Free Critical Thinking Exercises

In just one hour, you'll learn how to set up your to-do list, calendar, note-taking system, file management, and more — the smart way.

While I venture that a lot of us did learn it, I prefer to approach learning deliberately, and so I decided to investigate critical thinking for myself.

What is it, how do we do it, why is it important, and how can we get better at it? In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also offer seven ways that you can start thinking more critically today, both in and outside of class.“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.”– The Foundation for Critical Thinking The above definition from the Foundation for Critical Thinking website is pretty wordy, but critical thinking, in essence, is not that complex. If we had to think deliberately about every single action (such as breathing, for instance), we wouldn’t have any cognitive energy left for the important stuff like D&D. We can run into problems, though, when we let our automatic mental processes govern important decisions.

A great way to get “unstuck” on a hard problem is to try reversing things.

It may seem obvious that X causes Y, but what if Y caused X?

Human thought is amazing, but the speed and automation with which it happens can be a disadvantage when we’re trying to think critically.

Our brains naturally use heuristics (mental shortcuts) to explain what’s happening around us.To avoid this, continually go back to the basic questions you asked when you set out to solve the problem.Here are a few key basic question you can ask when approaching any problem: The above saying holds true when you’re thinking through a problem.From Newton to Einstein to Yitang Zhang, questioning assumptions is where innovation happens. All these things can be a reality if you just question your assumptions and critically evaluate your beliefs about what’s prudent, appropriate, or possible.You don’t even have to be an aspiring Einstein to benefit from questioning your assumptions. If you’re looking for some help with this process, then check out Oblique Strategies.Don’t get so bogged down in research and reading that you forget to think for yourself–sometimes this can be your most powerful tool.Writing about Einstein’s paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” (the paper that contained the famous equation ), C. Snow observed that “it was as if Einstein ‘had reached the conclusions by pure thought, unaided, without listening to the opinions of others.Despite hearing so much about critical thinking all these years, I realized that I still couldn’t give a concrete definition of it, and I certainly couldn’t explain how to do it.It seemed like something that my teachers just expected us to pick up in the course of our studies.The “chicken and egg problem” a classic example of this.At first, it seems obvious that the chicken had to come first. But then you quickly realize that the chicken had to come from somewhere, and since chickens come from eggs, the egg must have come first. Even if it turns out that the reverse When you’re trying to solve a problem, it’s always helpful to look at other work that has been done in the same area.

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