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How Do Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking: Uncovering the Benefits

How Do Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking

The interplay between emotions and reasoning is an ongoing subject of interest within psychology and education. When emotions are acknowledged and regulated, they can contribute to a well-rounded critical thinking process, helping individuals to approach problems with an open and creative mindset. The incorporation of emotional intelligence in educational settings enhances learning by allowing students to engage with material in a more profound and personal way. This integration demonstrates the importance of emotions in areas traditionally governed by logic and analysis.

Key Takeaways

  • Positive emotions broaden an individual’s perspective and can improve critical thinking skills.
  • Emotional intelligence is crucial for regulating emotions to support cognitive processes.
  • Incorporating awareness of emotions into educational practices can enhance learning outcomes.

The Role of Emotions in Critical Thinking

The interplay of emotions in critical thinking is multifaceted, affecting judgment, facts processing, and the cultivation of diverse perspectives. Emotions are not just byproducts of thought; they can actively shape cognitive processes, influencing behavior and decision-making.

Understanding Emotions

Emotions are complex psychological states that influence an individual’s thoughts and behaviors. The importance of critical thinking is well-documented, yet understanding emotions serves as a foundation for recognizing their effect on cognitive functions. They are not merely reactive but can serve as a guiding force in the evaluation of information and the formulation of judgment.

Positive vs. Negative Emotions on Cognition

The dichotomy of positive and negative emotions plays a distinct role in how one processes information and reacts to cognitive challenges. Positive emotions generally contribute to a more flexible and inclusive outlook, broadening one’s thought processes and leading to a more varied consideration of perspectives and possibilities. On the other hand, negative emotions can sometimes narrow an individual’s focus, which may hinder the assessment of different viewpoints or facts, restricting the judgment process.

Emotion Regulation and Decision-Making

Effective emotion regulation is imperative for sound decision-making. It involves understanding emotional responses and modulating them to suit the context of the situation. Those who regulate their emotions well tend to navigate the decision-making process more adeptly, maintaining a balance between emotion and rational thought which is crucial for critical thinking. Regulation doesn’t mean suppression of emotions but rather integrating them in a way that enhances judgment and cognitive function.

Psychological Perspectives on Emotion and Reason

In exploring the entwined nature of emotion and reason within psychological studies, one finds that emotions are not only fundamental to our experiences but also play a crucial role in shaping our cognitive processes. Emotions work in tandem with reason to enable complex thinking and reasoning, enriching our analysis of evidence and perceptions.

Cognitive Processes and Emotion

Emotions significantly influence one’s cognitive ability, particularly in how individuals focus their attention and perceive information. A balanced interplay between emotion and cognition often leads to enhanced critical thinking skills. For example, emotions can serve as a signal, prioritizing certain events over others and thereby directing cognitive resources to the most pressing issues. This interaction can affect an individual’s disposition and, eventually, their cognitive abilities when evaluating evidence or making decisions.

Bias and Emotional Influence

While emotions can bolster reasoning by providing nuanced viewpoints, they can also introduce biases that affect judgment. Emotional influence may lead to a skewed perception, where cognition is directed away from objective evidence towards a more subjective interpretation. Therefore, recognizing emotional biases is essential for minimizing their impact on critical thinking. Rigorous interrogation of both biases and emotional responses helps maintain clarity within the cognitive process, ensuring a more accurate and fair assessment of situational aspects.

Enhancing Critical Thinking through Positive Emotional States

Positive emotional states can significantly enhance critical thinking by fostering an environment where creativity flourishes, motivation surges, and mindfulness leads to more effective cognitive processes.

Creativity and Emotional States

Positive emotions broaden an individual’s thought-action repertoire, which in turn, enhances creative thinking . Studies have shown that when individuals experience positive affect, their problem-solving abilities and creativity improve as they are more likely to see the bigger picture and make connections between seemingly disparate ideas.

The Impact of Motivation and Passion

Motivation and passion serve as powerful drivers that fuel one’s dedication and persistence when tackling complex issues. Passion invigorates a person’s resolve, leading to a heightened focus that is instrumental in decision-making processes. Indeed, individuals who are motivated by intrinsic interests are more likely to engage in and excel at critical thinking tasks.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Processes

Mindfulness promotes enhanced cognitive processes by encouraging individuals to be present and fully engaged with the task at hand. This focused attention clears the mind of distractions, which leads to deeper thought and better problem-solving capabilities. By being mindful, they adopt an open and accepting mindset which is critical in evaluating information more objectively and comprehensively.

Cognitive Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence plays a pivotal role in enhancing cognitive abilities. It equips individuals with the skills needed for effective self-regulation, encourages empathy and perspective-taking, and aids in managing emotional biases which are critical in the realm of critical thinking.

Improving Self-Regulation

Self-regulation , a core component of emotional intelligence, allows individuals to control and adjust their emotions in response to their environment. This ability is crucial when making rational decisions, as it helps to keep emotional responses in check, potentially reducing impulsivity and improving concentration. People who excel in self-regulation tend to be better at directing their focus toward goal-oriented activities, which is a fundamental aspect of critical thinking.

Empathy and Perspective-Taking

Emotional intelligence fosters empathy , the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy enriches perspective-taking, enhancing one’s ability to consider different viewpoints and apply this understanding in problem-solving tasks. Those skilled in empathy are typically more adept at navigating interpersonal situations, an aspect of critical thinking important in collaborative environments.

Managing Emotional Biases

Recognizing and managing emotional biases is another cognitive benefit of high emotional intelligence. By understanding the influence emotions have on thought processes, individuals can strive for objectivity. Balancing emotions with rational thinking leads to more thorough analysis and reasoned conclusions, a vital function of critical thinking. This management of biases prevents emotions from overshadowing facts, thus supporting clearer and more effective decision-making.

Practical Applications in Education and Learning

In educational settings, emotions can enrich the learning experience and enhance critical thinking when effectively integrated into teaching and assessment methods. These practical applications can shape more responsive and engaging learning environments.

Teaching Emotional Awareness

Educators can cultivate emotional awareness by explicitly teaching students to understand and recognize their emotions as part of their learning process. By incorporating question-driven discussions and engaging group activities, students are encouraged to reflect on their emotional responses to various topics. This reflection helps them to identify potential emotional biases or assumptions that could impact their critical thinking.

Critical Writing and Emotional Articulation

Assignments such as reflective essays or critical reviews offer students a structured approach to articulating emotions in their writing, assisting them to develop a deeper understanding of the influence these emotions have on their analytical skills. In higher education , fostering emotional articulation can lead to more nuanced debates and a greater capability to assess different viewpoints critically.

Assessment Strategies and Emotion

Utilizing diverse assessment strategies that value emotional insight alongside intellectual analysis can lead to a more balanced evaluation of a student’s performance. For example, including peer assessments in debates or group assignments enables students to consider the emotional dynamics of teamwork and argumentation. It’s also instrumental in revealing assumptions that may underlie their assessments or coursework.

Incorporating emotional aspects into education, writing, and assessment not only enriches students’ learning experiences but also enhances their ability to engage in critical thinking across various subjects and disciplines.

Integrating Emotions into Different Fields

Emotions are not isolated aspects of human experience but interwoven into various facets of daily life. Their impact extends to how judgments are made and how both theoretical and practical fields evolve.

Emotions in Legal Judgment and Justice

In the realm of legal judgment and justice , emotions can both aid and complicate the pursuit of justice. They may inform the nuances of jury decisions and influence how justice is perceived and administered. While traditionally, legal systems strive for impartiality, acknowledging emotions introduces a more comprehensive perspective on human behavior, potentially leading to more empathetic ruling . Legal professionals are recognizing that emotions may reveal underlying social patterns and biases that affect decisions.

The Role of Emotions in Scientific Research

The scientific method is built on objectivity, yet emotions in scientific research can have a positive influence. An investigator’s intuition, fueled by emotional investment in a hypothesis, can drive persistent inquiry even when data is not initially supportive. Emotions may also guide ethical choices in scientific work, especially in the delicate balance of biology and medicine . A scientist’s passion or concern for societal impact can bring moral considerations to the forefront of technological advances and spark meaningful dialogues in the murky interface between technology and philosophical outlooks.

Emotional Influence on Technology and Social Media

With the integration of emotions into technology and social media , the way users interact with digital platforms is significantly reshaped. Technology designers acknowledge that emotions play a crucial role in user experience, leading to the creation of empathetic AI and algorithms that adapt to mood fluctuations. Moreover, social media platforms often leverage emotional responses to curate content, establishing patterns that reinforce user engagement. This emotional data is pivotal in understanding consumer behavior, creating tailored experiences, and navigating the complex landscape of digital communication.

Critical Perspectives on Emotion-Driven Reasoning

In examining the impact of emotions on critical thinking, one must consider both the potential consequences of emotional reasoning and the strategies to balance emotion with logic. Emotions can shape the way individuals analyze information and make sound judgments.

Consequences of Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning often affects the clarity with which individuals process information, sometimes leading to biased rational decisions . For instance, a negative mood can cloud judgment and reduce the ability to evaluate multiple perspectives , compromising the accuracy and sound judgments necessary for effective critical thinking. Conversely, positive emotions may enhance motivation and the capacity for higher order thinking , promoting a broader view and increased credibility in the evaluation process.

Achieving Balance between Emotion and Logic

Balancing emotion with logic is crucial for critical thinking. Effective reasoning involves harnessing emotions to generate insights while adhering to logical principles to ensure accuracy . By consciously acknowledging emotional influences, individuals can strive for a harmony that allows for sound judgments that are informed by rational decisions while being enriched by emotional intelligence. A balanced approach can mitigate the consequences of unchecked emotional reasoning and encourage more comprehensive consideration of multiple perspectives .

Advanced Psychological Constructs

The intricate relationship between emotions and critical thinking manifests through constructs such as valence, arousal, and communal impact. These frameworks shape how individuals process information and reach conclusions, especially in high-stakes environments like final exams or critical analyses. Understanding these dimensions offers a clearer perspective on the role emotions play in enhancing cognitive function.

Valence and Arousal in Critical Thinking

Valence refers to the intrinsic attractiveness (positive valence) or aversiveness (negative valence) of an event, object, or situation. In the context of critical thinking , positive valence often correlates with an individual’s motivation to engage deeply with complex material. On the other hand, negative valence can stimulate a rigorous examination of assumptions due to a desire to avoid errors or misunderstandings. Meanwhile, arousal —a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli—plays a pivotal role. High arousal may either sharpen focus or lead to anxiety, potentially interfering with critical thinking. Conversely, low arousal might result in a lack of engagement or thoroughness.

Information Processing and Emotional Valence

Critical thinking is deeply intertwined with information processing , where emotional valence acts as an influential factor. Studies suggest that when topics carry a strong emotional valence , they can facilitate better recall and depth of thought. For example, during a final exam , emotionally charged material, be it positively or negatively valent, is often more readily retrieved and scrutinized.

  • optimistic bias : Expectation of positive outcomes
  • Creative thinking : Novel approaches to solving problems
  • Risk aversion : Careful weighing of alternatives
  • Detail-oriented processing : Methodical examination of information

The Community and Collective Emotional Impact

In a community setting, collective emotions significantly affect the critical thinking process. Shared emotional experiences can contribute to a unified approach to problem-solving and decision-making. The phenomena can be analyzed through path analysis techniques that trace the flow of emotional influence within a group. These shared feelings, whether positive or negative, heighten communal bonds and can lead to more comprehensive analytical discussions in professional, academic, or social settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the realm of critical thinking, emotions and intellect intertwine in complex ways to influence outcomes. This section addresses common inquiries related to this intriguing interplay.

What role do positive emotions play in enhancing critical thinking skills?

Positive emotions can broaden an individual’s perception, allowing for a more comprehensive analysis of information. They often lead to an increase in openness to new experiences and ideas, which is a crucial component of critical thinking .

Can the presence of emotions improve the quality of our decision-making processes?

Yes, emotions carry important information that can guide decision-making. For instance, intuition—derived from emotional responses—can provide quick assessments that inform decisions, highlighting the relevance of emotions in complex cognitive processes.

How does emotional intelligence contribute to better critical thinking outcomes?

Emotional intelligence involves the management and understanding of one’s emotions and the emotions of others. Such awareness can facilitate clearer thinking, as individuals with high emotional intelligence are better equipped to navigate biases and emotional traps in critical discussions .

What strategies can be employed to harness emotions for more effective critical analysis?

Strategies such as recognizing personal emotions, practicing emotional regulation, and seeking diverse perspectives can enhance one’s analytical capabilities. These approaches encourage a balanced assessment where emotions support rather than overshadow critical thinking .

In what ways do emotions intersect with cognitive processes to influence judgments?

Emotions interact with cognitive processes by affecting attention, memory, and problem-solving. Positive emotions, for example, can facilitate creative thinking by expanding cognitive flexibility and enabling the mind to form more connections, thereby affecting critical judgments .

What are the benefits of a balanced approach between emotion and reason during critical evaluations?

A balanced approach ensures that neither emotion nor reason dominates the other; it promotes cognitive diversity, mitigates bias, and augments the quality of analysis. This harmony between emotion and reason is pivotal in achieving objective and nuanced evaluations during critical thinking tasks .

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How Do Emotions Positively And Negatively Influence Critical Thinking?

Emotions have a beneficial and detrimental impact on critical thinking. While negative emotions like wrath and worry stifle creativity and problem-solving, positive emotions like joy and curiosity foster these traits. A balanced approach to critical thinking necessitates an understanding of and ability to manage emotions in order to improve reasoning and decision-making.

critical thinking should include biases or emotions

Sanju Pradeepa

How Do Emotions Positively And Negatively Influence Critical Thinking

Have you ever made a decision while you were angry or upset and then later thought, “What was I thinking?” Emotions can play a huge role in our ability to think clearly and make good judgments. That’s why it’s so important to understand how our feelings affect our critical thinking skills.

In this article, we’ll explore the ways emotions can both help and hurt our ability to reason and make smart choices. You’ll learn some useful strategies to get in touch with your feelings while still keeping a cool head, so you can tap into the upsides of emotions without letting them cloud your thinking. Let’s dive in and unlock the secrets to balancing logic and feelings for sharper critical thinking.

Table of Contents

What is critical thinking.

What Is Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves going beyond surface-level knowledge and employing higher-order thinking skills. When you think critically, you evaluate information, analyze arguments, and form your own opinions based on reason and evidence rather than just accepting facts at face value.

Questioning Assumptions: A key part of critical thinking is questioning assumptions. We all have implicit biases and make assumptions about the world that often go unchallenged. Critical thinkers ask probing questions to uncover hidden assumptions, evaluate the evidence for them, and determine whether they are justified. They consider alternative perspectives and explanations.

Evaluating Arguments and Evidence: Critical thinkers don’t just passively accept information; they evaluate the strength of arguments and evidence. They consider whether evidence is relevant, factual, objective and logically sound. They look for weaknesses, logical fallacies, or gaps in the evidence and reasoning. Critical thinkers also consider alternative explanations and arguments to determine the most reasonable conclusion.

Forming Reasoned Judgments: The ultimate goal of critical thinking is to form reasonable, well-informed judgments and opinions. Critical thinkers carefully analyze and interpret information before drawing conclusions. Their judgments are based on facts and evidence rather than prejudices, assumptions or popular opinion. They remain open-minded and willing to revise their views in light of new evidence.

In summary, critical thinking requires actively analyzing and evaluating information instead of just accepting it at face value. It leads to forming reasonable, evidence-based judgments and a deeper understanding of complex issues. Although it requires effort, critical thinking is a skill that can be learned and developed over time.

what does critical thinking involve

What Does Critical Thinking Involve: 5 Essential Skill

How emotions influence our thought processes.

How Emotions Influence Our Thought Processes

Emotions impact how we think in so many ways. When you’re feeling positive emotions like joy or excitement, your thinking becomes more creative and open-minded. Negative emotions like fear or anxiety, on the other hand, narrow your thinking and make you more risk-averse.

Positive emotions expand our thinking.

When you’re in a good mood, you’re able to see more connections between ideas and think more broadly. This “broaden-and-build” effect of positive emotions allows you to explore more options and solutions to problems. You become more open to new concepts and flexible in your thinking. All this creativity and cognitive flexibility will serve you well in making complex decisions and solving difficult problems.

Negative emotions narrow our thinking.

In contrast, negative emotions like fear, stress or anxiety restrict your thinking. Your mind focuses on the perceived threat in front of you, limiting your ability to consider alternative ideas or solutions. This “narrowed” cognitive scope makes your thinking more rigid and inflexible. You rely more on habitual responses instead of exploring new options. While this may help you act quickly in dangerous situations, it’s not ideal for making nuanced judgment calls or strategic decisions which require innovative thinking .

Of course, both positive and negative emotions have their place in critical thinking and judgment. The key is being aware of how your emotions may be influencing your thought processes, either for better or worse. Developing emotional intelligence and learning strategies to regulate your emotions can help you leverage the benefits of positive feelings while avoiding the pitfalls of negative ones.

How Do Emotions Positively And Negatively Influence Critical Thinking

Emotions play a dual role in critical thinking, influencing it both positively and negatively. Positive emotions like joy and curiosity can enhance creativity and the ability to integrate diverse information, leading to more effective problem-solving. Conversely, negative emotions such as anxiety and anger can impede critical thinking, causing biased decision-making and memory retention issues. Understanding and managing emotions is crucial, as it allows for a balanced approach to critical thinking, where emotions can be harnessed to improve reasoning and decision-making processes.

The Positive Effects of Emotions on Critical Thinking

Emotions are often seen as the antithesis of reason, but research shows they actually have benefits for critical thinking skills . When you have an emotional reaction to something, it causes increased activation in the parts of your brain involved in cognitive abilities like reasoning, planning, and problem solving.

Emotions Enhance Focus and Attention: Feeling a strong emotion, whether positive or negative, focuses your mind and captures your attention. This heightened focus allows you to perceive and process information more deeply. You’ll notice subtle details you might otherwise miss. With intense focus, you can solve complex problems that require concentration and miss fewer logical missteps.

Emotions Stimulate Creativity: Emotions, especially positive ones, boost activity in the parts of your brain involved in making unexpected connections and seeing new possibilities. This uptick in cognitive flexibility and original thinking enhances your creativity. When you’re in a positive, open emotional state, you’re more likely to see unconventional solutions to problems and make unexpected associations between ideas.

Emotions Drive Motivation and Memory: The emotional parts of your brain are closely tied to the parts involved in motivation , reward-seeking, and memory formation. When you have an emotional reaction to something, it gives extra motivational weight and importance to that information. Your mind perceives that information as personally relevant, so you’re driven to think about it more deeply. You’re also much more likely to remember emotional events and information, both good and bad. Emotions burn experiences into your memory.

While emotions are complex and can sometimes negatively impact reason, they also have benefits for critical thinking. Emotions power focus and motivation, stimulate creativity, and enhance memory-all of which are essential components of strong critical thinking skills. So don’t dismiss your emotional reactions as antithetical to reason. Instead, harness them to sharpen your thinking.

Cultivating Positive Emotions to Enhance Critical Thinking

Positive emotions can significantly enhance your critical thinking skills. When you’re in a good mood, your mind is more open and creative, enabling you to make unexpected connections and see problems in new ways. 

Focus on the positives. Notice small acts of kindness, things you’re grateful for, and moments you find meaningful or inspiring. Appreciating life’s beauty and wonder keeps your mind open and receptive.

Practice mindfulness. Spending just a few minutes each day focused on your breathing or the present moment helps shift your mindset to a positive state. As your awareness expands, you’ll gain insight into yourself and see situations with more clarity and wisdom.

Cultivate optimism . Having an optimistic outlook enhances problem-solving and decision-making . Look for the bright side and maintain a sense of hope. Your positive attitude will help you navigate challenges with greater creativity and resilience.

Spread good cheer. Do small things each day to make others happy, like smiling, giving a sincere compliment, or helping out without being asked. Making a positive impact on those around you boosts your own well-being and outlook. Your good mood will positively influence how you think and interact with the world.

