What is critical thinking? Discover new approaches and be more innovative

Chances are, if we didn’t understand what critical thinking is, we would still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s great to have that illusion as a child, but it’s even better to develop critical thinking that allows us to recognize the unreasonable and innovate with new ideas. Being a critical thinker is a very important quality, not only for work, but also for our lives.

In this article, we will tell you what critical thinking is, its characteristics and benefits; we will also give you tips to develop it, among other things. At the end of this article, we are sure you will take a few minutes to “question” it and form your own opinion about it.

join us!

what is critical thinking?

have you ever wondered what critical thinking is? Since we know its importance, we’ll summarize it for you here.

Critical thinking, by definition, is a process where the individual uses reason to direct his or her thinking in a way that questions statements or emotions in order to arrive at the most reasonable position on an issue.

It is a reflective and rational type of thinking by essence, as it starts from doubt and is governed by logic. In other words, critical thinking is the ability to think rationally and without bias, so that a logical connection of ideas is understood or constructed.

However, do not think that critical thinking comes only from one intelligence (such as mathematical intelligence). It manifests itself in all of them, so it is important to know what type of intelligence you have and, thus, find out how to deal with this situation.

what is critical thinking for?

what are the benefits or advantages of critical thinking? what are the objectives of critical thinking?

It is important to mention that critical thinking helps us to look at things “coldly”. Human beings tend to be impulsive, so stopping for a moment and analyzing things can be of great help.

The main importance of critical thinking is that it is strongly linked to the expansion of knowledge, either of knowledge itself or of the mechanisms that contribute to a better life. Critical thinking helps us to form our own opinion, judgment, ideas or view of the world.

In turn, critical thinking also helps us to be more curious and creative. And, in case you didn’t know, it also helps us to improve our reading comprehension skills!

what can someone with critical thinking skills do?

Produce beliefs and knowledge.

To sustain one’s own beliefs and values.

Raise problems and seek solutions.

Formulate relevant questions with clarity and precision.

Communicate and interact with others.

Establish goals and means for their achievement.

Make reasonable decisions.

Understand the connections between ideas.

Hierarchize and evaluate information.

Argue with orderly ideas.

Identify errors and inconsistencies in their own reasoning.

Thinking well, solving problems and creating new ideas quickly is an advantage for everyone, so don’t forget to train your mind!

pensamiento critico trabajo

Source: Pexels

Characteristics of critical thinking

It can be said that there are, mainly, 9 characteristics of critical thinking, which we recommend you to take into account to formulate your own hypotheses.

It is conscious and not involuntary.

It is reflexive and rational.

It is purposeful and directional.

It seeks to solve a problem or explain something.

It is a procedure; it is not a belief.

It is an interpretation of reality based on logical arguments.

It is supported by reliable sources of data, information and evidence.

It is materialized in a clear communication with a logical order of ideas.

It does not try to homogenize knowledge.

With this point clear, then we ask ourselves: what characteristics should a critical thinker have?

A critical thinker is someone who is committed to reflective and independent thinking, and, therefore, to innovation

do you want to join the group of people who seek innovation and revolution in thinking? Then you need to discover the characteristics of a critical thinker’s profile.

1. Is reflective

Critical thinking requires questioning every representation of reality. Those who exercise this kind of thinking will question whether ideas, arguments or findings reflect the whole picture of a fact.

2. It is open-minded and humble

Critical thinking involves recognizing that there is no single truth, but that there are well-founded theories. It is important for a critical thinker to keep in mind that all statements and opinions are discursive constructions of reality.

3. He/she is a good listener

Critical thinking avoids and recognizes biases. Therefore, a critical thinker is open to listen to other interpretations. Keep in mind that recognizing and evaluating different positions will help you build your own hypotheses.

4. Be curious, never conformist

Critical thinking is driven by motivation and curiosity. To question something, it is necessary to be curious, because a critical thinker always seeks to go beyond what is offered.

5. It is self-taught

Critical thinking requires being self-taught. what does it mean to be autonomous in learning? It means being disciplined. This is important when conducting research, because a critical thinker is consistent and committed.

These are the attitudes you should avoid practicing if you want to achieve critical thinking:

I’d rather be given the right answers than figure them out.

I don’t like to think too much about my decisions.

I don’t usually review the mistakes I’ve made.

I don’t like to be criticized.

Características de un pensador crítico

Source: Pexels

Critical thinking skills

So what are the elements of critical thinking? what critical thinking skills are there? After explaining the characteristics of a critical thinker, it is important to mention the skills or capabilities that you should develop to innovate.

