Critical Thinking: Reason, Emotion, Communication Essay

Introduction, elements of critical thinking, reason, emotion, and communication, fallacies and argument.

Critical thinking is important for the decision-making process and effective communication between people. It may be applied to all spheres of people’s lives. Emotions, unwarranted assumptions, stereotyping, denial, poor communications skills, and other factors are barriers to critical thinking. Sally’s case shows that it is necessary to avoid biased opinion, dishonesty, over-reliance on feelings, and self-centered thinking in daily situations to make reasonable and weighed decisions.

The apparent barriers to critical thinking were conformism, unwarranted assumptions, and an over-reliance on feelings (“Barriers to critical thinking,” 2019). They were present in the situation when Sally did not agree with her colleagues but pretended that she did to avoid confrontation. The woman decided that she would not spend time with her coworkers again only because they had a different opinion and did not feel comfortable about it. Sally may not be a good critical thinker as she relied on her emotions a lot.

The concept of reason was mainly presented when Sally collected evidence to support her proposal and provide the basis for her argument. Sally’s critical thinking involved emotion too; the woman felt agitated and tired, which led to the inability to assess her coworkers’ viewpoints. Sally’s communication style was passive because she was quiet, did not admit that she disagreed with others, and tried to avoid conflict.

The scenario presents a fallacy in Sally’s thought process, which is shown in the situation at dinner. Sally concluded that she did not know enough about the topic to confront her colleagues. It was not possible to identify whether her coworkers had more knowledge than she did. The scenario does not provide an argument for this point of view as it is unreasonable.

Sally’s example shows that a lack of critical thinking may result in emotional distress and the individual’s inability to take weighed decisions. In the presented case, the barriers to critical thinking included unwarranted assumptions, conformism, and an over-reliance on feelings. They prevented Sally from making reasonable conclusions and being more open to her colleagues’ opinions. Moreover, a lack of critical thinking resulted in fallacies in the woman’s thought process.

Barriers to critical thinking . (2019). Web.

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Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Critical Thinking: Reason, Emotion, Communication." May 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/critical-thinking-reason-emotion-communication/.

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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms for thinking carefully, and the thinking components on which they focus. Its adoption as an educational goal has been recommended on the basis of respect for students’ autonomy and preparing students for success in life and for democratic citizenship. “Critical thinkers” have the dispositions and abilities that lead them to think critically when appropriate. The abilities can be identified directly; the dispositions indirectly, by considering what factors contribute to or impede exercise of the abilities. Standardized tests have been developed to assess the degree to which a person possesses such dispositions and abilities. Educational intervention has been shown experimentally to improve them, particularly when it includes dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring. Controversies have arisen over the generalizability of critical thinking across domains, over alleged bias in critical thinking theories and instruction, and over the relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking.

2.1 Dewey’s Three Main Examples

2.2 dewey’s other examples, 2.3 further examples, 2.4 non-examples, 3. the definition of critical thinking, 4. its value, 5. the process of thinking critically, 6. components of the process, 7. contributory dispositions and abilities, 8.1 initiating dispositions, 8.2 internal dispositions, 9. critical thinking abilities, 10. required knowledge, 11. educational methods, 12.1 the generalizability of critical thinking, 12.2 bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, 12.3 relationship of critical thinking to other types of thinking, other internet resources, related entries.

Use of the term ‘critical thinking’ to describe an educational goal goes back to the American philosopher John Dewey (1910), who more commonly called it ‘reflective thinking’. He defined it as

active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it, and the further conclusions to which it tends. (Dewey 1910: 6; 1933: 9)

and identified a habit of such consideration with a scientific attitude of mind. His lengthy quotations of Francis Bacon, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill indicate that he was not the first person to propose development of a scientific attitude of mind as an educational goal.

In the 1930s, many of the schools that participated in the Eight-Year Study of the Progressive Education Association (Aikin 1942) adopted critical thinking as an educational goal, for whose achievement the study’s Evaluation Staff developed tests (Smith, Tyler, & Evaluation Staff 1942). Glaser (1941) showed experimentally that it was possible to improve the critical thinking of high school students. Bloom’s influential taxonomy of cognitive educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) incorporated critical thinking abilities. Ennis (1962) proposed 12 aspects of critical thinking as a basis for research on the teaching and evaluation of critical thinking ability.

Since 1980, an annual international conference in California on critical thinking and educational reform has attracted tens of thousands of educators from all levels of education and from many parts of the world. Also since 1980, the state university system in California has required all undergraduate students to take a critical thinking course. Since 1983, the Association for Informal Logic and Critical Thinking has sponsored sessions in conjunction with the divisional meetings of the American Philosophical Association (APA). In 1987, the APA’s Committee on Pre-College Philosophy commissioned a consensus statement on critical thinking for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (Facione 1990a). Researchers have developed standardized tests of critical thinking abilities and dispositions; for details, see the Supplement on Assessment . Educational jurisdictions around the world now include critical thinking in guidelines for curriculum and assessment.

For details on this history, see the Supplement on History .

2. Examples and Non-Examples

Before considering the definition of critical thinking, it will be helpful to have in mind some examples of critical thinking, as well as some examples of kinds of thinking that would apparently not count as critical thinking.

Dewey (1910: 68–71; 1933: 91–94) takes as paradigms of reflective thinking three class papers of students in which they describe their thinking. The examples range from the everyday to the scientific.

