Never before in the history of man have we had as much access to information as we do today. With social media and cable TV, we’re practically bombarded with facts from all sides.
But how often do we stop and ask ourselves, “Does this make sense? Has anyone checked the accuracy of this statement? Do I agree?”
With all the “news” being shared online each second, developing critical thinking skills is more important than ever before.
We need to learn to take all the information and the so-called facts that are being fed to us with a grain of salt.
Let’s take a look at 12 reasons to develop critical thinking skills:
1) Critical thinking improves your ability to think independently
By encouraging you to analyze information and form opinions based on facts, critical thinking improves your ability to think independently.
When we’re little, we take it for granted that what our parents and teachers tell us is the only truth. It doesn’t even occur to us that they could be wrong or that there could be an alternative way of thinking.
But at some point – usually during puberty or young adulthood – we realize that our parents and our teachers don’t know everything. They’re not gods, they’re not exempt from making mistakes or forming the wrong opinion.
Here’s an example from my life:
When I was a child, whenever I had a problem, I turned to my father for a solution.
But then things changed when I hit puberty – I started to think for myself. I can clearly remember the realization that my father didn’t have all the answers and that I’d have to figure things out on my own. It actually came as quite a shock but it was an important life lesson.
We need to stop relying on others to form our opinions and start to think independently. This is especially important today with things like fake news and deep fakes.
Critical thinking can help you differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources of information. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the next point.
2) Develops your ability to think objectively and logically
Like a lot of you out there, before going to sleep, I like to scroll through my Instagram.
Recently, I came across a strange video of Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton. Now, I’m not exactly on top of celebrity news, but it seemed odd to me to see those two together. However, I thought it was some kind of publicity stunt and I put it out of my mind.
A few days later, I saw another video of Tom and Paris together, they were being all flirty and lovey-dovey in her kitchen. That’s when curiosity got the best of me and I googled, “Are Tom Cruise and Paris Hilton dating?”
And can you guess what I found out?
The guy in the video wasn’t Tom Cruise, it was a deep fake – a realistic image created by artificial intelligence!
This was just a silly example to illustrate what can happen if we fail to think objectively and logically.
I mean, whether two celebrities are dating or not doesn’t really make much of a difference in the world and the only people such deep fakes affect are the people involved.
But what if it was a deep fake of someone really influential? What if it was a deep fake of a democratic leader, created by the opposition to sully their reputation?
This is where we’re headed which is why it’s crucial to be able to ask questions and think objectively.
3) Improves self-awareness
Self-awareness and critical thinking go hand in hand.
Critical thinking skills can be used to analyze the world around you and to question other people’s motives, but did you know that you can also use those skills to learn more about yourself?
Before I developed critical thinking skills, I didn’t really question my beliefs and values. I didn’t ask myself where those beliefs and values came from and whether they were a true representation of myself. I think this is true for a lot of people.
Here are some examples of beliefs many of us grow up with:
- The idea that success is based on the amount of money you have in your bank account.
- That the most important thing in life is to get married and have kids.
- That you belong to a certain religion just because you’re born into it.
- That following “the rules” makes you a good person.
- That marriage is a sacred bond between man and woman.
I think that this lack of self-awareness and lack of critical thinking is one of the main reasons that we have so much prejudice in the world, whether it be related to race, sexual orientation, nationality, religious affiliation, or social status.
That’s why it’s imperative to develop critical thinking skills – so that you can examine your own beliefs and assumptions. So that you can evaluate your own thoughts and ideas and gain greater self-awareness.
This brings me to my next point…
4) Helps you recognize assumptions and biases
Not only will critical thinking help you recognize your own assumptions and biases, but it will alert you to the assumptions and biases of the people around you and society as a whole.
Instead of simply accepting other people’s claims as the truth, you can evaluate and challenge them when necessary.
I don’t know about you but I get really upset when people just accept things without really thinking about them.
Take for example the controversial topic of immigration. I keep hearing things like:
- “They keep stealing our jobs”
- “They don’t want to integrate and they stick to themselves”
- “They abuse social security”
- “They create gangs and are a threat to our society”
But, where is this information coming from? Is there any truth in it? This is a serious debate that requires one to think objectively and logically.
I think that Justin Brown, co-founder of Ideapod, makes some very interesting points on this topic in his video, The Absence of Critical Thought in Our Society.
He gives the example of Europe as being based on the principle of tolerance and solidarity which is why so many people are immigrating to Europe. The problem, according to Justin, is that a lot of the people that are so drawn to those principles don’t always end up adopting them.
