By Jonathan Kirschner, Psy.D. • December 27, 2010

Disambiguating Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking is the capacity to evaluate information to make a decision- even if all of the information is not available. It follows that critical thinking is vital to

any problem solving process where an individual or group is called upon to collect data relevant to a problem, analyze the data, assess the validity and meaning of the data, and ultimately reach a logical decision that results in a conclusion.

Critical thinking encapsulates five major types of thinking that facillitate this problem solving process:

  1. Inference: Discriminating among degrees of truth or falsity of inferences drawn from given data.
  2. Recognition of Assumptions: Recognizing unstated assumptions or presuppositions in given statements or assertions.
  3. Deduction: Determining whether certain conclusions necessarily follow from information in given statements or premises.
  4. Interpretation: Weighing evidence and deciding if generalizations or conclusions based on the given data are warranted.
  5. Evaluation of Arguments: Distinguishing between arguments that are strong and relevant and those that are weak or irrelevant to a particular question at issue.

In breaking critical thinking down to its five rudimentary elements, it becomes apparent how much we utilize critical thinking in our everyday decision making processes. In today's complex business environment the quantity of decisions that need to be made are tremendous, the amount of data to analyze is constantly expanding, and the level of uncertainty (i.e. missing data points) is substantial. Given this climate, it is no surprise that Critical Thinking skills have been regarded as one of the most important competencies for a high-performing executive to cultivate.