While negative emotions can narrow your thinking, positive feelings expand your mind. They allow you to think more broadly and openly, enhancing skills like creativity, intuition, and judgment. By cultivating an optimistic and appreciative mindset, you’ll strengthen your ability to think critically about yourself and the world around you. Let your positive spirit shine through.

Negative Effects of Emotions on Critical Thinking

When strong emotions take over, your ability to think critically can be impaired. Emotions like anger, fear or anxiety narrow your mindset, limiting your ability to consider alternative perspectives or fully evaluate evidence.

Anger and frustration

Feeling angry or frustrated activates the fight or flight part of your brain, making you defensive and combative. You’re more likely to attack or dismiss other viewpoints without truly considering them. Your judgment becomes clouded, and you have trouble evaluating ideas objectively.

Take a few deep breaths to calm down before attempting to think critically about the issue that’s upsetting you. Look for compromise and common ground instead of seeking to prove others wrong. Ask open-ended questions to make sure you fully understand different perspectives before passing judgment.

Anxiety and fear

Anxiety or fear can also inhibit critical thinking. When you’re worried or afraid, your mind tends to catastrophize and assume the worst. You become reactive instead of proactive, lacking the ability to slow down and analyze a situation rationally. Your thoughts may become distorted or irrational.

To overcome anxious or fearful thinking, challenge catastrophic thoughts and look for evidence that contradicts them. Try to adopt a balanced perspective that also considers more positive outcomes. Focus on things within your control rather than unproductive “what ifs.” Staying focused on facts and solutions will help shift your mindset to a more critical, evaluative state.

Self-doubt and anxiety

Self-Doubt and Anxiety: Do You Want to Deal With Them-7 Tips

Other emotions.

Any intense emotion, whether positive or negative, can potentially impact your critical thinking skills. When you’re extremely excited, for example, you may overlook important details or make unrealistic plans. Emotions narrow your perspective, making you susceptible to biases and logical fallacies. The key is learning to recognize when your judgment may be clouded by emotions. Take a step back and look at the situation or decision as objectively as possible. Ask others for input and consider their perspectives with an open mind. Make sure conclusions are based on factual evidence and reason rather than feelings alone. With practice, you can improve your ability to think critically, regardless of the emotions you may be experiencing.

The Negative Emotions That Hinder Critical Thinking

Anger: When you’re angry, your thinking becomes clouded. Your mind races, jumping to conclusions, and you have trouble considering alternative perspectives. Anger activates the fight or flight response in your brain, limiting your ability to think logically or creatively. Take a few deep breaths to calm down before engaging in an important discussion or making an important decision.

Fear: Fear triggers a similar biological response as anger, releasing hormones like adrenaline that impair your cognitive abilities. When you’re afraid, your mind tends to catastrophize, imagining worst-case scenarios. You become more reactive and risk-averse, clinging to what’s familiar rather than openly exploring new ideas. To overcome fear-based thinking, challenge any irrational thoughts and focus on the facts. Stay optimistic by considering the best possible outcomes.

Sadness: Feeling sad or depressed makes critical thinking a challenge. Your mental energy is spent dwelling on negative emotions rather than evaluating information objectively. Even mundane daily tasks seem difficult when you’re sad, let alone complex problem-solving. Do small things each day that boost your mood, like exercising, socializing , or pursuing a hobby. Speak to a therapist if needed, as sadness that persists can lead to more serious issues.

Stress: Chronic stress overworks your mind and body, depleting the mental resources you need for critical thinking. When stressed, your mind races and worries, fixating on responsibilities rather than thinking calmly and broadly. Managing stress through self-care is essential for clear thinking and good decision-making. Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, limit distractions, and take periodic breaks to recharge. Keep stress in check, and your ability to think critically will improve.

In summary, negative emotions like anger, fear, sadness, and stress inhibit critical thinking in many ways. But by cultivating awareness of how these emotions influence you and taking steps to regulate them, you can overcome their effects. Your ability to think logically, be open-mindedly and make good judgments will thank you.

Managing Emotions to Improve Critical Thinking

Managing Emotions to Improve Critical Thinking

As a human, you experience a range of emotions every day that can either positively or negatively impact your critical thinking skills. Recognizing how you feel in the moment is key. Take a few deep breaths to gain awareness of your emotional state before tackling an important decision or discussion. Are you tense, anxious, or upset? These states often narrow your thinking. Your goal is a calm, focused mindset.

To cultivate positive emotions, try watching an inspiring video, listening to uplifting music, reading something humorous, exercising, or practicing mindfulness. Laughter, in particular, releases dopamine and broadens your thinking. With the right mindset, you’ll have an expanded perspective to consider more options and make wiser choices.

Negative emotions like fear, anger or disgust can impair your judgment and cause reactive behavior. Don’t make important decisions when you’re in the heat of the moment. Take time to process how you really feel and why. Talk to someone with an outside perspective who can help you reframe the situation in a more constructive way. Look for compromises and common ground instead of seeing only extremes. Your ability to reason and problem-solve will return once you’ve achieved a calmer state of mind.

Managing your emotions is a skill that takes continuous practice. But by developing awareness of how you feel in the moment and adopting strategies to cultivate positive emotions and mitigate negative ones, you can strengthen your critical thinking skills over time. With a balanced and focused mindset, you’ll gain insight, expand your options, and make better choices overall in life. Like any habit, it gets easier with consistency and conscious effort. Achieving emotional self-regulation and clarity of thought is worth the investment.

Perception and critical thinking

Perception and Critical Thinking: 2 Thinking Influences

Developing emotional intelligence to become a better critical thinker.

To strengthen your critical thinking skills, focus on developing your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions in yourself and others. As a critical thinker, you need to understand how emotions influence your own thoughts and judgments. Notice the feelings that arise when you encounter new ideas or information that conflicts with your beliefs. Try to evaluate the evidence objectively rather than dismissing ideas that make you uncomfortable. Pay attention to emotional arguments or “gut reactions” that lead you to make quick judgments. These tendencies can undermine critical thinking.

You should also strive to understand other people’s emotions and perspectives. Try to see issues from multiple sides, not just your own. Ask open-ended questions to make sure you comprehend alternative views fully. Listen for the feelings and values underlying people’s positions. Then determine if their reasoning is logically sound and backed by evidence. Considering other perspectives helps combat confirmation bias and leads to better critical thinking.

Work on managing your emotions through self-reflection and regulation. Stay open-minded by acknowledging your own assumptions and biases. Try reframing emotional situations in a more constructive way. Take a few deep breaths to avoid feeling overwhelmed by strong feelings like anger or anxiety. Respond in a calm, measured manner rather than reacting impulsively. Your ability to stay emotionally composed will allow you to think more critically about challenging issues.

Emotional intelligence is a skill that takes practice. But by developing self-awareness of your feelings, understanding other people’s perspectives, and regulating your emotions, you can strengthen your critical thinking skills. With time and effort, you’ll get better at evaluating information objectively and rationally, even when facing emotionally-charged issues. Sharpening these abilities will serve you well in work, study, and life.

Tips for Separating Emotions From Reasoning

When your emotions run high, it can be difficult to think critically about a situation. Our feelings have a tendency to cloud our judgment and cause us to make irrational decisions. However, there are a few techniques you can use to separate your emotions from your reasoning.

First, recognize when your emotions start influencing your thoughts. Pay attention to physiological cues like increased heart rate, tense muscles, or feelings of anger or fear. Once you identify you’re becoming emotional, take a few deep breaths to calm down. Removing yourself from the situation that’s triggering your emotions can also help you gain a more balanced perspective.

Next, look at the facts objectively. Try to set aside your personal biases and opinions, focusing only on the evidence and information you have available. Ask yourself probing questions about the facts to make sure you have an accurate understanding of the situation before making a judgment call. Discuss the issue with others to get different viewpoints and input.

It also helps to consider alternative explanations and opinions. Your initial emotional reaction may have caused you to make assumptions that aren’t actually supported by the facts. Exploring different ways of thinking about the issue can help overcome these cognitive biases . Look for evidence that contradicts your beliefs as well as information that supports them.

Finally, give yourself time before responding or making an important decision. Delaying your reaction will allow your emotions to settle down, making you less likely to do or say something you may later regret. Even just a few hours or a good night’s sleep can provide enough distance to see the situation through a more rational lens. Whenever possible, avoid making consequential choices when you’re in an agitated emotional state.

With practice, you can get better at managing the influence of emotions on your reasoning and critical thinking skills. Staying aware of how your feelings can cloud your judgment is the first step to overcoming this very human tendency. By pausing, looking at the facts, and considering other perspectives, you’ll make better decisions and have healthier relationships.

  • The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory by Chai M. Tyng, Hafeez U. Amin, Mohamad N. M. Saad, and Aamir S. Malik * Front Psychol.  2017; 8: 1454. Published online 2017 Aug 24. doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454

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Unlocking The Power: How Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking

critical thinking should include biases or emotions

Hook: Emotions are an integral part of our daily lives. They shape our experiences, influence our decisions, and impact our interactions with others. But have you ever considered the role of emotions in enhancing critical thinking abilities?

Thesis statement: Emotions play a crucial role in enhancing critical thinking abilities. By understanding the link between emotions and critical thinking, harnessing the power of emotions, and overcoming challenges and pitfalls, we can unlock our full potential for effective decision-making.

In this article, we will explore the connection between emotions and critical thinking, delve into the impact of emotions on cognitive processes, and discuss strategies for harnessing the power of emotions to enhance critical thinking skills.

But first, let’s define what we mean by emotions and critical thinking.

Table of Contents

Understanding Emotions and Critical Thinking

To comprehend the relationship between emotions and critical thinking, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of these two concepts.

Definition of emotions: Emotions are complex psychological states that arise in response to our thoughts, experiences, and external stimuli. They encompass a wide range of feelings, including joy, fear, anger, sadness, and surprise. Emotions can significantly influence our perceptions, judgments, and decision-making processes.

Definition of critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information objectively and logically. It involves questioning assumptions, considering multiple perspectives, and making informed decisions based on evidence and reasoning. Critical thinking is crucial for problem-solving, decision-making, and effective communication.

Importance of critical thinking in decision-making: Critical thinking is essential for making sound decisions. It helps us evaluate information, weigh different options, and consider the potential consequences of our choices. By applying critical thinking skills, we can make more informed decisions that align with our goals and values.

Now that we have a clear understanding of emotions and critical thinking, let’s explore the link between the two.

The Link between Emotions and Critical Thinking

Emotions have a profound impact on our cognitive processes, including our ability to think critically. Let’s delve into two aspects of this link: how emotions influence cognitive processes and the connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.

A. How emotions impact cognitive processes:

The influence of positive emotions on creativity and problem-solving: Positive emotions, such as joy and excitement, can enhance our creativity and problem-solving abilities. They broaden our thinking, increase our flexibility in considering different solutions, and improve our ability to generate innovative ideas.

The role of negative emotions in decision-making and risk assessment: Negative emotions, such as fear and anger, can also play a valuable role in critical thinking. They alert us to potential threats, help us assess risks more accurately, and motivate us to take appropriate action. Negative emotions can prompt us to evaluate situations more carefully and make more cautious decisions.

B. The connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills:

Emotional self-awareness and self-reflection: Emotional intelligence, which encompasses the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions, is closely linked to critical thinking skills. By being aware of our emotions and reflecting on how they influence our thoughts and actions, we can make more informed and rational decisions.

Empathy and perspective-taking: Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is an essential component of emotional intelligence. By practicing empathy and perspective-taking, we can consider different viewpoints, challenge our own biases, and make more objective judgments.

Now that we understand the link between emotions and critical thinking, let’s explore how we can harness the power of emotions to enhance our critical thinking skills.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we will discuss strategies for cultivating emotional intelligence and managing emotions effectively for better critical thinking.

Emotions and critical thinking are two essential aspects of human cognition that significantly impact our decision-making process. In this section, we will delve into the definitions of emotions and critical thinking, as well as explore the importance of critical thinking in decision-making.

Definition of Emotions

Emotions are complex psychological and physiological responses to stimuli that can be triggered by external events or internal thoughts. They are subjective experiences that encompass a wide range of feelings such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise. Emotions are an integral part of the human experience and greatly influence our perceptions, behaviors, and actions.

Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information, ideas, and arguments in a logical and systematic manner. It involves actively questioning, reasoning, and reflecting on the validity and reliability of information before making informed decisions or forming opinions. Critical thinking requires individuals to consider multiple perspectives, assess evidence, and identify biases or fallacies in order to arrive at well-informed conclusions.

Importance of Critical Thinking in Decision-Making

Critical thinking plays a crucial role in decision-making as it enables individuals to make rational and well-reasoned choices. In today’s complex and fast-paced world, where we are bombarded with vast amounts of information and faced with numerous options, critical thinking helps us navigate through the noise and make sound judgments.

By employing critical thinking skills, individuals can:

Evaluate the credibility and accuracy of information: Critical thinking allows us to question the sources of information, assess their reliability, and differentiate between facts and opinions. This helps us make informed decisions based on trustworthy and relevant information.

Identify biases and assumptions: Critical thinking helps us recognize our own biases and assumptions, as well as those of others. By acknowledging and challenging these biases, we can avoid making decisions based on faulty reasoning or preconceived notions.

Analyze and weigh different perspectives: Critical thinking encourages us to consider multiple viewpoints and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This helps us gain a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues and make well-rounded decisions.

Anticipate and manage potential risks: Critical thinking enables us to identify potential risks and evaluate the consequences of our actions. By considering the long-term implications and weighing the pros and cons, we can make more calculated decisions and minimize the likelihood of negative outcomes.

In conclusion, understanding emotions and critical thinking is essential for enhancing our decision-making abilities. Emotions provide us with valuable insights and perspectives, while critical thinking empowers us to analyze information objectively and arrive at well-informed conclusions. By cultivating both emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, we can make better decisions that positively impact our personal and professional lives.

In our daily lives, emotions have a profound impact on the way we think and make decisions. They can either enhance or hinder our critical thinking abilities. Understanding the link between emotions and critical thinking is crucial for personal and professional growth. In this section, we will explore how emotions influence cognitive processes and the connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.

How emotions impact cognitive processes

  • The influence of positive emotions on creativity and problem-solving

Positive emotions such as joy, excitement, and happiness have been found to enhance creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. When we experience positive emotions, our brains are more open to new ideas and possibilities. This allows us to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to challenges.

  • The role of negative emotions in decision-making and risk assessment

While negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are often seen as detrimental, they can actually play a valuable role in critical thinking. Negative emotions activate our fight-or-flight response, which heightens our alertness and focus. This can be beneficial when making important decisions or assessing potential risks. Negative emotions can help us consider all possible outcomes and make more informed choices.

The connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize and empathize with the emotions of others. It is closely linked to critical thinking skills and plays a significant role in decision-making processes.

  • Emotional self-awareness and self-reflection

Being emotionally self-aware allows us to recognize and understand our own emotions. This awareness enables us to evaluate how our emotions may be influencing our thoughts and decision-making processes. Self-reflection helps us gain insights into our emotional responses and biases, allowing for more objective and rational thinking.

  • Empathy and perspective-taking

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a key component of emotional intelligence. It enables us to consider different perspectives and viewpoints, which is essential for critical thinking. By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can challenge our own assumptions and biases, leading to more well-rounded and informed decision-making.

Harnessing the Power of Emotions for Better Critical Thinking

To enhance our critical thinking abilities, it is important to cultivate emotional intelligence and learn to manage our emotions effectively.

  • Developing self-awareness through mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and self-reflection, can help us become more aware of our emotions and thoughts. By practicing mindfulness, we can observe our emotions without judgment and gain a deeper understanding of how they influence our thinking. This self-awareness allows us to make more conscious and rational decisions.

  • Building empathy through active listening and understanding others’ perspectives

Active listening and seeking to understand others’ perspectives are essential for developing empathy. By actively engaging in conversations and considering different viewpoints, we can broaden our understanding and challenge our own biases. This empathetic approach enhances our critical thinking skills by encouraging us to consider multiple angles before making decisions.

Emotions and critical thinking are deeply interconnected. Emotions can either enhance or hinder our critical thinking abilities, depending on how we manage them. By cultivating emotional intelligence and harnessing the power of emotions, we can improve our decision-making processes and achieve personal and professional growth. Embracing emotions as a valuable tool for critical thinking allows us to approach challenges with creativity, empathy, and rationality. So, let us embrace the power of emotions and unlock our full potential for better decision-making.

In today’s fast-paced world, critical thinking has become an essential skill for success. It allows us to analyze information, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively. However, what many people fail to realize is that our emotions play a crucial role in enhancing our critical thinking abilities. By understanding and harnessing the power of emotions, we can improve our decision-making processes and achieve better outcomes.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as empathize with the emotions of others. It is a key component of effective critical thinking. Here are some ways to cultivate emotional intelligence:

Developing self-awareness through mindfulness practices: Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment and observing our thoughts and emotions without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, we can become more aware of our emotional states and how they influence our thinking processes. This self-awareness allows us to make more objective and rational decisions.

Building empathy through active listening and understanding others’ perspectives: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By actively listening and seeking to understand different perspectives, we can develop empathy. This skill enables us to consider multiple viewpoints and make more well-rounded decisions.

Managing Emotions for Effective Critical Thinking

While emotions can enhance critical thinking, it is essential to manage them effectively. Here are some strategies for managing emotions to improve critical thinking:

Recognizing and controlling biases and prejudices: Our emotions can sometimes be influenced by biases and prejudices, which can cloud our judgment. By recognizing and acknowledging these biases, we can take steps to mitigate their impact on our decision-making processes. This self-awareness allows us to approach situations with a more open mind and make more objective decisions.

Using emotions as a source of motivation and inspiration: Emotions can be powerful motivators. By tapping into our emotions, we can find the drive and inspiration to tackle challenges and think creatively. For example, positive emotions such as excitement and passion can fuel our determination to overcome obstacles and find innovative solutions.

Real-Life Examples

Numerous real-life examples demonstrate how emotions positively influence critical thinking. Successful business leaders often make decisions based on intuition and emotional intelligence. They trust their gut feelings and rely on their emotional intelligence to navigate complex situations. Historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi used their emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change. Their passion and empathy for others fueled their determination to fight for justice and equality.

Overcoming Challenges and Pitfalls

While emotions can enhance critical thinking, it is crucial to be mindful of the dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking. Emotions can sometimes lead us astray and cloud our judgment. To overcome this challenge, we can employ strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking:

Seeking diverse perspectives and feedback: By actively seeking out diverse perspectives and feedback, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a situation. This approach allows us to consider different viewpoints and make more well-informed decisions.

Taking time for reflection and analysis before making decisions: It is essential to take a step back and reflect on our emotions before making important decisions. By analyzing the situation objectively and considering the potential consequences, we can ensure that our emotions do not lead us astray.

Emotions play a significant role in enhancing critical thinking abilities. By cultivating emotional intelligence and managing our emotions effectively, we can harness their power for better decision-making. Embracing our emotions and using them as a source of motivation and inspiration can lead to more innovative solutions and positive outcomes. However, it is crucial to be mindful of the potential pitfalls and take steps to balance emotions with rational thinking. By doing so, we can unlock our full potential for personal and professional growth.

Case Studies and Examples

In this section, we will explore real-life case studies and examples that demonstrate how emotions can positively influence critical thinking. These examples will highlight the importance of emotional intelligence and its impact on decision-making and problem-solving.

Real-life examples of how emotions positively influenced critical thinking

Successful business leaders making decisions based on intuition and emotional intelligence

Many successful business leaders attribute their success to their ability to tap into their emotions and use them as a guide in decision-making. For example, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was known for his intuition and ability to trust his gut feelings. He often made decisions based on his emotional connection with products and customers, which led to the creation of groundbreaking innovations.

Similarly, Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul, has built her empire by connecting with her audience on an emotional level. She understands the power of emotions in storytelling and uses it to engage and inspire her viewers. By leveraging her emotional intelligence, she has been able to make critical decisions that have propelled her career to great heights.

