8 subtle signs that you’re a critical thinker, according to psychology

You often hear people talking about critical thinking these days, but what is it? Is it just thinking? Everyone can think, right? But can anyone think critically? 

From my experience, it’s harder to find someone who can think critically than it is to find someone who can’t. 

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze a problem to form a judgment objectively. Let’s face it, most people don’t think objectively. 

Most of us form conclusions about things based on our past experiences. It’s not like personal experience is totally irrelevant, but it does cause bias. 

Critical thinking is the opposite of bias. 

It requires you to put what you think you know aside and approach the problem with a fresh perspective. 

Analytical thinking creative problem-solving, logical reasoning, and skepticism — these are the tools you need to think critically. It’s about more than just how you feel. 

You know as well as I do that feeling can be deceiving. 

So, are you a critical thinker? 

In this post, I’ll discuss a few subtle signs that you might be. Let’s jump right in.

1) You wonder how, you wonder why….

Were you one of those annoying kids who always asked “why” about everything? If you’re nodding right now, guess what — you’re a natural critical thinker.

It’s not about being nosy; it’s about wanting to understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. When faced with information, you don’t just take it at face value; you dig deeper. 

You question the source, the context, and the logic. It’s like you have a built-in lie detector — you don’t just accept BS answers that sound right. 

Curiosity is one of the biggest predictors of intelligence. And it makes total sense when you think about it, right?

When you have an inner drive to search for knowledge, you tend to end up being knowledgeable.  

Open yourself to knowledge and just see what comes in!

2) You’re open-minded

Psychology tells us there’s a strong relationship between critical thinking and trait openness. Open-minded people, like you perhaps, entertain new ideas without immediate judgment. 

This doesn’t mean you believe everything you hear. 

Instead, you give each new idea a fair hearing before deciding its value. This trait is like mental agility. It allows you to suspend your knee-jerk judgement and navigate new ideas with ease.

Generally speaking, psychologists agree that you can’t usually just change your personality. Your traits are a combination of your genetics and environment. 

More specifically, the gene-environment interplay

For example, if you’re not naturally high in empathy, you can’t really feign it.

Having said that, you can practice being more open-minded and push yourself outside your perceptual comfort zone. 

You can choose to hold off judging situations and people with the idea that your first impressions might not always be correct. 

3) You thrive on “What-ifs”

You know you’re a critical thinker when you actually enjoy untangling the “what-ifs” and “how-abouts” of a situation. 

Unlike those who might shy away from complexity, you dive in headfirst.

You like hypothetical spaces and abstract thinking. Instead of getting lost in abstraction, it’s like you have a built-in navigation system for getting around it.

This inclination isn’t just about finding solutions; it’s about relishing the journey through the maze of possibilities. It’s like being a detective in your own life.

The connection between critical thinking and problem-solving is well-documented. 

4) You’re a fact-checker

pic2364 8 subtle signs that you’re a critical thinker, according to psychology

In a world of fake news and half-truths, if you’re the one who pauses to fact-check before sharing that sensational story, you’re definitely on the critical thinking bandwagon. 

It’s not about doubting everything; it’s about valuing accuracy and truth. Often, stories that sound like they’re probably true turn out to be false. 

By contrast, life is sometimes stranger than fiction, and something that sounds too outlandish too be real turns out to be 100% true. 

Critical thinking isn’t about following your instincts, it’s about chasing down sources and suspending your own biased judgement to search for truth. 

You’re not just keeping yourself informed; you’re helping curb the spread of propaganda and misinformation. 

You’re the friend who gently corrects a wildly inaccurate post, the family member who provides a well-researched counterpoint to a heated debate at the dinner table.

Your habit of fact-checking doesn’t just benefit you; it’s a service to those around you. 

But don’t be surprised when not everyone cares about accuracy as much as you. Sometimes, when people don’t want to hear the facts — they just pretend not to. 