Transit : “The other day, when I was down town on 16th Street, a clock caught my eye. I saw that the hands pointed to 12:20. This suggested that I had an engagement at 124th Street, at one o’clock. I reasoned that as it had taken me an hour to come down on a surface car, I should probably be twenty minutes late if I returned the same way. I might save twenty minutes by a subway express. But was there a station near? If not, I might lose more than twenty minutes in looking for one. Then I thought of the elevated, and I saw there was such a line within two blocks. But where was the station? If it were several blocks above or below the street I was on, I should lose time instead of gaining it. My mind went back to the subway express as quicker than the elevated; furthermore, I remembered that it went nearer than the elevated to the part of 124th Street I wished to reach, so that time would be saved at the end of the journey. I concluded in favor of the subway, and reached my destination by one o’clock.” (Dewey 1910: 68–69; 1933: 91–92)

Ferryboat : “Projecting nearly horizontally from the upper deck of the ferryboat on which I daily cross the river is a long white pole, having a gilded ball at its tip. It suggested a flagpole when I first saw it; its color, shape, and gilded ball agreed with this idea, and these reasons seemed to justify me in this belief. But soon difficulties presented themselves. The pole was nearly horizontal, an unusual position for a flagpole; in the next place, there was no pulley, ring, or cord by which to attach a flag; finally, there were elsewhere on the boat two vertical staffs from which flags were occasionally flown. It seemed probable that the pole was not there for flag-flying.

“I then tried to imagine all possible purposes of the pole, and to consider for which of these it was best suited: (a) Possibly it was an ornament. But as all the ferryboats and even the tugboats carried poles, this hypothesis was rejected. (b) Possibly it was the terminal of a wireless telegraph. But the same considerations made this improbable. Besides, the more natural place for such a terminal would be the highest part of the boat, on top of the pilot house. (c) Its purpose might be to point out the direction in which the boat is moving.

“In support of this conclusion, I discovered that the pole was lower than the pilot house, so that the steersman could easily see it. Moreover, the tip was enough higher than the base, so that, from the pilot’s position, it must appear to project far out in front of the boat. Moreover, the pilot being near the front of the boat, he would need some such guide as to its direction. Tugboats would also need poles for such a purpose. This hypothesis was so much more probable than the others that I accepted it. I formed the conclusion that the pole was set up for the purpose of showing the pilot the direction in which the boat pointed, to enable him to steer correctly.” (Dewey 1910: 69–70; 1933: 92–93)

Bubbles : “In washing tumblers in hot soapsuds and placing them mouth downward on a plate, bubbles appeared on the outside of the mouth of the tumblers and then went inside. Why? The presence of bubbles suggests air, which I note must come from inside the tumbler. I see that the soapy water on the plate prevents escape of the air save as it may be caught in bubbles. But why should air leave the tumbler? There was no substance entering to force it out. It must have expanded. It expands by increase of heat, or by decrease of pressure, or both. Could the air have become heated after the tumbler was taken from the hot suds? Clearly not the air that was already entangled in the water. If heated air was the cause, cold air must have entered in transferring the tumblers from the suds to the plate. I test to see if this supposition is true by taking several more tumblers out. Some I shake so as to make sure of entrapping cold air in them. Some I take out holding mouth downward in order to prevent cold air from entering. Bubbles appear on the outside of every one of the former and on none of the latter. I must be right in my inference. Air from the outside must have been expanded by the heat of the tumbler, which explains the appearance of the bubbles on the outside. But why do they then go inside? Cold contracts. The tumbler cooled and also the air inside it. Tension was removed, and hence bubbles appeared inside. To be sure of this, I test by placing a cup of ice on the tumbler while the bubbles are still forming outside. They soon reverse” (Dewey 1910: 70–71; 1933: 93–94).

Dewey (1910, 1933) sprinkles his book with other examples of critical thinking. We will refer to the following.

Weather : A man on a walk notices that it has suddenly become cool, thinks that it is probably going to rain, looks up and sees a dark cloud obscuring the sun, and quickens his steps (1910: 6–10; 1933: 9–13).

Disorder : A man finds his rooms on his return to them in disorder with his belongings thrown about, thinks at first of burglary as an explanation, then thinks of mischievous children as being an alternative explanation, then looks to see whether valuables are missing, and discovers that they are (1910: 82–83; 1933: 166–168).

Typhoid : A physician diagnosing a patient whose conspicuous symptoms suggest typhoid avoids drawing a conclusion until more data are gathered by questioning the patient and by making tests (1910: 85–86; 1933: 170).

Blur : A moving blur catches our eye in the distance, we ask ourselves whether it is a cloud of whirling dust or a tree moving its branches or a man signaling to us, we think of other traits that should be found on each of those possibilities, and we look and see if those traits are found (1910: 102, 108; 1933: 121, 133).

Suction pump : In thinking about the suction pump, the scientist first notes that it will draw water only to a maximum height of 33 feet at sea level and to a lesser maximum height at higher elevations, selects for attention the differing atmospheric pressure at these elevations, sets up experiments in which the air is removed from a vessel containing water (when suction no longer works) and in which the weight of air at various levels is calculated, compares the results of reasoning about the height to which a given weight of air will allow a suction pump to raise water with the observed maximum height at different elevations, and finally assimilates the suction pump to such apparently different phenomena as the siphon and the rising of a balloon (1910: 150–153; 1933: 195–198).

Diamond : A passenger in a car driving in a diamond lane reserved for vehicles with at least one passenger notices that the diamond marks on the pavement are far apart in some places and close together in others. Why? The driver suggests that the reason may be that the diamond marks are not needed where there is a solid double line separating the diamond lane from the adjoining lane, but are needed when there is a dotted single line permitting crossing into the diamond lane. Further observation confirms that the diamonds are close together when a dotted line separates the diamond lane from its neighbour, but otherwise far apart.

