of my time and money.

To start with, creating a travel schedule can often feel like a puzzle. I use algebra to calculate travel times between destinations, accounting for layovers and connections. For example, if my flight from A to B takes 3 hours and my layover in B before flying to C is 2 hours, I can figure out my total travel time with a simple algebraic expression, ($ t_{\text{total}} = t_{\text{A to B}} + t_{\text{layover}} + t_{\text{B to C}}$ ).

In budgeting, I list all expenses such as transportation, accommodation, and activities. Then I sum them up, letting algebra help me keep a tight rein on spending. Here’s a small table I might create:

Hotel (5 nights)$500
Car rental (per day)$40
Total Car Rental5 * $40
Total Cost$350 + $500 + (5 * $40)

The application of algebra extends to more complex scenarios in engineering and construction , where it assists in optimizing project schedules and resource allocations. In computer science , algorithms for scheduling are embedded in various applications, using algebraic formulas to automate and enhance the planning process.

Algebra is a cornerstone in the realm of computer programming and technology. I often see it as the hidden hero in various applications spanning from simple software to complex engineering systems. It forms the backbone of algorithms, which are the step-by-step instructions I follow when writing code for anything from sorting data to encrypting information.

In computer science, I leverage algebraic structures to optimize code and solve computational problems. For example, the boolean algebra helps me in creating logic circuits and program decision-making capabilities in software. Here’s how algebraic concepts are applied:

Binary Operations : These allow me to perform tasks in programming languages, using operators such as $+$, $-$, $\times$, and $\div$.

Linear Algebra : It’s crucial in the construction of 3D graphics and animations, which are essential in video games and simulations.

Matrices : I use these for data organization and to perform multiple calculations at once, which is integral in image processing and machine learning tasks.

Algebra has its applications in scheduling and optimization algorithms too. Whether it’s assigning resources efficiently or finding the quickest routes for travel, algebra provides me with methods to compute optimal solutions.

Let me give you an example: when I’m dealing with robotics, I apply algebraic geometry to study the dynamics of robotic mechanisms. This involves handling a myriad of dimensional states and motions—something that is made manageable through algebraic principles.

In technology-enhanced education, algebra facilitates better learning tools, offering both visually engaging and interactive ways for students to grasp mathematical concepts. This contributes to a deeper understanding, heightened interest, and improved proficiency in mathematics.

Algebra is much more than just manipulating symbols and solving equations for me. It’s the backbone of my logical thinking and critical analysis skills. When I tackle an algebraic problem, I’m engaging with an entire system of logic and patterns that help build my reasoning abilities. 

For instance, consider the simple algebraic formula for solving for ( x ) in a linear equation: ( ax + b = c ). This equation might represent a real-life problem, like calculating the price after a discount (where ( x ) is the original price). Stringently following algebraic rules, I rearrange the formula to ( x = $\frac{c – b}{a}$ ), a process that reinforces my understanding of operations and the order in which they should be conducted.

Algebra strengthens my critical thinking by requiring me to apply sets of rules—properties of operations, for example—to various problems. These formulas and rules are not arbitrary; they are logical structures that I can rely on to find clarity in confusion.

Algebra serves as the foundation for problem-solving in various everyday scenarios. When I encounter patterns , algebra helps me to recognize and understand the structure behind these arrangements. For instance, a simple pattern like an increasing sequence of odd numbers can be represented algebraically as (2n + 1), where n represents the position in the sequence. This aids in predicting subsequent numbers, demonstrating a relationship ruled by algebra.

In my daily life, I use formulas to calculate things like interest rates or to determine the distance I travel. This use of formulas represents a set of rules that guide my critical thinking and enable accurate problem-solving. Here’s a snapshot of how I might use a formula:

Shopping DiscountsFinal Price = Original Price $\times$ (1 – Discount Rate)To calculate the discounted price of items during a sale.

Logic and reasoning intersect with algebra when I face a problem requiring a structured approach. Algebraic expressions give me a powerful language to describe relationships and solve problems methodically. This intersection fosters my critical thinking , which becomes instrumental when I’m trying to discover a rule through an observed pattern. It’s exciting to deduce a formula from scattered information, and algebra is my go-to toolkit for doing just that.

In gaming, I often find algebra underlying the design and development of many video games, particularly when programming movements or scoring systems. For instance, in a platformer, the character’s jump might be calculated using the formula ( s = ut + $\frac{1}{2}at^2$ ), where ( s ) is displacement, ( u ) is the initial velocity, ( a ) is the acceleration due to gravity, and ( t ) is time.

Sports analytics use algebra to enhance team performance and strategy. Take basketball, where player efficiency is often computed using a complex algebraic formula to analyze performance statistics.

As for cooking, algebra helps in scaling recipes. If I want to double a recipe, I apply proportional reasoning, a fundamental algebraic concept, to adjust ingredient quantities. With crafting and art, algebra assists in planning layouts and dimensions, ensuring symmetrical designs or patterns.

For children’s education and hobbies, algebra fosters problem-solving skills. It might be as simple as figuring out the right amount of paint for a color mix, calculated by a ratio or equation.

Cooking: When preparing a meal, algebra helps me adjust recipes. For instance, if a recipe calls for 4 cups of flour to serve 8 people, and I only need to serve 2, I use the algebraic equation ($ \text{required flour} = \frac{4}{8} \times 2 $) to determine that I need 1 cup of flour.

  • Original servings: ( $s_1$ )
  • Desired servings: ( $s_2$)
  • Original ingredient amount: ( $a_1 $)
  • New ingredient amount: ($ a_2 = \frac{a_1 \times s_2}{s_1}$ )

Crafting: Algebra aids me in creating and executing my designs accurately. If I’m designing a quilt, the number of squares (( q )) I need will depend on the size of the quilt and the size of each square. The equation ($ q = \frac{\text{total area of quilt}}{\text{area of one square}} $) saves time and materials.

