Of course, we want to be effective thinkers, but if we are "smart" about it we do not go into super, unnecessary, less productive details of fancy arguments and super indepth logical fallacies - we, as in every endeavor, learn first what has the most effect and stop where there is little marginal benefit.
Effective thinking is strictly a way of thinking that gets better results (i.e. effects) in life based on verified-fact-based, logical thinking. It considers all relevant inputs (including emotions!!!). We engage in it because it is what leads us to the happiest life - there is no other path that leads to that destination! Luck or circumstances may contribute for awhile, but neither provides the path...
#1. Live based on what you've not determined to be true: (And suffer.)
The land of false beliefs and clashes with reality and/or
The abyss of (made-up "stories") that are believed to be true and real. (Duh!)
#2. "Think", to answer criteria:
Q1. Are the facts actually true and verifiable?
Q2. Is the conclusion rational and logical?
Even if you were not to learn more about effective thinking, if you stuck to the minimum of these, you'd do far better in life than most people. However, I recommended you go further to get the extensive extra benefits of living a life based on effective thinking and excellent choosing.
"Critical thinking is the key skill that will have people making good decisions - it is required for anyone who wants to be happy - otherwise we become victims of hope, circumstances, erroneous conclusions and the will of others. Without it we cannot run our lives well - and we cannot work with others toward solutions that benefit all.
People come to unwarranted conclusions - and their lives are either damaged by them and/or they become much less than they can be. If, in matters that are important, they only looked a bit deeper and at the facts, their lives would be improved dramatically.
And we've turned our "friend", the mind that serves us, into producing many bad results for us. We "believe" in emotional reasoning, which is a huge mistake, an oxymoron that can make us behave as if we are morons. We need to learn that signals from our very mechanical primitive brain system are to be paid attention to, but screened carefully, using only that which is useful and real - honor it, but do not let it rule! (See also Intuition.) Interestingly enough, the key final element that was evolved in our brain was the very element that had us survive better than any other animal - it was the ability to think creatively and systematically, so that we grew beyond the (magnificent) simple survival strategies of the lower brains. I recommend using that final element, the Higher Brain, as it will produce the best, most reliable results for us. (See System One, System Two - Our Gifts To Work With - But use the right one for the right thing!)
See: Examples of Unwarranted Conclusions And Beliefs.
QUICK SNAPSHOT (Get the jist of it)
Choice 1. Critical thinking defined:
Good facts + logical thinking + disciplined system = Good decisions = Good results!
If you can't answer a true yes to each of these 3 pieces, you are not doing effective thinking.
Choice 2. Non-critical, sloppy non-thinking:
Not-true facts +/or illogical emotional thinking + no discipline = Bad decisions
= Bad results!
In #2, we often use "selective" or biased information, unchecked, often intentionally.
The desire to be "right" rather than "correct" and true is preponderant in choice #2, as opposed to #1 where the user is interested in truth before anything
THE TEST FOR CRITICAL THINKING:
1. Facts: __ validated; __ non-biased; ___ sufficient (not just selective)
2. Rational thinking: __ Logical, based on the facts
__ Not decided by emotion or hunches or intuition
__ The cause and effect are clear, can be explained
THE SYMPTOMS OF NONCRITICAL THINKING
Being misled by others, not discriminating, repeating "talking points" (as in politics or "causes") or what was just heard, without checking it out or thinking.
Advocacy, often emotional, rather than well-considered discussion points.
Frustration often due to
Can't cite facts or be sure they are valid (a hunch does not equal validity)
Upsets in life
WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE?
__ I am willing to operate my life without critical, effective thinking. It's too much
effort or I am willing to not know how.
__ I commit to using critical thinking, and to being a good decision maker.
WHAT WILL SERVE US WELL FOR BETTER DECISIONS AND LIFE
See below for the skills to learn that help one to be an effective critical thinker and good decisionmaker about life.
The purpose of thinking: To make better decisions and to have a better life
Be able to communicate effectively (self and others)
Explaining (and if unclear, you can't communicate it)
Great decisionmaking and problem solving
Vague, muddled, confused, unclear thinking
Believing in false or untrue (and becoming attached to our conclusions)
Being misled by others, believing in political talking points or advocacy
Recently I was struck with a situation which reminded me that humans seem to stubbornly hold on to old ideas and to deny new or opposing evidence. (A very good book on this is The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer.) Human, if not applying thinking skills, tend to hold onto beliefs as if they are true, often simply because that is what they started with and repeated until they "felt" true. (The classic "I just KNOW it is true!" (in their gut or because of their intuition or whatever, using "thinking errors" where they are not based on facts or thorough reasoning.) They instead selectively seek and/or reinterpret and slant toward evidence that supports their conclusions. In critical thinking, we, instead, seek to make good conclusions as the first priority, being open to evidence, even open after we've made what we think was a well-thought out conclusion - and not run by advocacy or the desire to be right. An intelligent thinker knows that most conclusions are not necessarily correct, especially recognizing that they are normally made with some perception bias and also limited ability or time to exhaust all the available evidence!
We need to be open to, and act on, looking at all the ways to solve a problem - and we've got to "see" the problem in the first place. "I'm right" doesn't work and is, in life, damaging to our futures.