Rash : A woman suddenly develops a very itchy red rash on her throat and upper chest. She recently noticed a mark on the back of her right hand, but was not sure whether the mark was a rash or a scrape. She lies down in bed and thinks about what might be causing the rash and what to do about it. About two weeks before, she began taking blood pressure medication that contained a sulfa drug, and the pharmacist had warned her, in view of a previous allergic reaction to a medication containing a sulfa drug, to be on the alert for an allergic reaction; however, she had been taking the medication for two weeks with no such effect. The day before, she began using a new cream on her neck and upper chest; against the new cream as the cause was mark on the back of her hand, which had not been exposed to the cream. She began taking probiotics about a month before. She also recently started new eye drops, but she supposed that manufacturers of eye drops would be careful not to include allergy-causing components in the medication. The rash might be a heat rash, since she recently was sweating profusely from her upper body. Since she is about to go away on a short vacation, where she would not have access to her usual physician, she decides to keep taking the probiotics and using the new eye drops but to discontinue the blood pressure medication and to switch back to the old cream for her neck and upper chest. She forms a plan to consult her regular physician on her return about the blood pressure medication.

Candidate : Although Dewey included no examples of thinking directed at appraising the arguments of others, such thinking has come to be considered a kind of critical thinking. We find an example of such thinking in the performance task on the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA+), which its sponsoring organization describes as

a performance-based assessment that provides a measure of an institution’s contribution to the development of critical-thinking and written communication skills of its students. (Council for Aid to Education 2017)

A sample task posted on its website requires the test-taker to write a report for public distribution evaluating a fictional candidate’s policy proposals and their supporting arguments, using supplied background documents, with a recommendation on whether to endorse the candidate.

Immediate acceptance of an idea that suggests itself as a solution to a problem (e.g., a possible explanation of an event or phenomenon, an action that seems likely to produce a desired result) is “uncritical thinking, the minimum of reflection” (Dewey 1910: 13). On-going suspension of judgment in the light of doubt about a possible solution is not critical thinking (Dewey 1910: 108). Critique driven by a dogmatically held political or religious ideology is not critical thinking; thus Paulo Freire (1968 [1970]) is using the term (e.g., at 1970: 71, 81, 100, 146) in a more politically freighted sense that includes not only reflection but also revolutionary action against oppression. Derivation of a conclusion from given data using an algorithm is not critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? There are many definitions. Ennis (2016) lists 14 philosophically oriented scholarly definitions and three dictionary definitions. Following Rawls (1971), who distinguished his conception of justice from a utilitarian conception but regarded them as rival conceptions of the same concept, Ennis maintains that the 17 definitions are different conceptions of the same concept. Rawls articulated the shared concept of justice as

a characteristic set of principles for assigning basic rights and duties and for determining… the proper distribution of the benefits and burdens of social cooperation. (Rawls 1971: 5)

Bailin et al. (1999b) claim that, if one considers what sorts of thinking an educator would take not to be critical thinking and what sorts to be critical thinking, one can conclude that educators typically understand critical thinking to have at least three features.

  • It is done for the purpose of making up one’s mind about what to believe or do.
  • The person engaging in the thinking is trying to fulfill standards of adequacy and accuracy appropriate to the thinking.
  • The thinking fulfills the relevant standards to some threshold level.

One could sum up the core concept that involves these three features by saying that critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking. This core concept seems to apply to all the examples of critical thinking described in the previous section. As for the non-examples, their exclusion depends on construing careful thinking as excluding jumping immediately to conclusions, suspending judgment no matter how strong the evidence, reasoning from an unquestioned ideological or religious perspective, and routinely using an algorithm to answer a question.

If the core of critical thinking is careful goal-directed thinking, conceptions of it can vary according to its presumed scope, its presumed goal, one’s criteria and threshold for being careful, and the thinking component on which one focuses. As to its scope, some conceptions (e.g., Dewey 1910, 1933) restrict it to constructive thinking on the basis of one’s own observations and experiments, others (e.g., Ennis 1962; Fisher & Scriven 1997; Johnson 1992) to appraisal of the products of such thinking. Ennis (1991) and Bailin et al. (1999b) take it to cover both construction and appraisal. As to its goal, some conceptions restrict it to forming a judgment (Dewey 1910, 1933; Lipman 1987; Facione 1990a). Others allow for actions as well as beliefs as the end point of a process of critical thinking (Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b). As to the criteria and threshold for being careful, definitions vary in the term used to indicate that critical thinking satisfies certain norms: “intellectually disciplined” (Scriven & Paul 1987), “reasonable” (Ennis 1991), “skillful” (Lipman 1987), “skilled” (Fisher & Scriven 1997), “careful” (Bailin & Battersby 2009). Some definitions specify these norms, referring variously to “consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends” (Dewey 1910, 1933); “the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning” (Glaser 1941); “conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication” (Scriven & Paul 1987); the requirement that “it is sensitive to context, relies on criteria, and is self-correcting” (Lipman 1987); “evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations” (Facione 1990a); and “plus-minus considerations of the product in terms of appropriate standards (or criteria)” (Johnson 1992). Stanovich and Stanovich (2010) propose to ground the concept of critical thinking in the concept of rationality, which they understand as combining epistemic rationality (fitting one’s beliefs to the world) and instrumental rationality (optimizing goal fulfillment); a critical thinker, in their view, is someone with “a propensity to override suboptimal responses from the autonomous mind” (2010: 227). These variant specifications of norms for critical thinking are not necessarily incompatible with one another, and in any case presuppose the core notion of thinking carefully. As to the thinking component singled out, some definitions focus on suspension of judgment during the thinking (Dewey 1910; McPeck 1981), others on inquiry while judgment is suspended (Bailin & Battersby 2009, 2021), others on the resulting judgment (Facione 1990a), and still others on responsiveness to reasons (Siegel 1988). Kuhn (2019) takes critical thinking to be more a dialogic practice of advancing and responding to arguments than an individual ability.

