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Unleash Your Power of Critical Thinking and See the World Differently

How to train your brain to cut through the BS

By Maryan PellandPublished 21 days ago 5 min read
Top Story - June 2024
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Have you noticed lately that more people are positive they’re right about practically everything, even when they’re wrong?

Critical thinking tells you it’s not easy to be 100% right. If you don’t learn and practice critical thinking, your cognitive process may resemble an icefish eating krill. They open their mouths wide, swim fast, and let the tiny krill get sucked into their stomachs.

Using learnable critical thinking skills, your thought process becomes more refined, and your opinions and decisions more selective and objective.

Continuing the food analogy, imagine mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn at dinner. He would deliberately pay attention to his food, in each moment, without judgment. That’s your mental process with critical thinking.

Applying critical thinking to everything you read, you are less likely to fall prey to the epidemic of blindly glomming onto and disseminating nonsense that doesn’t make sense, isn’t true, and causes fights at the dinner table. I like a good debate or a heated difference of opinion as much as the next person, but it drives me nuts when someone bloviates claptrap with no concern for fact or logic.

Example: 8/20/2022 — a blog, The Mouse Trap, ran a story and video that said Walt Disney World would reduce the drinking age to 18. The story was widely repeated on social media, was picked up on other blogs, and eventually made it to ABC News. The Mouse Trap deals in satire. The report was part of an attempt at humor. No truth. Non-critical thinkers read it, bought it, and spread it.

What characterizes critical thinking?

Critical thinking, as critical thinkers know, is a set of skills that enable you to consider appropriate questions and come up with the best conclusion possible. One key component is to analyze a variety of viewpoints so as to see things from a bunch of angles. Echo chambers are useless information sources that only underscore your existing point of view. No one is born a critical thinker, but it’s never too late to learn. Today’s best educators are all about critical thinking, and they should be. In our complicated world, effective tools are essential to survival. Here’s how the process works:

Identify a problem — What are you trying to do, learn, or understand?

Gather data — Assemble resources with various viewpoints, vet them, and digest what they have to say

Analyze and evaluate — Now that you’ve tasted from each plate, use your senses and brain to see what you’ve taken. Think about logic, bias, and reliability of the source.

Identify assumptions — Decide what is fact-based and what is assumed. Look further if you don’t feel you have all the data.

Establish significance — Revisit your question or problem to decide if the information relates. Who presented the data, and where did it come from? Be sure you’re reading relevant information that is reflecting the problem.

Make a decision — Without extrapolating or making assumptions, what have you learned by looking at all variables from various perspectives? Is your initial question or problem a good one? Is it provable? Have you honestly proved it to yourself?

Communicate — Pause a beat to clear your thinking. Present your ideas and conclusions, sticking to your decision, offering real evidence, and leaving out the sales pitch or emotion. Allow your audience to think on their own.

____________________________________________________

In school, you may have learned the Scientific Method for evaluating data. Pose a problem. Research the possible set of all solutions. Evaluate the solutions. Choose the most likely. Test it and analyze the results. Write it up. It’s suspiciously similar to the points above, and that’s no accident. The system works. But it works conditionally.

Thinking about what critical thinking accomplishes

Like the icefish gulping down krill, the non-critical thinker takes in anything that comes at them, whether it’s nutritious or poisonous. They are programmed to believe they’re doing the right thing and nothing bad will happen. Neither is much concerned about what they excrete later.

When you adopt critical thinking skills and practice them, you find yourself less willing to accept what looks like a fact but isn’t. You will be more comfortable challenging ideas and instructions that don’t have a strong basis. You start thinking for yourself, based on what you know is likely true or fact-based. Soon, you’ll see that there may be better answers or solutions, and you’ll be equipped to create them.

For example, think about climate change. The overwhelming body of evidence indicates that climate change is real and action is needed. But, hang out on social media, and even today, you’ll encounter a whole bunch of nay-sayers.