  • Total area of project: ( $A_t $)
  • Area per piece: ($A_p$ )
  • Pieces required: ( P =$ \frac{A_t}{A_p}$ )

Interior Decorating: When redecorating my living space, algebra helps me maximize the area and aesthetics. If I need to cover a wall with wallpaper, I need to know how many rolls to purchase. I’ll use the equation ($ \text{rolls needed} = \frac{\text{wall area}}{\text{coverage per roll}} $) to get the right quantity.

In exploring the intersection of algebra and daily life , I’ve highlighted its undeniable presence in the routines and decisions we navigate. From managing personal finances to interpreting data trends in work settings, algebra is not confined to textbooks—it thrives in the world around us.

I’ve found that recognizing variables and constants, denoted as $x$ and $c$ respectively, equips us with the insight to forecast outcomes. In doing so, we harness the capability to plan and strategize more effectively. Whether we’re considering the purchase of a new home, conserving gas based on our vehicle’s efficiency, or baking with precision, algebraic principles guide us.

Appreciating that a formula such as $distance = speed \times time$ can determine travel details, or that calculating an unknown expenditure with $income – expenses = savings$, is practical algebra at play. My experiences have shown that algebra isn’t just about solving equations; it’s a toolkit for problem-solving.

  • Pre Calculus
  • Probability
  • Sets & Set Theory
  • Trigonometry

Appointments at Mayo Clinic

  • Stress management
  • Chronic stress puts your health at risk

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Take steps to control your stress.

Your body is made to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today. But that doesn't mean that life is free of stress.

Instead, you likely face many demands each day. For example, you may take on a huge workload, pay bills or take care of your family. Your body treats these everyday tasks as threats. Because of this, you may feel as if you're always under attack. But you can fight back. You don't have to let stress control your life.

Understanding the natural stress response

When you face a perceived threat, a tiny region at the brain's base, called the hypothalamus, sets off an alarm system in the body. An example of a perceived threat is a large dog barking at you during your morning walk. Through nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts the adrenal glands, found atop the kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline makes the heart beat faster, causes blood pressure to go up and gives you more energy. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugar, also called glucose, in the bloodstream, enhances the brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances in the body that repair tissues.

Cortisol also slows functions that would be nonessential or harmful in a fight-or-flight situation. It changes immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear.

When the natural stress response goes wild

The body's stress response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormones return to typical levels. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to typical levels. Other systems go back to their regular activities.

But when stressors are always present and you always feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

The long-term activation of the stress response system and too much exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all the body's processes. This puts you at higher risk of many health problems, including:

  • Depression.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Muscle tension and pain.
  • Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Weight gain.
  • Problems with memory and focus.

That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with your life stressors.

Why you react to life stressors the way you do

Your reaction to a potentially stressful event is different from everyone else's. How you react to your life stressors is affected by such factors as:

  • Genetics. The genes that control the stress response keep most people at a fairly steady emotional level, only sometimes priming the body for fight or flight. More active or less active stress responses may stem from slight differences in these genes.
  • Life experiences. Strong stress reactions sometimes can be traced to traumatic events. People who were neglected or abused as children tend to be especially at risk of experiencing high stress. The same is true of airplane crash survivors, people in the military, police officers and firefighters, and people who have experienced violent crime.

You may have some friends who seem relaxed about almost everything. And you may have other friends who react strongly to the slightest stress. Most people react to life stressors somewhere between those extremes.

Learning to react to stress in a healthy way

Stressful events are facts of life. And you may not be able to change your current situation. But you can take steps to manage the impact these events have on you.

You can learn to identify what causes you stress. And you can learn how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations.

Try these stress management tips:

  • Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. Get plenty of sleep too.
  • Do relaxation exercises such as yoga, deep breathing, massage or meditation.
  • Keep a journal. Write about your thoughts or what you're grateful for in your life.
  • Take time for hobbies, such as reading or listening to music. Or watch your favorite show or movie.
  • Foster healthy friendships and talk with friends and family.
  • Have a sense of humor. Find ways to include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or looking at joke websites.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Organize and focus on what you need to get done at home and work and remove tasks that aren't needed.
  • Seek professional counseling. A counselor can help you learn specific coping skills to manage stress.

Stay away from unhealthy ways of managing your stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food. If you're worried that your use of these products has gone up or changed due to stress, talk to your health care provider.

There are many rewards for learning to manage stress. For example, you can have peace of mind, fewer stressors and less anxiety, a better quality of life, improvement in conditions such as high blood pressure, better self-control and focus, and better relationships. And it might even lead to a longer, healthier life.

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  • How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/health. Accessed March 19, 2021.
  • Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body. Accessed March 19, 2021.
  • Lower stress: How does stress affect the body? American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/lower-stress-how-does-stress-affect-the-body. Accessed March 18, 2021.
  • Stress and your health. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/good-mental-health/stress-and-your-health. Accessed March 18, 2021.
  • AskMayoExpert. Stress management and resiliency (adult). Mayo Clinic. 2019.
  • Seaward BL. Essentials of Managing Stress. 5th ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021.
  • Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Skills for Self-Care, Personal Resiliency and Work-Life Balance in a Rapidly Changing World. 10th ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2022.
  • Olpin M, et al. Stress Management for Life. 5th ed. Cengage Learning; 2020.
  • Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 23, 2021.

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  1. Critical Thinking and Its Benefits in Real Life Scenarios

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  1. 16 Critical Thinking Examples in Real Life

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  22. Critical Thinking

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