In educational contexts, a definition of critical thinking is a “programmatic definition” (Scheffler 1960: 19). It expresses a practical program for achieving an educational goal. For this purpose, a one-sentence formulaic definition is much less useful than articulation of a critical thinking process, with criteria and standards for the kinds of thinking that the process may involve. The real educational goal is recognition, adoption and implementation by students of those criteria and standards. That adoption and implementation in turn consists in acquiring the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker.

Conceptions of critical thinking generally do not include moral integrity as part of the concept. Dewey, for example, took critical thinking to be the ultimate intellectual goal of education, but distinguished it from the development of social cooperation among school children, which he took to be the central moral goal. Ennis (1996, 2011) added to his previous list of critical thinking dispositions a group of dispositions to care about the dignity and worth of every person, which he described as a “correlative” (1996) disposition without which critical thinking would be less valuable and perhaps harmful. An educational program that aimed at developing critical thinking but not the correlative disposition to care about the dignity and worth of every person, he asserted, “would be deficient and perhaps dangerous” (Ennis 1996: 172).

Dewey thought that education for reflective thinking would be of value to both the individual and society; recognition in educational practice of the kinship to the scientific attitude of children’s native curiosity, fertile imagination and love of experimental inquiry “would make for individual happiness and the reduction of social waste” (Dewey 1910: iii). Schools participating in the Eight-Year Study took development of the habit of reflective thinking and skill in solving problems as a means to leading young people to understand, appreciate and live the democratic way of life characteristic of the United States (Aikin 1942: 17–18, 81). Harvey Siegel (1988: 55–61) has offered four considerations in support of adopting critical thinking as an educational ideal. (1) Respect for persons requires that schools and teachers honour students’ demands for reasons and explanations, deal with students honestly, and recognize the need to confront students’ independent judgment; these requirements concern the manner in which teachers treat students. (2) Education has the task of preparing children to be successful adults, a task that requires development of their self-sufficiency. (3) Education should initiate children into the rational traditions in such fields as history, science and mathematics. (4) Education should prepare children to become democratic citizens, which requires reasoned procedures and critical talents and attitudes. To supplement these considerations, Siegel (1988: 62–90) responds to two objections: the ideology objection that adoption of any educational ideal requires a prior ideological commitment and the indoctrination objection that cultivation of critical thinking cannot escape being a form of indoctrination.

Despite the diversity of our 11 examples, one can recognize a common pattern. Dewey analyzed it as consisting of five phases:

  • suggestions , in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution;
  • an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought;
  • the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis , to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material;
  • the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition as an idea or supposition ( reasoning , in the sense on which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and
  • testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action. (Dewey 1933: 106–107; italics in original)

The process of reflective thinking consisting of these phases would be preceded by a perplexed, troubled or confused situation and followed by a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation (Dewey 1933: 106). The term ‘phases’ replaced the term ‘steps’ (Dewey 1910: 72), thus removing the earlier suggestion of an invariant sequence. Variants of the above analysis appeared in (Dewey 1916: 177) and (Dewey 1938: 101–119).

The variant formulations indicate the difficulty of giving a single logical analysis of such a varied process. The process of critical thinking may have a spiral pattern, with the problem being redefined in the light of obstacles to solving it as originally formulated. For example, the person in Transit might have concluded that getting to the appointment at the scheduled time was impossible and have reformulated the problem as that of rescheduling the appointment for a mutually convenient time. Further, defining a problem does not always follow after or lead immediately to an idea of a suggested solution. Nor should it do so, as Dewey himself recognized in describing the physician in Typhoid as avoiding any strong preference for this or that conclusion before getting further information (Dewey 1910: 85; 1933: 170). People with a hypothesis in mind, even one to which they have a very weak commitment, have a so-called “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998): they are likely to pay attention to evidence that confirms the hypothesis and to ignore evidence that counts against it or for some competing hypothesis. Detectives, intelligence agencies, and investigators of airplane accidents are well advised to gather relevant evidence systematically and to postpone even tentative adoption of an explanatory hypothesis until the collected evidence rules out with the appropriate degree of certainty all but one explanation. Dewey’s analysis of the critical thinking process can be faulted as well for requiring acceptance or rejection of a possible solution to a defined problem, with no allowance for deciding in the light of the available evidence to suspend judgment. Further, given the great variety of kinds of problems for which reflection is appropriate, there is likely to be variation in its component events. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize the critical thinking process is as a checklist whose component events can occur in a variety of orders, selectively, and more than once. These component events might include (1) noticing a difficulty, (2) defining the problem, (3) dividing the problem into manageable sub-problems, (4) formulating a variety of possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (5) determining what evidence is relevant to deciding among possible solutions to the problem or sub-problem, (6) devising a plan of systematic observation or experiment that will uncover the relevant evidence, (7) carrying out the plan of systematic observation or experimentation, (8) noting the results of the systematic observation or experiment, (9) gathering relevant testimony and information from others, (10) judging the credibility of testimony and information gathered from others, (11) drawing conclusions from gathered evidence and accepted testimony, and (12) accepting a solution that the evidence adequately supports (cf. Hitchcock 2017: 485).

