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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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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?

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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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Critical thinking models: definition, benefits, and skills

Critical thinking models: definition, benefits, and skills

In the age of memes and misinformation, critical thinking is a must. It's a crucial skill to differentiate between what may be true or false and develop (and explain) reasons for your beliefs.

The hardest part of critical thinking is knowing when to do it. Most of the time, it's easier to accept things as fact rather than to dig deeper to reach a conscious conclusion. This happens for various reasons. The most common being the ease of following the crowd and the fact it would be rather cumbersome to think critically about every single thing in the world!

How then do we know what to think critically about? How do we get the right answers, and how do we know they're correct? This is where a critical thinking model comes in. In this article, we’ll share three critical thinking models, essential critical reasoning skills, and why improving your critical thinking process is a good idea.

What Is Critical Thinking?

"Critical thinking is reasonable and reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do.” This is how renowned professor and author Robert Hugh Ennis defines it. Put another way, the definition of critical thinking is careful consideration and analysis of information to reach a rational conclusion or decision. We practice critical thinking to inform—and own—our beliefs and actions and ensure they truly align with our values and intentions.

That said, critical thinking is not our natural way of thinking . Most of us are never aware of our brain's metacognitive actions, conceptualizations, or synthesis. Instead, we rely on habits, patterns, and competencies from past experiences to understand and interact with the world. While this may save us time and effort, it doesn’t always provide the best results—and often results in fallacies.

What Are Critical Thinking Models?

A critical thinking model provides the structure for practicing this type of thinking. It helps us notice our own thinking biases and allows us to try viewing the world objectively all while providing guidelines for asking the right questions, reaching logical conclusions, and explaining how we did it.

3 Critical Thinking Models That Are Useful in Everyday Life

Critical thinking model: Putting the pieces of a puzzle together

There are thousands of critical thinking models for almost any subject or discipline. Let’s take a look at three models of critical thinking we find useful in everyday life.

Proximate vs. Root Cause

The proximate vs. root cause critical thinking model encourages people to discover the primary cause of an event. A proximate cause is closest to the observed result or immediately responsible for it. In contrast, the root cause is the actual cause of the result. Both are causes of the event, but the root cause is the main cause, while the proximate cause is the immediate next cause.

This mental model forces you to look beyond obvious reasons to determine the core reason for impact. It helps with innovative problem-solving, so instead of relying on “Band-Aid solutions” or improving currently-existing solutions, you uncover the root of the matter and create something altogether new.

Example: You've gained a lot of weight since March 2021. Upon investigation, you may draw the following inferences:

  • Proximate cause: You burn fewer calories than you consume (moving less and eating more due to boredom or food accessibility), thus the weight gain.
  • Root cause: Your habits changed because of the lifestyle change from working at the office to working from home.

When you know the root cause of an issue, you can begin to deal with it to reduce the odds of recurrence. In this case, change your habits to fit the work-from-home lifestyle better. The proximate vs. root cause model improves your critical thinking ability and helps formulate a proper understanding of issues before working on them.

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive bias is a tendency to think in ways that can lead to deviations from rationality and objectivity. We all have cognitive biases. This error in thinking happens because of our tendency to process and interpret information swiftly, which can affect our decision-making and the eventual outcome of a situation.

Example: A soccer player scores a goal. In his mind, that means he's a great player. But if he had missed, he would reason that it was because the grass was wet. In self-serving bias, the tendency is to claim more responsibility for successes than failures. In other words: if there's a success, it's because I did something right. If there's a failure, it's something else's fault, not mine.

When you only pay attention or engage with news sources, stories, and conversations that confirm your worldview, you limit yourself from other perspectives and opinions that may be good for you without realizing it. Being aware of your own cognitive bias allows you to create some distance between how you expect the world to be and become more open to how it actually is on any given day.

The human brain is a powerful machine, but it has its limitations. One of them is neglecting facts and evidence to make sense of the world quickly and easily. This habit of mind may allow us to make faster decisions, but it doesn't serve us optimally. When unchecked, cognitive biases hinder fair-mindedness, inclusion, and impartiality.

Hanlon's Razor

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

Hanlon's Razor promotes good thinking and teaches us not to assume the worst intentions about people's actions without investigation. It helps regulate our emotions and improve relationships and decision-making. It also helps us develop empathy by giving others the benefit of the doubt and not assuming negative intent with evidence.

Example: You get to work earlier than usual on a Monday morning and notice your things scattered around. This must mean someone used your office! You immediately think a certain coworker did this to annoy you. But when you pause and consider, you realize that a coworker may have used your office during the weekend because it was vacant and they forgot their keys at home.

The stories we tell ourselves about why things happen the way they do are rarely true. It's worth spending some time to objectively view situations and choose a positive narrative that leads to better outcomes in our mental and emotional health and relationships.

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Critical Thinking Skills and Their Benefits

the three different types of beliefs are critical thinking

Critical thinking skills are useful for everyone. They help us think coherently and make advancements with our personal and professional goals. Some of the benefits you can gain from critical thinking are:

  • Greater reflective thinking and self-awareness
  • Ability to audit new information
  • Better interpersonal relationships
  • More creative thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Expanded open-mindedness
  • Improved communication and presentation skills
  • Freedom from past experiences and attachments

To gain these types of benefits, it’s important to practice the critical thinking skills listed below.

1. Observation

Observation is the foundation for critical thinking. It’s the ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems, and solutions. Taking the time to observe helps you process information better. Positive habits like meditating, journaling, and active listening will help you improve your observation skills.

2. Analysis

After observing, it's time to analyze the information. Analyzing helps you gain a clearer grasp of the situation at hand. Ask questions that help you get a clearer picture of the subject and get to the root cause or reason. For example, if you’re analyzing a controversial tweet you read, you may ask questions such as:

  • Who wrote this?
  • What is it about?
  • When was it written?
  • Why did they write it? Do they have a hidden agenda?
  • How sound is the premise?
  • What if this tweet was altered to send a misleading message?

These questions help you break your subject into rational bits and consider the relationship between each one and the whole.

3. Inference

Inference is the ability to draw conclusions from the information you've analyzed and other relevant data. It's a higher-level critical thinking skill that helps you reach careful decisions rather than hastily drawn (and likely biased) conclusions.

4. Communication

Once you have a solid foundation for your beliefs, communicating your theory is the next essential part of critical thinking. Share your point of view and get feedback from others to know if it holds up. You can improve your communication skills by participating in thematic forum discussions and sharing your research and insights with others in your community, both online and offline.

5. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is one of the main reasons for critical thinking. The end goal of critical thinking is using your new conclusion to close gaps and solve problems. You start by identifying your viewpoint, analyzing relevant information, and deciding on the right solution for a particular scenario. You can improve your problem-solving skills by self-learning the subject at hand and considering hidden, alternative outcomes.

Tap Into the Power of Critical Thinking

Becoming a critical thinker is challenging but oh-so worth it. It leads to continuous growth in all areas of your life: better relationships, confidence, and problem-solving skills. Critical thinking helps us overcome familiar patterns and ways of thinking, opening us to new perspectives.

To improve your critical thinking, spend time honing the five crucial critical thinking skills: observation, analysis, inference, communication, and problem-solving. Have fun with the process as you pay more attention to your beliefs and experiences and other people's perspectives and experiences as well.

You can use critical thinking models to guide your critical thinking journey, prompting you to realize when to pause and ask questions and when to accept the answers you have and move on. For example, in today’s age of misinformation, you may learn that it’s almost always counterproductive to engage with news and information from unknown sources.

Critical thinking is needed to remove scales from our eyes and improve our knowledge and experience of the world, but it’s also important to know when to turn our attention to focus on a new subject and move on.

Improve your critical thinking with ABLE

Ask better questions and get better answers with ABLEs integrated web search, annotation and note-taking features. Check how ABLE helps you to improve your critical thinking.

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Supplement to Critical Thinking

This supplement elaborates on the history of the articulation, promotion and adoption of critical thinking as an educational goal.

John Dewey (1910: 74, 82) introduced the term ‘critical thinking’ as the name of an educational goal, which he identified with a scientific attitude of mind. More commonly, he called the goal ‘reflective thought’, ‘reflective thinking’, ‘reflection’, or just ‘thought’ or ‘thinking’. He describes his book as written for two purposes. The first was to help people to appreciate the kinship of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry to the scientific attitude. The second was to help people to consider how recognizing this kinship in educational practice “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (iii). He notes that the ideas in the book obtained concreteness in the Laboratory School in Chicago.

Dewey’s ideas were put into practice by some of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study in the 1930s sponsored by the Progressive Education Association in the United States. For this study, 300 colleges agreed to consider for admission graduates of 30 selected secondary schools or school systems from around the country who experimented with the content and methods of teaching, even if the graduates had not completed the then-prescribed secondary school curriculum. One purpose of the study was to discover through exploration and experimentation how secondary schools in the United States could serve youth more effectively (Aikin 1942). Each experimental school was free to change the curriculum as it saw fit, but the schools agreed that teaching methods and the life of the school should conform to the idea (previously advocated by Dewey) that people develop through doing things that are meaningful to them, and that the main purpose of the secondary school was to lead young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18). In particular, school officials believed that young people in a democracy should develop the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems (Aikin 1942: 81). Students’ work in the classroom thus consisted more often of a problem to be solved than a lesson to be learned. Especially in mathematics and science, the schools made a point of giving students experience in clear, logical thinking as they solved problems. The report of one experimental school, the University School of Ohio State University, articulated this goal of improving students’ thinking:

Critical or reflective thinking originates with the sensing of a problem. It is a quality of thought operating in an effort to solve the problem and to reach a tentative conclusion which is supported by all available data. It is really a process of problem solving requiring the use of creative insight, intellectual honesty, and sound judgment. It is the basis of the method of scientific inquiry. The success of democracy depends to a large extent on the disposition and ability of citizens to think critically and reflectively about the problems which must of necessity confront them, and to improve the quality of their thinking is one of the major goals of education. (Commission on the Relation of School and College of the Progressive Education Association 1943: 745–746)

The Eight-Year Study had an evaluation staff, which developed, in consultation with the schools, tests to measure aspects of student progress that fell outside the focus of the traditional curriculum. The evaluation staff classified many of the schools’ stated objectives under the generic heading “clear thinking” or “critical thinking” (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942: 35–36). To develop tests of achievement of this broad goal, they distinguished five overlapping aspects of it: ability to interpret data, abilities associated with an understanding of the nature of proof, and the abilities to apply principles of science, of social studies and of logical reasoning. The Eight-Year Study also had a college staff, directed by a committee of college administrators, whose task was to determine how well the experimental schools had prepared their graduates for college. The college staff compared the performance of 1,475 college students from the experimental schools with an equal number of graduates from conventional schools, matched in pairs by sex, age, race, scholastic aptitude scores, home and community background, interests, and probable future. They concluded that, on 18 measures of student success, the graduates of the experimental schools did a somewhat better job than the comparison group. The graduates from the six most traditional of the experimental schools showed no large or consistent differences. The graduates from the six most experimental schools, on the other hand, had much greater differences in their favour. The graduates of the two most experimental schools, the college staff reported:

… surpassed their comparison groups by wide margins in academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, scientific approach to problems, and interest in contemporary affairs. The differences in their favor were even greater in general resourcefulness, in enjoyment of reading, [in] participation in the arts, in winning non-academic honors, and in all aspects of college life except possibly participation in sports and social activities. (Aikin 1942: 114)

One of these schools was a private school with students from privileged families and the other the experimental section of a public school with students from non-privileged families. The college staff reported that the graduates of the two schools were indistinguishable from each other in terms of college success.

