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What are the 9 critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. It is an essential life skill that allows us to evaluate arguments, solve problems and make informed decisions. Developing critical thinking skills improves the quality of our thinking, reading, writing, and speaking.

There are 9 core critical thinking skills that form the foundation of critical thought:

1. Observation

Observation is the active acquisition of information from senses or experiences. Careful observation is key to noticing details and gathering evidence. Strong observation skills allow us to gather information to think critically about. Some ways to build observation skills include:

– Paying attention to the small details around you. Notice colors, smells, textures, sounds etc.

– Trying to overcome biases or preconceived notions that filter observation.

– Practicing mindful awareness of thoughts, feelings and experiences.

– Describing observations accurately and avoiding assumptions or interpretations.

2. Classification

Classification involves sorting information into meaningful categories based on differences and similarities. This allows us to organize information logically and draw connections. Ways to improve classification skills:

– Create specific categories to sort information, rather than dumping it all together.

– Break broad categories into smaller sub-categories for more effective organization.

– Classify objects or ideas by multiple categories when appropriate.

– Avoid oversimplifying by recognizing that many things belong in multiple classes.

3. Inference

Inference is the ability to draw conclusions based on reasoning and evidence. Strong inferential skills allow us to “read between the lines” and form hypotheses. This involves:

– Looking for patterns and relationships between different pieces of information.

– Making educated guesses based on contextual clues.

– Drawing conclusions based on logic and evidence while avoiding assumptions.

– Recognizing the difference between inferences, opinions and facts.

4. Description

Description involves using words and details to accurately recreate an object, event or experience. Strong description skills allow us to convey information vividly as the basis for critical analysis. Useful description practices include:

– Providing specific sensory details (sights, textures, smells etc).

– Using adjectives and adverbs judiciously to add color without embellishing.

– Organizing details coherently to recreate the subject logically.

– Conveying the “essence” of the subject by focusing on standout attributes.

5. Interpretation

Interpretation involves explaining the meaning, purpose or significance of information. This allows us to achieve deeper understanding. Effective interpretation requires:

– Looking beyond surface details to uncover deeper meanings.

– Placing information in context to understand its value and implications.

– Considering different interpretations or perspectives.

– Avoiding overly simplistic explanations that fail to account for complexity.

6. Analysis

Analysis involves breaking information down into component parts to see interrelationships and ideas. Strong analytical skills allow us to understand how elements fit and work together. Key aspects of analysis include:

– Identifying the intended purpose or key attributes of the information.

– Detecting relationships between different components.

– Recognizing organizational principles or systematic processes at work.

– Identifying inconsistencies, errors, or weaknesses.

7. Evaluation

Evaluation is the ability to judge or assess the value of information based on reasoning, criteria and evidence. Effective evaluation requires:

– Identifying clear standards for making judgments.

– Applying criteria fairly across different options.

– Weighing evidence carefully to reach reasoned conclusions.

– Questioning claims, assumptions and logic rigorously.

8. Explanation

Explanation involves describing the reasons, causes, context or principles relating to information. Strong explanation skills support effective communication and teaching. Key elements include:

– Providing the background needed to fully understand the information.

– Articulating reasoning clearly using valid evidence and logic.

– Organizing causes and effects sequentially.

– Anticipating questions and addressing them preemptively.

9. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation requires controlling one’s thinking processes and avoiding impulsive thinking. It includes:

– Reflecting critically on your own assumptions, biases and thinking patterns.

– Monitoring your understanding to identify flaws or weaknesses.

– Adjusting your thinking processes based on self-evaluation.

– Applying critical thinking skills flexibly across different contexts.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking can be strengthened with practice over time. Here are some key tips for developing critical thinking skills:

  • Ask probing questions – ask “why” and “how” often.
  • Evaluate information sources – consider credibility, motivations and bias.
  • Strengthen foundational skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • Apply critical thinking across subjects – practice in diverse contexts.
  • Learn formal logic and reasoning – study the structured evaluation of arguments.
  • Pause to reflect – question your own assumptions and thought processes.
  • Consider alternative viewpoints – avoid narrow or overly polarized thinking.
  • Debate and discuss – articulate and defend your view while listening to others.
  • Seek out challenges – choose complex topics outside your comfort zone.
  • Look for associations – examine relationships between ideas or events.

Using Critical Thinking at Work

Critical thinking is a versatile skillset that can improve performance across many different workplaces and roles. Here are some examples of how critical thinking is applied in professional contexts:


Researchers use critical thinking to design rigorous studies, synthesize prior findings, analyze data effectively and draw reasoned conclusions supported by evidence.


Doctors employ critical thinking to diagnose illnesses by carefully observing symptoms, interpreting medical tests accurately and considering alternative explanations.


Financial analysts think critically to spot patterns and trends in markets, evaluate assets thoroughly and weigh risks against potential gains.


Lawyers utilize critical thinking to interpret laws, construct strong legal arguments, question witness credibility and avoid logical fallacies.


Good managers use critical thinking to analyze problems, consider solutions, provide clear feedback to employees and question their own assumptions.


Teachers who think critically design engaging lesson plans, create thoughtful assessments, address student questions and adapt their instruction as needed.


Engineers apply critical thinking to design effective solutions, troubleshoot technical failures, test assumptions and evaluate designs objectively.


Journalists use critical thinking to conduct investigative reporting, assess sources skeptically, spot inaccuracies and avoid unverified or biased claims.

Barriers to Critical Thinking

Certain mental traps and barriers can hinder critical thinking skills. Being aware of these can help avoid them:

Confirmation bias

The tendency to seek out or interpret information in ways that confirm existing beliefs. This can lead to selective filtering of information.

Anchoring bias

The tendency to rely too much on the first piece of information presented when making decisions, rather than considering other options.


A pattern of collective overconfidence that discourages challenges to consensus thinking within a group.

Either-or thinking

Viewing things in terms of two extreme options, while ignoring reasonable middle ground. Things are often more nuanced.

Jumping to conclusions

Drawing conclusions without sufficient evidence. Assumptions and inferences require solid logical reasoning.

Appeal to emotion

Accepting or rejecting arguments based on how they make you feel, rather than their objective merits. Emotions can override reason.

Blind spots

Failing to recognize our own assumptions, biases and flaws in thinking. Self-reflection helps identify blind spots.

Status quo bias

A preference for things to stay the same. This can lead to rejecting change without logical reasons.


Critical thinking empowers us to analyze information skillfully, reach logically valid conclusions and make wise choices. It improves the quality of our thinking across all areas of life. Cultivating a habit of thinking critically takes deliberate effort, but these core skills can be learned and refined over time. With practice, anyone can become a more disciplined, rational thinker. Strong critical thinking helps us overcome biases, analyze issues, generate solutions and communicate effectively.