The skills you should put into practice when reinforcing this line of thinking are the following:

Interpretive ability: refers to the understanding of information.

Analytical capacity: here the intention, depth, context and background of a discourse are recognized.

Logical-critical reasoning ability: refers to the chain of reflective, conscious and voluntary thoughts that respond to a problem. It is the ability to associate diverse data in a conclusion and to detect biases in a discourse.

Evaluative ability: the ability to perceive the degree of reliability of sources or discourses.

Inferring ability: the identification of relevant data in order to reach reasonable conclusions.

Ability to explain: the materialization of reasoning in words in a clear, concise, reflective and coherent manner.

Metacognitive ability: the ability to self-evaluate and self-correct.

Habilidades del pensamiento crítico

Source: Freepik

Types of critical thinking

what types of critical thinking are there? where can they occur? how is critical thinking and creativity related? we’re excited about it too!

It should be emphasized that all types of critical thinking do not work separately, but are related to each other, as they correlate with each other.

1. Reactive thinking

Regulated by memory

This type of critical thinking is the most primary, since it is the one that guarantees your survival and adaptation to the environment. Its name is due to the immediacy with which it comes to reason, as it tends to emerge in emergency situations (such as when your dog eats your homework on the day of delivery).

2. Lateral thinking

Regulated by emotion

This is critical thinking linked to intuition. It is related to the development of emotional intelligence.

3. Logical thinking

Regulated by reason

It is that which arises from the associations we make between objects or meanings. This type of critical thinking is developed in interaction through observation, exploration, comparison and classification of objects. It is used to analyze, argue, reason, justify or prove reasoning.

4. Unified thinking

Regulated by the will

This type of critical thinking is the result of maturity and experience, since it is based on a more integral vision of reality. That is to say, it serves to grasp reality from its different angles and dimensions.

5. Creative thinking

Regulated by the imagination

According to the specialized portal Medium, creative thinking is “the development of new ideas”, the need to combine thoughts and reflections from a different perspective, with the intention of satisfying a need. It is a critical thinking since it does not understand reality in a certain or linear way, because it knows that it is possible to break the structures to create others.

pensamiento critico reflexion

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Theories of critical thinking

Critical thinking has a long history. It has been the basis of great discoveries, so we want you to discover the genius that lives in you.

Origin of critical thinking

The origin of critical thinking in Western history goes back to the Greek era with Socrates, a philosopher who stood out a lot in his time and who, today, is still very well known.

For example, maieutics is a method of fostering critical thinking developed by Socrates. It is an exercise of questions that unravels common sense to discover knowledge. A famous phrase of Socrates was “I only know that I know nothing.” This feels paradoxical, doesn’t it?

Streams of critical thinking

Throughout the history of critical thinking, 5 modern theorists stand out. To explain the respective theories, we will rely on the book “Métodos y pensamiento crítico” by Carlos Zarzar.

1. Robert Ennis

The author argues that critical thinking is reflective and reasonable, while allowing the individual to decide what to believe or what to do. But it is important to determine what is right and what is true.

This theory mentions that critical thinking has two aspects:

Cognitive: it involves the development of thinking skills.

Affective: implies disposition, attitude and commitment.

2. Matthew Lipman

This great theorist mentions that critical thinking is the one that leads to good judgment, because it is sensitive to context. It is based on defined criteria and is self-corrective.

3. John E. McPeck

he argues that critical thinking consists of the ability and desire to engage in an activity with thoughtful skepticism. It involves a cognitive component (the knowledge necessary to develop in a field) and a critical component (the ability to question and distance ourselves from our beliefs and then build a solid argument).

4. Richard Paul

Paul argues that critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating thinking with the purpose of improving it.

In short, thinking generates purposes, raises questions, uses information, uses concepts, makes inferences, formulates assumptions, generates implications and incorporates points of view.

5. Harvey Siegel

According to Siegel, critical thinking is the ability and willingness to act and make informed judgments based on consistently applied principles.

Siegel mentions that critical thinking has two components:

The evaluation of reason

Intellectual habits and willingness to act reasonably

teoria pensamiento critico y reflexivo

Source: Unsplash

how do you develop critical thinking?

At this point, you must be wondering how do I become a critical thinker. Critical thinking is a general domain skill. We can all think critically, but it is important to develop and strengthen it through mental training.

With practice, critical thoughts will flow so naturally that we will be able to displace automatic thoughts to focus on questioning ideas.

It is important to be very aware of the principles of critical thinking and also to be reflective about our own reasoning.

