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By Thea Theresa English

How to build better critical thinking skills

If you don't want to fall for deceptive practices or lies that people often tell, it is important that you have strong critical thinking skills. Critical thinking goes beyond just memorization and basic knowledge of facts. Critical thinking involves active engagement with those facts and developing informed opinions. When you think critically you also apply what you learned to situations in your life. Here are ways to think critically.

Question long held assumptions

A part of being a critical thinker is questioning long held assumptions and finding out if those assumptions are true or not. For example, you've been told by your family since childhood that a college education is necessary for landing a good job. But using your own experience and valid research on the issue, you come to the conclusion that this assumption is false.

Consider sources of evidence you read

Another aspect of thinking critically is evaluating the evidence that supposedly proves certain points. For example, you might read a research study claiming that low-carb diets are one of the best ways to lose weight. However, you later find out that those studies were conducted by a company that promotes high-protein diets. The evidence from this kind of company could be slightly biased.

Be aware of your own biases

One obstacle that gets in the way of critical thinking skills is our own biases. When researching an issue, you need to leave your biases behind if the evidence does not support them. You might believe that it is emotionally more beneficial if the mother remains home with the children instead of returning to the workforce, but if your research debunks this bias, you need to do away with your original opinion.

Compare and contrast ways of thinking

This is another way of developing strong critical thinking skills. For example, you can review the pros and cons of capitalism and then do the pros and cons of a socialistic system. Then take all of the information you learned and develop an informed opinion on the system that you agree with the most.

Learn to detect propaganda

Propaganda gets in the way of critical thinking skills so it's important that you learn how to detect it. Propaganda generally has elements of sensationalism and might include some random facts and testimonials from others. You will find propaganda on news broadcasts, online, in magazines and even from educators at your school.

Don't be afraid to stick out like a sore thumb

If you think critically, there will be times when your beliefs go against the conventional wisdom of loved ones and the community at large. Don't let others' criticism keep you from having your own outlook on life. Instead, be proud of the values you have as the result of your critical thinking skills.

We need critical thinking because if we follow others' opinions all the time, we will not learn to have a mind of our own. By thinking critically we can analyze what we see and hear better, and not be deceived by those meaning to harm us.

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