Education Portal is now Study.com! Same great content, just under a new name. Learn more

What is Critical Thinking? - Definition, Skills & Meaning

  • 0:01 Critical Thinking Defined
  • 1:16 Using Critical Thinking Skills
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
Create An Account
To Start This Course Today
Used by over 10 million students worldwide
Create An Account
Try it free for 5 days
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tara DeLecce

Tara has taught Psychology and has a master's degree in evolutionary psychology.

Critical thinking is a term that we hear a lot, but many people don't really stop to think about what it means or how to use it. This lesson will tell you exactly what it means and make you realize that the average person largely ignores critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Defined

Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don't simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as, 'How do you know that? Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?' and 'Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?'

Additionally, critical thinking can be divided into the following three core skills:

  1. Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
  2. Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
  3. Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.

Using Critical Thinking Skills

Many people decide to make changes in their daily lives based on anecdotes, or stories from one person's experience. For example, let's say that your aunt told you that she takes a vitamin C supplement every day. Additionally, she told you that one morning she was running late for work and forgot to take her vitamin C supplement. That afternoon, she developed a cold. She now insists that you take vitamin C every day or you will get sick, just like she did in her story. Many people hearing this story would just accept this and think, 'To avoid getting sick I should take vitamin C.'

Although this type of logic is very common, it lacks critical thinking skills. If we examine this anecdote a little more carefully, you should be able to understand why. For starters, we don't know where the idea for vitamin C stopping illness even came from. Why did your aunt decide to take vitamin C rather than vitamin D, or any other vitamin?

Also, there was never any indication given that there exists a direct link between not taking vitamin C and developing a cold. At first glance, it may seem that way. However, there could be many other variables involved that have nothing to do with vitamin C. Maybe she was already developing a cold and that particular day it just happened to manifest itself. Maybe a sick person sneezed on her in the elevator that morning. Any number of possibilities could have happened, and from just this story, we simply do not have enough information. All of this speculation as to the validity of this particular observation is considered skepticism.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Start Your Free Trial To Take This Quiz

As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 10,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.

Free 5-day trial
It only takes a few minutes to set up and you can cancel at any time.
Already registered? Login here for access

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 100 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.