The Psychology and goals of critical thinking

The Psychology of Critical Thinking  

Critical thinking in psychology is defined as the habits and skills to engage in activity or exercise with reflection and criticism focusing on deciding what to believe and decisions to make. Critical thinking is a tool that is important even in psychology, and it is being taught in psychology classes. Many students coming to college have already formed theories and opinions of the subject and of life in general. When they are faced with college work, they get a shock when they find it is not what they thought it would be. Some students opt to cram the textbooks so that they will help them in the exams forgetting learning entails more than that. 

Four Goals for Critical Thinking 

An adept critical thinker learns that the process requires a commitment to four goals each time it is used in order to get the most out of the endeavour. 


The first goal will be to strive for self-direction. Self-directed learning involves taking responsibility for your own acquisition and analysis of factual information from which you will learn. Your decision to dig deeper into ideas requires you to step out of your comfort zone, and you are going to have to make a decision about whether becoming a critical thinker is worth it to you. It is much easier to take things at face value – advertisers, marketers, politicians, and many others prefer that you not become a critical thinker, in fact!  Most people are quite comfortable following cues from their highly conditioned subconscious mind and going about their days living in a world where they roll right along with the status quo and, quite frankly, lead mediocre lives.  


The second goal as a critical thinker is do develop a strong sense of self-discipline.  Learning and practicing critical thought is very challenging.  Becoming a practicing critical thinker does not happen overnight and must be looked at as a process that takes a lot of introspection, self-analysis, and a commitment to change.  And, if you have ever decided to learn a new skill and found it very difficult in the past, it is quite possible that you thought about giving up at some point because you found the work too hard. This is why so many New Year’s resolutions are broken every year. As an example, one can visit a fitness centre on January 2nd of any given year and usually find it to be very crowded, and visit the same fitness centre forty-five days later and see a marked difference in attendance. Self-discipline is not easy. 


The third goal for a critical thinker is self-monitoring. The biases and stereotypes we have taken on in our lives are a direct result of our past experiences and the knowledge we have acquired from those experiences, as well as from what we have learned from those around us, and they may or not be accurate to some degree. Your mission as a critical thinker is to question your preconceived notions about your world and to assess and evaluate their level of accuracy as you move forward with your new ways of thought.  


The fourth goal a critical thinker must strive for is one of self-correction. This occurs when we reflect upon how we have perceived things in the past and then make decisions about the accuracy of those perceptions.  This can be especially difficult because the knowledge base that resides in our subconscious has been hard-wired over the years. In order to have the self-discipline to correct erroneous thinking patterns (see how these goals work together?), we have to see the value of doing so. Critical thinkers will undoubtedly tell you that the benefit is that when you seek out and study various perspectives of issues, there is an opportunity for personal growth. They will also tell you, though, that questioning and correcting inaccurate perceptions that have been held throughout your life may cost you in terms of relationships. Not everyone around you will understand why you are suddenly questioning beliefs that they have held along with you for so long. 


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