Checklist conceptions of the process of critical thinking are open to the objection that they are too mechanical and procedural to fit the multi-dimensional and emotionally charged issues for which critical thinking is urgently needed (Paul 1984). For such issues, a more dialectical process is advocated, in which competing relevant world views are identified, their implications explored, and some sort of creative synthesis attempted.

If one considers the critical thinking process illustrated by the 11 examples, one can identify distinct kinds of mental acts and mental states that form part of it. To distinguish, label and briefly characterize these components is a useful preliminary to identifying abilities, skills, dispositions, attitudes, habits and the like that contribute causally to thinking critically. Identifying such abilities and habits is in turn a useful preliminary to setting educational goals. Setting the goals is in its turn a useful preliminary to designing strategies for helping learners to achieve the goals and to designing ways of measuring the extent to which learners have done so. Such measures provide both feedback to learners on their achievement and a basis for experimental research on the effectiveness of various strategies for educating people to think critically. Let us begin, then, by distinguishing the kinds of mental acts and mental events that can occur in a critical thinking process.

  • Observing : One notices something in one’s immediate environment (sudden cooling of temperature in Weather , bubbles forming outside a glass and then going inside in Bubbles , a moving blur in the distance in Blur , a rash in Rash ). Or one notes the results of an experiment or systematic observation (valuables missing in Disorder , no suction without air pressure in Suction pump )
  • Feeling : One feels puzzled or uncertain about something (how to get to an appointment on time in Transit , why the diamonds vary in spacing in Diamond ). One wants to resolve this perplexity. One feels satisfaction once one has worked out an answer (to take the subway express in Transit , diamonds closer when needed as a warning in Diamond ).
  • Wondering : One formulates a question to be addressed (why bubbles form outside a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , how suction pumps work in Suction pump , what caused the rash in Rash ).
  • Imagining : One thinks of possible answers (bus or subway or elevated in Transit , flagpole or ornament or wireless communication aid or direction indicator in Ferryboat , allergic reaction or heat rash in Rash ).
  • Inferring : One works out what would be the case if a possible answer were assumed (valuables missing if there has been a burglary in Disorder , earlier start to the rash if it is an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug in Rash ). Or one draws a conclusion once sufficient relevant evidence is gathered (take the subway in Transit , burglary in Disorder , discontinue blood pressure medication and new cream in Rash ).
  • Knowledge : One uses stored knowledge of the subject-matter to generate possible answers or to infer what would be expected on the assumption of a particular answer (knowledge of a city’s public transit system in Transit , of the requirements for a flagpole in Ferryboat , of Boyle’s law in Bubbles , of allergic reactions in Rash ).
  • Experimenting : One designs and carries out an experiment or a systematic observation to find out whether the results deduced from a possible answer will occur (looking at the location of the flagpole in relation to the pilot’s position in Ferryboat , putting an ice cube on top of a tumbler taken from hot water in Bubbles , measuring the height to which a suction pump will draw water at different elevations in Suction pump , noticing the spacing of diamonds when movement to or from a diamond lane is allowed in Diamond ).
  • Consulting : One finds a source of information, gets the information from the source, and makes a judgment on whether to accept it. None of our 11 examples include searching for sources of information. In this respect they are unrepresentative, since most people nowadays have almost instant access to information relevant to answering any question, including many of those illustrated by the examples. However, Candidate includes the activities of extracting information from sources and evaluating its credibility.
  • Identifying and analyzing arguments : One notices an argument and works out its structure and content as a preliminary to evaluating its strength. This activity is central to Candidate . It is an important part of a critical thinking process in which one surveys arguments for various positions on an issue.
  • Judging : One makes a judgment on the basis of accumulated evidence and reasoning, such as the judgment in Ferryboat that the purpose of the pole is to provide direction to the pilot.
  • Deciding : One makes a decision on what to do or on what policy to adopt, as in the decision in Transit to take the subway.

By definition, a person who does something voluntarily is both willing and able to do that thing at that time. Both the willingness and the ability contribute causally to the person’s action, in the sense that the voluntary action would not occur if either (or both) of these were lacking. For example, suppose that one is standing with one’s arms at one’s sides and one voluntarily lifts one’s right arm to an extended horizontal position. One would not do so if one were unable to lift one’s arm, if for example one’s right side was paralyzed as the result of a stroke. Nor would one do so if one were unwilling to lift one’s arm, if for example one were participating in a street demonstration at which a white supremacist was urging the crowd to lift their right arm in a Nazi salute and one were unwilling to express support in this way for the racist Nazi ideology. The same analysis applies to a voluntary mental process of thinking critically. It requires both willingness and ability to think critically, including willingness and ability to perform each of the mental acts that compose the process and to coordinate those acts in a sequence that is directed at resolving the initiating perplexity.

Consider willingness first. We can identify causal contributors to willingness to think critically by considering factors that would cause a person who was able to think critically about an issue nevertheless not to do so (Hamby 2014). For each factor, the opposite condition thus contributes causally to willingness to think critically on a particular occasion. For example, people who habitually jump to conclusions without considering alternatives will not think critically about issues that arise, even if they have the required abilities. The contrary condition of willingness to suspend judgment is thus a causal contributor to thinking critically.