It’s difficult for people to admit they’re wrong or stop seeing things in black and white. Gray areas? If you’re a natural critical thinker, you thrive in them!

5) You embrace the gray

Life isn’t black and white — but that doesn’t stop people from wanting to pretend it is. 

Research has shown that people have a natural preference for simple explanations. 

Does that mean the simplest explanations are the most correct? Absolutely not. Nature is chaotic and unforgiving of our inability to understand it. 

If you’re a critical thinker, you can easily overcome the inner bias towards black and white explanations. You’re comfortable navigating the shades of gray. 

This ability to accept ambiguity without needing immediate resolution is a subtle yet powerful sign your critical thinking prowess. 

You’re not afraid to ask questions, no matter where the answers lead you. 

6) Questions are your superpower

Critical thinkers don’t just accept; they question. 

This doesn’t mean you’re perpetually skeptical or hard to please.

Rather, it shows you’re engaged and seeking depth in understanding. It’s a superpower in a world that often settles for the superficial explanations.

It’s simple when you think about it — without questions, you don’t get answers. 

When people in your life expect you to blindly accept something, you question them rather than swallowing their pills point blank. 

Before you can accept something, you need to see it from all angles — especially the angles that are deliberately kept hidden (Eh hem… politicians!) 

7) You learn from every angle

Here’s a nugget of truth: critical thinkers are perpetual learners. You don’t just read an article; you dissect it. 

You don’t just watch a documentary; you critique it. This thirst for comprehensive understanding is what sets critical thinkers apart.

Let’s face it — media can be brainwashing. The visuals, the sound effects, the tone. It’s all designed to take you on a ride and persuade you of something. 

When you can think critically, you can see through the perceptual tricks and look at stories and problems from multiple angles. 

When someone is telling you a story, a good question to ask is, “What questions do they not want me to ask?”

This could be a news story or just a friend telling you about a conflict they had with someone. In the end, everyone only sells their version of a story. But what’s the truth? 

8) Change isn’t a dirty word for you

What do I mean?

If you’re a critical thinker, you’re likely also quite flexible in your thinking. 

What this means in real terms is that you’re able to change your mind about things and admit to being wrong when the evidence points you in new directions. 

Most people have a lot of difficulty admitting the views they’ve held their entire lives are wrong. 

Rather than experience the unpleasantness of admitting fault, they’ll double down and stick to their guns to the bitter end. 

Critical thinkers don’t do this. Rather than feeling ashamed when proven wrong, they rejoice in the truth. 

If the idea of changing your mind doesn’t scare you, you’re definitely a critical thinker. 

You might think I’m just making this up as I go along, but I’m not. Critical thinking is scientifically linked to cognitive flexibility.

In an era where people cling to beliefs with ferocious loyalty, the willingness to adapt your views in light of new evidence is both rare and commendable. 

It’s not fickleness; it’s intellectual honesty — do you have it? 

Final thoughts: Blunt or sharp? 

When someone says ‘They have a sharp mind,” what they’re really saying is: “That person is a critical thinker.” 

You can’t sneak things by critical thinkers, they’re ready to dissect anything you say at any moment. 

This doesn’t mean they need to know everything about a topic to argue well in it. It means they need to know how to ask the right questions, rigorously check facts, and be open to seeing things from many angles. 

Luckily, critical thinking is also something you can practice. If you feel like you these signs don’t really apply to you — don’t despair. 

Critical thinking is something you can learn. Here are a few tips: 

  • Don’t always assume you’re right from the get-go
  • Be open to listening even when things sound untrue
  • Don’t always opt for the easiest explanations — put in effort wherever it leads you!
  • Check facts rigorously 

With a little bit of practice and attention, you’ll be one of the sharpest tools in the box in no time at all.

Picture of Marie Lamb

Marie Lamb

Marie is a writer with an academic background in psychology and neuroscience. She’s also a qualified yoga teacher with more than 10 experience in Eastern practices. When she’s not writing about psychology and life, she’s reading and crafting stories, poetry, or prose.

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