What does critical thinking involve

What is critical thinking anyway?

Critical thinking is a much desired trait and “key qualification”. In this wissens.blitz you will learn what it actually means to think critically.

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Critical thinking is often seen as an important “key qualification” in organizations in order to make better decisions regarding processes and products and thus continue to assert oneself in the market. Although critical thinking is often required, it is seldom defined what critical thinking is or is necessary for it.

Critical thinking as a skill

In the literature, critical thinking is often referred to as skill seen. This includes, for example, the “conscious, self-regulatory formation of judgments, which includes interpretation, analysis, assessment and conclusion” (Facione, 1990, see also the list in the box on the right). This is mainly the independent research (information search, analysis, conclusions) without distortion important - i.e. without giving preference to information that corresponds to one's own opinion, for example (confirmation bias, I try to confirm what I already think is right instead of actively looking for possible rebuttals) or opposing position neglected or devalued (myside bias, I am not objective, but argue for my position).

Critical thinking as a personality trait

But critical thinking also goes beyond mere skills. An employee must think critical thinking is necessary. Here are the so-called epistemological beliefs important (Kuhn, 1999). For people who are of the opinion that there is only one absolute truth (absolutists) or that all positions are equal (multiplists), critical thinking makes no sense. What is important here is the realization that although one can never know for sure what is “true”, different positions nevertheless have different values ​​(“evaluatists”).

Also important in this context are the sensitivity and the Tilt on a person's critical thinking (Ritchhart & Perkins, 2005). Employees not only have to be able to think critically, but also recognize the opportunities for critical thinking in the often complex and fast-paced everyday life, i.e. be sensitive to it. Once they have recognized such an opportunity, they must be inclined to invest the often considerable thought and time required for critical thinking.

Even if these are personality traits, this does not mean that critical thinking cannot be influenced or promoted externally. Whether critical thinking makes sense depends, for example, on whether the organization wants critically thinking employees or not. This is particularly evident in the reactions to suggestions - i.e. when respectful criticism is also rewarded and the results are incorporated into organizational decisions.

Critical Thinking Criteria

  • comprehensive search for information regardless of the preferred position
  • creative generation of possible hypotheses
  • careful assessment and evaluation of the information / evidence
  • Identification of possible (counter) evidence for different hypotheses
  • Evaluation of the hypotheses through an undistorted integration of the available information
  • Weighting of possible hypotheses according to their strength based on the available evidence and counter-evidence
  • Respect / appreciation? for other points of view (even if you do not agree with them)
  • Knowledge of the provisional nature of each position and the willingness to change it with new information

Points from an as yet unpublished article by Knipfer & Wessel

Critical thinking needs to be trained

The skills and personality traits for critical thinking do not develop automatically over time. Even university students are often unable to think critically or only insufficiently. There is critical thinking involved learnable and can be used across departments. This means that even if a person's knowledge differs from one area to another, they can transfer critical thinking well to other areas.


Facione, P.A. (1990). Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction. Executive summary. The California Academic Press: Millbrae, California.
Kuhn, D. (1999). A Developmental Model of Critical Thinking. Educational Researcher, 28(2), p. 16-46.
Ritchhart, R. & Perkins, D. N. (2005). Learning to think: the challenges of teaching thinking. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of thinking and reasoning (pp. 775-802). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Quote as: Wessel, D. (2011). What is critical thinking anyway? knowledge.blitz (45). https://wissensdialoge.de/was_ist_kritisches_haben