A Truth Of Life: I would suggest that this "knowing I am not necessarily right" is one of the first major moves toward maturity and making better decisions in life.
People who don't see that, naturally, are stuck with old conclusions, are not open to new information or feedback (they often keep doing what doesn't work!), and do not come to new and improved conclusions or ways of operating more effectively in life. Ironically, they also spend time fighting about it, as if not making a correct conclusion is a threat to their survival.
It is vital to life that we be adaptive and always improving to a higher level of living. Those who believe with so much certainty and fixedness are forever doomed to repeat the past, over and over and over and over.
You can detect those people who don't use critical thinking by seeing that they are stuck in life and "for some reason" can't seem to make much progress even when they are working hard at it - because they are using the wrong tools!
And they make conclusions about beliefs and politics and how things work in life that are not based on facts and logic so it is almost impossible to create something good out of that.
YOUR THINKING IS NOT EFFECTIVE AND RATIONAL UNLESS IT FITS THESE CRITERIA:
How often are you violating these criteria? (Or on a particular matter, ask "which of these am I not doing?", so you can do what works.)
1. Clarity - Understandable
So you can say what you mean and mean what you say.
Note that you cannot unclearly learn mathematics, so why would lack of clarity not be an obstacle in all areas.
2. Precision - Detail and specificity
Question your thinking
a. Could you elaborate further? (Give me more detail, etc.)
b. Could you illustrate that?
c. Could you give me an example in real life? (Concrete [not abstract], observable)
Life is concrete. You live a life doing things that are specific.
Precision adds detail beyond simple clarity. So you seek details. But the amount of detail or precision has to be suitable to the context. We don't measure our temperature to be 75.1583, as it is precise enough to say it is 75 degrees today. Our body temperature is indicated in tenths: 98.6 degrees.
3. Accuracy - Is it true?
How could we check it out, test it, to see if it is really as represented? Is there a corroborating witness (who is of sufficient accuracy and knowledge)?
Here I can be precise in saying my height is 8' 3", but the accuracy of that is questionable. Of course, it can be observed to be otherwise, which is a very simple test.
4. Relevance - Ability to consider only the factors that bear on the question
"I don't like this person, so I better give him a bad grade" is poor relevancy.
Or all Republicans will lead us to a Fascist state, when the candidate is a well-reasoned moderate. (Obviously there is an unvalidated, irrational inaccuracy here, but it is also not relevant since it doesn't apply to the specific candidate.)
5. Depth - Versus superficiality
Use a depth appropriate to the question. Superficial questions will usually have superficial answers, as being appropriate to the purpose. And certainly we wouldn't go into depth that is not relevant.
We cannot deal with a complex question with a superficial answer.
"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
H. L. Mencken
Ask "how well does your answer deal with the complexity of the question?" (Complexity requires a great deal more thinking because it has to address more parts plus somehow tie them all together in a way that works.)
Does it focus on only part of the issue or is it comprehensive and inclusive of all key elements?
Does it include complete enough thinking and reasoning to have confidence that the conclusion is valid.
And know, please, that even the smartest person can come to the wrong conclusion if he is just basing everything on himself, accessing just the one brain. Using experts and then questioning what they say and owning it for yourself is vastly superior to using one brain - it is a smaller form of "universal knowledge." (Note that this is a step in being successful in any area of life: The Success Steps.)
SOME HELPFUL RESOURCES
For all levels:
Video Critical Thinking (5 minutes) - "We must want to be better at thinking, to seek out and be guided by knowledge and evidence that fits with reality, even if it refutes our cherished beliefs." Well said!!!
"Reasoning should be base in sound, consistent logic, not on emotions/social pressure. The truth of factual claims is not determined by: the emotion that accompanies them OR the fact that they may be believed by certain social groups."
"People who are eager to acquire and apply the best knowledge and reason in all fields and are willing to acknowledge and correct flaws in their own thinking are better equipped to create more profoundly effective solutions to the challenges we face in living and living together."
"When we teach and encourage critical thinking, we empower individual lives and invest in our collective future." !!!!!!
THE SKILLS THAT ENABLE BETTER CRITICAL THINKING
PROCEDURE: To apply critical thinking, defined as "A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends."
Recognizing problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems
Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem
Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information
Recognize unstated assumptions and values
Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment
Analyzing - Interpret data, appraise evidence, evaluate arguments
Logic - Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations
Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives
Reconstruct one's pattern of beliefs on the basis of wider experience
Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life.
Synthesizing (inductive reasoning)
FALLACIES OF THINKING
Putting beliefs and magic explanations in place of thinking:
Video: Open-mindedness - Although used to free people's thoughts up to convince people of a certain way of looking at things, the idea is well presented.
Overcoming cynical or incorrect views:
Video: Why Live? - A valuable philosophy. Brilliantly done. (A viewpoint that peripherally is addressing religion.)
7 Skills Students Need For Their Future - Life is not so simple as just acquiring manual skills. Read The World Is Flat. The skills neeed: Critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination. Engagement in a process of continuous improvement, taking responsibility for what you are engaged in, looking forward, self-managing.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO GO REALLY DEEP INTO THIS