Historical figures who used emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of leaders who harnessed the power of emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change. One such example is Mahatma Gandhi, who used nonviolent resistance as a means to fight for India’s independence from British rule. Gandhi’s ability to tap into the emotions of the masses and inspire them to take action played a crucial role in the success of the independence movement.

Another example is Martin Luther King Jr., who used his emotional intelligence to mobilize the civil rights movement in the United States. His powerful speeches and ability to connect with people on an emotional level helped to galvanize support and bring about significant social change.

These examples highlight how emotions can be a driving force behind critical thinking and decision-making, leading to positive outcomes and societal transformation.

By examining these case studies and examples, we can see that emotions can have a profound impact on critical thinking. Successful business leaders and historical figures have demonstrated how leveraging emotions and emotional intelligence can lead to innovative solutions, inspire change, and drive success . It is essential to recognize the role emotions play in decision-making and problem-solving and to harness their power for personal and professional growth.

In the next section, we will discuss the challenges and pitfalls that can arise when emotions override rational thinking. We will also explore strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking to make informed decisions. Stay tuned for valuable insights on how to navigate the delicate balance between emotions and critical thinking.

Emotions can be powerful drivers of critical thinking, but they can also present challenges and pitfalls that need to be overcome. It’s important to strike a balance between emotions and rational thinking to ensure that decisions are made with clarity and objectivity. In this section, we will explore some of the challenges that arise when emotions override rational thinking and strategies for overcoming them.

The dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking

When emotions take control, rational thinking can be compromised. This can lead to biased decision-making, impulsive actions, and poor judgment. Emotions such as fear, anger, or excitement can cloud our judgment and prevent us from considering alternative perspectives or weighing the consequences of our actions. It’s crucial to be aware of these dangers and take steps to mitigate them.

Strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking

To overcome the challenges of letting emotions override rational thinking, it’s important to develop strategies that promote a balanced approach. Here are two strategies that can help:

Seeking diverse perspectives and feedback

When making important decisions, it’s essential to seek input from others and consider diverse perspectives. This can help to counteract the influence of emotions and provide a more objective view of the situation. By actively seeking feedback and listening to different viewpoints, we can challenge our own biases and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand.

Taking time for reflection and analysis before making decisions

In the heat of the moment, emotions can cloud our judgment and lead to impulsive decisions. Taking a step back and allowing time for reflection and analysis can help to counteract this tendency. By giving ourselves space to process our emotions and consider the facts objectively, we can make more informed decisions that are not solely driven by our emotional state.

By implementing these strategies, we can strike a balance between emotions and critical thinking, ensuring that our decisions are based on a rational assessment of the situation rather than being solely driven by our emotions.

While emotions can be powerful drivers of critical thinking, they can also present challenges and pitfalls. By being aware of the dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking and implementing strategies to balance emotions and critical thinking, we can make more informed decisions and avoid impulsive actions. Embracing and harnessing the power of emotions while maintaining a rational mindset can lead to better personal and professional growth. So, let’s strive to strike a balance and make the most of the potential impact of emotions on our decision-making process.

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Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About Popularized Neurosciences

  • Open access
  • Published: 07 September 2020
  • Volume 29 , pages 1139–1176, ( 2020 )

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critical thinking should include biases or emotions

  • François Lombard   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Daniel K. Schneider   ORCID: 2 ,
  • Marie Merminod   ORCID: 3 &
  • Laura Weiss   ORCID: 3  

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Bioscientific advances raise numerous new ethical dilemmas. Neuroscience research opens possibilities of tracing and even modifying human brain processes, such as decision-making, revenge, or pain control. Social media and science popularization challenge the boundaries between truth, fiction, and deliberate misinformation, calling for critical thinking (CT). Biology teachers often feel ill-equipped to organize student debates that address sensitive issues, opinions, and emotions in classrooms. Recent brain research confirms that opinions cannot be understood as solely objective and logical and are strongly influenced by the form of empathy. Emotional empathy engages strongly with salient aspects but blinds to others’ reactions while cognitive empathy allows perspective and independent CT. In order to address the complex socioscientific issues (SSIs) that recent neuroscience raises, cognitive empathy is a significant skill rarely developed in schools. We will focus on the processes of opinion building and argue that learners first need a good understanding of methods and techniques to discuss potential uses and other people’s possible emotional reactions. Subsequently, in order to develop cognitive empathy, students are asked to describe opposed emotional reactions as dilemmas by considering alternative viewpoints and values. Using a design-based-research paradigm, we propose a new learning design method for independent critical opinion building based on the development of cognitive empathy. We discuss an example design to illustrate the generativity of the method. The collected data suggest that students developed decentering competency and scientific methods literacy. Generalizability of the design principles to enhance other CT designs is discussed.

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1 Introduction

Socioscientific issues (SSIs) raised by the rapid progress and potential applications of life sciences and technology in areas such as genetics, medicine, and neuroscience challenge students and future citizens with new moral dilemmas. For example, results from recent neuroscience research have attracted considerable attention in the media, with popularized information often claiming that neuroimaging can be used to decipher various human mental processes and possibly modify them. Insights into brain functioning seem to challenge the classical boundaries of psychology, biology, philosophy, and popularized science that students are confronted with. They raise intense and complex SSIs for which there is no large body of ethical or educational reflection (Illes and Racine 2005 ). There are serious issues and some controversy surrounding the confusion of brain activity with mental processes or states of mind (Lundegård and Hamza 2014 ) and the emotive power of brain scans; for example, Check ( 2005 ) and McCabe and Castel ( 2008 ) show that neuroimages can have much greater convincing power than the methods and the scientific data they produce a warrant. Ali et al. 2014 call this phenomenon neuroenchantment . Proper interpretation of the neuroimaging data frequently presented in popularized science is a key epistemological and ethical challenge (Illes and Racine 2005 ) that schools do not generally address, leaving future citizens unprepared to face these new issues. Students need to be better equipped with reasonable thinking for deciding what to believe or do: critical thinking (CT).

What citizens know of science is currently shaped mainly by out-of-school sources such as traditional and social media (Fenichel and Schweingruber 2010 ). Developing CT in students is an important educational goal in many curricula, e.g., the CIIP ( 2011 ) in Switzerland. However, the PISA study shows that there is room for improvement (Schleicher 2019 ). While the internet offers access to invaluable information, the propagation of “fake news” has become a worrying issue (Brossard and Scheufele 2013 ; Rider and Peters 2018 ; Vosoughi et al. 2018 ). Additionally, Bavel and Pereira ( 2018 ) argue that our increased access to information has isolated us in ideological bubbles where we mostly encounter information that reflects our own opinions and values. The overwhelming amount of information available on social media paradoxically does not help understand other opinions; rather, it hinders CT and especially perspective-taking (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ; Rowe et al. 2015 ; Willingham 2008 ).

Adding to these difficulties regarding CT, neuroscience research has been criticized because of distortions introduced through sensationalist popularization. We adopt a neutral stance towards results published under the label of neuroscience or presented as “brain research.” Education must navigate between naïve adhesion to anything published under the label of neuroscience or popularized as “brain research” and rejection of all neuroscience research because of these sensationalist flaws in its popularization. This study is an attempt to address this challenge and propose a new perspective for helping students develop some difficult aspects of CT that might enhance many classical learning designs. Self-centered or group-centered emotions often hinder CT (Ennis 1987 ; Facione 1990 ). Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) also show that emotive informal reasoning is directed towards real people or fictitious characters. Imagining people’s emotional and moral reactions in these different situations without being overwhelmed by one’s own empathetic emotional reactions is a major difficulty in CT education. While the most basic form of empathy focuses on the emotional aspects of a situation, it blinds us to others (Bloom 2017a ) and hinders decentering. The more advanced cognitive form of empathy (Klimecki and Singer 2013 ) enables decentering and reasonable assessment of moral dilemmas. This article proposes an approach for developing CT that draws not only on rational reasoning but also on understanding others’ emotional reactions (cognitive empathy) to develop the perspective that is needed: thinking independently, challenging one’s own personal or collective interest, and overcoming egocentric values (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ). Consequently, developing this decentering aspect of CT in students is a central aim of this contribution. In addition, we argue that a proper understanding of methods is also necessary to discuss the potential and limits of research findings, especially in popularized neuroscience. Thus, methodological knowledge is a preliminary and necessary step towards understanding the social and human implications of such scientific results. Therefore, developing scientific methods literacy is a foundational goal of this contribution.

We will develop this new contribution to CT teaching in five steps:

In Section 2 , we will discuss theories that can guide the crafting of learning designs for developing selected CT skills and lead to an original conceptualization focused on decentering when discussing popularized neuroscience. We start by reviewing CT in education and its various definitions and discuss the challenges of its implementation and several approaches. We show through recent literature that attempting to ignore emotions while debating opinions does not reduce their effects on CT. Starting from this, we will discuss the importance of decentering from one’s own values and social belonging in CT and the essential role of empathy in this process. We develop the idea that helping students to discover and understand the scientific methods used in neuroscience research is foundational to imagining its limits and potential as well as others’ moral and emotional reactions. We will argue that focusing the discussion of the SSIs raised on empathetic discussion of these different reactions can enhance decentering skills. We finish by summarizing the design approach.

In Section 3 , we map the theory developed in Section 2 onto educational design principles. We first explain the conjecture mapping technique that we used (exemplified in Section 4 ). We then define learning goals, i.e., the expected effects (EEs), and finish by elaborating design principles in the form of educational design conjectures for decentering CT skills.

In Section 4 , we present, analyze and discuss an example learning design. Learning design as an activity can be defined as design for learning, i.e., “the act of devising new practices, plans of activity, resources and tools aimed at achieving particular educational aims in a given situation” (Mor and Craft 2012 , p. 86). In this study, the learning design is part of the outcome, i.e., a reproducible design. We start by presenting an abstract model based on Sandoval and Bell’s ( 2004 ) conjecture map , a design method developed for design-based research that allows the identification of key elements of a learning design in a way suitable for research and practice. The presented design was developed in 10 iterations over 15 years in higher secondary biology classes (equivalent to high school) in Geneva, Switzerland. We then present the design of the 2018/2019 implementation.

In Section 5 , we present some empirical results based on quali-quantitative data from student-produced artifacts from the 2018/2019 cohort. We also present findings from an end-of-semester survey.

Section 6 summarizes and discusses the main findings, discusses their implications and limitations, and outlines further perspectives.

We formulate two research questions at the end of the theory sections that we summarize as follows: (1) How can a conceptualization that focuses on decentering and methods literacy be implemented through an operational learning design and what are its main design elements? (2) Does an implementation of this learning design help students improve the selected CT skills?

2 Theoretical Framework

2.1 critical thinking in education.

In education, calls to develop critical thinking (CT) in students are frequent. This crucial skill, necessary for citizens to participate in a plural and democratic society, is often lacking among students according to PISA results (Schleicher 2019 ). Science education curricula usually include CT as a learning goal. The official curriculum for Swiss-French secondary schools (CIIP 2011 ) states that “In a society deeply modified by scientific and technological progress, it is important that every citizen masters basic skills in order to understand the consequences of choices made by the community, to take part in social debate on such subjects and to grasp the main issues. In the ever-faster evolution of the world, it is necessary to develop in students a conceptual, coherent, logical and structured thinking, with a flexible mind and a capacity to deliver adequate productions and act according to reasoned choices” (our translation) but then focuses on rational thinking: “The purpose of science is to establish a principle of rationality for the confrontation of ideas and theories with the facts observed in the learner’s world” (CIIP 2011 , our translation). Official educational guidelines often focus on the reason-based aspect of CT, but the emotional aspects of CT are also recognized in some official educational programs. For example, the CIIP ( 2011 ) mentions the learning goal “reflexive approach and critical thinking,” which consists in the “ability to develop a reflexive approach and critical stance to put into perspective facts and information, as well as one’s own actions…” The descriptors include “evaluating the shares of reason and affectivity in one’s approach; verifying the accuracy of the facts and putting them into perspective” (our translation).

One of the most widely cited definitions of CT, by Robert Ennis, introduces the concept as “reasonable reflective thinking, that is focused on deciding what to believe or do” (1987, p. 6). Ennis proposes a list of twelve dispositions and sixteen abilities that characterize the ideal critical thinker. This list and its items “can be considered as guidelines or goals for curriculum planning, as ‘necessary conditions’ for the exercise of critical thinking, or as a checklist for empirical research” (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 , p. 1002). Facione ( 1990 ), in a statement of expert consensus, states, “We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based. […] The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, […] It combines developing CT skills with nurturing those dispositions which consistently yield useful insights and which are the basis of a rational and democratic society” (p. 3).

In both texts, the focus is on reasonable thinking, and emotions are only referenced implicitly. For example, Facione’s definition mentions “personal biases,” and the only mention of emotion in the main text is negative: “to judge the extent to which one’s thinking is influenced by deficiencies in one’s knowledge, or by stereotypes, prejudices, emotions or any other factors which constrain one’s objectivity or rationality” (Facione 1990 , p. 10). CT seems to shun emotions. As in philosophy and argumentation, emotions are considered out of place in good reasoning (Bowell 2018 ), and no form of empathy is explicitly taken into account, except within “personal biases.”

A set of Ennis’s CT abilities are related to scientific information literacy: the ability to discuss the limits and potential of scientific information based on a good understanding of the methods and foundations of its elaboration. From a science education point of view, Hounsell and McCune ( 2002 ) propose the ability “to access and evaluate bioscience information from a variety of sources and to communicate the principles both orally and in writing [...] in a way that is well organized, topical and recognizes the limits of current hypotheses” (Hounsell and McCune 2002 , p. 7, quoting QAA 2002 ). We draw from this definition that science does not produce truths but tentative, empirically based knowledge that must be understood within the limits of the conceptual framework and hypotheses that determine the methods that produced this knowledge.

It is also important to define what CT does not mean in this context: it does not imply negative thinking or an obsessive search for faults and flaws in scientific results. CT should not be conflated with a systematic criticism of science, which in some cases has become so strong as to create defiance towards science and scientific methods. CT does not mean discussing only bad examples and exaggerated claims or inferences. Angermuller ( 2018 ) warns, “research critically interrogating truth and reality may serve propagandists of post-truth and their ideological agenda” (p. 2). Furthermore, CT should not mean observance of a teacher’s personal critical views. CT must focus on skills that allow students to reasonably evaluate knowledge on the basis of available evidence and requires recognizing but decentering from personal biases and understanding scientific methods well enough to evaluate the potential and limits of research.

One classical approach in classrooms is argumentation and debating beliefs and opinions (Bowell 2018 ; Dawson and Venville 2010 ; Dawson and Carson 2018 ; Duschl and Osborne 2002 ; Jiménez-Aleixandre et al. 2000 ; Jonassen and Kim 2010 ; Legg 2018 ). Additionally, learning progressions organizing skills into different stages have been well discussed (Berland and McNeill 2010 ; Plummer and Krajcik 2010 ). Osborne ( 2010 ) writes that much is understood about how to organize groups for learning and how the norms of social interaction can be supported and taught. For example, Buchs et al. ( 2004 ) show that debate is most efficient as a learning activity when it is very specifically organized to favor epistemic rather than relational elaboration of conflict. This requires ignoring emotions (and implicitly any form of empathy) to focus on rational discussion. Constructive controversy has been demonstrated to be very efficient at identifying the best group answer on a specific question (Johnson and Johnson 2009 ), but focuses—remarkably well—on keeping the debate rational and does encourage decentering through role exchange; however, in our view, it is not specifically focused on handling the emotions and empathetic reactions that some very sensitive issues can raise, as Bowell ( 2018 ) shows.

Teachers who attempt to organize classroom debates or argumentation often encounter great difficulty in doing so (Osborne 2010 ; Simonneaux 2003 ). They often feel ill-trained and worried about handling the emotional reactions and value conflicts that arise during discussions and arguments about SSIs. Ultimately, they frequently refrain from debates (Osborne et al. 2013 ) or confine themselves to the apparently safe boundaries of rationality. How student groups can be supported to produce elaborated, critical discourse is unclear according to Osborne ( 2010 ). An unusual approach was proposed by Cook et al. ( 2017 ). They describe it well in their title: “Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence.” This immunological metaphor of exposing students to possible biases and manipulations in advance as a strategy for developing CT skills contrasts with approaches where students are protected from and cautioned against such information, which is in turn dismissed. We consider here how to face the educational challenge and address the difficult new SSIs raised by scientific advances—notably in neuroscience.

While this article is not about conceptual change, which is the subject of abundant research, including Clark and Linn ( 2013 ); diSessa ( 2002 ); Duit et al. ( 2008 ); Ohlsson ( 2013 ); Posner et al. ( 1982 ); Potvin ( 2013 ); Strike and Posner ( 1982 ); and Vosniadou ( 1994 ), it is worth noting that conceptual change also cannot be fully understood without considering the effects of beliefs—especially on some subjects such as evolution (Clément and Quessada 2013 ; Sinatra et al. 2003 ; Potvin 2013 ). Tracy Bowell ( 2018 ) insists that against deeply held beliefs, rational argument cannot suffice: “Although critical thinking pedagogy does often emphasize the need for a properly critical thinker to be willing (and able) to hold up their own beliefs to critical analysis and scrutiny, and be prepared to modify or relinquish them in the face of appropriate evidence, it has been recognized that the type of critical thinking instruction usually offered at the first-year level in universities frequently does not lead to these outcomes for learners” (p. 172).

Discussing SSIs engages opinions. Roget’s Thesaurus defines opinions as views or judgments formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. For Astolfi ( 2008 ), opinion “is not of the same nature as knowledge. The essential question is then no longer to decide between the points of view expressed as to who is right and who is wrong. It is to access the underlying reasons that justify the points of view involved” (p. 153, our translation). Among others, Legg ( 2018 ) discusses how difficult—even for professional thinkers—forming a well-built opinion is. We will not address this thorny philosophical question here but discuss how to develop decentering skills with 18- to 19-year-old high school biology students discovering recent popularized research. The central point in this article is not about deciding which opinion is correct or socially acceptable in the specific social and cultural environment of students or even which opinion the current state of scientific knowledge supports. Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig ( 2012 ) highlight the importance of thinking not only reasonably but also independently . This text discusses putting into perspective the rational reasons with emotional and empathetic reactions that justify one’s own opinions through understanding that others might have other underlying reasons and emotional and empathetic reactions leading to different opinions, calling for decentering skills.

It would seem natural to discuss opinions. However, discussing students’ opinions in the multicultural classrooms of today could hurt personal, cultural, or religious sensitivities and can be counterproductive (Bowell 2018 ). Research has shown that many forms of debate, e.g., debate-to-win (Fisher et al. 2018 ), can unintentionally modify participants’ opinions (Simonneaux and Simonneaux 2005 ). Abundant social psychology research has shown, for example, that holding one point of view in a debate modifies the arguer’s opinion (Festinger 1957 ; Aronson et al. 2013 ). Cognitive dissonance reduction has long been identified as an obstacle to accepting new ideas (Festinger 1957 ). Indeed, debating well-established opinions with students or even inexperienced scholars can easily lead to the entrenchment of personal opinions (Bavel and Pereira 2018 ; Legg 2018 ). This raises serious ethical questions: some learning designs might influence the opinions of students or might even become manipulative, unconsciously leading students to observance of the teacher’s personal outrage or opinion. Creating fair, respectful, and productive opinion debates in the classroom setting is difficult. The emotional reactions of teachers and students can get out of hand. Biology teachers are sometimes afraid of students’ reactions when discussing socially loaded topics such as the mechanisms of evolution (Clément and Quessada 2013 ), possibly confusing the well-established explanatory power of evolutionary scientific models with beliefs and opinions students might have. In Switzerland, biology curricula require students to be able to use these scientific models to explain observed phenomena and predict, for example, the consequences for a species of variations in the environment but not to adhere to any specific belief.