Now consider ability. In contrast to the ability to move one’s arm, which can be completely absent because a stroke has left the arm paralyzed, the ability to think critically is a developed ability, whose absence is not a complete absence of ability to think but absence of ability to think well. We can identify the ability to think well directly, in terms of the norms and standards for good thinking. In general, to be able do well the thinking activities that can be components of a critical thinking process, one needs to know the concepts and principles that characterize their good performance, to recognize in particular cases that the concepts and principles apply, and to apply them. The knowledge, recognition and application may be procedural rather than declarative. It may be domain-specific rather than widely applicable, and in either case may need subject-matter knowledge, sometimes of a deep kind.

Reflections of the sort illustrated by the previous two paragraphs have led scholars to identify the knowledge, abilities and dispositions of a “critical thinker”, i.e., someone who thinks critically whenever it is appropriate to do so. We turn now to these three types of causal contributors to thinking critically. We start with dispositions, since arguably these are the most powerful contributors to being a critical thinker, can be fostered at an early stage of a child’s development, and are susceptible to general improvement (Glaser 1941: 175)

8. Critical Thinking Dispositions

Educational researchers use the term ‘dispositions’ broadly for the habits of mind and attitudes that contribute causally to being a critical thinker. Some writers (e.g., Paul & Elder 2006; Hamby 2014; Bailin & Battersby 2016a) propose to use the term ‘virtues’ for this dimension of a critical thinker. The virtues in question, although they are virtues of character, concern the person’s ways of thinking rather than the person’s ways of behaving towards others. They are not moral virtues but intellectual virtues, of the sort articulated by Zagzebski (1996) and discussed by Turri, Alfano, and Greco (2017).

On a realistic conception, thinking dispositions or intellectual virtues are real properties of thinkers. They are general tendencies, propensities, or inclinations to think in particular ways in particular circumstances, and can be genuinely explanatory (Siegel 1999). Sceptics argue that there is no evidence for a specific mental basis for the habits of mind that contribute to thinking critically, and that it is pedagogically misleading to posit such a basis (Bailin et al. 1999a). Whatever their status, critical thinking dispositions need motivation for their initial formation in a child—motivation that may be external or internal. As children develop, the force of habit will gradually become important in sustaining the disposition (Nieto & Valenzuela 2012). Mere force of habit, however, is unlikely to sustain critical thinking dispositions. Critical thinkers must value and enjoy using their knowledge and abilities to think things through for themselves. They must be committed to, and lovers of, inquiry.

A person may have a critical thinking disposition with respect to only some kinds of issues. For example, one could be open-minded about scientific issues but not about religious issues. Similarly, one could be confident in one’s ability to reason about the theological implications of the existence of evil in the world but not in one’s ability to reason about the best design for a guided ballistic missile.

Facione (1990a: 25) divides “affective dispositions” of critical thinking into approaches to life and living in general and approaches to specific issues, questions or problems. Adapting this distinction, one can usefully divide critical thinking dispositions into initiating dispositions (those that contribute causally to starting to think critically about an issue) and internal dispositions (those that contribute causally to doing a good job of thinking critically once one has started). The two categories are not mutually exclusive. For example, open-mindedness, in the sense of willingness to consider alternative points of view to one’s own, is both an initiating and an internal disposition.

Using the strategy of considering factors that would block people with the ability to think critically from doing so, we can identify as initiating dispositions for thinking critically attentiveness, a habit of inquiry, self-confidence, courage, open-mindedness, willingness to suspend judgment, trust in reason, wanting evidence for one’s beliefs, and seeking the truth. We consider briefly what each of these dispositions amounts to, in each case citing sources that acknowledge them.

  • Attentiveness : One will not think critically if one fails to recognize an issue that needs to be thought through. For example, the pedestrian in Weather would not have looked up if he had not noticed that the air was suddenly cooler. To be a critical thinker, then, one needs to be habitually attentive to one’s surroundings, noticing not only what one senses but also sources of perplexity in messages received and in one’s own beliefs and attitudes (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Habit of inquiry : Inquiry is effortful, and one needs an internal push to engage in it. For example, the student in Bubbles could easily have stopped at idle wondering about the cause of the bubbles rather than reasoning to a hypothesis, then designing and executing an experiment to test it. Thus willingness to think critically needs mental energy and initiative. What can supply that energy? Love of inquiry, or perhaps just a habit of inquiry. Hamby (2015) has argued that willingness to inquire is the central critical thinking virtue, one that encompasses all the others. It is recognized as a critical thinking disposition by Dewey (1910: 29; 1933: 35), Glaser (1941: 5), Ennis (1987: 12; 1991: 8), Facione (1990a: 25), Bailin et al. (1999b: 294), Halpern (1998: 452), and Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo (2001).
  • Self-confidence : Lack of confidence in one’s abilities can block critical thinking. For example, if the woman in Rash lacked confidence in her ability to figure things out for herself, she might just have assumed that the rash on her chest was the allergic reaction to her medication against which the pharmacist had warned her. Thus willingness to think critically requires confidence in one’s ability to inquire (Facione 1990a: 25; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001).
  • Courage : Fear of thinking for oneself can stop one from doing it. Thus willingness to think critically requires intellectual courage (Paul & Elder 2006: 16).
  • Open-mindedness : A dogmatic attitude will impede thinking critically. For example, a person who adheres rigidly to a “pro-choice” position on the issue of the legal status of induced abortion is likely to be unwilling to consider seriously the issue of when in its development an unborn child acquires a moral right to life. Thus willingness to think critically requires open-mindedness, in the sense of a willingness to examine questions to which one already accepts an answer but which further evidence or reasoning might cause one to answer differently (Dewey 1933; Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Bailin et al. 1999b; Halpern 1998, Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). Paul (1981) emphasizes open-mindedness about alternative world-views, and recommends a dialectical approach to integrating such views as central to what he calls “strong sense” critical thinking. In three studies, Haran, Ritov, & Mellers (2013) found that actively open-minded thinking, including “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own”, led study participants to acquire information and thus to make accurate estimations.
  • Willingness to suspend judgment : Premature closure on an initial solution will block critical thinking. Thus willingness to think critically requires a willingness to suspend judgment while alternatives are explored (Facione 1990a; Ennis 1991; Halpern 1998).
  • Trust in reason : Since distrust in the processes of reasoned inquiry will dissuade one from engaging in it, trust in them is an initiating critical thinking disposition (Facione 1990a, 25; Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001; Paul & Elder 2006). In reaction to an allegedly exclusive emphasis on reason in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, Thayer-Bacon (2000) argues that intuition, imagination, and emotion have important roles to play in an adequate conception of critical thinking that she calls “constructive thinking”. From her point of view, critical thinking requires trust not only in reason but also in intuition, imagination, and emotion.
  • Seeking the truth : If one does not care about the truth but is content to stick with one’s initial bias on an issue, then one will not think critically about it. Seeking the truth is thus an initiating critical thinking disposition (Bailin et al. 1999b: 294; Facione, Facione, & Giancarlo 2001). A disposition to seek the truth is implicit in more specific critical thinking dispositions, such as trying to be well-informed, considering seriously points of view other than one’s own, looking for alternatives, suspending judgment when the evidence is insufficient, and adopting a position when the evidence supporting it is sufficient.