In 1933 Dewey issued an extensively rewritten edition of his How We Think (Dewey 1910), with the sub-title “A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process”. Although the restatement retains the basic structure and content of the original book, Dewey made a number of changes. He rewrote and simplified his logical analysis of the process of reflection, made his ideas clearer and more definite, replaced the terms ‘induction’ and ‘deduction’ by the phrases ‘control of data and evidence’ and ‘control of reasoning and concepts’, added more illustrations, rearranged chapters, and revised the parts on teaching to reflect changes in schools since 1910. In particular, he objected to one-sided practices of some “experimental” and “progressive” schools that allowed children freedom but gave them no guidance, citing as objectionable practices novelty and variety for their own sake, experiences and activities with real materials but of no educational significance, treating random and disconnected activity as if it were an experiment, failure to summarize net accomplishment at the end of an inquiry, non-educative projects, and treatment of the teacher as a negligible factor rather than as “the intellectual leader of a social group” (Dewey 1933: 273). Without explaining his reasons, Dewey eliminated the previous edition’s uses of the words ‘critical’ and ‘uncritical’, thus settling firmly on ‘reflection’ or ‘reflective thinking’ as the preferred term for his subject-matter. In the revised edition, the word ‘critical’ occurs only once, where Dewey writes that “a person may not be sufficiently critical about the ideas that occur to him” (1933: 16, italics in original); being critical is thus a component of reflection, not the whole of it. In contrast, the Eight-Year Study by the Progressive Education Association treated ‘critical thinking’ and ‘reflective thinking’ as synonyms.

In the same period, Dewey collaborated on a history of the Laboratory School in Chicago with two former teachers from the school (Mayhew & Edwards 1936). The history describes the school’s curriculum and organization, activities aimed at developing skills, parents’ involvement, and the habits of mind that the children acquired. A concluding chapter evaluates the school’s achievements, counting as a success its staging of the curriculum to correspond to the natural development of the growing child. In two appendices, the authors describe the evolution of Dewey’s principles of education and Dewey himself describes the theory of the Chicago experiment (Dewey 1936).

Glaser (1941) reports in his doctoral dissertation the method and results of an experiment in the development of critical thinking conducted in the fall of 1938. He defines critical thinking as Dewey defined reflective thinking:

Critical thinking calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Glaser 1941: 6; cf. Dewey 1910: 6; Dewey 1933: 9)

In the experiment, eight lesson units directed at improving critical thinking abilities were taught to four grade 12 high school classes, with pre-test and post-test of the students using the Otis Quick-Scoring Mental Ability Test and the Watson-Glaser Tests of Critical Thinking (developed in collaboration with Glaser’s dissertation sponsor, Goodwin Watson). The average gain in scores on these tests was greater to a statistically significant degree among the students who received the lessons in critical thinking than among the students in a control group of four grade 12 high school classes taking the usual curriculum in English. Glaser concludes:

The aspect of critical thinking which appears most susceptible to general improvement is the attitude of being disposed to consider in a thoughtful way the problems and subjects that come within the range of one’s experience. An attitude of wanting evidence for beliefs is more subject to general transfer. Development of skill in applying the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning, however, appears to be specifically related to, and in fact limited by, the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and facts concerning the problem or subject matter toward which the thinking is to be directed. (Glaser 1941: 175)

Retest scores and observable behaviour indicated that students in the intervention group retained their growth in ability to think critically for at least six months after the special instruction.

In 1948 a group of U.S. college examiners decided to develop taxonomies of educational objectives with a common vocabulary that they could use for communicating with each other about test items. The first of these taxonomies, for the cognitive domain, appeared in 1956 (Bloom et al. 1956), and included critical thinking objectives. It has become known as Bloom’s taxonomy. A second taxonomy, for the affective domain (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia 1964), and a third taxonomy, for the psychomotor domain (Simpson 1966–67), appeared later. Each of the taxonomies is hierarchical, with achievement of a higher educational objective alleged to require achievement of corresponding lower educational objectives.

Bloom’s taxonomy has six major categories. From lowest to highest, they are knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Within each category, there are sub-categories, also arranged hierarchically from the educationally prior to the educationally posterior. The lowest category, though called ‘knowledge’, is confined to objectives of remembering information and being able to recall or recognize it, without much transformation beyond organizing it (Bloom et al. 1956: 28–29). The five higher categories are collectively termed “intellectual abilities and skills” (Bloom et al. 1956: 204). The term is simply another name for critical thinking abilities and skills:

Although information or knowledge is recognized as an important outcome of education, very few teachers would be satisfied to regard this as the primary or the sole outcome of instruction. What is needed is some evidence that the students can do something with their knowledge, that is, that they can apply the information to new situations and problems. It is also expected that students will acquire generalized techniques for dealing with new problems and new materials. Thus, it is expected that when the student encounters a new problem or situation, he will select an appropriate technique for attacking it and will bring to bear the necessary information, both facts and principles. This has been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others. In the taxonomy, we have used the term “intellectual abilities and skills”. (Bloom et al. 1956: 38)

Comprehension and application objectives, as their names imply, involve understanding and applying information. Critical thinking abilities and skills show up in the three highest categories of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The condensed version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al. 1956: 201–207) gives the following examples of objectives at these levels:

  • analysis objectives : ability to recognize unstated assumptions, ability to check the consistency of hypotheses with given information and assumptions, ability to recognize the general techniques used in advertising, propaganda and other persuasive materials
  • synthesis objectives : organizing ideas and statements in writing, ability to propose ways of testing a hypothesis, ability to formulate and modify hypotheses
  • evaluation objectives : ability to indicate logical fallacies, comparison of major theories about particular cultures

The analysis, synthesis and evaluation objectives in Bloom’s taxonomy collectively came to be called the “higher-order thinking skills” (Tankersley 2005: chap. 5). Although the analysis-synthesis-evaluation sequence mimics phases in Dewey’s (1933) logical analysis of the reflective thinking process, it has not generally been adopted as a model of a critical thinking process. While commending the inspirational value of its ratio of five categories of thinking objectives to one category of recall objectives, Ennis (1981b) points out that the categories lack criteria applicable across topics and domains. For example, analysis in chemistry is so different from analysis in literature that there is not much point in teaching analysis as a general type of thinking. Further, the postulated hierarchy seems questionable at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. For example, ability to indicate logical fallacies hardly seems more complex than the ability to organize statements and ideas in writing.

A revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) distinguishes the intended cognitive process in an educational objective (such as being able to recall, to compare or to check) from the objective’s informational content (“knowledge”), which may be factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive. The result is a so-called “Taxonomy Table” with four rows for the kinds of informational content and six columns for the six main types of cognitive process. The authors name the types of cognitive process by verbs, to indicate their status as mental activities. They change the name of the ‘comprehension’ category to ‘understand’ and of the ‘synthesis’ category to ’create’, and switch the order of synthesis and evaluation. The result is a list of six main types of cognitive process aimed at by teachers: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. The authors retain the idea of a hierarchy of increasing complexity, but acknowledge some overlap, for example between understanding and applying. And they retain the idea that critical thinking and problem solving cut across the more complex cognitive processes. The terms ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’, they write:

are widely used and tend to become touchstones of curriculum emphasis. Both generally include a variety of activities that might be classified in disparate cells of the Taxonomy Table. That is, in any given instance, objectives that involve problem solving and critical thinking most likely call for cognitive processes in several categories on the process dimension. For example, to think critically about an issue probably involves some Conceptual knowledge to Analyze the issue. Then, one can Evaluate different perspectives in terms of the criteria and, perhaps, Create a novel, yet defensible perspective on this issue. (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270; italics in original)

In the revised taxonomy, only a few sub-categories, such as inferring, have enough commonality to be treated as a distinct critical thinking ability that could be taught and assessed as a general ability.

A landmark contribution to philosophical scholarship on the concept of critical thinking was a 1962 article in the Harvard Educational Review by Robert H. Ennis, with the title “A concept of critical thinking: A proposed basis for research in the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability” (Ennis 1962). Ennis took as his starting-point a conception of critical thinking put forward by B. Othanel Smith:

We shall consider thinking in terms of the operations involved in the examination of statements which we, or others, may believe. A speaker declares, for example, that “Freedom means that the decisions in America’s productive effort are made not in the minds of a bureaucracy but in the free market”. Now if we set about to find out what this statement means and to determine whether to accept or reject it, we would be engaged in thinking which, for lack of a better term, we shall call critical thinking. If one wishes to say that this is only a form of problem-solving in which the purpose is to decide whether or not what is said is dependable, we shall not object. But for our purposes we choose to call it critical thinking. (Smith 1953: 130)

Adding a normative component to this conception, Ennis defined critical thinking as “the correct assessing of statements” (Ennis 1962: 83). On the basis of this definition, he distinguished 12 “aspects” of critical thinking corresponding to types or aspects of statements, such as judging whether an observation statement is reliable and grasping the meaning of a statement. He noted that he did not include judging value statements. Cutting across the 12 aspects, he distinguished three dimensions of critical thinking: logical (judging relationships between meanings of words and statements), criterial (knowledge of the criteria for judging statements), and pragmatic (the impression of the background purpose). For each aspect, Ennis described the applicable dimensions, including criteria. He proposed the resulting construct as a basis for developing specifications for critical thinking tests and for research on instructional methods and levels.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was an upsurge of attention to the development of thinking skills. The annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Educational Reform has attracted since its start in 1980 tens of thousands of educators from all levels. In 1983 the College Entrance Examination Board proclaimed reasoning as one of six basic academic competencies needed by college students (College Board 1983). Departments of education in the United States and around the world began to include thinking objectives in their curriculum guidelines for school subjects. For example, Ontario’s social sciences and humanities curriculum guideline for secondary schools requires “the use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes” as a goal of instruction and assessment in each subject and course (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 30). The document describes critical thinking as follows:

Critical thinking is the process of thinking about ideas or situations in order to understand them fully, identify their implications, make a judgement, and/or guide decision making. Critical thinking includes skills such as questioning, predicting, analysing, synthesizing, examining opinions, identifying values and issues, detecting bias, and distinguishing between alternatives. Students who are taught these skills become critical thinkers who can move beyond superficial conclusions to a deeper understanding of the issues they are examining. They are able to engage in an inquiry process in which they explore complex and multifaceted issues, and questions for which there may be no clear-cut answers (Ontario Ministry of Education 2013: 46).

Sweden makes schools responsible for ensuring that each pupil who completes compulsory school “can make use of critical thinking and independently formulate standpoints based on knowledge and ethical considerations” (Skolverket 2018: 12). Subject syllabi incorporate this requirement, and items testing critical thinking skills appear on national tests that are a required step toward university admission. For example, the core content of biology, physics and chemistry in years 7-9 includes critical examination of sources of information and arguments encountered by pupils in different sources and social discussions related to these sciences, in both digital and other media. (Skolverket 2018: 170, 181, 192). Correspondingly, in year 9 the national tests require using knowledge of biology, physics or chemistry “to investigate information, communicate and come to a decision on issues concerning health, energy, technology, the environment, use of natural resources and ecological sustainability” (see the message from the School Board ). Other jurisdictions similarly embed critical thinking objectives in curriculum guidelines.