For many, a focus on rational and independent thinking should restrict the role emotions play in the opinion building process. Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig ( 2012 ) mention, “Although we think that it is desirable for students (and people) to integrate care and empathy in their reasoning, we would contemplate purely or mainly emotive reasoning as less strong than rational reasoning” (p. 1011). This concern about the threat of emotion-only reasoning could be understood by some readers to imply that rational thinking processes alone should guide independent opinion building to allow decentered thinking and that empathy should not be encouraged. It does not appear realistic to expect this of 19-year-old students, and we will discuss below how ignoring emotions in opinion building processes might in fact increase their influence.

Rider and Peters ( 2018 ) discuss free thinking, and Legg ( 2018 ) stresses how social media could lead users to avoid encountering any viewpoints or arguments that contradict their own, discussing how professional thinkers and writers seek better opinions by confronting others’ opinions. In her final line, she encourages readers to “[listen] well to those with contrary opinions—even those who promote them most aggressively—since, in the epistemic as opposed to the political space, as ever, ‘the [only] solution to poor opinions is more opinions’” (p. 56). She suggests seeking further information before behaving as if one has certainty as a way to overcome the arrogant assumed certainty that is a dismaying feature of our current regime. We fully agree with the need to take into account differing and contrary opinions: a good capacity for decentering is indeed central to CT, but how this can be achieved is a challenge that cannot be tackled without taking into account emotions and dealing with different forms of empathy.

With young students in particular, social belonging and emotions cannot be ignored. Bowell ( 2018 ) shows in an example that “students’ deeply held beliefs […] had been formed in the environments of their families and their communities. […] By recognizing and acknowledging the emotional weight of the students’ deeply held beliefs about climate change and their suspicion toward scientists and the evidence they produce, the teacher found a way to disrupt those beliefs” (p. 183). For 19-year-old students, asking for rational debate while ignoring emotions might be quite problematic for some SSIs. Since CT can be challenged by emotionally overwhelming reactions, without developing skills to decenter students from their own emotional and empathetic responses, many educational designs based on debate might not develop their full potential.

In summary, educational strategies for rational debate have substantial potential to promote science and CT and are often used in schools where CT is pursued; however, it appears, as PISA results show (Schleicher 2019 ), that there is still room for improvement. New learning designs specifically aimed at balancing reason and emotional reactions may contribute to increasing CT skills. Such designs should probably include learning to deal with the different forms of empathy that will be discussed below and could be implemented before setting up debates or possibly even before students develop their own opinions about the new SSIs raised by the abundance of neuroscience research.

2.2 Emotions and Decentering in Critical Thinking

Recent research adds evidence to what psychologists and some philosophers have long argued, namely, that opinion building and moral decisions cannot be understood solely as cold, objective, and logical (Young and Koenigs 2007 ; Decety and Cowell 2014 ; Narvaez and Vaydich 2008 ; Goldstein 2018 ) and that rational-only approaches cannot suffice to guide educational interventions on SSIs (Bowell, 2018 ). According to Sander and Scherer ( 2009 , pp. 189–195), emotion is a process that is fast, focused on a specific event, and triggers an emotional response . It involves 5 components: expression (facial, vocal or postural), motivation (orientation and tendency for action), bodily reaction (physical manifestations that accompany or precede the emotion), feeling (how the emotion is consciously experienced), and cognitive evaluation (interpretations that make sense of emotions and induce them). These interpretations differ across people, moments, individual memories, values, and social belongings, implying complex relationships among emotions, values, and “reason” and indicating how much emotional responses to the same situations can vary according to personal, cultural, and social characteristics. Emotions affect attention to and the salience of specific aspects of a situation (Sander and Scherer 2009 ) and can lead to focusing only on some aspects of the triggering situation and ignoring others. For example, negative emotions narrow the attentional focus and one’s ability to take others’ emotions, such as pain, into account (Qiao-Tasserit et al. 2018 ). Positive emotions (Fredrickson 2004 ; Rowe et al. 2007 ) can broaden people’s attention and thinking, but negative emotions tend to reduce judgment errors and result in more effective interpersonal strategies (Forgas 2013 ; Gruber et al. 2011 ).

The role played by emotions in opinion building has often been considered detrimental (Facione 1990 ; Ennis 1987 ). However, Tracy Bowell ( 2018 ) argues for “ways in which emotion and reason work together to form, scrutinise and revise deeply held beliefs” (p.170). Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) insist on “the pervasive influence emotions have on how students frame and respond to ethical issues” (p. 115), and it appears there is an agreement that opinion building cannot be understood as only objective and logical. Adding empirical evidence to Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) in a way, Young and Koenigs ( 2007 ) use fMRI data to show that emotions not only are engaged during moral cognition but are in fact critical for human morality and opinion building. Confirming in-group biases identified by social psychologists, neuroscience research suggests that thinking about the mind of another person is done with reference to one’s own mental characteristics (Jenkins et al. 2008 ) and can therefore interfere with and thwart decentering attempts. Vollberg and Cikara ( 2018 ) showed that in-group bias can unknowingly influence emotions and opinions in favor of the priorities and interests of the group. We see this new evidence as convergent with the discussion by Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) of the interactions between informal (rationalistic, emotive, and intuitive) reasoning patterns that occur when students think about SSIs.

We have seen that both Ennis ( 1987 ) and Facione ( 1990 ) support the importance of decentering from one’s own point of view, emotions, and values in order to be able to take into account other, potentially conflicting perspectives. De Vecchi ( 2006 ) also differentiates levels of CT, with the highest level being “Debating one’s own work as well as that of others in a cooperative manner. Positively discussing objections from others and taking them into account” (p. 180, our translation). Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig ( 2012 ) emphasize thinking independently, challenging one’s own personal or collective interests and overcoming egocentric values. Piaget ( 1950 ) used the term décentration (often translated as decentering ) to describe the progressive ability of a child to move from his or her “necessarily deforming and egocentric viewpoint” to a more objective elaboration of “the real connections” between things (p. 107–108, our translation). This move implies disengaging the object from one’s immediate action to locate it in a system of relations between things corresponding to a system of operations that the subject could apply to them from all possible viewpoints. The capacity for “putting oneself in another’s shoes” and envisioning the complex potential intentions and mental states of others, also referred to as the theory of mind or cognitive empathy, begins developing in young children around the age of 2 and appears to be unique to humans and a few other animals (Call and Tomasello 2008 ; Seyfarth and Cheney 2013 ).

This particularly highlights the relevance of decentering to independent opinion building processes in our multicultural, connected world, where sensationalism, speed, and immediacy challenge one’s capacity to put into perspective one’s own opinion or emotional reactions. The SSIs raised by neuroscience research include sensitive issues such as claims in popularized media about deciphering various human mental processes (e.g., the placebo effect (Wager et al. 2004 ), face identification from neuron activity measurements (Chang and Tsao 2017 ), and vengeance control (Klimecki et al. 2018 ) and possibly modifying them (e.g., activating brain areas to control pain (deCharms et al. 2005 )) that could elicit strongly differing moral views across the diversity of social and religious belongings or personal values and monistic or dualistic views about the mind. Helping students to think independently from their moral perspective about such issues calls for teaching designs specially geared towards developing decentering skills, not just requiring them.

The process of forming an independent opinion about a given SSI should therefore include two dimensions: (1) awareness that one’s point of view and emotional reaction towards a situation are not necessarily the only ones; (2) the capacity to understand and take into account other possible emotional reactions than one’s own without necessarily adhering to them.

Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig ( 2012 ), as they highlight the importance of thinking not only reasonably but also independently , point out that CT should include the challenge of argument from authority (traditional authority of position (Peters 2015 )) and the capacity to criticize discourses that contribute to the reproduction of asymmetrical relations of power. They distinguish four main components of CT:

The ability “to evaluate knowledge on the basis of available evidence [...]”

The display of critical “dispositions, such as seeking reasons for one’s own or others’ claims [...]”

The “capacity of a person to develop independent opinions [...] as opposed to relying on the views of others (e.g., family, peers, teachers, media)”

“the capacity to analyze and criticize discourse that justifies inequalities and asymmetrical relations of power.” (p. 1002)

For these authors, while the first two components belong to argumentation, the other two have to do with social emancipation and citizenship. This socially decentered dimension of CT highlights the importance of the skills this project focuses on: “the competence to develop both independent opinions and the ability to reflect about the world around oneself and participate in it. It is related to the evaluation of scientific evidence [...], to the analysis of the reliability of experts, to identifying prejudices [...] and to distinguishing reports from advertising or propaganda. Thinking critically [...] could involve challenging one’s own personal or collective interest and overcoming egocentric values” (p. 1012).

We will refer to decentering as the ability to put one’s first emotional reactions in perspective and take into account different, contradictory values and emotional reactions other people (with different values, social contexts, and beliefs) might have in a given situation—real or imagined.

2.3 Empathy as a Skill for Decentering in Critical Thinking?

Singer and Klimecki ( 2014 ) write that perspective-taking ability is the foundation for understanding that people may have views that differ from our own and that moral decisions strongly imply empathic response systems. Empathy is “a psychological construct regulated by both cognitive and affective components, producing emotional understanding” (Shamay-Tsoory et al. 2009 , p. 617). Empathy is often considered a positive, benevolent emotional reaction, but some forms of empathy can hinder decentering. Bloom 2017a , b ) highlights the ambiguous role of emotional empathy in moral reasoning: he argues that empathy is fraught with biases, including biases towards attractive people and for those who look like us or share our ethnic or national background. Additionally, it connects us to particular individuals, real or imagined, but is insensitive to others, however numerous they may be (Bloom 2017a ). He compares empathy to a searchlight: it focuses on one aspect of the situation and the emotions it causes but leaves in darkness the other emotional reactions that people with different values or in different situations might have; therefore, some forms of empathy do not facilitate perspective-taking. Klimecki and Singer ( 2013 ) distinguish two empathetic response systems. The first response type, emotional empathy, focuses the attention of subjects through the emotions the situation evokes but blinds them to other people’s reactions and leads to self-oriented behavior. A second type of response, cognitive empathy (which we consider to be similar to Sadler and Zeidler’s emotive reasoning), helps one understand the emotional reactions and perspectives of those with different values or from different cultures and is a critical decentering skill. For Shamay-Tsoory et al. ( 2009 ), emotional empathy is developed early in infants and acts as a simulation system ( I feel what you feel ) involving mainly emotion recognition and emotional contagion. Cognitive empathy develops later and relies on “more complex cognitive functions,” such as the “mentalizing” or “perspective-taking” system: the ability to understand another person’s perspective and to feel concerned for what the other feels without necessarily sharing the same feelings. The first form of empathy is problematic (Bloom 2017a ), because sharing the negative emotions of others can paradoxically lead to withdrawal from the negative experience and self-oriented behavior. Cognitive empathy allows for a more distant and balanced appraisal of a situation: it results in positive feelings of care and concern and promotes prosocial motivation. It also helps one understand the emotional reactions of others who have different values and social belongings, which is necessary for decentering in CT.

We have seen that opinion building cannot be considered a cold and rational process and that many biases prevent individuals from understanding others’ emotional reactions, which hinders independent thinking in CT. Some forms of empathy, also called perspective-taking, theory of mind, empathy, or sympathy, might mitigate this problem; therefore, we will discuss their implications for thinking about SSIs. Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) show that empathy “has allowed the students to identify with the characters in the SSI scenarios and allow for multiple perspective-taking” (p. 115). Furthermore, they describe how emotive reactions can help students imagine others’ reactions and describe informal reasoning as involving empathy, a moral emotion characterized by “a sense of care toward the individuals who might be affected by the decisions made” (p. 121). This informal emotive reasoning is rational and rooted in emotion and differs from rationalistic reasoning. The authors insist that emotive patterns can be directed towards real people or fictitious characters. We assume that empathy (emotive reactions) directed at real or imagined people could be used in education to help students develop a decentered perspective. Complex decisions involving contradictory moral principles strongly imply empathy (Sadler and Zeidler 2005 ). While Sadler and Zeidler ( 2005 ) mention the importance of emotive informal thinking, this skill is not generally addressed when designing education about SSIs.

Shamay-Tsoory et al. ( 2009 ) suggest that emotional and cognitive empathy rely on “distinct neuronal substrates.” Singer and Klimecki ( 2014 ) also show that the plasticity of these systems allows cognitive empathy to be trained to some degree in a few sessions. Overall, these neuroscientific results suggest that cognitive and emotional systems are complex and concurrent and might well be separate within the brain. While measures of activity , from which empathy is inferred in ways the scientific community recognizes, cannot be considered from a philosophical point of view as proof, it is scientific evidence that is worth considering for learning design. This could imply that cognitive empathy can be activated and trained without necessarily activating emotional empathy. Educational designs that develop cognitive empathy and decentering might help students to “think independently, challenging [their] own personal or collective interest and overcoming egocentric values” while reducing the pitfalls of “emotions […] which constrain one’s objectivity or rationality” (Facione 1990 , p. 12). This is the challenge this research focuses on. Cognitive empathy, so crucial for decentering, is not generally developed in schools. Debate-based learning designs that do not distinguish between emotional and cognitive empathy might not realize their full potential because of previous emotionally biased opinions. This could explain some of the difficulties felt by many about purely or mainly emotive reasoning and the limits of intuitive reasoning (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ). The conceptualization we develop here suggests pursuing a new approach for developing decentering competency: developing cognitive empathy for the emotional reactions of others while refraining from emotional empathy in the process of building independent opinions.

2.4 Understanding Science Methods to Develop CT

Methods are at the core of research paradigms (Kuhn 1962 ) and determine a good part of the potential and limits of scientific research (Lilensten 2018 ). Therefore, some understanding of research techniques and methods is required to assess the scope (including the limits, implications, and potential uses) of research results (Hoskins et al. 2007 ). Facione ( 1990 ) also insists on the necessity of a proper domain-specific understanding of methods. One implication the experts draw from their analysis of CT skills is this: “While CT skills themselves transcend specific subjects or disciplines, exercising them successfully in certain contexts demands domain-specific knowledge, some of which may concern specific methods and techniques used to make reasonable judgments in those specific contexts” (p. 7).

Methods and their limits are often ignored by teachers (e.g., Waight and Abd-El-Khalick 2011 ; Kampourakis et al. 2014 ). Didactic transposition (DT) theory (Chevallard 1991 ) investigates how knowledge that teachers are required to teach is transformed during the process of selection into curricula and adaptation to teacher values and classroom requirements. The methods that produce research results are generally not thoroughly discussed with students. The large body of research on DT shows that to be easily teachable, exercisable, and assessable, classroom knowledge generally becomes definitive and is often reduced to assertive conclusions (Lombard & Weiss 2018 ).

Understanding the limits of neuroscience research results, especially neuroimaging results, is a particular challenge. A proper understanding of the methods used is needed to understand the limits of such research and develop a critical perspective to overcome neuroenchantment (Ali et al. 2014 ). There is a risk that activities might be understood as objects and essential concepts and that inferences of the engagement of a specific cognitive process from brain activation observed during a task might be overinterpreted (Nenciovici et al. 2019 . While research articles are required to discuss the limits of their claims, proper interpretation of the neuroimaging data commonly found in popularized science is a critical challenge (Illes and Racine 2005 ), and students are not often presented primary literature. Rather, they encounter transposed versions where claims and simplified interpretations are typically presented as definitive without discussion of the limits that the methods imply. Indeed, there are many issues with the emotive power of brain scans; for example, Check ( 2005 ) and McCabe and Castel ( 2008 ) show that neuroimages can have much more convincing power than the methods and the scientific data they produce warrant, leaving future citizens unprepared to face new issues as they arise. We will refer to this solid understanding of the methods required to assess the limits and potential uses of research as scientific method literacy .

Since methods are generally absent or insufficiently represented in the popularized science that students are confronted with (Hoskins et al. 2007 ), this has an important implication: in order to discuss SSIs, it is necessary to refer to the original article to obtain a proper understanding of the potential uses and limits of the research. Having secondary or high school students use primary literature with some help has been shown to be possible and, in fact, beneficial for a good understanding of science (Yarden et al. 2009 ; Falk et al. 2008 ; Hoskins et al. 2007 ; Lombard 2011 ).

From this literature, we draw the need for what we call scientific methods literacy, in this context defined as the ability to understand scientific techniques and methods sufficiently to imagine potential uses and limits. This will generally imply some access to primary literature.

2.5 Educational Design for Decentering CT Skills

Let us recall that we aim to propose and discuss a new learning design to develop a selection of students’ skills for CT about SSIs in neuroscience. More precisely, we aim to foster an independent opinion building. The aims of this article are (1) to translate the new conceptualization emerging from the theoretical framework into an instructional design that develops the selected CT skills in higher secondary biology classes, (2) to describe this design, and (3) to analyze and discuss the results produced by this design in its final iterative refinement. Our literature review identified two crucial skills that learners should develop to improve their CT: (i) decentering skills: the ability to decenter from one’s first emotional reactions and take into account different, contradictory values, and emotional reactions; (ii) certain scientific methods literacy skills: specifically defined here as the ability to understand scientific techniques and methods sufficiently to imagine potential uses and limits. Not discussed in this article but also relevant are other scientific information literacy skills, i.e., the ability to select and understand scientific articles and to produce text according to typical scientific practice. Below, we shall briefly outline the overall design approach, the learning goals, and the main guiding principles that can be used to generate specific learning designs such as the one presented in Section 4 .

Learning is a process that can be guided and encouraged but not imposed. “One of the ways that teaching can take place is through shaping the landscape across which students walk. It involves the setting in place of epistemic, material and social structures that guide, but do not determine, what students do” (Goodyear 2015 , p. 34). In that view, the materials and resources presented do not automatically map to learning gains; rather, the cognitive activities learners effectively practice determine the learning. Accordingly, the epistemic, material, and social structures (practical activities and productions) must be designed to encourage these cognitive activities. Goodyear ( 2015 , p. 33) explains that “The essence of this view of teaching portrays design as having an indirect effect on student learning activity, working through the specification of worthwhile tasks (epistemic structures), the recommendation of appropriate tools, artefacts and other physical resources (structures of place), and recommendation of divisions of labor, etc. (social structures).”

Thinking of teachers as designers offers methods for dealing with complex issues, reframing problems, and working with students “to test and expand the understanding of the problem. Reframing the problem, for example by seeing the problem as a symptom of some larger problem, is a classic design move” (Goodyear 2015 , p. 35). Successive iterations of the design in this project led to the new conceptualization of CT about popularized neuroscience presented here. “Typically, design-based research imports researchers’ ideas into a specific educational setting and researchers then work in partnership with teachers (the local inhabitants) to develop, test and refine successive iterations of an intervention” (Goodyear 2015 , p. 41). Design is not a one-way process by which theory is applied to practice; Schön ( 1983 ) has shown that in the development of expertise, theory is informed by practice as much as practice is informed by theory, in a continuous process. This study is design-based research (DBR), a research paradigm that was developed as a way to carry out formative research for testing and refining educational designs based on theoretical principles derived from prior research (Barab 2006 ; Brown 1992 ; Collins et al. 2004 ; Sandoval and Bell 2004 ). In DBR, iterations of the design produce conclusions—including an enrichment of the theoretical framework and derived design rules—that lead to the optimization of the design and are fed into the next iteration. “Design-based research progresses through cycles of theoretical analysis, conjectures, design, implementation, analysis and evaluation which feed into adjusting the theory and deriving practical artefacts” (Mor and Mogilevsky 2013 , p. 3). Analyzing the data from each design cycle led to reframing the problem and clarifying and focusing the education goals, which raised new research questions that in turn led to obtaining data more relevant to these renewed questions in the next iteration.

According to Collins et al. ( 2004 ), DBR is focused on the design and assessment of critical design elements. It is particularly well suited for exploratory research on learning environments with many variables that cannot be controlled individually—which rules out experimental or pseudoexperimental paradigms. Instead, design researchers try to optimize as much of the design as possible and to observe carefully how the different design elements are operating. As a qualitative approach, DBR is well suited to the creation of new theories (Miles et al. 2014 ). This choice is also ethically justified, since this is not a short experimental intervention but a semester-long course in which tightly controlled conditions might not offer the best learning conditions: in DBR, the design is iteratively adapted and offers to students the benefit of the best available design the research can provide at any time (Brown 1992 ). Better, more relevant data from each iteration were used to extract design principles and optimize the design offered to students the following year. DBR is similar to action research (Greenwood and Levin 1998 ) in the tightly interwoven student, teacher, and researcher implication and the feeding of information back to the community. In DBR, however, the design itself is the object of research and provides valuable insight into learning processes. Compared with other research paradigms, DBR is less about comparison with other published designs than about producing better questions, developing workable designs, and proposing design rules.

