Critical Thinking What Is It

Critical thinking is a term that has become the newest buzz word. In reviewing the American Heritage Dictionary definition of 'think, thinking'?one finds a broad in-depth definition?one that includes the definition of 'critical thinking.' Why then have we coined the term 'critical thinking' as if it has a new meaning and those who aren't in the 'know' about what critical thinking is?well, they just aren't as smart or astute as those who use the term 'critical thinking.'.

In my 'thinking' and understanding of the word 'think'?think means using discipline to focus on a particular subject; to effectively and actively process; skillfully conceptualize, apply understanding, analyze, synthesize and/or evaluate all information gathered; consider the source; observe, experience, reflect, reason, communicate. In its most exemplary construct, 'thinking' is based on intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness are incorporated into the 'thinking' process.To fully complete the 'thinking' process on any subject entails the examination of all precepts, notions, and the very structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem or question-at-issue; assumptions, concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from other viewpoints; and frame of reference. Using thinking to the fullest extent?a.

k.a. 'critical thinking?one is being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes?incorporating everything in an interwoven mode, including: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, ethical thinking and philosophical thinking.Human Thinking begins as soon as the brain is formed?in utero. The connection between sound/music and prenatal memory/learning have been revealed in parental observations, formal experiments, clinical records, and first person reports. Chamberlain (1998) using Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences, has presented evidence for musical intelligence before birth.

Peter Hepper (1991) discovered that prenates exposed to TV soap opera music during pregnancy responded with focused and rapt attention to this music after birth--evidence of long-term memory. On hearing the music after birth, these newborns had a significant decrease in heart rate and movements, and shifted into a more alert state. Shetler (1989) reported that 33% of fetal subjects in his study demonstrated contrasting reactions to tempo variations between faster and slower selections of music.Thinking has two components: 1) a framework of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills ("as an exercise") without acceptance of their results.Thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it and the habits or indoctrination since childhood.

When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service of one's own, or one's groups', vested interest. As such it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fair mindedness and intellectual integrity, it is typically of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of "idealism" by those habituated to its selfish use.Thinking is unique to any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Thinking quality is therefore typically a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a fully deep thinker through-and-through, but only to a degree, with various insights and blind spots, subject to various tendencies towards self-delusion.

For this reason, the development of thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor.Albeit primitive thinking begins in utero?it isn't until a child begins to talk is it generally accepted that the person has cognition?this is tragically limiting to the child's experience of confirming their ability to think and reason. Unfortunately, as soon as the child begins to verbalize their ability of in depth thinking they are told such things as: 'Children are to be seen and not heard'?albeit that phase has to some degree become obsolete, but the message is still conveyed in many ways?'Because, I said so.' 'Don't talk back.' This later prohibition to 'in-depth thinking' is frequently followed by a smack/slap for being sassy or disrespectful. My mother's favorite phrase to 'shut me up' when she didn't want to hear what I knew or wanted her to look at was, "Now, Dorothy, don't get carried away.

" Thus, superficial thinking is established.We, then, arrive into adulthood couching our thinking so that we don't offend or get reprimanded for saying something unacceptable to the person(s) involved. Not surprising then, the biggest deterrent to exercising the full spectrum of 'thinking' or 'critical thinking' is the fear of appearing stupid when asking questions in order to fully complete the in-depth 'thinking' process.Those who didn't experience or weren't deterred by these parental prohibitions create various and sundry ways to compensate for others' conditioned superficial communication style?such as: coining phases and buzz words?brain storm, critical thinking, think tank, etc. While these coined phases/buzz words serve the purpose?it is merely a new name for a birthright, which was unwittingly usurped.


Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author, international speaker and inspirational leader empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening. http://www.


By: Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD


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