1. Methods to enhance critical thinking in adults

looking for examples of how to develop critical thinking? We’ve made a list of techniques and strategies for you.

A. Separate your subjectivity

Because reality is a construct, we all have our own version of it and it is important to keep that in mind, because our version or the hegemonic one may not be the only one or the most accurate.

be open to listen to other positions and how they relate to their environment. Knowing other cultures is definitely something very useful. And this is a basis to start forming your critical thinking.

B. Practice empathy

For critical thinking, understanding the other person and their context helps us to understand their point of view. It is important not to judge the other with the lens of our own beliefs, after all they are also beliefs.

C. Participate in debates

There is nothing more nourishing than debates for critical thinking. Participation in forums is very useful, because confronting diverse opinions helps you to improve both argumentation and empathy.

¿Cómo se desarrolla el pensamiento crítico?

Source: Pexels

D. Analyze texts, news, videos, movies, images and symbols

Analyzing different materials serves to enhance critical thinking. Delving deeper into texts and probing into intentions helps develop our reasoning.

A useful exercise is to compare the news of two different newspapers and see how, through lexical selection, the same topic can give two different connotations, since they depend on the author’s intentions.

E. Do not join a generalized opinion without researching

This is something very common and I am a self-proclaimed victim of it in the past. Sometimes, we take speeches for granted for the simple fact that the vast majority believes in them; however, that is far from enhancing critical thinking.

Often what is taken for granted is not what is reasonable and history shows several cases that support this. For example, in the past, castes were seen as a logical social organization; today, they are not, thanks to critical thinkers.

F. Challenges stereotypes

Generalization is a common occurrence in society. Picking one of the many stereotypes out there and analyzing it will help you develop your critical thinking.

2. how to develop critical thinking in children?

Developing critical thinking in children is essential for their education. There are many ways in which you can achieve this and even in a fun way.

There are a great number of games that fulfill this function. Therefore, for infants, games are important to develop critical thinking. These can be assembly games, memory games, quiz games, etc. Art is another excellent way to reflect on oneself or one’s environment.

¿Cómo desarrollar el pensamiento crítico en los niños?

Source: Pexels

how to apply critical thinking in everyday life?

Critical thinking can be very useful in the performance of your tasks, whether at work or at school. even in your leisure time! It is always helpful to break the mold and visualize things from a different perspective.

With this in mind, let’s see where critical thinking can work:

1. Teaching strategies for developing critical thinking in the classroom

Critical thinking and educational models are closely related. The success of a school lies in its teachers making students think critically so that they achieve their own autonomy of thought.

Cultivating critical thinking is basic to a well-rounded education. This helps students to analyze reality, be aware of it and participate in its construction. It also allows them to be self-oriented towards answers that allow their personal development.

Educational models are important, such as learning-by-doing, where the student, being the active protagonist of his learning, creates autonomy and motivation to learn, these are two important factors for the development of critical thinking.

In addition, there are activities that promote critical thinking, such as the following:




These are activities that promote critical thinking, since developing both spheres helps the child to be critical. The world is not entirely logical and gridded, as there are emotions and the arts that go a long way in developing emotional intelligence.

Likewise, the ability to strategize play and competition drives the development of critical thinking.

Estrategias para desarrollar el pensamiento crítico en el aula

Source: Pexels

2. how to develop critical thinking in online education?

Critical thinking in online education is perhaps more crucial than critical thinking in a physical classroom. For, when learning online, students are faced with much more complex challenges that require novel solutions, often in relation to technology and information.

Critical thinking skills involve identifying flaws in people’s arguments or reasoning and identifying the misuse of information. For example, critical thinking enables students to differentiate fake news from real reports, differentiating fact from opinion and understanding that they cannot take everything they read or hear at face value.

A. Encourage critical thinking in discussion forums

Perhaps the most important part of online learning is the discussion board because it is where students and teacher address the same question and discuss possible solutions and ideas.

One way to push students to think critically is for the teacher to develop the discussion question in light of his or her experience and knowledge. This helps students see how the topic relates to the world outside of academia.

In addition to elaborating on the discussion question, you can engage students by addressing their responses. In doing so, you can ask various types of questions to get students to address the issue, elaborate on incomplete ideas, or think about the implications of their statements.

In other words, you can help them use their initial response as a pathway to deeper and more meaningful critical thinking.

B. Include supplemental resources to boost critical thinking

Supplemental resources can help students see how course content connects to current issues. You can choose resources that identify current challenges and leverage them in launching questions that encourage learners’ critical thinking.