From this multiyear DBR approach emerged (i) the new conceptualization on which this article is based, (ii) the identification of educational goals focused on decentering skills and scientific methods literacy, (iii) the design principles presented in Section 3 , and (iv) the methods for obtaining and discussing data relevant to these goals presented in Section 4 .

3 From Theory to Design Conjectures

The method we used to guide the design of this educational module is strongly inspired by Sandoval and Bell 2004 ’s conjecture maps . We explained this method elsewhere and how we used it to help teachers in training to create, implement, and reflect on their educational designs (Lombard, Schneider & Weiss 2018 ). Central in this approach is the role of embodied conjectures . These are “design conjectures about how to support learning in a specific context, that are themselves based on theoretical conjectures of how learning occurs in particular domains” (Sandoval and Bell 2004 , p. 215). In our model, conjectures (CJs) are implemented as design elements (DEs), which are specific items (generally activities that can be enacted) introduced into the design to produce educational effects, called expected effects (EEs), such as understanding and perspective-taking. These outcomes, being abilities or competencies (EEs here), are not directly measurable (Miles et al. 2014 ), and we therefore look for performed, observable activities that reflect them. EEs are therefore assessed through observable effects (OEs), such as student productions, observations, or other traces in which relevant indicators can be measured. The codebook used for the research is available in Appendix Table 1 . In the proof-of-concept design, a simplified version was used by the teacher for assessment; the OEs used to measure the EEs are described in Section 4.2 . The DEs describe and assess the effects of the critical design elements specifically introduced to implement the CJs. They imply that a basic workable learning design is available, e.g., analyzing articles in the category information processing models described by Joyce et al. ( 2000 ) and that teachers have the skills to implement this classical design. To summarize, conjecture maps explicitly state how conjectures (CJs), i.e., contextualized theoretical constructs, will be implemented with d esign e lements (DEs), what the e xpected educational e ffects (EEs) are, and how these can be measured with o bservable e ffects (OEs) by teachers and researchers. Researchers and teachers use the same data but analyze them differently for different purposes. Teachers use OEs to measure student progression for formative assessment (Brookhart et al. 2008 ), for diagnostic assessment (Mottier Lopez 2015 ), to inform student guidance, or for student certification. Researchers in this project used these data to assess the efficiency of the design, i.e., to discuss the relevance of the OEs as measures of the EEs and the efficiency of the DEs in producing the EEs and to possibly question the CJs.

Educational strategies aiming to develop perspective-taking should be specifically designed to help students imagine and understand emotional and moral reactions to new research that are different from their own. Based on our theoretical discussion, the precise learning goals we aim to develop are scientific methods literacy and decentering competency. To compose the conjecture map (Sandoval and Bell 2004 ), we decompose these into four operationalized key skills, the expected effects (EEs):

Scientific information literacy : the ability to find, select, and use scientific text .

EE1 : identify the typical, structural elements of a scientific article (the ones often missing in a popularized article), such as the methods and references section and communicate these elements, accurately and concisely, orally, and in writing.

EE1 is part of the design but is not analyzed in this article.

Scientific method literacy : The ability to understand how the research was carried out.

EE2 : understand the techniques and methods presented in the scientific articles in order to assess the limits of scientific claims and identify several plausible possible uses of the techniques and methods introduced in the article.

Decentering competency : The ability to take some distance from one’s own emotional reactions to moral issues and to imagine and/or take into account other possible moral principles.

EE3 : imagine different moral reactions to the possible uses of the techniques and methods presented in the article under study.

EE4 : realize that one’s own reactions are not unique and consider other moral principles to assess each potential use without expressing one’s opinion.

The main point here is helping students realize that their own opinions are influenced by an ensemble of personal values and social belongings that are not absolute and can be put into perspective in order to develop decentering skills for CT. Values can be loosely defined here as what grounds a person’s judgments about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable.

To inform the design of a learning environment to develop these educational goals, we summarize the theory discussed into a set of CJs. In other words, the educational design process is to be guided by several design hypotheses that we call CJs (Sandoval and Bell 2004 ). Each is explained below:

CJ1: Reading and analyzing scientific articles helps students improve the structure and content of their own scientific texts. Learners have to search the primary literature for specific knowledge, such as methods, and are guided to recognize and become familiar with the structure of scientific articles (Falk et al. 2008 ; Hoskins et al. 2007 ) and to elaborate their analysis in an imposed structure. Practiced repeatedly with constructive feedback, this is expected to improve their scientific literacy (Hand and Prain 2001 ).

CJ2: Sufficient understanding of the techniques and methods is needed to imagine the potential uses and limits of the student-studied research. We have seen that methods are often ignored in science teaching. Let us consider a recent paper presenting a method for producing images of the faces seen by a subject based on measurements of the neuronal activity of 200 brain neurons (in macaques) during facial visualization (Chang and Tsao 2017 ). Potentially, images of what a macaque—and probably a person—is seeing, remembering, and imagining could be produced on a computer screen with this neuroscience technique. Potential uses of this technology that raises important SSIs could include eventually being able to identify a criminal suspect’s face by recreating an accurate image of the face through neuronal analysis of the victim’s brain (a sort of direct, brain-to-paper police sketch). A good understanding of the research methods used and their limits is needed to assess the plausibility of this potential use.

CJ3: An array of potential uses of the scientific techniques studied can set the stage for cognitive empathy. Let us recall that emotional-only empathy and biases might narrow the attentional focus and prevent students from taking into account other possible emotional reactions by people with different values, from different social groups, etc. Additionally, debating opinions can unwittingly modify students’ opinions and could trigger personal, cultural, or religious sensitivities in the multicultural classrooms of today. This leads us to restrain students from stating their opinion. To encourage decentering and cognitive empathy, the theoretical discussion presented leads us to propose discussing potential new situations in which students can imagine what different people—with different values, from different cultures, etc.—could potentially use this new technique to do. In an abstract discussion of SSIs, it might be difficult to evoke others’ emotional reactions, since cognitive empathy is a process that requires imagining people’s reactions. It follows that SSIs should be contextualized in situations that the students can relate to and in which they can imagine others and their reactions.

CJ4: Framing SSIs as evoking different emotional reactions and expressing them in terms of conflicting values without mentioning one’s own opinion can develop decentering skills. Students should be encouraged to imagine possible uses, even some that might seem unacceptable to them, in order to explore possible reactions from people with different values and from different cultures and to use cognitive empathy in order to learn how to decenter when encountering a thorny and difficult SSI. Learners are encouraged to restrain their emotional empathy but to foster cognitive empathy, which is central to decentering. As an example, neuroimagery can be used to measure pain experience (Wager et al. 2004 ). The technique (the specific use of fMRI found in the methods) has many potential uses: to compare the effectiveness of and improve pain treatment, to detect fraudulent or simulated illness for insurance purposes, even to compare the pain induced by different torture treatments, etc. These situations can help students imagine the emotional reactions of other people. Refraining from expressing personal opinions could ultimately help to put them into perspective and discover the moral reasons that might cause rejection or adoption of this particular use. These can be expressed as dilemmas.

From the operational formulation of scientific literacy and decentering competency learning goals as four key skills, expressed here as EEs, and the theoretical design constructs, expressed as CJs (CJ1–4), we formulate the following research subquestions:

RQ1: How can this conceptualization (the CJs and EEs) be implemented into an operational learning design, and what would be the main DEs? More precisely,

How can activities that develop scientific methods literacy skills (learning goal EE2) be designed?

How can activities that develop decentering abilities (learning goals EE3 and EE4) be designed?

RQ2: Does the learning design help students improve the selected CT skills? This RQ2 is also divided into two subquestions:

What evidence can be found that the design improves scientific methods literacy skills in students?

What evidence can be found that the design improves decentering abilities in students?

4 From Design to a Proof-of-Principle Implementation

Our global research approach—DBR—has already been described in Section 2.5 . Here, we describe the context and the method used to collect and analyze qualitative student data from a proof-of-principle semester course. The module was designed and implemented in a higher secondary biology class in Geneva, Switzerland, by one of the authors Footnote 1 beginning in 2003. It was conducted over a period of 15 years with a total of ten different cohorts of students and refined after each implementation. The module we discuss was first implemented in autumn 2002–2003 and improved through 10 iterations until 2018–2019. In this contribution, we present and discuss the latest version of the design.

Over the course of this study, deep societal transformations, including the emergence of social media and the political turmoil caused by fake news or “alternative facts,” resulted in a shift in the goals of the design and implementation. Additionally, theoretical input from research on science epistemology and CT led to a clearer conceptualization and a better focus of the design, which is intrinsic to the DBR paradigm. Over a decade and a half, this project moved from an initial focus on discovering recent bioscience research that would be relevant for future citizens to a second, that is, discussing the nature of science. This led us to consider scientific methods literacy, which is needed to properly understand and put into perspective research findings. Furthermore, an explicit focus on developing and strengthening CT skills emerged—at a time when awareness of CT was gaining in importance. The classes also focused more specifically on neuroscience research, as it was gaining media coverage. Students’ difficulty in formulating independent opinions about complex and new SSIs that raised emotional reactions became more apparent. This eventually led us to explore various designs that encourage learners to put into perspective their own opinions when discussing SSIs and that develop decentering skills. The theoretical input from empathy research (Singer and Klimecki 2014 ) led to a focus on cognitive empathy. Taking into account Shamay-Tsoory et al. ( 2009 ) led to the exploration of possible design elements specifically geared towards practicing cognitive empathy to take emotions into account without reinforcing emotional biases and emotional empathy. Attempts to manage this while avoiding the pitfalls of opinion debate led to the focus on identifying dilemmas in the learning design principles and the proof-of-principle design (2018/2019 implementation) presented here.

4.1 Population, Data Collection, and Analysis

The data sources are student-produced artifacts—written papers from 2 to 3 home assignments and a written exam—and responses from an individual online anonymous survey administered at the end of the semester to assess students’ perceptions of their CT skills, specifically, decentering and scientific methods literacy.

In the Geneva higher secondary curriculum, students choose at the age of 16 one optional class (OC) composed of 4 semester-long modules (2 periods weekly). Students cannot choose their OC within their major, so students in this study neither have a strong background in biology nor in science generally. This study took place in the third module (ages 18–19). Classes included 13 to 24 students. Other modules with other teachers treated human’s influence on the environment and climate change, neurobiology, and microbiology. Data on student progression were collected from the cohort (13 students) of the autumn 2018–2019 semester. Four papers were analyzed: two to three written assignments handed in during the semester (3–8 pages, graded) and the final exam, each analyzing a different recent article about neuroscience. One student did not hand in all the assignments, so her data were omitted, leaving a cohort of 12 students whose data are presented in Fig.  3 . All 13 completed the survey.

The third assignment was not mandatory for students who obtained full marks on assignments 1 and 2, so only 7 students handed in the third assignment. We analyzed the results of assignments 1 and 2 and the final exam. All 13 students gave permission for their anonymized papers to be analyzed for research purposes.

Data analysis was performed using mixed quali-quantitative methods (Miles et al. 2014 .

To answer the second research subquestion, we present and compare the students’ first paper (completed at the very beginning of the semester) with their second paper. We then compare, by the same method, paper 2 with paper 3, when available, or the final exam. The EEs were observed, coded on a 3-point scale and analyzed using five indicators of decentering and perspective-taking skills: the identification of scientific methods and techniques (EE2), the quantity of moral dilemmas presented, the diversity of values presented, the quality of moral dilemmas presented (EE3), and the student’s decentered communication (EE4). The codebook is available in Appendix Table 1 . Double coding of the first and last papers was applied until a 78% intercoder agreement was reached, and simple coding was then applied for the other papers. Size effects (Cohen’s d ) were computed between the first and last papers.

The end-of-semester survey included open questions about students’ perception of their progression (comparing their first and last assignment); their approach towards scientific articles and popularized science; what they learned about the relations of science and society, about opinion building, and about refraining from giving their opinion; what they learned as they built moral dilemmas; what they learned about using cognitive empathy to approach SSIs and about distinguishing emotional and cognitive empathy; the design itself, its structure, the resources, and what they considered efficient; and if the learning was worth the effort. Many of the questions were used to improve the design over the years (DBR); however, a selection of responses relevant to this research will be presented and discussed. Footnote 2

We shall now present and discuss the proof-of-principle learning design that was then implemented in a class.

4.2 The Proof-of-Principle Learning Design

The first research question, RQ1, is a design question. It asks how a learning design that favors the development of scientific literacy and decentering competency can be implemented. The criteria for success are whether a reusable design can be defined, implemented, and evaluated. Below, we will present the key DEs implementing our theoretical CJs that could be used to attain the learning goals (EEs). The second research question (see Section 5 ) regards evaluating the effects in an implementation.

Using the CJ mapping design method described in Section 3 , we will now present the sample learning design as a detailed conjecture map connecting the theory to DEs, learning goals, and effects (Fig.  1 ). Each CJ is connected to one or more DE that in turn leads to EEs. EEs (learning outcomes) can be shared and observed through OEs, e.g., student-produced artifacts such as texts or papers produced during assignments. The latter two can be used by teachers to support the teaching process and by researchers to evaluate the design.

figure 1

Implementing the goals in a learning design. From CJs to DEs, EEs, and OEs: CJ map of the proof-of-principle design

CJ1 on scientific literacy was implemented as DE1.

DE1: Students write an individual paper according to a specific structure: an introduction; the techniques and methods used in the student-studied research; a list of their potential uses; and a table listing, for each use, the reasons why oneself or others might favor it in the form of opposing values (moral dilemmas). This DE is necessary to achieve EE1 (students identify the typical, structural elements of a scientific article, and communicate these elements). Three OEs (OE1, OE2, OE3) can be used to assess students’ scientific method literacy. In this study, OE2 and OE3 were scored between 1 (lowest) and 3 (highest) using the codebook in Appendix Table 1 . OE1 (text structure) was not evaluated.

CJ2 ( Sufficient understanding of the techniques and methods is needed to imagine the potential uses and limits of the student-studied research ) is implemented with DE2 and DE3 . First, students must learn about the method and then imagine possible uses of the research as well as different people’s emotional and moral reactions:

DE2 : Students read a popularized article, try to identify the methods, write a section in an individual paper, and refer to the original article if the information in the popularized article is not sufficient. The EEs are EE1, as above, and EE2 ( Students understand the techniques and methods presented in the scientific articles in order to imagine the potential uses and limits of scientific claims ). Students must grasp the essence of the methods to produce an explanation of the methods that can be used to imagine possible uses. Learners realize that scientific claims are limited by methods and that popularized articles generally do not clearly explain the methods or discuss their limits. OE1 (text structure and elements) and OE2 (summary of methods) are used as observables.

DE3 : Find or imagine a list of potential uses of the new methods and techniques—even some that might be offensive to oneself or to other people—and write a section in an individual paper. DE3 supports EE2 and EE3 ( Students imagine different moral reactions towards the possible uses of the techniques and methods presented in the article under study ). OE4 ( table of dilemmas ) includes several potential uses realistically linked to the methods and was scored between 1 (lowest) and 3 (highest) using the codebook in Appendix Table 1 .

Decentering competency is the perspective-taking ability to take some distance from one’s own emotional reactions to moral issues and to imagine and/or take into account other possible moral positions. It relies on two CJs: CJ3 and CJ4 . CJ3 ( an array of potential uses of the scientific techniques studied can set the scene for cognitive empathy ) is also implemented as DE3 ( imagine uses of techniques and methods ) and leads to the following expected and observable effects: EE3 (same as above), OE4 ( table of dilemmas includes a diversity of moral values ), and OE5 ( moral dilemmas involve truly opposing contradictory values ). The OEs are scored from 1 (lowest) to 3 (highest) using the codebook in Appendix Table 1 ). CJ4 focuses on decentering ( framing SSIs as evoking different emotional reactions and expressing them in terms of conflicting values without mentioning one’s own opinion can develop decentering skills ).

DE4 : Students must create a table with at least two opposing values or moral principles on each line, e.g., “improvement of well-being” vs. “natural course of illness” or “knowledge progress” vs. “religious values considering early embryos as human life.” Alternatively, students could be asked to present the conflicting emotional reactions that other people might have according to their different values and social contexts. DE4 supports EE4: students realize that their own reactions are not unique and are capable of considering other values to assess each potential use without expressing their own opinion (decentering). The related OEs are OE5 ( moral dilemmas involve truly opposing contradictory values ) and OE6 ( text uses decentered expression, no personal opinion, and balanced mention of other values) , which are scored between 1 (lowest) and 3 (highest) using the codebook in Appendix Table 1 .

4.3 Implementation of a Proof-of-Principle Learning Design

This abstract learning design was implemented in a classical information processing learning model (Joyce et al. 2000 ). The resulting learning design for the 2018/2019 class can be summarized in three phases, through which students produce (i) a description of methods (OE2), (ii) a list of potential uses (OE3), and (iii) a list of dilemmas (OE3, OE4) with opposing values (OE5) that uses decentered expression (OE6). A summary of the learning design that was implemented and studied is illustrated in Fig.  2 .

figure 2

Diagram of the main learning design elements (DEs), their expected effects (EEs), and observable effects (OEs)

For each of the three assignments, students were first given a popularized article on recent neuroscience research to read and were helped in class to understand the methods by identifying them in the original article from the primary literature (the student-studied research) in journals such as Nature , Science , and PNAS (DE1, DE2). Then, they were asked to use this understanding of the methods to elaborate a list of potential uses of these methods/techniques and discuss their plausibility, afterward creating a table relating each potential use to at least one moral dilemma between opposing moral principles. They had to produce (at home) a written text guided by a teacher-imposed structure:


Methods and techniques: identify and describe the scientific methods and techniques used to obtain the results presented.

Potential uses: identify or imagine potential uses of these techniques and methods and evaluate their plausibility.

Moral dilemma: identify the moral dilemmas resulting from each of the potential uses and formulate them in terms of dilemmas (tensions between moral principles).

Students analyzed in detail three scientific articles for the written assignments. These artifacts were assessed and marked. The articles were as follows: (1) Tourbe ( 2004 ); original article: Wager et al. ( 2004 ). (2) Servan-Schreiber ( 2007 ); original article: Singer et al. ( 2004 ). (3) Peyrières ( 2008 ); original article: McClure et al. ( 2004 ). Another five articles were discussed only in the classroom, and the final exam was the fourth artifact. The exam was based on (4) Campus ( 2018 ); original article: Klimecki et al. ( 2018 ). For this class, the moral principles included benevolence, autonomy, equality, respect for life, pursuit of knowledge, and freedom of trade. They were empirically selected for their heuristic value, as the secondary students in this biology course did not have a strong background in philosophy, and the decentering goal required awareness of moral differences but not a very fine classification. Of course, other learning designs could use a different list tailored to the background of the students and goals of the curriculum. Students were required to produce a table that linked each potential use to a pair (or more) of conflicting reactions and moral values (a moral dilemma).

Over the course of the semester, feedback and assessment—at first focused mainly on scientific methods literacy—were progressively widened in scope to include potential uses and finally perspective-taking ability. In this proof-of-principle design, these assignments were graded using the OEs described above using what amounted to a simplified version of the rubric used for this research (see Appendix Table 1 ) and returned with written formative feedback highlighting specifically which items needed to be improved. Marks were improvement-weighted: progress was encouraged by a bonus on the next assignment when the items marked as wanting were improved on. This was inspired by knowledge improvement research (Scardamalia and Bereiter 2006 ) and was introduced as a strong incentive for students to improve . Through this iterative process, students were expected to gradually improve the selected skills and the texts produced. A final exam assessed the students’ skills acquired over the whole semester.

