Critical thinking skill is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking has been the subject of much debate and thought since the time of early Greek philosophers such as Plato and Socrates and has continued to be a subject of discussion into the modern age. Critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.
People who think critically can use three processes to develop critical insights on a topic: deduction, induction, and abduction.
The deduction includes critical thinking skills that involve drawing conclusions based on the facts at hand. You have all the facts available to you to come to a clear and unambiguous conclusion about a topic. For example, a doctor does blood tests to determine if someone has a virus. The blood tests come back positive, so we can deduce that you definitely have that virus. A deduction is a great skill to use if you want to solve problems.
Induction includes the critical thinking skills that involve drawing conclusions based on a generalization. You don’t have all the exact information at hand. However, you think critically and realize are aware of patterns, clues, and a methodology that can help you induce the answer. For example, you come to the doctor exhibiting a fever, sneezing, and coughing. The doctor doesn’t do tests, but they induce that you probably have influenza because your symptoms are characteristic of someone with the flu.
Abduction includes the critical thinking skills that involve coming to a conclusion that is the most likely or logical based on the small amount of knowledge that you have. You can’t be sure of the answer, but you can think critically and make an educated guess. For example, you may see that a cat is on the roof. The most logical answer is that the cat got up there by climbing a nearby tree and jumping from it to the roof, but you can’t be sure.
Convergent thinking is the process of coming up with the best answer to a question using our memory, resources around us, or logic.
This thinking skill does not require significant creativity or lateral thinking strategies. It is not the best for solving problems that are complex or require thinking out of the box. Instead, it uses very straightforward thought processes. A convergent thinker simply needs to apply already established procedures and memory recall to reach the ‘correct’ answer.
Convergent thinking is very commonly used for standardized and multiple-choice tests. These sorts of tests simply assess our knowledge and ability to apply knowledge to simple and logical situations.
Divergent thinking is the exact opposite of convergent thinking. It involves coming up to solutions, paths forward, or new ideas when there is no single correct answer. Questions like “should I study to become a doctor or a lawyer?” may not have a simple answer. You might be good at both, and both options might bring you happiness and a good life. So, which option should you choose?
To come up with solutions to questions without clear answers, you need to break down the possibilities and analyze each part. You might create a pros and cons list, a Venn diagram, or a table to layout your options and consider each one in turn.
We often encourage divergent thinking from a very young age. For example, we encourage children to play or simply ‘be playful’ in order to solve problems and discover how their world is complex and full of possibilities.
Creative thinking involves thinking about a topic in unusual, unconventional, and alternative ways to generate new ideas about an established topic. A creative thinker will try to address an issue from a perspective that hasn’t been used before. While creative thinking may appear illogical, it is in fact a great driver of human development. Creative thinkers identify gaps in marketplaces or new, easier, faster, and better ways of doing things. When a creative thinker comes up with a great new way of approaching an issue, their new method can become the new orthodoxy.
An ability to relate seemingly random things with each other and make the connections that others find difficult to see. People with this type of thinking pay attention to the hidden meanings behind things relating them to other items, events, or experiences. Abstract thinkers usually can observe things as theories and/or possibilities.
More often than not, these types of thinkers prefer to think, comprehend, and apply factual knowledge. It is about thinking of objects or ideas as specific items, rather than as a theoretical representation of a general concept. It involves practical thinking only, always literal, and to-the-point.