So what can be done? Should we be open to immigration and suffer the consequences, or should we close ourselves off?
Justin explains that it’s not so black and white and that it’s important to look at both sides of the story. On the one hand, “I think we should let everyone in, we should break down the barriers of the world and just let people move around freely”, but on the other hand, “if enough people come in, the society itself starts to lose its grip on those values … if these people that come in aren’t going to embrace those values themselves”.
Don’t let yourself be swayed by the media or popular political views. Don’t be quick to jump to conclusions – try to understand the whole story.
Recognize biases when you see them. Analyze arguments and evidence objectively. Make decisions based on facts and reasoning, not hearsay, prejudice, or blind belief.
5) Develops an appreciation for diverse perspectives
Another important reason to develop critical thinking skills is the ability to see things from other people’s perspectives.
I mean, just think how boring a place the world would be if we all agreed and saw things the same way.
The ability to really hear what other people have to say and to be open to the idea that there’s more than one truth and more than one side to a story is something that I really admire and respect.
The amazing thing about critical thinking is that it will allow you to see things from a different perspective. Sometimes you will change your mind, and at other times you’ll stick to your opinion, but at least you can say that you understand where the other person is coming from.
By being open-minded, you’ll be able to see the world in a new light – you’ll learn to appreciate diverse opinions and perspectives, which I think is crucial if we want to thrive as a society.
6) Encourages creativity
How exactly does developing critical thinking skills encourage creativity?
Well, by getting you to think outside the box and search for creative solutions to problems.
You see, people who lack critical thinking skills will usually look for an easy fix. It may not be a long-term solution or the best solution, but they don’t know any better.
But once you’ve got the skills to think critically, you’ll be able to consider different scenarios, look at a problem from all the different angles, explore a wide range of options, and see things that may have been overlooked.
You’ll be driven to come up with innovative and original ideas and lasting solutions.
7) Promotes curiosity
Most critical thinkers are curious by nature. They’re always asking themselves questions such as:
- What’s going on here?
- What does it mean?
- How does this affect me?
- How can I trust this source?
- Is there an ulterior motive?
- What else should I consider?
- What do I think about all of this?
Critical thinking gets people to ask questions and examine ideas, opinions, and beliefs to arrive at their own – informed – opinions.
It encourages people to explore new ideas and concepts and promotes curiosity by helping them identify gaps in reasoning.
And the best part?
By waking up people’s curiosity, critical thinking creates lifelong learners.
8) Improves problem-solving skills
How exactly does it do that?
By teaching you to identify the crucial components of a problem, analyze the information, come up with several possible solutions, anticipate the outcomes, and pick the best course of action.
The points I mentioned earlier – creativity and curiosity – both contribute to a person’s problem-solving skills.
It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer – Albert Einstein
9) Boosts your confidence
Learning how to think for yourself is great for boosting your confidence.
Now, maybe you used to believe everything you heard or you didn’t really have too many opinions of your own when it came to certain serious topics.
And even if you thought something someone said seemed off, you didn’t have the necessary skills or the confidence to contradict them.
But once you learn to think critically, you’ll be able to analyze what is being said objectively and to come up with sound and well-thought-out arguments to support your views.
In other words: being able to think for yourself will give you the courage to speak out.
10) Improves relationships
It may not be the first thing you think of, but developing critical thinking skills actually improves relationships.
It encourages empathy by getting you to see things from other people’s perspectives. It helps conflict resolution by encouraging you to step back and evaluate the situation objectively.
What’s more, critical thinking challenges assumptions and biases and teaches people to take each other’s feelings into account. All this results in a more open and honest dialogue, often leading to lasting solutions and stronger relationships.
11) Encourages good decision-making
When you’ve developed critical thinking skills, you make decisions based on facts.
You look at all the information that is available, you weigh the pros and cons, you check for potential biases, you consider various points of view and then you make your decision.
But when you lack these skills, you’re likely to make poor decisions based on hearsay, various prejudices, unfounded opinions, and misinformation. You’re even likely to get swayed by your emotions.
12) Is a crucial life skill
Unless you want to go through life being told what to think and how to act, you really need to develop critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking isn’t just something that will be useful when it comes to your studies or work, it’s a skill that will benefit pretty much all areas of your life.
We owe it to ourselves and the people around us to make informed decisions. As Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown says, “I think it’s up to us to take personal responsibility for developing our own abilities of critical thought”.