With a new virus in town, we are being bombarded with so much news about it. While staying informed is essential, it’s hard to find reliable information.
It has, unfortunately, become common for false news to be spread like wildfire due to social media and extensive news coverage of things happening around the world. The consequences of believing opinions as facts can be both silly and dramatic. It might just result in a laugh among your friends or it might also end up in mass hysteria, which can be quite dangerous.
Thinking critically is a fine skill you need to have for both academic and real life reasons. Being able to analyse and evaluate information can get you good grades in higher levels of education. However, it can also keep you safe, sound and successful in real life as well.
Critical thinking can simply be understood as being able to judge the information you have in front to decide how accurate, reliable and trustworthy is that information. While writing essays in school, it can help you present arguments from various perspectives. In real life, it can help you make tough decisions, avoid getting manipulated and solve problems.
So, how exactly can you think critically?
1) Acknowledge what you know
Bring the pieces of information forward in your mind and rewind it in a glance. Ask yourself from where did you get this information and assess how trustworthy is the source of information. Unfortunately, some sources are more trustworthy than others and we believe you can make that judgement for yourself.
2) Question the information
Do not take the information for a fact. Ask yourself about the assumptions the information relies on. What else needs to be true for the information to be true? Is there something that you blindly assumed about the information? What aspect of the information are you dead sure about? You get the gist. Ask questions.
3) Acknowledge your own biases
Understandably, each individual has their prejudices, which can result in cognitive biases. It would be really hard to eliminate these biases from your thought processes because most of them could be unconscious i.e., you don’t even know that you have them.
Hence, it important to acknowledge at least the ones that you are aware of. Over a period of time, you will be able to easily catch yourself believing something to be true only because it favours your preferences.
4) Consider your take
Evaluating information you received from elsewhere is great but what do you personally think about it? If a newspaper is saying X and a news channel is saying Y, what do you think you should believe? What do you think about their takes? Is there something you can add to the information they are giving? Think.
5) Do not disregard a conclusion you don’t like
Sometimes, after thinking critically, you might arrive at a conclusion that causes cognitive dissonance i.e., it makes you feel uncomfortable. Imagine if you found out for yourself that the friend you have become close with was only trying to use you for something you have to offer? How would you feel? Most of us would rather believe that what we found out is wrong because it makes us feel uncomfortable.
However, in the long run, you will thank yourself for trusting the truth and keeping a distance from that friend than ignore the truth as if you couldn’t see it.
Hopefully, we have been able to give you a good idea about critical thinking. We would advise you to not beat yourselves up for not being able to get it right or even remembering to think critically all the time. Because thinking critically is a skill that you build with time. The more you stretch your thought muscles, the stronger they will be with time.