If you become a climate change activist, you must persuade people to see the light. So you gather your information and slide into your critical thinking mode, making it more likely that you will change someone’s mind.

Suppose you are interested in the coming Presidential Election. It might be a mistake to rely on substandard sources and social media to decide how your vote should be cast. Applying critical thinking lets you understand the big picture and make a satisfying choice. You may even garner support for your candidate because you have the facts.

If you’re looking for a new job, demonstrating your command of critical thinking to an employer gives you a giant leg up. Employers gravitate toward workers who know how to problem solve.

Yes, you can strengthen your critical thinking skills

You’ll first want to connect with people on a more serious and thoughtful level. Practice being more of an intellectual who wants to exchange ideas rather than regurgitating the last thing you watched on YouTube. Listen without contradicting when others try to sell you an idea that seems weak. Then decide what the weakness is. Doing that lets you see what you may be doing to obstruct your critical thinking.

Develop your ethics — a clear sense of what works for you and what doesn’t move you forward. If you’ve never taken an ethics class, you might consider that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fascinating it is. Before taking ownership of a new opinion, confidently measure it against what’s real and likely to be true.

Read more. Choose your subject material to represent a diverse range of data, opinions, and points of view. Try to look deeper into what you read, and don’t overlook humor or satire. The more you take in, the more you broaden your horizons and expand your knowledge base.

Try to avoid expounding on trendy things you don’t understand. People will respect what you say when they know you don’t spout balderdash to get attention.

Here’s something to think about

Even if you go through the whole critical thinking process, you may find that the problem can’t be solved or the question can’t be answered with available data in the current situation. That, in itself, is a conclusion worth talking about. If we understand our limits and formulate our questions clearly, we can understand how to find new solutions. That fuels creative thinking, which sets humans apart from other sentient beings, and I’ll be talking about that in another story.

It’s kind of hard to be truly sure of something. Variables get in the way. You might have prejudices or biases you don’t recognize in yourself. Spitting out the krill and being more mindful is a good idea. You can overcome weaknesses in your knowledge base or little flaws in your thinking by deliberately running information through your critical thinking filter. It feels great.

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About the Creator

Maryan Pelland

A successful, professional writer/editor/publisher/mentor for half a century. Read me now before I throw in the towel. I love to empower other writers. My stories are helpful, funny, unique, and never boring. I write for avid readers.

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Comments (16)

  • Esala Gunathilake18 days ago

    Congrats on your top story.

  • j7xi8kk19 days ago

    Absolutely agree. Today ppl have unfinished info and data and too much persons use that info without filtering with CT. We are creating a world of parrots, and that's a big issue... I studied History in Univ. And the first thing we learned was historiography and models of interpretation before long lists of kings or names of battles... if you have the data and don't know how to treat it better not to know anything. Excelent article 👏

  • shanmuga priya19 days ago

    Congratulations 🎉 keep up the fantastic work.

  • Krutarth Trivedi19 days ago

    Much needed critical thinking in the world in general especially when mass construes opinions as facts. The inconspicuous information flood blurs the lines of reality that sows seeds of discordance. Nicely articulated!!

  • Alex Huang20 days ago

    Let's connect and share together.

  • Alex Huang20 days ago

    This post is very valuable. Let's connect and share together.

  • angela hepworth20 days ago

    So insightful and important!!

  • Gael MacLean20 days ago

    More of this, please!! Can't be said enough.

  • Ameer Bibi20 days ago

    Congratulations on TS Beautifully written

  • I love this story. As a nurse, critical thinking skills are a must. People who engage in critical thinking also have an open mind set. Thank you Maryan, great story.

  • Visa Ong21 days ago

    Thanks for sharing😊

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  • Congrats on your top story.

  • kp21 days ago

    useful, kind, and brilliantly penned. thank you for sharing!

  • Sherif Saad21 days ago

    Amazing article!

Maryan PellandWritten by Maryan Pelland

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