At the college level, a new wave of introductory logic textbooks, pioneered by Kahane (1971), applied the tools of logic to contemporary social and political issues. Popular contemporary textbooks of this sort include those by Bailin and Battersby (2016b), Boardman, Cavender and Kahane (2018), Browne and Keeley (2018), Groarke and Tindale (2012), and Moore and Parker (2020). In their wake, colleges and universities in North America transformed their introductory logic course into a general education service course with a title like ‘critical thinking’ or ‘reasoning’. In 1980, the trustees of California’s state university and colleges approved as a general education requirement a course in critical thinking, described as follows:

Instruction in critical thinking is to be designed to achieve an understanding of the relationship of language to logic, which should lead to the ability to analyze, criticize, and advocate ideas, to reason inductively and deductively, and to reach factual or judgmental conclusions based on sound inferences drawn from unambiguous statements of knowledge or belief. The minimal competence to be expected at the successful conclusion of instruction in critical thinking should be the ability to distinguish fact from judgment, belief from knowledge, and skills in elementary inductive and deductive processes, including an understanding of the formal and informal fallacies of language and thought. (Dumke 1980)

Since December 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions at the three annual divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association. In December 1987, the Committee on Pre-College Philosophy of the American Philosophical Association invited Peter Facione to make a systematic inquiry into the current state of critical thinking and critical thinking assessment. Facione assembled a group of 46 other academic philosophers and psychologists to participate in a multi-round Delphi process, whose product was entitled Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction (Facione 1990a). The statement listed abilities and dispositions that should be the goals of a lower-level undergraduate course in critical thinking. Researchers in nine European countries determined which of these skills and dispositions employers expect of university graduates (Dominguez 2018 a), compared those expectations to critical thinking educational practices in post-secondary educational institutions (Dominguez 2018b), developed a course on critical thinking education for university teachers (Dominguez 2018c) and proposed in response to identified gaps between expectations and practices an “educational protocol” that post-secondary educational institutions in Europe could use to develop critical thinking (Elen et al. 2019).

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critical thinking , in educational theory, mode of cognition using deliberative reasoning and impartial scrutiny of information to arrive at a possible solution to a problem. From the perspective of educators, critical thinking encompasses both a set of logical skills that can be taught and a disposition toward reflective open inquiry that can be cultivated . The term critical thinking was coined by American philosopher and educator John Dewey in the book How We Think (1910) and was adopted by the progressive education movement as a core instructional goal that offered a dynamic modern alternative to traditional educational methods such as rote memorization.

Critical thinking is characterized by a broad set of related skills usually including the abilities to


  • break down a problem into its constituent parts to reveal its underlying logic and assumptions
  • recognize and account for one’s own biases in judgment and experience
  • collect and assess relevant evidence from either personal observations and experimentation or by gathering external information
  • adjust and reevaluate one’s own thinking in response to what one has learned
  • form a reasoned assessment in order to propose a solution to a problem or a more accurate understanding of the topic at hand

Theorists have noted that such skills are only valuable insofar as a person is inclined to use them. Consequently, they emphasize that certain habits of mind are necessary components of critical thinking. This disposition may include curiosity, open-mindedness, self-awareness, empathy , and persistence.

Although there is a generally accepted set of qualities that are associated with critical thinking, scholarly writing about the term has highlighted disagreements over its exact definition and whether and how it differs from related concepts such as problem solving . In addition, some theorists have insisted that critical thinking be regarded and valued as a process and not as a goal-oriented skill set to be used to solve problems. Critical-thinking theory has also been accused of reflecting patriarchal assumptions about knowledge and ways of knowing that are inherently biased against women.

Dewey, who also used the term reflective thinking , connected critical thinking to a tradition of rational inquiry associated with modern science. From the turn of the 20th century, he and others working in the overlapping fields of psychology , philosophy , and educational theory sought to rigorously apply the scientific method to understand and define the process of thinking. They conceived critical thinking to be related to the scientific method but more open, flexible, and self-correcting; instead of a recipe or a series of steps, critical thinking would be a wider set of skills, patterns, and strategies that allow someone to reason through an intellectual topic, constantly reassessing assumptions and potential explanations in order to arrive at a sound judgment and understanding.

In the progressive education movement in the United States , critical thinking was seen as a crucial component of raising citizens in a democratic society. Instead of imparting a particular series of lessons or teaching only canonical subject matter, theorists thought that teachers should train students in how to think. As critical thinkers, such students would be equipped to be productive and engaged citizens who could cooperate and rationally overcome differences inherent in a pluralistic society.

Beginning in the 1970s and ’80s, critical thinking as a key outcome of school and university curriculum leapt to the forefront of U.S. education policy. In an atmosphere of renewed Cold War competition and amid reports of declining U.S. test scores, there were growing fears that the quality of education in the United States was falling and that students were unprepared. In response, a concerted effort was made to systematically define curriculum goals and implement standardized testing regimens , and critical-thinking skills were frequently included as a crucially important outcome of a successful education. A notable event in this movement was the release of the 1980 report of the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities that called for the U.S. Department of Education to include critical thinking on its list of “basic skills.” Three years later the California State University system implemented a policy that required every undergraduate student to complete a course in critical thinking.

Critical thinking continued to be put forward as a central goal of education in the early 21st century. Its ubiquity in the language of education policy and in such guidelines as the Common Core State Standards in the United States generated some criticism that the concept itself was both overused and ill-defined. In addition, an argument was made by teachers, theorists, and others that educators were not being adequately trained to teach critical thinking.

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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. (Paul and Elder, 2001). The Paul-Elder framework has three components:

  • The elements of thought (reasoning)
  • The  intellectual standards that should be applied to the elements of reasoning
  • The intellectual traits associated with a cultivated critical thinker that result from the consistent and disciplined application of the intellectual standards to the elements of thought

Graphic Representation of Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework

According to Paul and Elder (1997), there are two essential dimensions of thinking that students need to master in order to learn how to upgrade their thinking. They need to be able to identify the "parts" of their thinking, and they need to be able to assess their use of these parts of thinking.

Elements of Thought (reasoning)

The "parts" or elements of thinking are as follows:

  • All reasoning has a purpose
  • All reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, to settle some question, to solve some problem
  • All reasoning is based on assumptions
  • All reasoning is done from some point of view
  • All reasoning is based on data, information and evidence
  • All reasoning is expressed through, and shaped by, concepts and ideas
  • All reasoning contains inferences or interpretations by which we draw conclusions and give meaning to data
  • All reasoning leads somewhere or has implications and consequences

Universal Intellectual Standards

The intellectual standards that are to these elements are used to determine the quality of reasoning. Good critical thinking requires having a command of these standards. According to Paul and Elder (1997 ,2006), the ultimate goal is for the standards of reasoning to become infused in all thinking so as to become the guide to better and better reasoning. The intellectual standards include:

Intellectual Traits

Consistent application of the standards of thinking to the elements of thinking result in the development of intellectual traits of:

  • Intellectual Humility
  • Intellectual Courage
  • Intellectual Empathy
  • Intellectual Autonomy
  • Intellectual Integrity
  • Intellectual Perseverance
  • Confidence in Reason
  • Fair-mindedness

Characteristics of a Well-Cultivated Critical Thinker

Habitual utilization of the intellectual traits produce a well-cultivated critical thinker who is able to:

  • Raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Paul, R. and Elder, L. (2010). The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools. Dillon Beach: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide , https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/why-is-critical-thinking-important/.” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

3 Core Critical Thinking Skills Every Thinker Should Have

Critically thinking about critical thinking skills..

Posted March 13, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

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I recently received an email from an educator friend, asking me to briefly describe the skills necessary for critical thinking. They were happy to fill in the blanks themselves from outside reading but wanted to know what specific skills they should focus on teaching their students. I took this as a good opportunity to dedicate a post here to such discussion, in order to provide my friend and any other interested parties with an overview.

To understand critical thinking skills and how they factor into critical thinking, one first needs a definition of the latter. Critical thinking (CT) is a metacognitive process, consisting of a number of skills and dispositions, that when used through self-regulatory reflective judgment, increases the chances of producing a logical conclusion to an argument or solution to a problem (Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014). On the surface, this definition clarifies two issues. First, critical thinking is metacognitive—simply, it requires the individual to think about thinking; second, its main components are reflective judgment, dispositions, and skills.

Below the surface, this description requires clarification; hence the impetus for this entry—what is meant by reflective judgment, disposition towards CT, and CT skills? Reflective judgment (i.e. an individuals' understanding of the nature, limits, and certainty of knowing and how this can affect their judgments [King & Kitchener, 1994]) and disposition towards CT (i.e. an inclination, tendency or willingness to perform a given thinking skill [Dwyer, 2017; Facione, Facione & Giancarlo, 1997; Ku, 2009; Norris, 1992; Siegel, 1999; Valenzuela, Nieto & Saiz, 2011]) have both already been covered in my posts; so, consistent with the aim of this piece, let’s discuss CT skills.

CT skills allow individuals to transcend lower-order, memorization-based learning strategies to gain a more complex understanding of the information or problems they encounter (Halpern, 2014). Though debate is ongoing over the definition of CT, one list stands out as a reasonable consensus conceptualization of CT skills. In 1988, a committee of 46 experts in the field of CT gathered to discuss CT conceptualisations, resulting in the Delphi Report; within which was overwhelmingly agreement (i.e. 95% consensus) that analysis , evaluation and inference were the core skills necessary for CT (Facione, 1990). Indeed, over 30 years later, these three CT skills remain the most commonly cited.

1. Analysis

Analysis is a core CT skill used to identify and examine the structure of an argument, the propositions within an argument and the role they play (e.g. the main conclusion, the premises and reasons provided to support the conclusion, objections to the conclusion and inferential relationships among propositions), as well as the sources of the propositions (e.g. personal experience, common belief, and research).

When it comes to analysing the basis for a standpoint, the structure of the argument can be extracted for subsequent evaluation (e.g. from dialogue and text). This can be accomplished through looking for propositions that either support or refute the central claim or other reasons and objections. Through analysis, the argument’s hierarchical structure begins to appear. Notably, argument mapping can aid the visual representation of this hierarchical structure and is supported by research as having positive effects on critical thinking (Butchart et al., 2009; Dwyer, 2011; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2012; van Gelder, Bisset & Cumming, 2004).

2. Evaluation

Evaluation is a core CT skill that is used in the assessment of propositions and claims (identified through the previous analysis ) with respect to their credibility; relevance; balance, bias (and potential omissions); as well as the logical strength amongst propositions (i.e. the strength of the inferential relationships). Such assessment allows for informed judgment regarding the overall strength or weakness of an argument (Dwyer, 2017; Facione, 1990). If an argument (or its propositions) is not credible, relevant, logical, and unbiased, you should consider excluding it or discussing its weaknesses as an objection.

Evaluating the credibility of claims and arguments involves progressing beyond merely identifying the source of propositions in an argument, to actually examining the "trustworthiness" of those identified sources (e.g. personal experiences, common beliefs/opinions, expert/authority opinion and scientific evidence). This is particularly important because some sources are more credible than others. Evaluation also implies deep consideration of the relevance of claims within an argument, which is accomplished by assessing the contextual relevance of claims and premises—that is, the pertinence or applicability of one proposition to another.

