Qualities of a Critical Thinker

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  • 0:02 What Made You Press Play?
  • 0:21 Critical Thinking
  • 1:48 Being Analytical
  • 3:29 Being Self-Aware
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

Are you a critical thinker? This lesson looks at the qualities necessary for critical thinking and why this is useful for developing a better understanding of the world around you.

What Made You Press Play?

What brought you to watch this lesson today? Perhaps you're studying for an exam, aiming to fill a requirement, or even just curious about the topic. Whatever the reason, you're currently on the path to developing greater critical-thinking skills. This lesson discusses what it means to be a critical thinker and what qualities are associated with this approach.

Critical Thinking

Have you ever had a small child ask you questions you found hard to answer? They're notorious for asking 'Why?' questions that adults can find hard to address to the child's satisfaction. Young kids tend to be curious about the world around them, wanting to investigate every aspect of what they see and hear. This is part of the process of learning to live in their environment. Curiosity can help a person to grow and learn.

In philosophy, curiosity is one quality that contributes to critical-thinking skills. Critical thinking is making informed decisions based on logic. A main aim of thinking critically is to pursue knowledge.

Critical thinking might sound like it's not much fun, but in reality, a person uses a lot of creativity when they think logically. Consider how many ideas are sparked in your own mind when you watch these video lessons and try to relate them to your own life. You use a lot of energy to consider the new information and to process what it means in your world. These new ideas can involve imagining a world outside of what you have known. Both curiosity and creativity play an important role in critical thinking.

Being Analytical

As you probably know from your experience online, you'll find a great deal of misinformation if you do not think critically about what you are reading or watching. In order to distinguish between fact and fiction, you have to be analytical. This means that you use logic and reasoning to understand complex problems by breaking them down into smaller problems.

Think of analyzing a problem as a bit like putting a puzzle together. You need to take it step by step to get to the whole picture. If the puzzle is one of the Statue of Liberty, for instance, you might choose to start with her crown and then move down to her face. You could also choose to start with the corners and then move into the sides of the puzzle. Breaking things down in this way when you are looking at ideas involves looking at each component of the idea carefully to help you draw a conclusion.

You may have heard one person say to another, 'You're over-analyzing the situation.' Being analytical has sometimes come to mean that a person is thinking more deeply about a topic than is necessary. For instance, you might witness this if you have a friend who's breaking down a conversation they had with a person they want to date to try to guess if the person likes them.

However, being analytical can be very beneficial to a person pursuing greater knowledge when used in the right circumstances. An analytical approach helps you break down difficult topics into more manageable components, like starting with the Statue of Liberty's crown and moving on to other parts as you put together a 5,000-piece puzzle.

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