The methods, potential uses, and opposing moral principles in the form of dilemmas were first discussed in class. The focus was on instilling a sufficient understanding of the methods to allow students to find or imagine the potential uses—what different people might want to do using the techniques and methods of the student-studied research. This was done using a structured teacher-driven interactive discussion that guided students to find the methods in the primary article (OE2) and to understand them, with assistance for translation into French when needed. A few examples will illustrate how a proper understanding of the methods and their potential uses is required to imagine other people’s reactions. Understanding the methods is also necessary to see the limits of the research under study. Students had to discuss how realistic each potential use was, either based on the final section of the original article (the perspectives) or imagined by the students. This discussion of methods and possible uses naturally brought up the issue of the limits of fMRI imaging and the risks of neuroenchantment (Ali et al. 2014 ). Since the popularized article generally ignored the methods or simplified them to the point of omitting all reference to the degree of uncertainty and the limits of the claims that define scientific knowledge, students initially believed that the research under study produced claims that were definitive and “scientifically proven.” The comparison of popularized and original research very clearly highlighted some of the popularization issues Illes and Racine ( 2005 ) raised. For example, where Wager et al. ( 2004 ) cautiously conclude, “Although the results do not provide definitive evidence for a causal role of PFC in placebo, they were predicted by and are consistent with the hypothesis that PFC activation reflects a form of externally elicited top-down control that modulates the experience of pain” (p. 1167), the popularized neuroscience article that the students started with (Tourbe 2004 ) claimed that this research “proves that placebo reduces pain” (p. 26, our translation). This definitive claim is far from the prudently worded conclusion of the original article. Only a good understanding of the methods in the original article could lead to an understanding of the specific characteristics of how science validates knowledge. Reading of methods involving many control conditions and randomization brought up discussions in which students could discover essential concepts such as ceteris paribus, dependent and independent variables, and ruling out alternative explanations. While this was not the main educational goal of this proof-of-principle design, it might have helped develop students’ perspective on the nature of scientific knowledge (NOS). In fact, the claim by the popularizing journalist that this research “proves that placebo reduces pain” is not at all related to the research question of Wager et al. ( 2004 ), who attempted to explore which of three hypothesized neural mechanisms causes the placebo effect. The difference was used in the proof-of-principle design to bring up a fundamental issue, as the journalist concludes that placebo is “not only a simple psychological effect,” implying a dualistic view, while Wager et al. clearly adopt a monistic experimental paradigm (and probably view of the mind). This brought up a discussion about both possible views—quite in line with the decentering goal of this design—and students were encouraged to understand each statement in the context of the different implicit paradigms within which scientific authors and popularizing journalist work—whatever view they personally might have.

Additionally, students’ attention was drawn to the conflict of interest statement in the article by de Charms et al. ( 2005 ), which mentions that C. de Charms “has an ownership interest in Omneuron Inc. with pending patents on rtfMRI-based training methods.” This was not apparent until students read the original article. Then, students were encouraged to draft a list of potential uses (OE3) for further discussion in the form of moral dilemmas (OE4, OE5). For example, students imagined that the methods used by Wager et al. ( 2004 ) could be used to measure pain experience, to evaluate the efficiency of different pain-reducing therapies, to track down people cheating the healthcare system by pretending to have pain, or to assess the efficiency of torture methods by the military or terrorists.

Students were encouraged to plainly state the potential uses of new bioscientific methods and refrain from personal judgment. They were reminded that this course was not about deciding which opinion is best but about being able to listen to others and take other values, beliefs, and social contexts into account when formulating one’s own independent opinion. Some of these potential uses could cause strong emotional reactions, challenging the students’ own personal or collective interests. This highlights the educational goal for overcoming egocentric values: thinking independently (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ). Emotional reactions were expressed by students but put into perspective as possible reactions stemming from their values, beliefs, and social and cultural belongings, thus emphasizing that others might see things otherwise. For example, when formulating dilemmas and discussing how a medical doctor might have to apply advance directives regarding end-of-life issues, one student insisted on strongly expressing her opinion that doctors must do all that they can to save the lives of patients—referring to the Hippocratic Oath. This opinion was received, and the emotional load it might carry was warmly acknowledged by the teacher. Then, in the class discussion, the fact that this was one possible reaction and that others might feel otherwise was accepted and examples were sought. The Children Act (McEwan 2014 ) was mentioned as an interesting avenue for exploring this dilemma.

The definition of opinion given by Astolfi ( 2008 ) was featured in the course description and referred to in classroom discussions. The moral dilemmas students produced while studying the Wager et al. ( 2004 ) example mentioned above—in line with the potential use “evaluate the efficiency of different pain-reducing therapies”—could involve benevolence (probable pain reduction) vs. respect for beliefs (not interfering with natural processes of health or divine intervention). Most student-studied research could lead to dilemmas such as pursuit of knowledge (better understanding of brain activities and processes) vs. loss of benevolence (money used in this research is not available elsewhere for other possible benevolent uses). The rather extreme example of assessing torture methods could lead to a dilemma of benevolence (freeing prisoners from terrorists) vs. malevolence (inflicting pain on humans).

It is worth noting in this case that though scientific literature arguing for the inefficiency of torture to obtain useful confessions (Starr 2019 ) was mentioned in this class, the teacher did not prevent such a dilemma from being posed, since some people might weigh more heavily the first arm of the dilemma than the second. This highlights how the decentering goal of this design is not an ethical discussion or rational debate to determine the best opinion but could well be used before various other CT learning activities. Having answered RQ1 by describing how we successfully implemented the general design CJs (Section 3 ) using a conjecture mapping technique (Section 4.2 ), let us now examine the empirical results to answer RQ2.

5 Results from the Proof-of-Principle Learning Design

5.1 results from student artifacts.

Does the learning design help students improve their scientific methods literacy and decentering abilities (RQ2)? As explained in Section 4.1 , we examined changes in artifacts produced by students (also called student productions or learner outputs in the literature), i.e., papers and written exams. Improvement in scientific methods literacy (EE2) was measured with OE2, i.e., identification of scientific methods and techniques in student artifacts. Decentering competency (EE3/EE4) was measured with four indicators: quantity of moral dilemmas (OE3), diversity of values (OE4), quality of moral dilemmas (OE5), and decentered communication (OE6).

The results for all the items indicate progress across the semester (Fig. 2 ). With N  = only 12, we computed the effect size (Cohen’s d between the first assignment paper and the text produced for the written exam), which measures the strength of a statistical claim, taking into account the progression (difference) as well as the uncertainty (standard deviation) in the data. For most scores, the effect size can be considered large (from d  = 1.29 to d  = 2.76), while the effect sizes for diversity of values ( d  = .38) and decentered communication ( d  = .86) qualify as good.

The scores for the identification of techniques and methods, used to measure scientific methods literacy (OE2), had improved by (+ 0.6 points) by the last iteration. Concerning the second part of RQ2—measures of decentering skills—the strongest progression (+ 1.25) was found for the quantity of moral dilemmas (OE3) proposed by the students. In most papers from the second assignment, several dilemmas in the form of “value vs. other value” were found, and the score remained generally stable in the final stage. The diversity of values proposed (OE4) moderately increased (+ 0.23), but the scores for the first paper had already achieved a high mean value (2.33); thus, there was little margin for improvement. The second-highest progression (+ 0.91) was found for the quality of moral dilemmas, which measures the ability to present dilemmas as contradicting values in a symmetrical way (OE5). Decentered communication abilities (OE6) showed little progression (+ 0.33) but the highest initial value ( M  = 2.50).

In addition, the final examination (the fourth student artifact produced) was aligned with the official curriculum.

5.2 Student Perceptions: Results from an End-of-Semester Survey

Additional insights for answering RQ2 can be drawn from a selection of responses to the end-of-semester questionnaire (2019 cohort, N  = 13, responses translated from French) concerning the students’ perceptions of their CT skills (decentering and scientific methods literacy) and, to some extent, their CT attitudes.

Overall, decentering skills (EE4) were the skills most frequently mentioned by students as acquired (21 mentions), Footnote 3 expressed in statements such as (our translation)

I am more objective
I take a step away from my own opinion
I am more open-minded towards different possible points of view, be it my opinion or not

Concerning EE3 and EE4, asking students about their perceptions of moral dilemmas elicited responses that included 7 mentions related to learning to step back and take a different look at one’s own opinion and to take more into account the point of view of others or different points of view, expressed as follows (our translation):

The discussion of the use of research through moral dilemmas helped me a lot to realize that several opinions could be considered. It is not just if an opinion can be accepted, but it all depends on the point of view
I think I have learned to explain points of view that are contrary to mine rather than "feeling" them more intuitively
…to better see the vision of others even if I do not necessarily share it, and therefore to take a step back .…

Most students (10 fully and 3 partly, N  = 13) considered that they had attained the learning objective “Being able to distinguish the issues of a scientific question in the form of moral dilemmas.”

More than half (8) of the students mentioned that emotions and empathy played a role in imagining or assessing potential situations, expressed as follows (our translation):

For me, cognitive empathy played a major role in the choice of dilemmas, because, I tried my best to put myself on each side of opinions in order to be as objective as possible, without feeling emotional empathy
My empathy probably biased my judgment of potential uses, but I don't think I let it show in my work
I think I can tell them apart. My emotional empathy is the first that arrives, and my cognitive empathy comes to take a step back before making a judgment

Concerning EE2 (scientific methods literacy), a large majority of students considered they had changed the way they formed opinions about progress in science during this module (11, N  = 13). The skills most often mentioned included learning to be wary of popularized articles (16 mentions), thinking more critically about scientific information (8), and developing the habit of referring to original scientific articles (8). Many mentioned being better able to understand and/or explain the methods and results of scientific research (7).

6 Discussion

This exploratory study develops a new conceptualization and a learning design method for developing a few specific CT skills useful for discussing SSIs raised by popularized (neuro)science. The goal of this educational research was to extract theoretical conjectures from recent research on CT education and the effects of emotions, decentering, and empathy and test their generativity in producing workable designs in which the acquisition of desired CT skills (decentering, methods literacy) can be observed through traces. In short, we presented guidelines for creating learning designs, and we tested a proof-of-principle design implemented in a class.

The results from this 2018/2019 implementation show that students were able to propose a diversity of moral principles (mostly found in the resources proposed for the course) in the first assignment—early in the semester—and their texts also show signs of moderately good decentering skills. However, the most progress seems to occur in the structuration of these values into full-fledged moral dilemmas: moral principle A vs. moral principle B. In the first paper, moral principles were often written in a disorganized way, while in paper 2, they were more frequently proposed in the form of dilemmas. We propose that this improved structuration reflects an improved ability to conceptually organize conflicting values without judgment into symmetrical pairs of opposites, which requires restraining one’s opinions and is indicative of a good decentering ability.

These results also tentatively confirm the value of iterating essentially the same activity in this design. Contrary to the advice frequently given to teachers to use varying types of tasks, repeated assignments involving the same task but different topics, guided by precise feedback as well as incentive-based grading, helped learners significantly improve the targeted high-level skills, i.e., scientific methods literacy and decentering abilities, as measured by increased OE scores on the texts produced by students (Section 5.1 ). A design based on a single assignment would probably not give students sufficient time and opportunity to learn these specific difficult skills.

The central choice to not debate opinions, with students expressly instructed to refrain from expressing their personal opinions on the SSIs under study, appears to have been perceived as effective (13 mentions in the end-of-semester survey) but was also a challenge for some of the students:

I found [not giving my opinion] difficult, as our opinion is the best, we tend to want to express it and share it. However, staying neutral and discussing all imaginable opinions of a situation is a task I [ultimately] enjoyed doing (our translation).

It would be methodologically problematic to fuse data obtained from previous cohorts in an evolving design, but we would like to mention that previous questionnaires Footnote 4 yielded similar results on these points.

Taken together, the results from the students’ artifacts and the survey tentatively suggest that engaging learners in the described learning activities produced a shift in students’ epistemology, from a naïve epistemology that knowledge is either true or false and that truths come from recognized authority (Bromme et al. 2010 ) towards a more sophisticated one. Learners developed independent opinions and moved from mostly emotionally empathetic reactions to a more decentered (cognitive) empathy when forming opinions about neuroscience SSIs. The increase in scientific methods literacy (see Fig. 3 ) and the final questionnaire responses mentioning the importance of reading original articles or understanding the methods, taken together, suggest a more critical appraisal of popularized scientific information.

figure 3

Average scores ( M ) in the proof-of-principle learning design for scientific methods literacy and methods (OE2) and decentering (OE3–6). Also shown: the standard deviation and the effect size (Cohen’s d between first and last), in white on the bars

Let us recall our theoretical tenants: emotions play an important role in opinion building, particularly when contradicting moral principles are involved. We also distinguish between emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. The latter allows for a more distant and balanced appraisal of situations and can result in positive feelings of care and prosocial motivation. Overall, research shows that cognitive and emotional systems are complex and concurrent, and the possibility that emotional and cognitive empathy could be separate processes opens the important possibility that they can be trained separately.

This new conceptualization based on developing cognitive empathy and balancing emotion with reason to enhance decentering in opinion building regarding new SSIs—described in Section 2 —is the main theoretical outcome of this research. We propose that it offers a new perspective that could be used as a preliminary step to enhance many CT learning designs. The second outcome (answering RQ1) is the development of a design and analysis method based on conjecture mapping (Section 3 ) that guides the translation of theory into practical learning designs. This design method showed its effectiveness by producing, according to design-based research principles, successive workable learning designs that could be improved to develop scientific literacy and decentering competency in a typical classroom. The related empirical outcome associated with RQ2 is a proof-of-principle design in which students’ written artifacts could be analyzed. It is described in Section 4 and discussed in Section 5 . It has been iteratively implemented, analyzed, and optimized over many years.

Cognitive empathy, though crucial for decentering, is not generally developed in schools, but our results suggest it can be taught. Having to identify conflicting moral principles seems to have helped the learners realize that contradictory positions about neuroscience SSIs do exist, could be valid, and should be taken into account in their opinion building process. Traces in the assignments and exams suggest that this important step towards balancing emotion and reason in discussing neuroscience SSIs was achieved. Our results do not prove the development of important intermediates such as cognitive empathy or the control of emotional empathy, but taken together, they do suggest that the design method can produce designs that contribute to this educational goal of independent opinion building. The results tentatively confirm that addressing the emotions evoked by SSIs can be an early step towards CT, not just the ultimate level of CT (De Vecchi 2006 ) requiring a degree of emotional control rarely achieved except by expert debaters (Legg 2018 ). They offer reasonable evidence that this new conceptualization of CT—based on recent research that cognitive empathy can be trained separately—can be used to inform workable designs that produce interesting results related to the decentering and scientific literacy skills identified and selected in this study.

7 Conclusions and Discussion

Within the large array of CT designs, this new conceptualization offers a novel perspective on addressing the numerous biases and difficulties that emotions can induce. The outcomes we present could be of use (i) for researchers (new conceptualization), (ii) for educational designers (CJ mapping), and (iii) to inspire teachers and educational designers (proof-of-principle design).

Giving students a good understanding of methods (scientific methods literacy) can empower them to see through much of the hype and overinterpretation of popularized science, as exemplified in neuroenchantment. This focus on scientific methods is rare (Kampourakis et al. 2014 ) and aims to help students assess the limits and potential uses of scientific claims before addressing SSIs. It can also help students understand how knowledge is validated in scientific articles. On this solid rational basis, the approach presented here takes the unusual route of developing decentering skills for discussing SSIs by letting students imagine people and their emotional reactions in the new situations that could result from neuroscience research. By refraining from debating formed opinions , which has been shown to limit the full potential of many designs for CT education, and instead discussing diverse possible emotional reactions in the form of moral dilemmas, this design attempts to circumvent many of the problems of classroom debates and could prepare students for the reasonable reflective thinking that defines CT (Ennis 1987 ). This approach is founded on the idea that cognitive empathy can be developed without reinforcing emotional empathy. It is an attempt to help students take their own and others’ emotions into account in a reasonable way (decentering in the sense of Klimecki and Singer ( 2013 )) and reconcile emotions and reason. It could be seen as an approach for fostering emotive reasoning (Sadler and Zeidler 2005 ).

We have argued that learning to take into account different, contradictory reactions to SSIs by other people (with different values, social contexts, and beliefs) and developing cognitive empathy for the emotional reactions of other while refraining from emotional empathy can be foundational in the process of building independent opinions (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ) by helping students take into account and learn to manage others’ and their own emotional reactions (decentering skills). The proposed design method translates this theory into educational guidelines in the form of conjectures, design elements, expected effects, and observable effects that have been implemented and analyzed. The analysis of student artifacts about recent popularized and original neuroscience research suggests that this conceptualization focused on scientific methods literacy and cognitive empathy can be used to effectively develop decentering skills as measured by the observed effects. It does not prove that these students are better in all dimensions of CT but confirms the validity of exploring this approach.

From a research perspective, the proof-of-principle design could not be compared with designs considered standards or references, since this conceptualization breaks new research ground. We have discussed how the DBR research paradigm (e.g., Collins et al. 2004 ) differs from the experimental paradigm and argued that it is particularly relevant for exploring innovative designs addressing new educational challenges. The first student paper analyzed—at the very beginning of the semester—delivers much of the information expected from a pretest, as it tests students’ skills before the semester-long intervention. The final exam—while designed from a certificative assessment perspective—can be considered delivering some of the information of a posttest. Setting up a quasi-experimental control group design would be too difficult, since there are too many design variables to manipulate and the number of students available is insufficient. However, our results are evidence that this design is worth investigating in larger educational setups. Additionally, some results, such as the marked progression in the quantity and quality of moral dilemmas, might be explained by the fact that students did not fully understand the instructions at the beginning or took time to adjust to new expectations and therefore adjusted the content and structure of their second paper. While the analysis of student artifacts during this semester-long design indicates progress, suggesting that students developed CT skills EE1–4 with respect to recent neuroscience SSIs, we have no data about the long-term effects on independent opinion building and CT (no follow-up survey) or about the possible influence these effects might have on their future decisions. We fully agree with the need for developing dispositions towards CT (Ennis 1987 ; Facione 1990 ; Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ). We did collect some evidence that students demonstrate selected CT skills in their papers and exams, but without data about the actual behavior of students outside of and after this course, caution is required in drawing conclusions about possible changes in terms of CT dispositions .

Another limitation that requires discussion is the fact that the teacher is also one of the researchers, a classical validity-related concern. We would like to stress that widely recognized authors such as Schön ( 1983 ) have demonstrated the richness and relevance of the “reflective practitioner” approach, particularly for education research seen as design-based (Goodyear 2015 ). DBR and action research (Greenwood and Levin 1998 ) often rely on this implication to increase the relevance of the outcomes. It is possible that this reflective subjectivity is more relevant to this type of exploratory research than attempted objectivity. It is worth noting that the data coding and analysis were based on written artifacts rather than teacher reporting and that the data were (double-) coded by other researchers not involved in the teaching process.

For educational designers and teachers, the limited set of skills selected does not imply that this design develops the full set of CT skills mentioned by Ennis and Facione; rather, we propose that some design elements could be integrated into and contribute to many existing and well-tested designs that aim for CT. The limited number of participants requires caution as to the generalizability of the proof-of-principle design (RQ1). Indeed, the results for RQ2 are based on only 13 students and should be seen mainly as reasonable evidence that this conceptualization can produce effective designs and that the design method can produce workable designs that can be implemented, analyzed, discussed, and optimized.