With respect to balance, bias (and potential omissions), it's important to consider the "slant" of an argument—if it seems imbalanced in favour of one line of thinking, then it’s quite possible that the argument has omitted key, opposing points that should also be considered. Imbalance may also imply some level of bias in the argument—another factor that should also be assessed.

the three different types of beliefs are critical thinking

However, just because an argument is balanced does not mean that it isn’t biased. It may very well be the case that the "opposing views" presented have been "cherry-picked" because they are easily disputed (akin to building a strawman ); thus, making supporting reasons appear stronger than they may actually be—and this is just one example of how a balanced argument may, in fact, be biased. The take-home message regarding balance, bias, and potential omissions should be that, in any argument, you should construct an understanding of the author or speaker’s motivations and consider how these might influence the structure and contents of the argument.

Finally, evaluating the logical strength of an argument is accomplished through monitoring both the logical relationships amongst propositions and the claims they infer. Assessment of logical strength can actually be aided through subsequent inference, as a means of double-checking the logical strength. For example, this can be checked by asking whether or not a particular proposition can actually be inferred based on the propositions that precede it. A useful means of developing this sub-skill is through practicing syllogistic reasoning .

3. Inference

Similar to other educational concepts like synthesis (e.g., see Bloom et al., 1956; Dwyer, 2011; 2017), the final core CT skill, inference , involves the “gathering” of credible, relevant and logical evidence based on the previous analysis and evaluation, for the purpose of drawing a reasonable conclusion (Dwyer, 2017; Facione, 1990). Drawing a conclusion always implies some act of synthesis (i.e. the ability to put parts of information together to form a new whole; see Dwyer, 2011). However, inference is a unique form of synthesis in that it involves the formulation of a set of conclusions derived from a series of arguments or a body of evidence. This inference may imply accepting a conclusion pointed to by an author in light of the evidence they present, or "conjecturing an alternative," equally logical, conclusion or argument based on the available evidence (Facione, 1990). The ability to infer a conclusion in this manner can be completed through formal logic strategies, informal logic strategies (or both) in order to derive intermediate conclusions, as well as central claims.

Another important aspect of inference involves the querying of available evidence, for example, by recognising the need for additional information, gathering it and judging the plausibility of utilising such information for the purpose of drawing a conclusion. Notably, in the context of querying evidence and conjecturing alternative conclusions, inference overlaps with evaluation to a certain degree in that both skills are used to judge the relevance and acceptability of a claim or argument. Furthermore, after inferring a conclusion, the resulting argument should be re-evaluated to ensure that it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that was derived.

Overall, the application of critical thinking skills is a process—one must analyse, evaluate and then infer; and this process can be repeated to ensure that a reasonable conclusion has been drawn. In an effort to simplify the description of this process, for the past few years, I’ve used the analogy of picking apples for baking . We begin by picking apples from a tree. Consider the tree as an analogy, in its own right, for an argument, which is often hierarchically structured like a tree-diagram. By picking apples, I mean identifying propositions and the role they play (i.e. analysis). Once we pick an apple, we evaluate it—we make sure it isn’t rotten (i.e. lacks credibility, is biased) and is suitable for baking (i.e. relevant and logically strong). Finally, we infer— we gather the apples in a basket and bring them home and group them together based on some rationale for construction— maybe four for a pie, three for a crumble and another four for a tart. By the end of the process, we have baked some apple-based goods, or developed a conclusion, solution or decision through critical thinking.

Of course, there is more to critical thinking than the application of skills—a critical thinker must also have the disposition to think critically and engage reflective judgment. However, without the appropriate skills—analysis, evaluation, and inference, it is not likely that CT will be applied. For example, though one might be willing to use CT skills and engage reflective judgment, they may not know how to do so. Conversely, though one might be aware of which CT skills to use in a given context and may have the capacity to perform well when using these skills, they may not be disposed to use them (Valenzuela, Nieto & Saiz, 2011). Though the core CT skills of analysis, evaluation, and inference are not the only important aspects of CT, they are essential for its application.

Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: McKay.

Butchart, S., Bigelow, J., Oppy, G., Korb, K., & Gold, I. (2009). Improving critical thinking using web-based argument mapping exercises with automated feedback. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25, 2, 268-291.

Dwyer, C.P. (2011). The evaluation of argument mapping as a learning tool. Doctoral Thesis. National University of Ireland, Galway.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2012). An evaluation of argument mapping as a method of enhancing critical thinking performance in e-learning environments. Metacognition and Learning, 7, 219-244.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43–52.

Facione, P.A. (1990). The Delphi report: Committee on pre-college philosophy. Millbrae, CA: California Academic Press.

Facione, P.A., Facione, N.C., & Giancarlo, C.A. (1997). Setting expectations for student learning: New directions for higher education. Millbrae: California Academic Press.

Halpern, D.F. (2014). Thought & knowledge: An introduction to critical thinking (5th Ed.). UK: Psychology Press.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Ku, K.Y.L. (2009). Assessing students’ critical thinking performance: Urging for measurements using multi-response format. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 4, 1, 70- 76.

Norris, S. P. (Ed.). (1992). The generalizability of critical thinking: Multiple perspectives on an educational ideal. New York: Teachers College Press.

Siegel, H. (1999). What (good) are thinking dispositions? Educational Theory, 49, 2, 207-221.

Valenzuela, J., Nieto, A.M., & Saiz, C. (2011). Critical thinking motivational scale: A contribution to the study of relationship between critical thinking and motivation. Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 9, 2, 823-848.

van Gelder, T.J., Bissett, M., & Cumming, G. (2004). Enhancing expertise in informal reasoning. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 58, 142-52.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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the three different types of beliefs are critical thinking

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The Three Types of Beliefs

Our beliefs shape our lives. what shapes our beliefs.

Yujian Tang

Yujian Tang

The Hive Mind

Both he who believes he can, and he who believes he cannot are usually right. — Confucius

Philosophers have known for thousands of years that the beliefs we hold impact our lives. They don’t dictate everything. You won’t fly just because you believe you can fly. Instead, we use our beliefs like directions, they point the way for our lives.

In 2003, Aron Ralston, an avid outdoorsman, got stuck climbing a canyon in Utah. A boulder came loose and pinned his lower right arm. He tried moving the boulder, but it wouldn’t budge.

What did he do? He broke his right arm and cut part of it off to survive. What could drive a man to do that? He has to start with an absolute belief in his ability to survive after cutting his arm off.

There are three kinds of beliefs, experiential, influenced, and intuitive beliefs. Let’s take a look at what they are, where they come from, and how they fit into your life.

Experiential Beliefs

Yujian Tang

Written by Yujian Tang

Ex FAANG Engineer. Founder of https://pythonalgos.com . Organizer at ai-educators.org . Baller

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Background Beliefs

Critical thinking.

We’ve all had that experience, the one where we start arguing with someone and find that we disagree about pretty much everything. When two people have radically different background beliefs (or worldviews), they often have difficulty finding any sort of common ground. In this lesson, students will learn to distinguish between the two different types of background beliefs: beliefs about matters of fact and beliefs about values. They will then go on to consider their most deeply held background beliefs, those that constitute their worldview. Students will work to go beyond specific arguments to consider the worldviews that might underlie different types of arguments.

In this lesson, students will:

  • Learn to distinguish between beliefs about matters of fact and beliefs about values.
  • Look at the arguments offered on a particular subject and consider what those arguments say about the authors’ worldview.
  • Compare the worldview of others to their own and discuss the ways in which their own worldview leads them to accept or reject new information.

In order to avoid being spun by politicians or advertisers, we must evaluate the believability of their claims. As we do so, we unavoidably try to compare any new information to the background beliefs we bring to the table. Sometimes it doesn’t work. For instance, suppose we encountered the following pronouncement:

All brillig toves are slithy.

Most of us would be at a loss to evaluate this claim because, of course, we have no experience with toves or slithy-ness or brillig things. On the other hand, we might encounter the following:

The moon is made of green cheese.

Now this claim we can do something with. We will (one hopes) quickly reject the claim because we know that, for instance, the moon is actually made of rock, that it is not green at all, etc. In fact, everyone has a multitude of background beliefs, and we filter new information through the screen of those beliefs. This lesson will help students learn to think more objectively about their background beliefs.

Make enough copies of Student Handouts #1 through #4 for each student. Make packets of Student Handouts #3, #4 and #5. Distribute Student Handout #1 at the beginning of the lesson. Distribute Student Handout #2 at the beginning of Exercise #1 and the packet at the beginning of Exercise #2.

  • Student Handout #1 : Facts, Values and Worldviews.
  • Student Handout #2 : Types of Disagreement.
  • Teacher’s Guide to Student Handout #2: Types of Disagreement.
  • Student Handout #3 : Brownell, “Two-thirds Are Overweight and We’re Still Debating.”
  • Student Handout #4 : Campos, “Homosexuality Was Once a ‘Disease’ Too.”
  • Student Handout #5 : Chart for Exercise #2.

Exercise #1 – Matters of Fact v. Values

To the teacher: There are different ways in which we can disagree. The most common difference is between matters of fact and values. When we are unclear about how we disagree, we can sometimes talk past one another. Disagreements about matters of fact are often relatively easy to resolve: We need only look at appropriate references. Disagreements about values are harder to resolve. Students will sometimes need assistance in determining whether a disagreement really is over facts or over values.

Disagreements come in two different varieties. We might disagree about matters of fact (e.g., the final score of last night’s baseball game) or we might disagree about values (e.g., which of the players in last night’s game is the best hitter). What this means is that when we encounter a controversial topic, there really are four different relationships that can arise. For example, let’s consider the positions we might take about the war in Iraq.

  • Agree on both facts and values. Alex and Britney might agree that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that wars are always wrong.
  • Disagree on both facts and values. For instance, Alex might believe that Iraq did not have WMDs and that the war is always wrong whereas Britney might think that Iraq really did have WMDs and that war is justified whenever it will benefit the U.S.
  • Agree on facts and disagree on values. Alex and Britney might both agree that Iraq did not possess WMDs, but might still disagree about whether or not it is ever moral to go to war.
  • Disagree on facts and agree on values. Perhaps Alex and Britney both agree that going to war can be morally permissible but disagree as to whether or not Iraq had WMDs.

When dealing with disagreements, then, it is important to be clear on what kind of disagreement is really at issue. Disagreements about matters of fact can often be resolved simply by looking at the relevant data. Disagreements about values are deeper and cannot usually be resolved so easily.

Exercise: Pass out copies of Student Handout #2 to each student. Divide the class into small groups of 3-5 students and have them determine whether each pair of statements agree or disagree on facts and on values. Explain to the students that the answers aren’t always black-and-white. Consider the following exchange:

James: The Earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

Richard: The Earth is approximately 2 billion years old.

Obviously James and Richard have a disagreement about a matter of fact (namely, the age of the Earth.) But let us suppose now that the James in question is Dr. James Dobson, the influential evangelical minister, and the Richard in question is actually Dr. Richard Dawkins, the prominent biologist and outspoken atheist. James might well claim that his belief in the age of the Earth is grounded in his not-inconsiderable understanding of the Bible while Richard would claim that his belief is rooted in his own understanding of evolutionary biology. The disagreement about a matter of fact is, in this case, really a disagreement about what sorts of things count as appropriate evidence (i.e., revealed religion vs. scientific evidence). Thus James and Richard’s disagreement could be one of fact, but it could also be classified as a disagreement in value. After students have completed the exercise, have them report their answers back to the class. Record students’ answers on the board, then discuss any areas of disagreement between the students and/or the different groups.

