Thinking is like playing tennis, driving a car, or dieting. It can be done well or badly. In modern education jargon, good thinkers are called critical thinkers. Critical thinkers have a mix of attitudes, skills, and habits that set them apart from sloppy thinkers. Are you a critical thinker? Test yourself by answering these questions.
- Are you a successful problem-solver?
- When you face a problem or mystery, do you always seek the simplest adequate solution or explanation instead of a needlessly complex one?
- Before you make a decision, do you first gather as many relevant facts as time permits?
- Do you embrace a belief because it is supported by compelling evidence and sound arguments and not merely because it is popular or consoling?
- Can you explain and defend your beliefs and practices capably?
- Are your beliefs coherent so that some of them don't contradict others?
- Do you use language with precision and clarity?
- Are you a good listener?
- Do you strive to be objective and even-handed in your evaluation of people, products, services, and organizations?
- Are you aware that your perceptions can be distorted by your beliefs, expectations, biases, and state of mind?
- Are you aware that your memory is selective and constructive and seldom provides a literal report of the past?
- Are you willing to hear or read an elaboration or defense of a position that strikes you initially as weird, foolish, far-fetched, or immoral?
- Do you have the courage to reevaluate a long-cherished belief and to acknowledge that it may be mistaken?
- Do you successfully detect bias, special pleading, code words, propaganda, and exaggeration in what you hear or read?
- Do you scrupulously avoid lying, exaggerating, and treating speculation, gossip, or rumor as fact, in order to influence or persuade others?
- Are you aware that many TV programs, films, and publications deviate from the historical record and contradict well-established scientific laws and theories?
- Do you regularly read books, newspapers, magazines, and other publications?
- Do you balance your reading to expose yourself to a variety of views and perspectives?
- Do you participate regularly in serious, civil conversations about significant issues in the news?
- Do you detect common fallacies in reasoning such as stereotyping, hasty generalization, ad hominem, the slippery slope, and others? And finally,
- Do you strive to avoid the use of such fallacies in your own reasoning?
You have now completed the self-evaluation stage of the critical thinking test. Hopefully you answered "yes" to every question. To complete the critical thinking test, you need to move to peer evaluation. Ask a person who knows you well and whom you consider to be a critical thinker to evaluate you using these same questions. Then, compare the two sets of answers. If there is a discrepancy between your answer and your peer evaluator's answer to a particular question, ask your peer evaluator for an explanation. Oops! I forgot one important question in the critical thinking test: "Do you welcome and act upon constructive criticism?"
© 2012 Tom Shipka