Then, you can supplement this with an open discussion forum in which you solicit their opinions, and in turn, identify the problem and provide possible solutions. Another ideal option is to look for case studies that allow students to participate in problem solving.

Instilling critical thinking will not only help them master the course objectives, but also give them skills they can apply beyond the classroom.

pensamiento critico educacion online

Source: Pexels

3. how to apply critical thinking at work?

Critical thinking is a key skill in the workplace. After all, critical thinking helps you solve problems and develop strategies that improve your day-to-day. For this reason, employers today are looking to hire people who have strong critical thinking skills in work teams.

In fact, critical thinking can distinguish you as a leader and a valuable mind for exchanging ideas. Being a critical thinker will help you improve the quality of your work and their perception of you.

how to improve critical thinking skills:

A. Evaluate new information

The first step to critical thinking is to accept information only after evaluating it. Whether it is something read or heard, critical thinkers strive to find the objective truth. In doing so, they evaluate by considering possible challenges and solutions, which may or may not affect their decision.

B. Consider the source

It is essential that you consider where you get your information from. For example, if the data comes from an advertisement, understanding that it is a marketing strategy designed to sell a product will help you evaluate potential bias.

Remember that every piece of information you receive was given to you by someone with the motivation to exchange knowledge. Critical thinkers evaluate the source by considering its motivation for providing information.

C. Ask lots of questions

Asking questions is an important skill to master if you are trying to hone your critical thinking skills. When accessing new information, you must decide which questions will help you best evaluate it. Some examples include:

in what ways can this problem be solved?

who provides this information?

why is this information provided?

what other perspectives are there on this topic?

what research exists on the subject?

D. Follow up on the research

Before you can form your own opinion using critical thinking, you must do your own research. Once you have created a list of questions that need answering, you can use resources to learn what you can about the issue.

If you decide to search online, review reliable information from sources such as news sites, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Other options are to use resources such as the encyclopedia or check materials at your local library.

E. Form an opinion

With answers to critical questions, you can form your opinion. In this step, you can be sure that you are basing your opinion on logical and objective information because you have followed the steps for critical thinking.

ejercicios pensamiento critico

Source: Pexels

4. how to apply critical thinking in video games?

did you know that video games allow you to develop critical thinking skills? Believe it or not, they help children, teenagers and even adult gamers to become good decision makers and problem solvers.

You’ve probably spent hours playing Candy Crush, Ludo or Among Us (applying your best strategies to uncover the impostor). The truth is, games are an effective way to stimulate our brains because they show challenging and fun adventures, keeping our brains engaged and happy.

But what exactly do we learn from them? are games good for developing critical thinking or collaborative skills? The answer is yes.

According to research from Clemson University, in this era dominated by soft skills, games have intensified problem solving and critical thinking in people.

Interestingly, the research findings found that not all design elements are created equal when it comes to imparting soft skills. The most successful video games have incorporated specific design elements, such as collaboration, competition, role-playing, exploration and discovery.

Today, we can see new educational trends such as gamification, where the primary mode of instruction for children and adolescents is games or recreational activities that help them train their critical and analytical thinking. In addition, it reinforces the sense of collaboration and allows for a collegial atmosphere.

In fact, digital games have become the favorite techniques of teachers to teach their students in a playful, dynamic way and with lessons included. Thus, learning objectives have been reframed as quests, a staple of many games, challenging children and teens to earn points based on how well they structure their arguments.

Take a look at our handbook on how to train your memory, where you will find tips, techniques and fun exercises so you won’t forget what you learned.

pensamiento crítico en videojuegos

Source: Freepik

Critical thinking exercises

It’s time to do activities to encourage critical thinking. Think about something you have recently discussed with someone, preferably a situation that has caused you discomfort or upset.

who said it?

someone you know? someone in a position of power or authority? is it important to notice who said it?

what did they say?

did he or she talk about specific facts or just give an opinion? did he refer to a complete situation or did he only show what happened in a partial way? did he leave anything important out?

where did he say it?

did you say it in public or in private? were other people present able to give a different view of what was said?

when was it said?

was it before, during or after an important event? is it important to consider the timing?

why did you say it?

did you explain the reasoning behind your opinion? were you trying to make someone look good or bad?

how did you say it?

did he say it sad, happy, angry or indifferent? did he write it or say it? were you able to clearly understand what he said?

This small but effective exercise can certainly help you clarify a situation. Try incorporating it more often and you will see an improvement in how you deal with everyday situations.

do you think we exaggerated? Literally, the first sentence of the document is the following: “There are certain things that depend on us and others that do not”. Already with this reflection, you are beginning to realize where this illustrious philosopher was going.

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