Exercise #2 – Identifying Worldviews

To the teacher: We all have worldviews, but few of us stop to really consider what our deepest background beliefs are. Until we take the time to consciously ponder our worldview, we will not be able to objectively consider new information. This exercise will help students to look beyond specific claims and consider the deeper commitments that might underlie those claims.

Worldviews consist of our most deeply ingrained beliefs, the kinds that are most resistant to questioning or amendment. They become so much a part of us that we frequently screen other information through them without being consciously aware that we are doing so. We tend to reject information that conflicts with them almost automatically. Our worldview is particularly important because it enters into decisions about what to do or what to believe, decisions that we need to make regularly to live our lives. Some examples of beliefs of this kind: it’s wrong to betray one’s country; everyone is mortal; the laws of physics don’t change from day to day; killing is morally wrong.

Most of our worldviews are of this general sort, but some of them are also very specific: belief (or disbelief) in God is a pretty specific belief, but for many it is a central part of their worldview.

Exercise: Divide the class into small groups of 3-5 students each and ask them to spend a few minutes discussing some beliefs that might count as part of someone’s worldview, then have the individual groups report their findings back to the class. If you haven’t done so already, pass out the packet containing Student Handouts #3, #4 and #5. Ask the students to read the articles in each of the two handouts. Have them return to their groups. Students should analyze the two arguments, focusing their analysis on the following questions:

  • Do the authors disagree about specific matters of fact?
  • Do the authors have disagreements about values?
  • What do the disagreements about values tell you about the authors’ likely worldviews?
  • How do your own worldviews compare to those of the two authors?

Students can use the chart on Student Handout #5 to organize their responses. Have the students report back on their results. Discuss the students’ worldviews. Ask students to discuss whether (and how) they think their own worldviews made them more or less receptive to the arguments that Brownell and Campos present.

About the Author

Joe Miller received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He is a former staff writer at FactCheck.org , a project of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. Before FactCheck, he served as an assistant professor of philosophy at West Point and at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he taught logic, critical thinking, ethics and political theory. Joe won an Outstanding Teacher award at UNC-Pembroke and an Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award at the University of Virginia. He is a member of the American Philosophical Association and the Association for Political Theory.

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Critical Thinking, Intelligence, and Unsubstantiated Beliefs: An Integrative Review

Associated data.

This research did not involve collection of original data, and hence there are no new data to make available.

A review of the research shows that critical thinking is a more inclusive construct than intelligence, going beyond what general cognitive ability can account for. For instance, critical thinking can more completely account for many everyday outcomes, such as how thinkers reject false conspiracy theories, paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, psychological misconceptions, and other unsubstantiated claims. Deficiencies in the components of critical thinking (in specific reasoning skills, dispositions, and relevant knowledge) contribute to unsubstantiated belief endorsement in ways that go beyond what standardized intelligence tests test. Specifically, people who endorse unsubstantiated claims less tend to show better critical thinking skills, possess more relevant knowledge, and are more disposed to think critically. They tend to be more scientifically skeptical and possess a more rational–analytic cognitive style, while those who accept unsubstantiated claims more tend to be more cynical and adopt a more intuitive–experiential cognitive style. These findings suggest that for a fuller understanding of unsubstantiated beliefs, researchers and instructors should also assess specific reasoning skills, relevant knowledge, and dispositions which go beyond what intelligence tests test.

1. Introduction

Why do some people believe implausible claims, such as the QAnon conspiracy theory, that a cabal of liberals is kidnapping and trafficking many thousands of children each year, despite the lack of any credible supporting evidence? Are believers less intelligent than non-believers? Do they lack knowledge of such matters? Are they more gullible or less skeptical than non-believers? Or, more generally, are they failing to think critically?

Understanding the factors contributing to acceptance of unsubstantiated claims is important, not only to the development of theories of intelligence and critical thinking but also because many unsubstantiated beliefs are false, and some are even dangerous. Endorsing them can have a negative impact on an individual and society at large. For example, false beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic, such as believing that 5G cell towers induced the spread of the COVID-19 virus, led some British citizens to set fire to 5G towers ( Jolley and Paterson 2020 ). Other believers in COVID-19 conspiracy theories endangered their own and their children’s lives when they refused to socially distance and be vaccinated with highly effective vaccines, despite the admonitions of scientific experts ( Bierwiaczonek et al. 2020 ). Further endangering the population at large, those who believe the false conspiracy theory that human-caused global warming is a hoax likely fail to respond adaptively to this serious global threat ( van der Linden 2015 ). Parents, who uncritically accept pseudoscientific claims, such as the false belief that facilitated communication is an effective treatment for childhood autism, may forego more effective treatments ( Lilienfeld 2007 ). Moreover, people in various parts of the world still persecute other people whom they believe are witches possessing supernatural powers. Likewise, many people still believe in demonic possession, which has been associated with mental disorders ( Nie and Olson 2016 ). Compounding the problems created by these various unsubstantiated beliefs, numerous studies now show that when someone accepts one of these types of unfounded claims, they tend to accept others as well; see Bensley et al. ( 2022 ) for a review.

Studying the factors that contribute to unfounded beliefs is important not only because of their real-world consequences but also because this can facilitate a better understanding of unfounded beliefs and how they are related to critical thinking and intelligence. This article focuses on important ways in which critical thinking and intelligence differ, especially in terms of how a comprehensive model of CT differs from the view of intelligence as general cognitive ability. I argue that this model of CT more fully accounts for how people can accurately decide if a claim is unsubstantiated than can views of intelligence, emphasizing general cognitive ability. In addition to general cognitive ability, thinking critically about unsubstantiated claims involves deployment of specific reasoning skills, dispositions related to CT, and specific knowledge, which go beyond the contribution of general cognitive ability.

Accordingly, this article begins with an examination of the constructs of critical thinking and intelligence. Then, it discusses theories proposing that to understand thinking in the real world requires going beyond general cognitive ability. Specifically, the focus is on factors related to critical thinking, such as specific reasoning skills, dispositions, metacognition, and relevant knowledge. I review research showing that that this alternative multidimensional view of CT can better account for individual differences in the tendency to endorse multiple types of unsubstantiated claims than can general cognitive ability alone.

2. Defining Critical Thinking and Intelligence

Critical thinking is an almost universally valued educational objective in the US and in many other countries which seek to improve it. In contrast, intelligence, although much valued, has often been viewed as a more stable characteristic and less amenable to improvement through specific short-term interventions, such as traditional instruction or more recently through practice on computer-implemented training programs. According to Wechsler’s influential definition, intelligence is a person’s “aggregate or global capacity to act purposefully, to think rationally, and to deal effectively with his environment” ( Wechsler 1944, p. 3 ).

Consistent with this definition, intelligence has long been associated with general cognitive or intellectual ability and the potential to learn and reason well. Intelligence (IQ) tests measure general cognitive abilities, such as knowledge of words, memory skills, analogical reasoning, speed of processing, and the ability to solve verbal and spatial problems. General intelligence or “g” is a composite of these abilities statistically derived from various cognitive subtests on IQ tests which are positively intercorrelated. There is considerable overlap between g and the concept of fluid intelligence (Gf) in the prominent Cattell–Horn–Carroll model ( McGrew 2009 ), which refers to “the ability to solve novel problems, the solution of which does not depend on previously acquired skills and knowledge,” and crystalized intelligence (Gc), which refers to experience, existing skills, and general knowledge ( Conway and Kovacs 2018, pp. 50–51 ). Although g or general intelligence is based on a higher order factor, inclusive of fluid and crystallized intelligence, it is technically not the same as general cognitive ability, a commonly used, related term. However, in this article, I use “general cognitive ability” and “cognitive ability” because they are the imprecise terms frequently used in the research reviewed.

Although IQ scores have been found to predict performance in basic real-world domains, such as academic performance and job success ( Gottfredson 2004 ), an enduring question for intelligence researchers has been whether g and intelligence tests predict the ability to adapt well in other real-world situations, which concerns the second part of Wechsler’s definition. So, in addition to the search for the underlying structure of intelligence, researchers have been perennially concerned with how general abilities associated with intelligence can be applied to help a person adapt to real-world situations. The issue is largely a question of how cognitive ability and intelligence can help people solve real-world problems and cope adaptively and succeed in dealing with various environmental demands ( Sternberg 2019 ).

Based on broad conceptual definitions of intelligence and critical thinking, both intelligence and CT should aid adaptive functioning in the real world, presumably because they both involve rational approaches. Their common association with rationality gives each term a positive connotation. However, complicating the definition of each of these is the fact that rationality also continues to have a variety of meanings. In this article, in agreement with Stanovich et al. ( 2018 ), rationality is defined in the normative sense, used in cognitive science, as the distance between a person’s response and some normative standard of optimal behavior. As such, degree of rationality falls on a continuous scale, not a categorical one.

Despite disagreements surrounding the conceptual definitions of intelligence, critical thinking, and rationality, a commonality in these terms is they are value-laden and normative. In the case of intelligence, people are judged based on norms from standardized intelligence tests, especially in academic settings. Although scores on CT tests seldom are, nor could be, used to judge individuals in this way, the normative and value-laden basis of CT is apparent in people’s informal judgements. They often judge others who have made poor decisions to be irrational or to have failed to think critically.

This value-laden aspect of CT is also apparent in formal definitions of CT. Halpern and Dunn ( 2021 ) defined critical thinking as “the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal-directed.” The positive conception of CT as helping a person adapt well to one’s environment is clearly implied in “desirable outcome”.

Robert Ennis ( 1987 ) has offered a simpler, yet useful definition of critical thinking that also has normative implications. According to Ennis, “critical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do” ( Ennis 1987, p. 102 ). This definition implies that CT helps people know what to believe (a goal of epistemic rationality) and how to act (a goal of instrumental rationality). This is conveyed by associating “critical thinking” with the positive terms, “reasonable” and “reflective”. Dictionaries commonly define “reasonable” as “rational”, “logical”, “intelligent”, and “good”, all terms with positive connotations.

For critical thinkers, being reasonable involves using logical rules, standards of evidence, and other criteria that must be met for a product of thinking to be considered good. Critical thinkers use these to evaluate how strongly reasons or evidence supports one claim versus another, drawing conclusions which are supported by the highest quality evidence ( Bensley 2018 ). If no high-quality evidence is available for consideration, it would be unreasonable to draw a strong conclusion. Unfortunately, people’s beliefs are too often based on acceptance of unsubstantiated claims. This is a failure of CT, but is it also a failure of intelligence?

3. Does Critical Thinking “Go Beyond” What Is Meant by Intelligence?

Despite the conceptual overlap in intelligence and CT at a general level, one way that CT can be distinguished from the common view of intelligence as general cognitive ability is in terms of what each can account for. Although intelligence tests, especially measures of general cognitive ability, have reliably predicted academic and job performance, they may not be sufficient to predict other everyday outcomes for which CT measures have made successful predictions and have added to the variance accounted for in performance. For instance, replicating a study by Butler ( 2012 ), Butler et al. ( 2017 ) obtained a negative correlation ( r = −0.33) between scores on the Halpern Critical Thinking Appraisal (HCTA) and a measure of 134 negative, real-world outcomes, not expected to befall critical thinkers, such as engaging in unprotected sex or posting a message on social media which the person regretted. They found that higher HCTA scores not only predicted better life decisions, but also predicted better performance beyond a measure of general cognitive ability. These results suggest that CT can account for real-world outcomes and goes beyond general cognitive ability to account for additional variance.

