Critical thinking and deductive reasoning are two methods that allow you to analyze and evaluate information to determine whether it is credible or accurate -- contrary to common perceptions of Sherlock Holmes style intuition, these skills are more about methodically working through information than having the right answer jump out at you. Training yourself to be purposeful and meticulous when reviewing ideas will make you a more objective, rational thinker.
Set Daily Habits
Critical thinking is the ability to question, analyze, and understand the context of information before you accept or reject it. To develop the habit of critical thinking, train yourself to question and process different types of information by setting daily habits. For instance, at the beginning of each day, pick a problem: this can be a contemporary political argument or something as simple as the best brand of bread. Spend some time researching the topic and reviewing arguments being made by the different sides. Note down any questions you have about each side's evidence and arguments and see if you can find information to answer those questions. The goal is not to come to a conclusion, but to be able to understand what you can and cannot know from the evidence. You might also keep a daily journal where you note different ideas you encounter and write down any questions you have. Putting words on paper will help you visualize and evaluate them more critically.
Recognize Your Emotions
Developing your emotional intelligence may seem like a counterintuitive practice for developing critical thinking. However, your emotions and feelings can drastically color your thoughts and opinions. For instance, if you're a die-hard sports fan, you may resist acknowledging evidence that your favorite team is cheating. If you can recognize what you feel about an issue that you are arguing, you can begin to separate your feelings from the argument you are making, and evaluate evidence more critically. If you keep a daily intellectual journal, don't just describe the logic of an argument, but also analyze how you emotionally respond to it, in order to understand how that might influence your thoughts.
Unlike the broad practice of critical thinking, deductive reasoning is a specific way of formally analyzing a problem, using known or given information, to find a conclusion. For instance: Manhattan is part of New York City, and New York City is part of New York State -- therefore Manhattan is part of New York State. When doing deductive reasoning, look for what you can logically conclude from the evidence you have, and what possibilities you can eliminate. There are a number of rules of logic that govern deductive reasoning, learning these rules will help you improve your reasoning skills. You can also train yourself by doing deductive reasoning puzzles. You can find deductive reasoning puzzles in your newspaper or on the internet-- the best example being the sudoku puzzle, which requires you to figure out where to place numbers based on the numbers already included in the puzzle.
Learn Types of Fallacies
Logical fallacies are common flaws in logical arguments. Learning to recognize and question logical fallacies in arguments -- both your own and others' -- will help you avoid accepting information on flimsy evidence. The slippery slope fallacy argues that one event will lead to an exaggerated consequence: "If we let one dog on our street, soon everyone will have one and we won't be able to sleep from all the barking." The ad populum fallacy argues from majority opinion or behavior: "You shouldn't chew gum because everyone thinks it's disgusting."
- The Critical Thinking Community: Critical Thinking in Everyday Life - 9 Strategies
- New Charter University: Inductive and Deductive Reasoning Patterns
- Utah State University: Inductive and Deductive Reasoning
- India Bix: Logical Reasoning - Logical Deduction
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Fallacies
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