Some of the initiating dispositions, such as open-mindedness and willingness to suspend judgment, are also internal critical thinking dispositions, in the sense of mental habits or attitudes that contribute causally to doing a good job of critical thinking once one starts the process. But there are many other internal critical thinking dispositions. Some of them are parasitic on one’s conception of good thinking. For example, it is constitutive of good thinking about an issue to formulate the issue clearly and to maintain focus on it. For this purpose, one needs not only the corresponding ability but also the corresponding disposition. Ennis (1991: 8) describes it as the disposition “to determine and maintain focus on the conclusion or question”, Facione (1990a: 25) as “clarity in stating the question or concern”. Other internal dispositions are motivators to continue or adjust the critical thinking process, such as willingness to persist in a complex task and willingness to abandon nonproductive strategies in an attempt to self-correct (Halpern 1998: 452). For a list of identified internal critical thinking dispositions, see the Supplement on Internal Critical Thinking Dispositions .

Some theorists postulate skills, i.e., acquired abilities, as operative in critical thinking. It is not obvious, however, that a good mental act is the exercise of a generic acquired skill. Inferring an expected time of arrival, as in Transit , has some generic components but also uses non-generic subject-matter knowledge. Bailin et al. (1999a) argue against viewing critical thinking skills as generic and discrete, on the ground that skilled performance at a critical thinking task cannot be separated from knowledge of concepts and from domain-specific principles of good thinking. Talk of skills, they concede, is unproblematic if it means merely that a person with critical thinking skills is capable of intelligent performance.

Despite such scepticism, theorists of critical thinking have listed as general contributors to critical thinking what they variously call abilities (Glaser 1941; Ennis 1962, 1991), skills (Facione 1990a; Halpern 1998) or competencies (Fisher & Scriven 1997). Amalgamating these lists would produce a confusing and chaotic cornucopia of more than 50 possible educational objectives, with only partial overlap among them. It makes sense instead to try to understand the reasons for the multiplicity and diversity, and to make a selection according to one’s own reasons for singling out abilities to be developed in a critical thinking curriculum. Two reasons for diversity among lists of critical thinking abilities are the underlying conception of critical thinking and the envisaged educational level. Appraisal-only conceptions, for example, involve a different suite of abilities than constructive-only conceptions. Some lists, such as those in (Glaser 1941), are put forward as educational objectives for secondary school students, whereas others are proposed as objectives for college students (e.g., Facione 1990a).

The abilities described in the remaining paragraphs of this section emerge from reflection on the general abilities needed to do well the thinking activities identified in section 6 as components of the critical thinking process described in section 5 . The derivation of each collection of abilities is accompanied by citation of sources that list such abilities and of standardized tests that claim to test them.

Observational abilities : Careful and accurate observation sometimes requires specialist expertise and practice, as in the case of observing birds and observing accident scenes. However, there are general abilities of noticing what one’s senses are picking up from one’s environment and of being able to articulate clearly and accurately to oneself and others what one has observed. It helps in exercising them to be able to recognize and take into account factors that make one’s observation less trustworthy, such as prior framing of the situation, inadequate time, deficient senses, poor observation conditions, and the like. It helps as well to be skilled at taking steps to make one’s observation more trustworthy, such as moving closer to get a better look, measuring something three times and taking the average, and checking what one thinks one is observing with someone else who is in a good position to observe it. It also helps to be skilled at recognizing respects in which one’s report of one’s observation involves inference rather than direct observation, so that one can then consider whether the inference is justified. These abilities come into play as well when one thinks about whether and with what degree of confidence to accept an observation report, for example in the study of history or in a criminal investigation or in assessing news reports. Observational abilities show up in some lists of critical thinking abilities (Ennis 1962: 90; Facione 1990a: 16; Ennis 1991: 9). There are items testing a person’s ability to judge the credibility of observation reports in the Cornell Critical Thinking Tests, Levels X and Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). Norris and King (1983, 1985, 1990a, 1990b) is a test of ability to appraise observation reports.