Some theorists maintain that standardized intelligence tests do not capture the variety of abilities that people need to adapt well in the real world. For example, Gardner ( 1999 ), has proposed that additional forms of intelligence are needed, such as spatial, musical, and interpersonal intelligences in addition to linguistic and logical–mathematical intelligences, more typically associated with general cognitive ability and academic success. In other theorizing, Sternberg ( 1988 ) has proposed three additional types of intelligence: analytical, practical, and creative intelligence, to more fully capture the variety of intelligent abilities on which people differ. Critical thinking is considered part of analytical skills which involve evaluating the quality and applicability of ideas, products, and options ( Sternberg 2022 ). Regarding adaptive intelligence, Sternberg ( 2019 ) has emphasized how adaptive aspects of intelligence are needed to solve real-world problems both at the individual and species levels. According to Sternberg, core components of intelligence have evolved in humans, but intelligence takes different forms in different cultures, with each culture valuing its own skills for adaptation. Thus, the construct of intelligence must go beyond core cognitive ability to encompass the specific abilities needed for adaptive behavior in specific cultures and settings.

Two other theories propose that other components be added to intelligent and rational thinking. Ackerman ( 2022 ) has emphasized the importance of acquiring domain-specific knowledge for engaging in intelligent functioning in the wide variety of tasks found in everyday life. Ackerman has argued that declarative, procedural, and tacit knowledge, as well as non-ability variables, are needed to better predict job performance and performance of other everyday activities. Taking another approach, Halpern and Dunn ( 2021 ) have proposed that critical thinking is essentially the adaptive application of intelligence for solving real-world problems. Elsewhere, Butler and Halpern ( 2019 ) have argued that dispositions such as open-mindedness are another aspect of CT and that domain-specific knowledge and specific CT skills are needed to solve real-world problems.

Examples are readily available for how CT goes beyond what IQ tests test to include specific rules for reasoning and relevant knowledge needed to execute real-world tasks. Take the example of scientific reasoning, which can be viewed as a specialized form of CT. Drawing a well-reasoned inductive conclusion about a theory or analyzing the quality of a research study both require that a thinker possess relevant specialized knowledge related to the question and specific reasoning skills for reasoning about scientific methodology. In contrast, IQ tests are deliberately designed to be nonspecialized in assessing Gc, broadly sampling vocabulary and general knowledge in order to be fair and unbiased ( Stanovich 2009 ). Specialized knowledge and reasoning skills are also needed in non-academic domains. Jurors must possess specialized knowledge to understand expert, forensic testimony and specific reasoning skills to interpret the law and make well-reasoned judgments about a defendant’s guilt or innocence.

Besides lacking specific reasoning skills and domain-relevant knowledge, people may fail to think critically because they are not disposed to use their reasoning skills to examine such claims and want to preserve their favored beliefs. Critical thinking dispositions are attitudes or traits that make it more likely that a person will think critically. Theorists have proposed numerous CT dispositions (e.g., Bensley 2018 ; Butler and Halpern 2019 ; Dwyer 2017 ; Ennis 1987 ). Some commonly identified CT dispositions especially relevant to this discussion are open-mindedness, skepticism, intellectual engagement, and the tendency to take a reflective, rational–analytic approach. Critical thinking dispositions are clearly value-laden and prescriptive. A good thinker should be open-minded, skeptical, reflective, intellectually engaged, and value a rational–analytic approach to inquiry. Conversely, corresponding negative dispositions, such as “close-mindedness” and “gullibility”, could obstruct CT.

Without the appropriate disposition, individuals will not use their reasoning skills to think critically about questions. For example, the brilliant mystery writer, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was trained as a physician and created the hyper-reasonable detective Sherlock Holmes, was not disposed to think critically about some unsubstantiated claims. Conan Doyle was no doubt highly intelligent in cognitive ability terms, but he was not sufficiently skeptical (disposed to think critically) about spiritualism. He believed that he was talking to his dearly departed son though a medium, despite the warnings of his magician friend, Harry Houdini, who told him that mediums used trickery in their seances. Perhaps influenced by his Irish father’s belief in the “wee folk”, Conan Doyle also believed that fairies inhabited the English countryside, based on children’s photos, despite the advice of experts who said the photos could be faked. Nevertheless, he was skeptical of a new theory of tuberculosis proposed by Koch when he reported on it, despite his wife suffering from the disease. So, in professional capacities, Conan Doyle used his CT skills, but in certain other domains for which he was motivated to accept unsubstantiated claims, he failed to think critically, insufficiently disposed to skeptically challenge certain implausible claims.

This example makes two important points. Conan Doyle’s superior intelligence was not enough for him to reject implausible claims about the world. In general, motivated reasoning can lead people, even those considered highly intelligent, to accept claims with no good evidentiary support. The second important point is that we would not be able to adequately explain cases like this one, considering only the person’s intelligence or even their reasoning skills, without also considering the person’s disposition. General cognitive ability alone is not sufficient, and CT dispositions should also be considered.

Supporting this conclusion, Stanovich and West ( 1997 ) examined the influence of dispositions beyond the contribution of cognitive ability on a CT task. They gave college students an argument evaluation test in which participants first rated their agreement with several claims about real social and political issues made by a fictitious person. Then, they gave them evidence against each claim and finally asked them to rate the quality of a counterargument made by the same fictitious person. Participants’ ratings of the counterarguments were compared to the median ratings of expert judges on the quality of the rebuttals. Stanovich and West also administered a new measure of rational disposition called the Actively Open-minded Thinking (AOT) scale and the SAT as a proxy for cognitive ability. The AOT was a composite of items from several other scales that would be expected to measure CT disposition. They found that both SAT and AOT scores were significant predictors of higher argument analysis scores. Even after partialing out cognitive ability, actively open-minded thinking was significant. These results suggest that general cognitive ability alone was not sufficient to account for thinking critically about real-world issues and that CT disposition was needed to go beyond it.

Further examining the roles of CT dispositions and cognitive ability on reasoning, Stanovich and West ( 2008 ) studied myside bias, a bias in reasoning closely related to one-sided thinking and confirmation bias. A critical thinker would be expected to not show myside bias and instead fairly evaluate evidence on all sides of a question. Stanovich and West ( 2007 ) found that college students often showed myside bias when asked their opinions about real-world policy issues, such as those concerning the health risks of smoking and drinking alcohol. For example, compared to non-smokers, smokers judged the health risks of smoking to be lower. When they divided participants into higher versus lower cognitive ability groups based on SAT scores, the two groups showed little difference on myside bias. Moreover, on the hazards of drinking issue, participants who drank less had higher scores on the CT disposition measure.

Other research supports the need for both reasoning ability and CT disposition in predicting outcomes in the real world. Ren et al. ( 2020 ) found that CT disposition, as measured by a Chinese critical thinking disposition inventory, and a CT skill measure together contributed a significant amount of the variance in predicting academic performance beyond the contribution of cognitive ability alone, as measured by a test of fluid intelligence. Further supporting the claim that CT requires both cognitive ability and CT disposition, Ku and Ho ( 2010 ) found that a CT disposition measure significantly predicted scores on a CT test beyond the significant contribution of verbal intelligence in high school and college students from Hong Kong.

The contribution of dispositions to thinking is related to another way that CT goes beyond the application of general cognitive ability, i.e., by way of the motivation for reasoning. Assuming that all reasoning is motivated ( Kunda 1990 ), then CT is motivated, too, which is implicit within the Halpern and Dunn ( 2021 ) and Ennis ( 1987 ) definitions. Critical thinking is motivated in the sense of being purposeful and directed towards the goal of arriving at an accurate conclusion. For instance, corresponding to pursuit of the goal of accurate reasoning, the CT disposition of “truth-seeking” guides a person towards reaching the CT goal of arriving at an accurate conclusion.

Also, according to Kunda ( 1990 ), a second type of motivated reasoning can lead to faulty conclusions, often by directing a person towards the goal of maintaining favored beliefs and preconceptions, as in illusory correlation, belief perseverance, and confirmation bias. Corresponding to this second type, negative dispositions, such as close-mindedness and self-serving motives, can incline thinkers towards faulty conclusions. This is especially relevant in the present discussion because poorer reasoning, thinking errors, and the inappropriate use of heuristics are related to the endorsement of unsubstantiated claims, all of which are CT failures. The term “thinking errors” is a generic term referring to logical fallacies, informal reasoning fallacies, argumentation errors, and inappropriate uses of cognitive heuristics ( Bensley 2018 ). Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts, commonly used to simplify judgment tasks and reduce mental effort. Yet, when used inappropriately, heuristics often result in biased judgments.

Stanovich ( 2009 ) has argued that IQ tests do not test people’s use of heuristics, but heuristics have been found to be negatively correlated with CT performance ( West et al. 2008 ). In this same study, they found that college students’ cognitive ability, as measured by performance on the SAT, was not correlated with thinking biases associated with use of heuristics. Although Stanovich and West ( 2008 ) found that susceptibility to biases, such as the conjunction fallacy, framing effect, base-rate neglect, affect bias, and myside bias were all uncorrelated with cognitive ability (using SAT as a proxy), other types of thinking errors were correlated with SAT.

Likewise, two types of knowledge are related to the two forms of motivated reasoning. For instance, inaccurate knowledge, such as misconceptions, can derail reasoning from moving towards a correct conclusion, as in when a person reasons from false premises. In contrast, reasoning from accurate knowledge is more likely to produce an accurate conclusion. Taking into account inaccurate knowledge and thinking errors is important to understanding the endorsement of unsubstantiated claims because these are also related to negative dispositions, such as close-mindedness and cynicism, none of which are measured by intelligence tests.

Critical thinking questions are often situated in real-world examples or in simulations of them which are designed to detect thinking errors and bias. As described in Halpern and Butler ( 2018 ), an item like one on the “Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment” (HCTA) provides respondents with a mock newspaper story about research showing that first-graders who attended preschool were better able to learn how to read. Then the question asks if preschool should be made mandatory. A correct response to this item requires recognizing that correlation does not imply causation, that is, avoiding a common reasoning error people make in thinking about research implications in everyday life. Another CT skills test, “Analyzing Psychological Statements” (APS) assesses the ability to recognize thinking errors and apply argumentation skills and psychology to evaluate psychology-related examples and simulations of real-life situations ( Bensley 2021 ). For instance, besides identifying thinking errors in brief samples of thinking, questions ask respondents to distinguish arguments from non-arguments, find assumptions in arguments, evaluate kinds of evidence, and draw a conclusion from a brief psychological argument. An important implication of the studies just reviewed is that efforts to understand CT can be further informed by assessing thinking errors and biases, which, as the next discussion shows, are related to individual differences in thinking dispositions and cognitive style.

4. Dual-Process Theory Measures and Unsubstantiated Beliefs

Dual-process theory (DPT) and measures associated with it have been widely used in the study of the endorsement of unsubstantiated beliefs, especially as they relate to cognitive style. According to a cognitive style version of DPT, people have two modes of processing, a fast intuitive–experiential (I-E) style of processing and a slower, reflective, rational–analytic (R-A) style of processing. The intuitive cognitive style is associated with reliance on hunches, feelings, personal experience, and cognitive heuristics which simplify processing, while the R-A cognitive style is a reflective, rational–analytic style associated with more elaborate and effortful processing ( Bensley et al. 2022 ; Epstein 2008 ). As such, the rational–analytic cognitive style is consistent with CT dispositions, such as those promoting the effortful analysis of evidence, objective truth, and logical consistency. In fact, CT is sometimes referred to as “critical-analytic” thinking ( Byrnes and Dunbar 2014 ) and has been associated with analytical intelligence Sternberg ( 1988 ) and with rational thinking, as discussed before.