DBR addresses new educational challenges by refining and testing models that can be deployed in other contexts, and each new iteration is an extension of the theory (Barab 2006 ). Thus, rather than a specific design that teachers might adopt or reject, this design approach and the proposed conjectures in Section 3 can be used to create many learning designs for different curricular and cultural contexts or educational levels. The proposed principles-based design method can guide the design or adaptation of many learning environments for teaching delicate subjects. While this approach has been developed and tested in the context of SSIs raised by popularized neuroscience, the generativity of the design method is not restricted to this subject area and could be applied in many existing or future areas of bioscience in which progress is raising new SSIs and possibly to the more classic SSIs raised by GMOs or climate change. Introductory learning activities based on our design conjectures or inspired by the sample design could be used to develop decentering skills before engaging students in more challenging learning tasks, such as argumentation about SSIs. We propose that this design could contribute foundationally to enhance many of the excellent designs for teaching the CT skills needed by future citizens. For example, a classical problem with debating is that the debate revolves not around the value of the arguments but the personal sympathy or dislike felt towards those presenting their points (i.e., relational rather than epistemic resolution of conflict (Buchs et al. 2004 ). A preliminary intervention developing decentering skills might help students learn to take into account other points of view. It might be worth exploring whether this enhances the notable designs for argumentation in the classroom using strategies such as listening triads, argument lines, and jigsaw groups, which produced very disappointing results in Osborne et al.’s study (2013).

Taking into account the different forms that empathy can take and their influences on learning processes opens new avenues for research, not only about SSIs but possibly also in other areas where emotional reactions interfere with learning processes. For example, designs could be studied that introduce the immunological mechanisms of vaccination via an adapted form of this decentering approach, e.g., discussing—without personal opinions—various possible emotional reactions stemming from values, social belongings, and beliefs as respectable but as separate from the instructional goals. After such an introduction, instruction focused on using scientific models to explain or predict situations that are meaningful to the students might be more acceptable to many of them. This decentering educational approach could also support conceptual change. For example, Coley and Tanner ( 2015 ) show how anthropocentric thinking (among others) causes the persistence of many scientifically inaccurate ideas, often termed misconceptions. It might well be that the empathy elicited towards some scientific concepts interferes with student understanding. For example, discussing invasive species in the context of ecology in multicultural classes could elicit opposing emotional empathy responses from students of migrant origin and others with strong political views, which might hinder scientific understanding. It would be worth testing if such a problem could be headed off by a short sequence developing cognitive empathy through this decentering approach.

We have shown how this approach—firmly based on scientific methods literacy—brings up NOS questions such as how the claims have been established, why this question is addressed, and who is involved in the research, questions that are too often ignored in science education focused on definitive knowledge. Didactic transposition theory (Chevallard 1991 ) shows how difficult it is to escape this transformation of classroom knowledge. However, our results are in line with Hoskins et al. ( 2007 ), suggesting that it is possible to guide students to the primary literature and to discuss how scientific knowledge is validated, as many have called for, e.g., Abd-El-Khalick ( 2013 ). More research is needed to assess whether the decentering approach we propose might help classes discuss the NOS without the debate becoming biased or shaped by dogmatic positions such as pro-science or anti-science (as discussed in Section 4.2 with the article by deCharms et al. ( 2005 )).

The generalizability of this approach could be limited by the social acceptability of some of the CT dimensions it develops. For example, challenging collective interests and values (Jiménez-Aleixandre and Puig 2012 ) could be problematic in some schools. Since this design encourages students to imagine various people’s reactions based on their values and beliefs, schools and teachers must be able to accept students mentioning potential uses that could strongly conflict with their own personal or collective interests and values. This approach also requires teachers to have good decentering skills. Furthermore, frequent reference to primary literature and recent research techniques is a stimulating but challenging perspective that many teachers nevertheless learn to appreciate (as scientific literature is now easily accessible through the internet) (Lombard, Schneider & Weiss 2020 ).

Globally, this research suggests that applying this learning design approach for CT, which is focused on developing cognitive empathy during the processes of opinion building, could improve rational debate and contribute to CT teaching. Since it involves addressing challenging new problems, fosters authenticity (Lombard 2011 ), and can be adapted to local constraints and opportunities, it may be of interest to many teachers who struggle with teaching SSIs.

Author 1, also a lecturer and teacher trainer at anonymized university—see Section 6 for a discussion of how this dual researcher/practitioner role was taken into account when analyzing the data.

Full responses are available (in French) at this URL: )

The numbers in parenthesis are the count of mentions of this skill across all questions in the questionnaire; this value can exceed the number of students.

Available on request

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We would like to thank Prof Mireille Bertancourt and the TECFA lab at Geneva University for its stimulating climate, Dr. Vincent Widmer for constructive comments and designing Fig. 2 , all the students involved in the course over many years for their constructive comments that helped the design evolve, Dr. Emilie Qiao for insightful comments and suggestions about neuroscience research, and Mattia Fritz for constructive comments.

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The following codebook was used to code the progression of selected critical thinking skills (EE2 to EE4). Each OE item was coded on a 3-point scale (see the performance measures column).

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Lombard, F., Schneider, D.K., Merminod, M. et al. Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About Popularized Neurosciences. Sci & Educ 29 , 1139–1176 (2020).

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How Emotions Can Support Critical Thinking

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critical thinking should include biases or emotions

Ask “what role should emotions play in critical thinking?” and you get an unsurprising response from almost everywhere: They shouldn’t. This response comes from a wide variety of sources ranging from Internet crowdsourcing favorite Yahoo Answers – “emotion severely HAMPERS the critical thinking process as it clouds our judgment to fact and reason” to the Academic Journal Teaching of Psychology – “critical thinking avoids emotions and emotional reasoning.” Recently, I have questioned this view that feelings have no place in critical thinking.

In the fall, a beginning teacher asked me why emotions didn’t belong in the critical thinking process and I couldn’t come up with an answer I actually stood behind. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t see emotions and critical thinking as two planets orbiting different suns. In fact, often critically thinking about an issue leads us to have big feelings about the issue. The reverse is true as well. Big feelings often lead us to think critically about an issue. So, feelings and thinking are very connected. This connection was on display in my classroom throughout a debate and writing assignment on Felon Disenfranchisement. Emotions played a central role in framing the debate and contributing to the students engagement with the issue.

Earlier this year, during a unit on voting, my class looked at this blog post from KQED’s The Lowdown titled States Where Felons Can’t Vote . The students quickly noticed that the rules about felon voting vary significantly from state to state. For example, Maine lets felons vote even while they are in prison while Florida denies the vote to prisoners, parolees, probationers, and ex-felons. My students asked great questions, “Can ex-felons from Arizona just move to Illinois so their right to vote will be restored?” And they gave great responses, “Well, only if you, as an ex-felon, have the money to move across the country and are willing to leave your family and community. Seems like doing too much for a chance to vote.” This discussion led into table debates on the topic “Should there be a national law banning felon disenfranchisement?”

I love this debate lesson and do it almost every year. This year I updated this lesson with my new focus on asset-based thinking strategies that I outlined in a previous post , structuring the lesson with these strategies in mind: A) supporting claims with evidence, B) considering different viewpoints and perspectives, and C) wondering and asking thoughtful questions. Interestingly, as the debate unfolded, I noticed that a completely different thinking strategy came to dominate my students approach – identifying patterns and themes. While they certainly used strategies like asking thoughtful questions and considering different viewpoints, they were most engaged in the process of unearthing key themes such as how it felt to be prohibited from voting, or how it felt to have someone who has broken the social contract vote within your community. And this strategy, this way of thinking, emerged from my students’ emotional engagement with the topic.

It took me a while to catch what they had done. The students framed a very academic debate about voting rights through the lens of teenage emotions and feelings. Specifically, the feeling of being “left out” or excluded and the feeling of being “betrayed.”

The students arguing for a felon’s right to vote articulated that denying them a vote makes the felons feel excluded from the community when they return. They are “half citizens, kept on the sidelines of the community.” They don’t really belong. The students who argued against a felon’s right to vote used “betrayal” as their central theme. The felon “violated the trust of his/her fellow citizens” when he/she broke the law. “You can’t just expect your community to trust you again and let you take part fully in the community relationship.”

And it worked. The evidence for each side wasn’t framed as a set of rational facts to help you win the debate – the more facts you stack up the better. The table discussions emerged from and were framed by emotional arguments – it’s upsetting to feel excluded or it hurts to be betrayed. One set of students focused on felons being “locked out of their own society” and how humans respond when they are “basically invisible” to their community. Another set of students focused on how when people betray and “disrespect their community and people, [they] have to pay. [They} have to pay with something big, like voting.” The students didn’t stop there. They supported these frames, based in emotional reasoning, with evidence and facts based in academic evidence. They made connections to other groups of people such as legal residents who are also treated as “half citizens” as well as made connections to American history, “whatever happened to no taxation without representation” and John Locke’s ideas of a social contract.

Age and maturity come with many benefits including perspective and the ability to manage setbacks and recognize when they are not the end of the world. However, creating this emotional distance can be a loss, too. The energy and passion and BIG FEELINGS of young people are effective and beautiful for framing issues of justice. Emotions and emotional framing can assemble and organize all the evidence in a way that makes someone care. It did for me that day. I stopped counting the facts the students used as they made their points and I pictured the humans who were living these facts.

Months later, on the final exam, I asked the students an essay question about voting in today’s society. Although the question did NOT specifically mention felon disenfranchisement, many of the students referenced this debate, they referenced the emotional frames, and they used these to answer the question thoughtfully.

Now when I teach critical thinking I try to figure out how to communicate that emotions can and do play a role in thinking while balancing that idea with the view that emotions cannot be the sole basis for critical thinking. More recently, my students and I practiced this more nuanced approach as we examined the rights students have on school campuses and talked about managing personal finances. It was refreshing to admit that feelings play a role in deciding how people will spend and budget money. It feels more honest – and more instructive – to not only acknowledge that their feelings are part of their equation as they think about these issues, but to encourage them to reflect critically on how they can engage their own emotional responses and feelings in combination with academic, evidence-based analysis. Doing so can amplify their power as critical thinkers.

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What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

Learn what critical thinking skills are, why they’re important, and how to develop and apply them in your workplace and everyday life.

[Featured Image]:  Project Manager, approaching  and analyzing the latest project with a team member,

We often use critical thinking skills without even realizing it. When you make a decision, such as which cereal to eat for breakfast, you're using critical thinking to determine the best option for you that day.

Critical thinking is like a muscle that can be exercised and built over time. It is a skill that can help propel your career to new heights. You'll be able to solve workplace issues, use trial and error to troubleshoot ideas, and more.

We'll take you through what it is and some examples so you can begin your journey in mastering this skill.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to interpret, evaluate, and analyze facts and information that are available, to form a judgment or decide if something is right or wrong.

More than just being curious about the world around you, critical thinkers make connections between logical ideas to see the bigger picture. Building your critical thinking skills means being able to advocate your ideas and opinions, present them in a logical fashion, and make decisions for improvement.

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Why is critical thinking important?

Critical thinking is useful in many areas of your life, including your career. It makes you a well-rounded individual, one who has looked at all of their options and possible solutions before making a choice.

According to the University of the People in California, having critical thinking skills is important because they are [ 1 ]:

Crucial for the economy

Essential for improving language and presentation skills

Very helpful in promoting creativity

Important for self-reflection

The basis of science and democracy 

Critical thinking skills are used every day in a myriad of ways and can be applied to situations such as a CEO approaching a group project or a nurse deciding in which order to treat their patients.

Examples of common critical thinking skills

Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include:

Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the situation at hand. Pointing out these biases helps to remove them from contention when it comes to solving the problem and allows you to see things from a different perspective.

Research: Researching details and facts allows you to be prepared when presenting your information to people. You’ll know exactly what you’re talking about due to the time you’ve spent with the subject material, and you’ll be well-spoken and know what questions to ask to gain more knowledge. When researching, always use credible sources and factual information.

Open-mindedness: Being open-minded when having a conversation or participating in a group activity is crucial to success. Dismissing someone else’s ideas before you’ve heard them will inhibit you from progressing to a solution, and will often create animosity. If you truly want to solve a problem, you need to be willing to hear everyone’s opinions and ideas if you want them to hear yours.

Analysis: Analyzing your research will lead to you having a better understanding of the things you’ve heard and read. As a true critical thinker, you’ll want to seek out the truth and get to the source of issues. It’s important to avoid taking things at face value and always dig deeper.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is perhaps the most important skill that critical thinkers can possess. The ability to solve issues and bounce back from conflict is what helps you succeed, be a leader, and effect change. One way to properly solve problems is to first recognize there’s a problem that needs solving. By determining the issue at hand, you can then analyze it and come up with several potential solutions.

How to develop critical thinking skills

You can develop critical thinking skills every day if you approach problems in a logical manner. Here are a few ways you can start your path to improvement:

1. Ask questions.

Be inquisitive about everything. Maintain a neutral perspective and develop a natural curiosity, so you can ask questions that develop your understanding of the situation or task at hand. The more details, facts, and information you have, the better informed you are to make decisions.

2. Practice active listening.

Utilize active listening techniques, which are founded in empathy, to really listen to what the other person is saying. Critical thinking, in part, is the cognitive process of reading the situation: the words coming out of their mouth, their body language, their reactions to your own words. Then, you might paraphrase to clarify what they're saying, so both of you agree you're on the same page.

3. Develop your logic and reasoning.

This is perhaps a more abstract task that requires practice and long-term development. However, think of a schoolteacher assessing the classroom to determine how to energize the lesson. There's options such as playing a game, watching a video, or challenging the students with a reward system. Using logic, you might decide that the reward system will take up too much time and is not an immediate fix. A video is not exactly relevant at this time. So, the teacher decides to play a simple word association game.

Scenarios like this happen every day, so next time, you can be more aware of what will work and what won't. Over time, developing your logic and reasoning will strengthen your critical thinking skills.

Learn tips and tricks on how to become a better critical thinker and problem solver through online courses from notable educational institutions on Coursera. Start with Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking from Duke University or Mindware: Critical Thinking for the Information Age from the University of Michigan.

Article sources

University of the People, “ Why is Critical Thinking Important?: A Survival Guide ,” Accessed May 18, 2023.

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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical Reflection

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Label the conditions that make critical thinking possible.
  • Classify and describe cognitive biases.
  • Apply critical reflection strategies to resist cognitive biases.

To resist the potential pitfalls of cognitive biases, we have taken some time to recognize why we fall prey to them. Now we need to understand how to resist easy, automatic, and error-prone thinking in favor of more reflective, critical thinking.

Critical Reflection and Metacognition

To promote good critical thinking, put yourself in a frame of mind that allows critical reflection. Recall from the previous section that rational thinking requires effort and takes longer. However, it will likely result in more accurate thinking and decision-making. As a result, reflective thought can be a valuable tool in correcting cognitive biases. The critical aspect of critical reflection involves a willingness to be skeptical of your own beliefs, your gut reactions, and your intuitions. Additionally, the critical aspect engages in a more analytic approach to the problem or situation you are considering. You should assess the facts, consider the evidence, try to employ logic, and resist the quick, immediate, and likely conclusion you want to draw. By reflecting critically on your own thinking, you can become aware of the natural tendency for your mind to slide into mental shortcuts.

This process of critical reflection is often called metacognition in the literature of pedagogy and psychology. Metacognition means thinking about thinking and involves the kind of self-awareness that engages higher-order thinking skills. Cognition, or the way we typically engage with the world around us, is first-order thinking, while metacognition is higher-order thinking. From a metacognitive frame, we can critically assess our thought process, become skeptical of our gut reactions and intuitions, and reconsider our cognitive tendencies and biases.

To improve metacognition and critical reflection, we need to encourage the kind of self-aware, conscious, and effortful attention that may feel unnatural and may be tiring. Typical activities associated with metacognition include checking, planning, selecting, inferring, self-interrogating, interpreting an ongoing experience, and making judgments about what one does and does not know (Hackner, Dunlosky, and Graesser 1998). By practicing metacognitive behaviors, you are preparing yourself to engage in the kind of rational, abstract thought that will be required for philosophy.

Good study habits, including managing your workspace, giving yourself plenty of time, and working through a checklist, can promote metacognition. When you feel stressed out or pressed for time, you are more likely to make quick decisions that lead to error. Stress and lack of time also discourage critical reflection because they rob your brain of the resources necessary to engage in rational, attention-filled thought. By contrast, when you relax and give yourself time to think through problems, you will be clearer, more thoughtful, and less likely to rush to the first conclusion that leaps to mind. Similarly, background noise, distracting activity, and interruptions will prevent you from paying attention. You can use this checklist to try to encourage metacognition when you study:

  • Check your work.
  • Plan ahead.
  • Select the most useful material.
  • Infer from your past grades to focus on what you need to study.
  • Ask yourself how well you understand the concepts.
  • Check your weaknesses.
  • Assess whether you are following the arguments and claims you are working on.

Cognitive Biases

In this section, we will examine some of the most common cognitive biases so that you can be aware of traps in thought that can lead you astray. Cognitive biases are closely related to informal fallacies. Both fallacies and biases provide examples of the ways we make errors in reasoning.


See the chapter on logic and reasoning for an in-depth exploration of informal fallacies.

Watch the video to orient yourself before reading the text that follows.

Cognitive Biases 101, with Peter Bauman

Confirmation bias.

One of the most common cognitive biases is confirmation bias , which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports your prior beliefs. Like all cognitive biases, confirmation bias serves an important function. For instance, one of the most reliable forms of confirmation bias is the belief in our shared reality. Suppose it is raining. When you first hear the patter of raindrops on your roof or window, you may think it is raining. You then look for additional signs to confirm your conclusion, and when you look out the window, you see rain falling and puddles of water accumulating. Most likely, you will not be looking for irrelevant or contradictory information. You will be looking for information that confirms your belief that it is raining. Thus, you can see how confirmation bias—based on the idea that the world does not change dramatically over time—is an important tool for navigating in our environment.

Unfortunately, as with most heuristics, we tend to apply this sort of thinking inappropriately. One example that has recently received a lot of attention is the way in which confirmation bias has increased political polarization. When searching for information on the internet about an event or topic, most people look for information that confirms their prior beliefs rather than what undercuts them. The pervasive presence of social media in our lives is exacerbating the effects of confirmation bias since the computer algorithms used by social media platforms steer people toward content that reinforces their current beliefs and predispositions. These multimedia tools are especially problematic when our beliefs are incorrect (for example, they contradict scientific knowledge) or antisocial (for example, they support violent or illegal behavior). Thus, social media and the internet have created a situation in which confirmation bias can be “turbocharged” in ways that are destructive for society.

Confirmation bias is a result of the brain’s limited ability to process information. Peter Wason (1960) conducted early experiments identifying this kind of bias. He asked subjects to identify the rule that applies to a sequence of numbers—for instance, 2, 4, 8. Subjects were told to generate examples to test their hypothesis. What he found is that once a subject settled on a particular hypothesis, they were much more likely to select examples that confirmed their hypothesis rather than negated it. As a result, they were unable to identify the real rule (any ascending sequence of numbers) and failed to “falsify” their initial assumptions. Falsification is an important tool in the scientist’s toolkit when they are testing hypotheses and is an effective way to avoid confirmation bias.

In philosophy, you will be presented with different arguments on issues, such as the nature of the mind or the best way to act in a given situation. You should take your time to reason through these issues carefully and consider alternative views. What you believe to be the case may be right, but you may also fall into the trap of confirmation bias, seeing confirming evidence as better and more convincing than evidence that calls your beliefs into question.

Anchoring Bias

Confirmation bias is closely related to another bias known as anchoring. Anchoring bias refers to our tendency to rely on initial values, prices, or quantities when estimating the actual value, price, or quantity of something. If you are presented with a quantity, even if that number is clearly arbitrary, you will have a hard discounting it in your subsequent calculations; the initial value “anchors” subsequent estimates. For instance, Tversky and Kahneman (1974) reported an experiment in which subjects were asked to estimate the number of African nations in the United Nations. First, the experimenters spun a wheel of fortune in front of the subjects that produced a random number between 0 and 100. Let’s say the wheel landed on 79. Subjects were asked whether the number of nations was higher or lower than the random number. Subjects were then asked to estimate the real number of nations. Even though the initial anchoring value was random, people in the study found it difficult to deviate far from that number. For subjects receiving an initial value of 10, the median estimate of nations was 25, while for subjects receiving an initial value of 65, the median estimate was 45.

