Established methods you can use for critical thinking

Critical thinking has, thankfully, been seen as a vital skill since antiquity. That means there’s a lot of established methods you can use to practice it.

1. The Socratic method

Rooted in ancient philosophy, the Socratic method involves asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and draw out underlying presumptions. If you want to uncover deeper understanding and challenge existing beliefs, continually probe with questions like, “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know this?”

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2. Six Thinking Hats

Developed by Edward de Bono, this method encourages you to view problems from multiple perspectives. Each “hat” represents a different style of thinking:

  • White Hat: Focus on data and facts.

  • Red Hat: Look at problems using intuition and emotion.

  • Black Hat: Consider the negative aspects or potential pitfalls.

  • Yellow Hat: Think positively and look for benefits.

  • Green Hat: Think creatively and brainstorm new ideas.

  • Blue Hat: Focus on managing the thinking process and organizing ideas.

Switching between these “hats” allows for a comprehensive evaluation of issues.

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3. SWOT analysis

Often employed in the business realm, the acronym SWOT represents Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Examining a situation or decision through these four lenses offers a comprehensive perspective, aiding in sound decision-making.

4. Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Rather than merely tackling the obvious concerns, it’s essential to probe further to uncover the underlying issues. Methods such as the “Five Whys” (asking “why?” repeatedly to drill down to the core reason) can prove beneficial.

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5. Mind mapping

Creating a visual representation of information can help organize thoughts, see connections, and stimulate creative solutions.

6. Pro-con lists

A classic method, listing the pros and cons of a decision can provide clarity and highlight areas that require further investigation.

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7. Think in probabilities

Rather than thinking in black-and-white terms (something will or won’t happen), consider the probabilities. This nuanced approach can help in making more rational decisions, especially in uncertain situations.

8. Practice active listening

When engaged in a conversation, focus on truly understanding the other person’s perspective. This not only builds empathy but also helps in evaluating the merits and demerits of different viewpoints.

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Conclusion: The path forward

In this era, where AI and technology can blur the lines of reality, critical thinking isn’t just a skill—it’s a survival tool. By questioning, analyzing, and reflecting, we ensure that we’re not just passive consumers of information but active and informed participants in the digital age. 

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Remember, in a world where anyone can say anything, it’s up to us to discern the truth.