People use both modes of processing, but they show individual differences in which mode they tend to rely upon, although the intuitive–experiential mode is the default ( Bensley et al. 2022 ; Morgan 2016 ; Pacini and Epstein 1999 ), and they accept unsubstantiated claims differentially based on their predominate cognitive style ( Bensley et al. 2022 ; Epstein 2008 ). Specifically, individuals who rely more on an I-E cognitive style tend to endorse unsubstantiated claims more strongly, while individuals who rely more on a R-A cognitive style tend to endorse those claims less. Note, however, that other theorists view the two processes and cognitive styles somewhat differently, (e.g., Kahneman 2011 ; Stanovich et al. 2018 ).

Researchers have often assessed the contribution of these two cognitive styles to endorsement of unsubstantiated claims, using variants of three measures: the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) of Frederick ( 2005 ), the Rational–Experiential Inventory of Epstein and his colleagues ( Pacini and Epstein 1999 ), and the related Need for Cognition scale of Cacioppo and Petty ( 1982 ). The CRT is a performance-based test which asks participants to solve problems that appear to require simple mathematical calculations, but which actually require more reflection. People typically do poorly on the CRT, which is thought to indicate reliance on an intuitive cognitive style, while better performance is thought to indicate reliance on the slower, more deliberate, and reflective cognitive style. The positive correlation of the CRT with numeracy scores suggests it also has a cognitive skill component ( Patel et al. 2019 ). The Rational–Experiential Inventory (REI) of Pacini and Epstein ( 1999 ) contains one scale designed to measure an intuitive–experiential cognitive style and a second scale intended to measure a rational–analytic (R-A) style. The R-A scale was adapted from the Need for Cognition (NFC) scale of Cacioppo and Petty ( 1982 ), another scale associated with rational–analytic thinking and expected to be negatively correlated with unsubstantiated beliefs. The NFC was found to be related to open-mindedness and intellectual engagement, two CT dispositions ( Cacioppo et al. 1996 ).

The cognitive styles associated with DPT also relate to CT dispositions. Thinking critically requires that individuals be disposed to use their reasoning skills to reject unsubstantiated claims ( Bensley 2018 ) and that they be inclined to take a rational–analytic approach rather than relying on their intuitions and feelings. For instance, Bensley et al. ( 2014 ) found that students who endorsed more psychological misconceptions adopted a more intuitive cognitive style, were less disposed to take a rational–scientific approach to psychology, and scored lower on a psychological critical thinking skills test. Further supporting this connection, West et al. ( 2008 ) found that participants who tended to use cognitive heuristics more, thought to be related to intuitive processing and bias, scored lower on a critical thinking measure. As the Bensley et al. ( 2014 ) results suggest, in addition to assessing reasoning skills and dispositions, comprehensive CT assessment research should assess knowledge and unsubstantiated beliefs because these are related to failures of critical thinking.

5. Assessing Critical Thinking and Unsubstantiated Beliefs

Assessing endorsement of unsubstantiated claims provides another way to assess CT outcomes related to everyday thinking, which goes beyond what intelligence tests test ( Bensley and Lilienfeld 2020 ). From the perspective of the multi-dimensional model of CT, endorsement of unsubstantiated claims could result from deficiencies in a person’s CT reasoning skills, a lack of relevant knowledge, and in the engagement of inappropriate dispositions. Suppose an individual endorses an unsubstantiated claim, such as believing the conspiracy theory that human-caused global warming is a hoax. The person may lack the specific reasoning skills needed to critically evaluate the conspiracy. Lantian et al. ( 2020 ) found that scores on a CT skills test were negatively correlated with conspiracy theory beliefs. The person also must possess relevant scientific knowledge, such as knowing the facts that each year humans pump about 40 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere. Or, the person may not be scientifically skeptical or too cynical or mistrustful of scientists or governmental officials.

Although endorsing unsubstantiated beliefs is clearly a failure of CT, problems arise in deciding which ones are unsubstantiated, especially when considering conspiracy theories. Typically, the claims which critical thinkers should reject as unsubstantiated are those which are not supported by objective evidence. But of the many conspiracies proposed, few are vigorously examined. Moreover, some conspiracy theories which authorities might initially deny turn out to be real, such as the MK-Ultra theory that the CIA was secretly conducting mind-control research on American citizens.

A way out of this quagmire is to define unsubstantiated beliefs on a continuum which depends on the quality of evidence. This has led to the definition of unsubstantiated claims as assertions which have not been supported by high-quality evidence ( Bensley 2023 ). Those which are supported have the kind of evidentiary support that critical thinkers are expected to value in drawing reasonable conclusions. Instead of insisting that a claim must be demonstrably false to be rejected, we adopt a more tentative acceptance or rejection of claims, based on how much good evidence supports them. Many claims are unsubstantiated because they have not yet been carefully examined and so totally lack support or they may be supported only by low quality evidence such as personal experience, anecdotes, or non-scientific authority. Other claims are more clearly unsubstantiated because they contradict the findings of high-quality research. A critical thinker should be highly skeptical of these.

Psychological misconceptions are one type of claim that can be more clearly unsubstantiated. Psychological misconceptions are commonsense psychological claims (folk theories) about the mind, brain, and behavior that are contradicted by the bulk of high-quality scientific research. Author developed the Test of Psychological Knowledge and Misconceptions (TOPKAM), a 40-item, forced-choice measure with each item posing a statement of a psychological misconception and the other response option stating the evidence-based alternative ( Bensley et al. 2014 ). They found that higher scores on the APS, the argument analysis test applying psychological concepts to analyze real-world examples, were associated with more correct answers on the TOPKAM. Other studies have found positive correlations between CT skills tests and other measures of psychological misconceptions ( McCutcheon et al. 1992 ; Kowalski and Taylor 2004 ). Bensley et al. ( 2014 ) also found that higher correct TOPKAM scores were positively correlated with scores on the Inventory of Thinking Dispositions in Psychology (ITDP) of Bensley ( 2021 ), a measure of the disposition to take a rational and scientific approach to psychology but were negatively correlated with an intuitive cognitive style.

Bensley et al. ( 2021 ) conducted a multidimensional study, assessing beginner psychology students starting a CT course on their endorsement of psychological misconceptions, recognition of thinking errors, CT dispositions, and metacognition, before and after CT instruction. Two classes received explicit instruction involving considerable practice in argument analysis and scientific reasoning skills, with one class receiving CT instruction focused more on recognizing psychological misconceptions and a second class focused more on recognizing various thinking errors. Bensley et al. assessed both classes before and after instruction on the TOPKAM and on the Test of Thinking Errors, a test of the ability to recognize in real-world examples 17 different types of thinking errors, such as confirmation bias, inappropriate use of the availability and representativeness heuristics, reasoning from ignorance/possibility, gambler’s fallacy, and hasty generalization ( Bensley et al. 2021 ). Correct TOPKAM and TOTE scores were positively correlated, and after CT instruction both were positively correlated with the APS, the CT test of argument analysis skills.

Bensley et al. found that after explicit instruction of CT skills, students improved significantly on both the TOPKAM and TOTE, but those focusing on recognizing misconceptions improved the most. Also, those students who improved the most on the TOTE scored higher on the REI rational–analytic scale and on the ITDP, while those improving the most on the TOTE scored higher on the ITDP. The students receiving explicit CT skill instruction in recognizing misconceptions also significantly improved the accuracy of their metacognitive monitoring in estimating their TOPKAM scores after instruction.

Given that before instruction neither class differed in GPA nor on the SAT, a proxy for general cognitive ability, CT instruction provided a good accounting for the improvement in recognition of thinking errors and misconceptions without recourse to intelligence. However, SAT scores were positively correlated with both TOTE scores and APS scores, suggesting that cognitive ability contributed to CT skill performance. These results replicated the earlier findings of Bensley and Spero ( 2014 ) showing that explicit CT instruction improved performance on both CT skills tests and metacognitive monitoring accuracy while controlling for SAT, which was positively correlated with the CT skills test performance.

Taken together, these findings suggest that cognitive ability contributes to performance on CT tasks but that CT instruction goes beyond it to further improve performance. As the results of Bensley et al. ( 2021 ) show, and as discussed next, thinking errors and bias from heuristics are CT failures that should also be assessed because they are related to endorsement of unsubstantiated beliefs and cognitive style.

6. Dual-Processing Theory and Research on Unsubstantiated Beliefs

Consistent with DPT, numerous other studies have obtained significant positive correlations between intuitive cognitive style and paranormal belief, often using the REI intuitive–experiential scale and the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale (RPBS) of Tobacyk ( 2004 ) (e.g., Genovese 2005 ; Irwin and Young 2002 ; Lindeman and Aarnio 2006 ; Pennycook et al. 2015 ; Rogers et al. 2018 ; Saher and Lindeman 2005 ). Studies have also found positive correlations between superstitious belief and intuitive cognitive style (e.g., Lindeman and Aarnio 2006 ; Maqsood et al. 2018 ). REI intuitive–experiential thinking style was also positively correlated with belief in complementary and alternative medicine ( Lindeman 2011 ), conspiracy theory belief ( Alper et al. 2020 ), and with endorsement of psychological misconceptions ( Bensley et al. 2014 ; Bensley et al. 2022 ).

Additional evidence for DPT has been found when REI R-A and NFC scores were negatively correlated with scores on measures of unsubstantiated beliefs, but studies correlating them with measures of paranormal belief and conspiracy theory belief have shown mixed results. Supporting a relationship, REI rational–analytic and NFC scores significantly and negatively predicted paranormal belief ( Lobato et al. 2014 ; Pennycook et al. 2012 ). Other studies have also obtained a negative correlation between NFC and paranormal belief ( Lindeman and Aarnio 2006 ; Rogers et al. 2018 ; Stahl and van Prooijen 2018 ), but both Genovese ( 2005 ) and Pennycook et al. ( 2015 ) found that NFC was not significantly correlated with paranormal belief. Swami et al. ( 2014 ) found that although REI R-A scores were negatively correlated with conspiracy theory belief, NFC scores were not.

Researchers often refer to people who are doubtful of paranormal and other unfounded claims as “skeptics” and so have tested whether measures related to skepticism are associated with less endorsement of unsubstantiated claims. They typically view skepticism as a stance towards unsubstantiated claims taken by rational people who reject them, (e.g., Lindeman and Aarnio 2006 ; Stahl and van Prooijen 2018 ), rather than as a disposition inclining a person to think critically about unsubstantiated beliefs ( Bensley 2018 ).

Fasce and Pico ( 2019 ) conducted one of the few studies using a measure related to skeptical disposition, the Critical Thinking Disposition Scale (CTDS) of Sosu ( 2013 ), in relation to endorsement of unsubstantiated claims. They found that scores on the CTDS were negatively correlated with scores on the RPBS but not significantly correlated with either a measure of pseudoscience or of conspiracy theory belief. However, the CRT was negatively correlated with both RPBS and the pseudoscience measure. Because Fasce and Pico ( 2019 ) did not examine correlations with the Reflective Skepticism subscale of the CTDS, its contribution apart from full-scale CTDS was not found.