In the same paper, Tversky and Kahneman described the way that anchoring bias interferes with statistical reasoning. In a number of scenarios, subjects made irrational judgments about statistics because of the way the question was phrased (i.e., they were tricked when an anchor was inserted into the question). Instead of expending the cognitive energy needed to solve the statistical problem, subjects were much more likely to “go with their gut,” or think intuitively. That type of reasoning generates anchoring bias. When you do philosophy, you will be confronted with some formal and abstract problems that will challenge you to engage in thinking that feels difficult and unnatural. Resist the urge to latch on to the first thought that jumps into your head, and try to think the problem through with all the cognitive resources at your disposal.

Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic refers to the tendency to evaluate new information based on the most recent or most easily recalled examples. The availability heuristic occurs when people take easily remembered instances as being more representative than they objectively are (i.e., based on statistical probabilities). In very simple situations, the availability of instances is a good guide to judgments. Suppose you are wondering whether you should plan for rain. It may make sense to anticipate rain if it has been raining a lot in the last few days since weather patterns tend to linger in most climates. More generally, scenarios that are well-known to us, dramatic, recent, or easy to imagine are more available for retrieval from memory. Therefore, if we easily remember an instance or scenario, we may incorrectly think that the chances are high that the scenario will be repeated. For instance, people in the United States estimate the probability of dying by violent crime or terrorism much more highly than they ought to. In fact, these are extremely rare occurrences compared to death by heart disease, cancer, or car accidents. But stories of violent crime and terrorism are prominent in the news media and fiction. Because these vivid stories are dramatic and easily recalled, we have a skewed view of how frequently violent crime occurs.

Another more loosely defined category of cognitive bias is the tendency for human beings to align themselves with groups with whom they share values and practices. The tendency toward tribalism is an evolutionary advantage for social creatures like human beings. By forming groups to share knowledge and distribute work, we are much more likely to survive. Not surprisingly, human beings with pro-social behaviors persist in the population at higher rates than human beings with antisocial tendencies. Pro-social behaviors, however, go beyond wanting to communicate and align ourselves with other human beings; we also tend to see outsiders as a threat. As a result, tribalistic tendencies both reinforce allegiances among in-group members and increase animosity toward out-group members.

Tribal thinking makes it hard for us to objectively evaluate information that either aligns with or contradicts the beliefs held by our group or tribe. This effect can be demonstrated even when in-group membership is not real or is based on some superficial feature of the person—for instance, the way they look or an article of clothing they are wearing. A related bias is called the bandwagon fallacy . The bandwagon fallacy can lead you to conclude that you ought to do something or believe something because many other people do or believe the same thing. While other people can provide guidance, they are not always reliable. Furthermore, just because many people believe something doesn’t make it true. Watch the video below to improve your “tribal literacy” and understand the dangers of this type of thinking.

The Dangers of Tribalism, Kevin deLaplante

Sunk cost fallacy.

Sunk costs refer to the time, energy, money, or other costs that have been paid in the past. These costs are “sunk” because they cannot be recovered. The sunk cost fallacy is thinking that attaches a value to things in which you have already invested resources that is greater than the value those things have today. Human beings have a natural tendency to hang on to whatever they invest in and are loath to give something up even after it has been proven to be a liability. For example, a person may have sunk a lot of money into a business over time, and the business may clearly be failing. Nonetheless, the businessperson will be reluctant to close shop or sell the business because of the time, money, and emotional energy they have spent on the venture. This is the behavior of “throwing good money after bad” by continuing to irrationally invest in something that has lost its worth because of emotional attachment to the failed enterprise. People will engage in this kind of behavior in all kinds of situations and may continue a friendship, a job, or a marriage for the same reason—they don’t want to lose their investment even when they are clearly headed for failure and ought to cut their losses.

A similar type of faulty reasoning leads to the gambler’s fallacy , in which a person reasons that future chance events will be more likely if they have not happened recently. For instance, if I flip a coin many times in a row, I may get a string of heads. But even if I flip several heads in a row, that does not make it more likely I will flip tails on the next coin flip. Each coin flip is statistically independent, and there is an equal chance of turning up heads or tails. The gambler, like the reasoner from sunk costs, is tied to the past when they should be reasoning about the present and future.

There are important social and evolutionary purposes for past-looking thinking. Sunk-cost thinking keeps parents engaged in the growth and development of their children after they are born. Sunk-cost thinking builds loyalty and affection among friends and family. More generally, a commitment to sunk costs encourages us to engage in long-term projects, and this type of thinking has the evolutionary purpose of fostering culture and community. Nevertheless, it is important to periodically reevaluate our investments in both people and things.

In recent ethical scholarship, there is some debate about how to assess the sunk costs of moral decisions. Consider the case of war. Just-war theory dictates that wars may be justified in cases where the harm imposed on the adversary is proportional to the good gained by the act of defense or deterrence. It may be that, at the start of the war, those costs seemed proportional. But after the war has dragged on for some time, it may seem that the objective cannot be obtained without a greater quantity of harm than had been initially imagined. Should the evaluation of whether a war is justified estimate the total amount of harm done or prospective harm that will be done going forward (Lazar 2018)? Such questions do not have easy answers.

Table 2.1 summarizes these common cognitive biases.

Think Like a Philosopher

As we have seen, cognitive biases are built into the way human beings process information. They are common to us all, and it takes self-awareness and effort to overcome the tendency to fall back on biases. Consider a time when you have fallen prey to one of the five cognitive biases described above. What were the circumstances? Recall your thought process. Were you aware at the time that your thinking was misguided? What were the consequences of succumbing to that cognitive bias?

Write a short paragraph describing how that cognitive bias allowed you to make a decision you now realize was irrational. Then write a second paragraph describing how, with the benefit of time and distance, you would have thought differently about the incident that triggered the bias. Use the tools of critical reflection and metacognition to improve your approach to this situation. What might have been the consequences of behaving differently? Finally, write a short conclusion describing what lesson you take from reflecting back on this experience. Does it help you understand yourself better? Will you be able to act differently in the future? What steps can you take to avoid cognitive biases in your thinking today?

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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  • Vincent-Lancrin, Stéphan, Carlos González-Sancho, Mathias Bouckaert, Federico de Luca, Meritxell Fernández-Barrerra, Gwénaël Jacotin, Joaquin Urgel, and Quentin Vidal, 2019, Fostering Students’ Creativity and Critical Thinking: What It Means in School. Educational Research and Innovation , Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Warren, Karen J. 1988. “Critical Thinking and Feminism”, Informal Logic , 10(1): 31–44. [ Warren 1988 available online ]
  • Watson, Goodwin, and Edward M. Glaser, 1980a, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Form A , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
  • –––, 1980b, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal: Forms A and B; Manual , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation,
  • –––, 1994, Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Form B , San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation.
  • Weinstein, Mark, 1990, “Towards a Research Agenda for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking”, Informal Logic , 12(3): 121–143. [ Weinstein 1990 available online ]
  • –––, 2013, Logic, Truth and Inquiry , London: College Publications.
  • Willingham, Daniel T., 2019, “How to Teach Critical Thinking”, Education: Future Frontiers , 1: 1–17. [Available online at]
  • Zagzebski, Linda Trinkaus, 1996, Virtues of the Mind: An Inquiry into the Nature of Virtue and the Ethical Foundations of Knowledge , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139174763
How to cite this entry . Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP Society . Look up topics and thinkers related to this entry at the Internet Philosophy Ontology Project (InPhO). Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database.
  • Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking (AILACT)
  • Critical Thinking Across the European Higher Education Curricula (CRITHINKEDU)
  • Critical Thinking Definition, Instruction, and Assessment: A Rigorous Approach
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  • The Nature of Critical Thinking: An Outline of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities , by Robert H. Ennis

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Emotional Self-Awareness Is Essential for Managing Biases

Left unchecked, biases lead to impaired thinking..

Posted September 15, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina

  • The skills required for cognitive empathy, such as perspective-taking, are entirely different from those required for emotional empathy.
  • Emotional self-awareness is the mechanism through which humans are able to calibrate their moral and ethical compasses.
  • Left unchecked, biases cause people to constrict and distort the information they receive, understand, and consider.

Many people incorrectly believe that they possess a wealth of empathy by virtue of their training, licensure, and profession. They frequently hold this belief because they have been trained in and regularly engage in perspective-taking , which is known as cognitive empathy and which Daniel Goleman has defined as “the ability to understand another person’s perspective.”

However, Goleman and others also refer to other types of empathy. The two other types of empathy Goleman refers to are emotional empathy and empathic concern, which he defines respectively as “the ability to feel what someone else feels” and “the ability to sense what another person needs from you.”

It bears mentioning that social science researcher Brene' Brown explains that empathy consists of the following five skills :

  • Perspective taking;
  • Being nonjudgmental;
  • Understanding the other person’s feelings;
  • Communicating your understanding; and
  • Mindfulness .

Cognitive empathy is most certainly important; yet, it is not the type of empathy that is included as one of the twelve emotional intelligence competencies. As such, it does not require the development of any emotional intelligence skills.

The belief that one’s training, licensure, and regular practice of perspective-taking means that they possess a “wealth of empathy” is incredibly inaccurate. Furthermore, that belief causes people to think that they already possess and have honed at least some emotional intelligence skills. Not surprisingly, this belief discourages those holding it from putting in the time and effort required to develop and hone some or all of the emotional intelligence skills. After all, why develop something you already believe that you possess in spades?

The empathy which is an aspect of emotional intelligence is a skill, the foundation of which is emotional self-awareness.

The skill of emotional self-awareness is defined as “knowing what one feels.”

Emotional empathy is "an astute awareness of others’ emotions, concerns, and needs." It is not possible to be aware of and accurately understand other people’s emotions unless and until one is aware of and understands them in oneself. While emotional self-awareness can be learned, it is essential to distinguish between being taught a skill and learning it.

It bears mentioning that our emotions impact our perception of fairness, among other things. Fear keeps us safe from perceived danger, disgust (the emotion associated with perceptions of immorality) protects us from our perceived threat of being poisoned physically and socially, anger is a response to a perceived injustice, and sadness is a reaction to a perceived loss. While these perceptions may be real, they might also be exaggerated or completely imagined. As such, emotional self-awareness and bias management efforts go hand-in-hand.

As Dr. Brown has said, one of the skills required for empathy is nonjudgment. Untested assumptions and beliefs are biases.

People talk about engaging in "non-judgmental listening." However, it has been found that this is an impossible task because of how the human brain work. Fortunately, people can suspend judgment in order to listen to hear, understand and consider information. Suspending judgment is far easier said than done.

Once people have experienced something or formed an opinion about it, that becomes their default -- they no longer have a clean slate in that regard. They have, for all intents and purposes, become biased and pre-judge based upon their experience or opinion.

There is no training, licensure, or certification that causes someone to develop and hone their emotional self-awareness. For example, consider the following:

“ Unfortunately , the results of research on efforts to help judges to reduce or otherwise manage their biases have been rather disappointing. In fact, the research has shown that the effects of the training, if any, for most judges ‘generally declined after two weeks,’ as set forth by the Federal Judicial Center. To be clear, this does not mean that such efforts are entirely ineffective. As has already been said many times throughout this article, ‘admission is the first step to recovery.’ Unless people are required to take courses at which they learn about specific biases, how they are formed, their impact, and what a person can do to try to reduce or otherwise manage bias, people self-select the types of information to which they will and will not even expose themselves. Thus, those most in need of acquiring such information are typically the least likely to receive it, particularly if they believe they are not biased and that their explicit biases exist for good reason. Therefore, the only way to even attempt to promote awareness is through education programs and by requiring attendance.”

critical thinking should include biases or emotions

Left unchecked, biases cause people to constrict and distort the information they receive, understand and consider. The more constricted and distorted the information heard, understood and considered, the more impaired will be the thinking involved.

As if engaging in unimpaired thinking, to the extent possible, is not sufficient reason for people to want to develop and hone their emotional self-awareness, emotional self-awareness is the mechanism through which human beings are able to calibrate their moral and ethical compasses .

Fortunately, in 1994, Timothy D. Wilson and Nancy Brekke provided scientific proof that bias could be avoided or eliminated as follows:

  • By becoming aware of the bias and why it exists;
  • Having the motivation to overcome it;
  • Awareness of the direction and magnitude of the bias; and
  • The ability to apply an appropriate strategy to help reduce or otherwise manage the bias.

For what it is worth, the opposite of self-awareness is self-righteousness. If you find yourself feeling "morally superior to others," that should signal your need to develop your emotional self-awareness.

Goleman, D. (2013). ' The Focused Leader : How effective executives direct their own—and their organizations’—attention', Harvard Business Review.

Goleman, D. (2020). ' Harvard researcher says the most emotionally intelligent people have these 12 traits . Which do you have?', CNBC.

Goleman, D. (2001). An EI-Based Theory of Performance . In C. Cherniss, & D. Goleman (Eds.), The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace (p. 27, 36). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Baer, M., The Amplification of Bias in Family Law and its Impact , 32 J. AM. ACAD. MATRIM. L. 305, 328 (2020).

Wilson, T. & Brekke, N. (1994). Mental Contamination and Mental Correction: Unwanted Influences on Judgments and Evaluations, 116 PSYCHOL. BULL. 117.

Mark B. Baer, Esq.

Mark B. Baer, Esq. is a mediator, collaborative law practitioner, conflict resolution consultant, co-author of Putting Kids First in Divorce, and co-founder of Family Dynamics Assistance Center.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, what is critical thinking, critical thinking and decision-making what is critical thinking.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: What is Critical Thinking?

Lesson 1: what is critical thinking, what is critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a term that gets thrown around a lot. You've probably heard it used often throughout the years whether it was in school, at work, or in everyday conversation. But when you stop to think about it, what exactly is critical thinking and how do you do it ?

Watch the video below to learn more about critical thinking.

Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions . It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better.

illustration of the terms logic, reasoning, and creativity

This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a broad skill that can be applied to so many different situations. You can use it to prepare for a job interview, manage your time better, make decisions about purchasing things, and so much more.

The process

illustration of "thoughts" inside a human brain, with several being connected and "analyzed"

As humans, we are constantly thinking . It's something we can't turn off. But not all of it is critical thinking. No one thinks critically 100% of the time... that would be pretty exhausting! Instead, it's an intentional process , something that we consciously use when we're presented with difficult problems or important decisions.

Improving your critical thinking

illustration of the questions "What do I currently know?" and "How do I know this?"

In order to become a better critical thinker, it's important to ask questions when you're presented with a problem or decision, before jumping to any conclusions. You can start with simple ones like What do I currently know? and How do I know this? These can help to give you a better idea of what you're working with and, in some cases, simplify more complex issues.  

Real-world applications

illustration of a hand holding a smartphone displaying an article that reads, "Study: Cats are better than dogs"

Let's take a look at how we can use critical thinking to evaluate online information . Say a friend of yours posts a news article on social media and you're drawn to its headline. If you were to use your everyday automatic thinking, you might accept it as fact and move on. But if you were thinking critically, you would first analyze the available information and ask some questions :

  • What's the source of this article?
  • Is the headline potentially misleading?
  • What are my friend's general beliefs?
  • Do their beliefs inform why they might have shared this?

illustration of "Super Cat Blog" and "According to survery of cat owners" being highlighted from an article on a smartphone

After analyzing all of this information, you can draw a conclusion about whether or not you think the article is trustworthy.

Critical thinking has a wide range of real-world applications . It can help you to make better decisions, become more hireable, and generally better understand the world around you.

illustration of a lightbulb, a briefcase, and the world



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  1. The Power Of Emotions: Unveiling Their Impact On Critical Thinking

    Some common types of emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Each emotion has its own distinct set of physiological responses, such as changes in heart rate, facial expressions, and body language. ... The Connection Between Emotions and Biases in Critical Thinking. Emotions can also contribute to biases in ...

  2. How Do Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking: Uncovering the

    Positive emotions such as joy and curiosity may enhance our ability to see connections and integrate diverse information, leading to more effective problem-solving. Understanding and managing emotions can thus be seen as an integral skill within the context of critical thinking. The interplay between emotions and reasoning is an ongoing subject ...

  3. How Do Emotions Positively And Negatively Influence Critical Thinking?

    Emotions play a dual role in critical thinking, influencing it both positively and negatively. Positive emotions like joy and curiosity can enhance creativity and the ability to integrate diverse information, leading to more effective problem-solving. Conversely, negative emotions such as anxiety and anger can impede critical thinking, causing biased decision-making and memory retention issues.

  4. The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

    The self-regulation comparison between EI and critical thinking is largely self-evident. That is, we need to self-regulate to think critically and EI is, simply, a form of self-regulation. Indeed ...

  5. Unlocking The Power: How Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking

    The role of negative emotions in decision-making and risk assessment. While negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are often seen as detrimental, they can actually play a valuable role in critical thinking. Negative emotions activate our fight-or-flight response, which heightens our alertness and focus.

  6. Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About

    Such designs should probably include learning to deal with the different forms of empathy that will be discussed below and could be implemented before setting up debates or possibly even before students develop their own opinions about the new SSIs raised by the abundance of neuroscience research. 2.2 Emotions and Decentering in Critical Thinking

  7. How Emotions Can Support Critical Thinking

    Big feelings often lead us to think critically about an issue. So, feelings and thinking are very connected. This connection was on display in my classroom throughout a debate and writing assignment on Felon Disenfranchisement. Emotions played a central role in framing the debate and contributing to the students engagement with the issue.

  8. What Are Critical Thinking Skills and Why Are They Important?

    Examples of common critical thinking skills. Critical thinking skills differ from individual to individual and are utilized in various ways. Examples of common critical thinking skills include: Identification of biases: Identifying biases means knowing there are certain people or things that may have an unfair prejudice or influence on the ...

  9. Critical thinking

    Teaching bias and critical thinking skills. By following this step-by-step process, I believe we can talk about bias with our students and increase the chances of them incorporating critical thinking skills into their lives. 1) Choose a bias. Search for a list of biases and read the basic definitions. 2) Learn about it.

  10. Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well. Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly ...

  11. Cognitive Bias Is the Loose Screw in Critical Thinking

    Learning these biases, and being on the alert for them when you make a decision to accept a belief or opinion, will help you become more effective at critical thinking. Wikipedia lists 197 ...

  12. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  13. The Link Between Emotions and Critical Thinking

    When emotions are elicited, essentially they take over our critical thinking abilities. In English we like to say we "have" emotions but in fact this is a misnomer. When we are emotional, they "have" us, and they take over many of our cognitive and behavioral systems. Recovering our ability to think critically takes some time.

  14. 2.2 Overcoming Cognitive Biases and Engaging in Critical ...

    Confirmation Bias. One of the most common cognitive biases is confirmation bias, which is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports your prior beliefs.Like all cognitive biases, confirmation bias serves an important function. For instance, one of the most reliable forms of confirmation bias is the belief in our shared reality.

  15. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms ...

  16. Cognitive Biases and Their Influence on Critical Thinking and

    this distinction: "The status quo bias is emotional and causes people to hold on to how things are. The conservatism bias is cognitive and causes people to hold on to their previous opinions and

  17. Emotional Self-Awareness Is Essential for Managing Biases

    Emotional self-awareness is the mechanism through which humans are able to calibrate their moral and ethical compasses. Left unchecked, biases cause people to constrict and distort the information ...

  18. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making

    Simply put, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgements and decisions. It involves using things like logic, reasoning, and creativity, to draw conclusions and generally understand things better. This may sound like a pretty broad definition, and that's because critical thinking is a ...

  19. PHL 101 CHAPTER 1 Flashcards

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Critical thinking, True or false: Critical thinking should include biases or emotions., What are the ultimate objectives of thinking critically? (Check all that apply.) and more.

  20. CHP Exam #1 Flashcards

    yes. the method used to come to correct conclusions is to evaluate our thinking by standards of _______. rationality. (T/F) whether an objective claim is true or false depends on whether people think it is true or false. false. the tendency to weight negative evidence more heavily than positive evidence is called __________ bias. negativity. an ...

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    Created by. chloe_peterson1. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like Critical thinking involves what?, What are the two purposes for Critical Thinking (Aka: What is the ultimate objective in Critical Thinking?), What is the method used to achieve the two objectives of Critical Thinking? and more.