To more directly test skepticism as a disposition, we recently assessed college students on how well three new measures predicted endorsement of psychological misconceptions, paranormal claims, and conspiracy theories ( Bensley et al. 2022 ). The dispositional measures included a measure of general skeptical attitude; a second measure, the Scientific Skepticism Scale (SSS), which focused more on waiting to accept claims until high-quality scientific evidence supported them; and a third measure, the Cynicism Scale (CS), which focused on doubting the sincerity of the motives of scientists and people in general. We found that although the general skepticism scale did not predict any of the unsubstantiated belief measures, SSS scores were a significant negative predictor of both paranormal belief and conspiracy theory belief. REI R-A scores were a less consistent negative predictor, while REI I-E scores were more consistent positive predictors, and surprisingly CS scores were the most consistent positive predictors of the unsubstantiated beliefs.

Researchers commonly assume that people who accept implausible, unsubstantiated claims are gullible or not sufficiently skeptical. For instance, van Prooijen ( 2019 ) has argued that conspiracy theory believers are more gullible (less skeptical) than non-believers and tend to accept unsubstantiated claims more than less gullible people. van Prooijen ( 2019 ) reviewed several studies supporting the claim that people who are more gullible tend to endorse conspiracy theories more. However, he did not report any studies in which a gullible disposition was directly measured.

Recently, we directly tested the gullibility hypothesis in relation to scientific skepticism ( Bensley et al. 2023 ) using the Gullibility Scale of Teunisse et al. ( 2019 ) on which people skeptical of the paranormal had been shown to have lower scores. We found that Gullibility Scale and the Cynicism Scale scores were positively correlated, and both were significant positive predictors of unsubstantiated beliefs, in general, consistent with an intuitive–experiential cognitive style. In contrast, we found that scores on the Cognitive Reflection Test, the Scientific Skepticism Scale, and the REI rational–analytic scale were all positively intercorrelated and significant negative predictors of unsubstantiated beliefs, in general, consistent with a rational–analytic/reflective cognitive style. Scientific skepticism scores negatively predicted general endorsement of unsubstantiated claims beyond the REI R-A scale, but neither the CTDS nor the CTDS Reflective Skepticism subscale were significant. These results replicated findings from the Bensley et al. ( 2023 ) study and supported an elaborated dual-process model of unsubstantiated belief. The SSS was not only a substantial negative predictor, it was also negatively correlated with the Gullibility Scale, as expected.

These results suggest that both CT-related dispositions and CT skills are related to endorsement of unsubstantiated beliefs. However, a measure of general cognitive ability or intelligence must be examined along with measures of CT and unsubstantiated beliefs to determine if CT goes beyond intelligence to predict unsubstantiated beliefs. In one of the few studies that also included a measure of cognitive ability, Stahl and van Prooijen ( 2018 ) found that dispositional characteristics helped account for acceptance of conspiracies and paranormal belief beyond cognitive ability. Using the Importance of Rationality Scale (IRS), a rational–analytic scale designed to measure skepticism towards unsubstantiated beliefs, Stahl and van Prooijen ( 2018 ) found that the IRS was negatively correlated with paranormal belief and belief in conspiracy theories. In separate hierarchical regressions, cognitive ability was the strongest negative predictor of both paranormal belief and of conspiracy belief, but IRS scores in combination with cognitive ability negatively predicted endorsement of paranormal belief but did not significantly predict conspiracy theory belief. These results provided partial support that that a measure of rational–analytic cognitive style related to skeptical disposition added to the variance accounted for beyond cognitive ability in negatively predicting unsubstantiated belief.

In another study that included a measure of cognitive ability, Cavojova et al. ( 2019 ) examined how CT-related dispositions and the Scientific Reasoning Scale (SRS) were related to a measure of paranormal, pseudoscientific, and conspiracy theory beliefs. The SRS of Drummond and Fischhoff ( 2017 ) likely measures CT skill in that it measures the ability to evaluate scientific research and evidence. As expected, the unsubstantiated belief measure was negatively correlated with the SRS and a cognitive ability measure, similar to Raven’s Progressive Matrices. Unsubstantiated beliefs were positively correlated with dogmatism (the opposite of open-mindedness) but not with REI rational–analytic cognitive style. The SRS was a significant negative predictor of both unsubstantiated belief and susceptibility to bias beyond the contribution of cognitive ability, but neither dogmatism nor analytic thinking were significant predictors. Nevertheless, this study provides some support that a measure related to CT reasoning skill accounts for variance in unsubstantiated belief beyond cognitive ability.

The failure of this study to show a correlation between rational–analytic cognitive style and unsubstantiated beliefs, when some other studies have found significant correlations with it and related measures, has implications for the multidimensional assessment of unsubstantiated beliefs. One implication is that the REI rational–analytic scale may not be a strong predictor of unsubstantiated beliefs. In fact, we have recently found that the Scientific Skepticism Scale was a stronger negative predictor ( Bensley et al. 2022 ; Bensley et al. 2023 ), which also suggests that other measures related to rational–analytic thinking styles should be examined. This could help triangulate the contribution of self-report cognitive style measures to endorsement of unsubstantiated claims, recognizing that the use of self-report measures has a checkered history in psychological research. A second implication is that once again, measures of critical thinking skill and cognitive ability were negative predictors of unsubstantiated belief and so they, too, should be included in future assessments of unsubstantiated beliefs.

7. Discussion

This review provided different lines of evidence supporting the claim that CT goes beyond cognitive ability in accounting for certain real-world outcomes. Participants who think critically reported fewer problems in everyday functioning, not expected to befall critical thinkers. People who endorsed unsubstantiated claims less showed better CT skills, more accurate domain-specific knowledge, less susceptibility to thinking errors and bias, and were more disposed to think critically. More specifically, they tended to be more scientifically skeptical and adopt a more rational–analytic cognitive style. In contrast, those who endorsed them more tended to be more cynical and adopt an intuitive–experiential cognitive style. These characteristics go beyond what standardized intelligence tests test. In some studies, the CT measures accounted for additional variance beyond the variance contributed by general cognitive ability.

That is not to say that measures of general cognitive ability are not useful. As noted by Gottfredson ( 2004 ), “g” is a highly successful predictor of academic and job performance. More is known about g and Gf than about many other psychological constructs. On average, g is closely related to Gf, which is highly correlated with working memory ( r = 0.70) and can be as high as r = 0.77 ( r 2 = 0.60) based on a correlated two-factor model ( Gignac 2014 ). Because modern working memory theory is, itself, a powerful theory ( Chai et al. 2018 ), this lends construct validity to the fluid intelligence construct. Although cognitive scientists have clearly made progress in understanding the executive processes underlying intelligence, they have not yet identified the specific cognitive components of intelligence ( Sternberg 2022 ). Moreover, theorists have acknowledged that intelligence must also include components beyond g, including domain-specific knowledge ( Ackerman 2022 ; Conway and Kovacs 2018 ) which are not yet clearly understood,

This review also pointed to limitations in the research that should be addressed. So far, not only have few studies of unsubstantiated beliefs included measures of intelligence, but they have also often used proxies for intelligence test scores, such as SAT scores. Future studies, besides using more and better measures of intelligence, could benefit from inclusion of more specifically focused measures, such as measures of Gf and Gc. Also, more research should be carried out to develop additional high-quality measures of CT, including ones that assess specific reasoning skills and knowledge relevant to thinking about a subject, which could help resolve perennial questions about the domain-general versus domain-specific nature of intelligence and CT. Overall, the results of this review encourage taking a multidimensional approach to investigating the complex constructs of intelligence, CT, and unsubstantiated belief. Supporting these recommendations were results of studies in which the improvement accrued from explicit CT skill instruction could be more fully understood when CT skills, relevant knowledge, CT dispositions, metacognitive monitoring accuracy, and a proxy for intelligence were used.

8. Conclusions

Critical thinking, broadly conceived, offers ways to understand real-world outcomes of thinking beyond what general cognitive ability can provide and intelligence tests test. A multi-dimensional view of CT which includes specific reasoning and metacognitive skills, CT dispositions, and relevant knowledge can add to our understanding of why some people endorse unsubstantiated claims more than others do, going beyond what intelligence tests test. Although general cognitive ability and domain-general knowledge often contribute to performance on CT tasks, thinking critically about real-world questions also involves applying rules, criteria, and knowledge which are specific to the question under consideration, as well as the appropriate dispositions and cognitive styles for deploying these.

Despite the advantages of taking this multidimensional approach to CT in helping us to more fully understand everyday thinking and irrationality, it presents challenges for researchers and instructors. It implies the need to assess and instruct multidimensionally, including not only measures of reasoning skills but also addressing thinking errors and biases, dispositions, the knowledge relevant to a task, and the accuracy of metacognitive judgments. As noted by Dwyer ( 2023 ), adopting a more complex conceptualization of CT beyond just skills is needed, but it presents challenges for those seeking to improve students’ CT. Nevertheless, the research reviewed suggests that taking this multidimensional approach to CT can enhance our understanding of the endorsement of unsubstantiated claims beyond what standardized intelligence tests contribute. More research is needed to resolve remaining controversies and to develop evidence-based applications of the findings.

Funding Statement

This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

This research involved no new testing of participants and hence did not require Institutional Review Board approval.

Informed Consent Statement

This research involved no new testing of participants and hence did not require an Informed Consent Statement.

Data Availability Statement

Conflicts of interest.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

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What are the roles of beliefs and claims in critical thinking

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Charlene Tan

This chapter introduces key concepts in critical thinking using films and music videos. It focuses on the critical thinking skills needed for the identification, analysis and evaluation of arguments. Based on 12 key questions, readers are introduced to core features of an argument such as “premise”, “conclusion” and “assumption”. The main types of arguments and the criteria for evaluating these arguments are also discussed. Throughout the chapter, films such as A Beautiful Mind, Bowling for Columbine and CSI: Miami, and music videos of John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and others are used to illustrate the concepts.

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The paper will present the relation between students' beliefs and their behaviours observed in the process of learning critical thinking skills. In the first place some consideration concerning the fundamental epistemological concepts used in the research and about the particular critical thinking skills are to be sketched. Then the testing-learning procedure will be shortly summarized. Thirdly the evaluation of beliefs, their relations with knowledge and the associated behaviors are presented. The results of the periodic testing procedures that were taking place according to the established methodology are to be discussed. Finally, some general considerations concerning the relations between beliefs, behaviors and knowledge that have emerged in the process of learning are going to be presented.

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There are some beliefs that are difficult to think critically about, even for those who have critical thinking skills and are committed to applying them to their own beliefs. These resistant beliefs are not all of a kind, and so a range of different strategies may be needed to get ourselves and others (in particular our students) to think critically about them. In this paper we suggest some such strategies.

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Richards (2006) states that the purpose of learning language is to master the communicative competence, meaning that by the end of the leaming process, the students should be able to produce proper language in any genre and in any situation. However, that competence alone, without accompanied by the ability to perform critical thinking will end in the conversation talking about explicit information only. It can not be denied that understanding the implicit infbrmation r&#39;vill be challenging and making the conversation interesting. Halpern (cited on l5 March 2015) states that critical thinking refers to the use of cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is the kind of thinking which is involved in solving problems- formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions.The purpose of this article is to show that literary work can be used to develop critical thinking and at the same time is able to improve the students&...

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  21. What are the roles of beliefs and claims in critical thinking

    This chapter introduces key concepts in critical thinking using films and music videos. It focuses on the critical thinking skills needed for the identification, analysis and evaluation of arguments. Based on 12 key questions, readers are introduced to core features of an argument such as "premise", "conclusion" and "assumption".

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