Emotional abilities : The emotions that drive a critical thinking process are perplexity or puzzlement, a wish to resolve it, and satisfaction at achieving the desired resolution. Children experience these emotions at an early age, without being trained to do so. Education that takes critical thinking as a goal needs only to channel these emotions and to make sure not to stifle them. Collaborative critical thinking benefits from ability to recognize one’s own and others’ emotional commitments and reactions.

Questioning abilities : A critical thinking process needs transformation of an inchoate sense of perplexity into a clear question. Formulating a question well requires not building in questionable assumptions, not prejudging the issue, and using language that in context is unambiguous and precise enough (Ennis 1962: 97; 1991: 9).

Imaginative abilities : Thinking directed at finding the correct causal explanation of a general phenomenon or particular event requires an ability to imagine possible explanations. Thinking about what policy or plan of action to adopt requires generation of options and consideration of possible consequences of each option. Domain knowledge is required for such creative activity, but a general ability to imagine alternatives is helpful and can be nurtured so as to become easier, quicker, more extensive, and deeper (Dewey 1910: 34–39; 1933: 40–47). Facione (1990a) and Halpern (1998) include the ability to imagine alternatives as a critical thinking ability.

Inferential abilities : The ability to draw conclusions from given information, and to recognize with what degree of certainty one’s own or others’ conclusions follow, is universally recognized as a general critical thinking ability. All 11 examples in section 2 of this article include inferences, some from hypotheses or options (as in Transit , Ferryboat and Disorder ), others from something observed (as in Weather and Rash ). None of these inferences is formally valid. Rather, they are licensed by general, sometimes qualified substantive rules of inference (Toulmin 1958) that rest on domain knowledge—that a bus trip takes about the same time in each direction, that the terminal of a wireless telegraph would be located on the highest possible place, that sudden cooling is often followed by rain, that an allergic reaction to a sulfa drug generally shows up soon after one starts taking it. It is a matter of controversy to what extent the specialized ability to deduce conclusions from premisses using formal rules of inference is needed for critical thinking. Dewey (1933) locates logical forms in setting out the products of reflection rather than in the process of reflection. Ennis (1981a), on the other hand, maintains that a liberally-educated person should have the following abilities: to translate natural-language statements into statements using the standard logical operators, to use appropriately the language of necessary and sufficient conditions, to deal with argument forms and arguments containing symbols, to determine whether in virtue of an argument’s form its conclusion follows necessarily from its premisses, to reason with logically complex propositions, and to apply the rules and procedures of deductive logic. Inferential abilities are recognized as critical thinking abilities by Glaser (1941: 6), Facione (1990a: 9), Ennis (1991: 9), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 99, 111), and Halpern (1998: 452). Items testing inferential abilities constitute two of the five subtests of the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (Watson & Glaser 1980a, 1980b, 1994), two of the four sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), three of the seven sections in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005), 11 of the 34 items on Forms A and B of the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992), and a high but variable proportion of the 25 selected-response questions in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Experimenting abilities : Knowing how to design and execute an experiment is important not just in scientific research but also in everyday life, as in Rash . Dewey devoted a whole chapter of his How We Think (1910: 145–156; 1933: 190–202) to the superiority of experimentation over observation in advancing knowledge. Experimenting abilities come into play at one remove in appraising reports of scientific studies. Skill in designing and executing experiments includes the acknowledged abilities to appraise evidence (Glaser 1941: 6), to carry out experiments and to apply appropriate statistical inference techniques (Facione 1990a: 9), to judge inductions to an explanatory hypothesis (Ennis 1991: 9), and to recognize the need for an adequately large sample size (Halpern 1998). The Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) includes four items (out of 52) on experimental design. The Collegiate Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) makes room for appraisal of study design in both its performance task and its selected-response questions.

Consulting abilities : Skill at consulting sources of information comes into play when one seeks information to help resolve a problem, as in Candidate . Ability to find and appraise information includes ability to gather and marshal pertinent information (Glaser 1941: 6), to judge whether a statement made by an alleged authority is acceptable (Ennis 1962: 84), to plan a search for desired information (Facione 1990a: 9), and to judge the credibility of a source (Ennis 1991: 9). Ability to judge the credibility of statements is tested by 24 items (out of 76) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level X (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005) and by four items (out of 52) in the Cornell Critical Thinking Test Level Z (Ennis & Millman 1971; Ennis, Millman, & Tomko 1985, 2005). The College Learning Assessment’s performance task requires evaluation of whether information in documents is credible or unreliable (Council for Aid to Education 2017).

Argument analysis abilities : The ability to identify and analyze arguments contributes to the process of surveying arguments on an issue in order to form one’s own reasoned judgment, as in Candidate . The ability to detect and analyze arguments is recognized as a critical thinking skill by Facione (1990a: 7–8), Ennis (1991: 9) and Halpern (1998). Five items (out of 34) on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (Facione 1990b, 1992) test skill at argument analysis. The College Learning Assessment (Council for Aid to Education 2017) incorporates argument analysis in its selected-response tests of critical reading and evaluation and of critiquing an argument.

Judging skills and deciding skills : Skill at judging and deciding is skill at recognizing what judgment or decision the available evidence and argument supports, and with what degree of confidence. It is thus a component of the inferential skills already discussed.

Lists and tests of critical thinking abilities often include two more abilities: identifying assumptions and constructing and evaluating definitions.

In addition to dispositions and abilities, critical thinking needs knowledge: of critical thinking concepts, of critical thinking principles, and of the subject-matter of the thinking.

We can derive a short list of concepts whose understanding contributes to critical thinking from the critical thinking abilities described in the preceding section. Observational abilities require an understanding of the difference between observation and inference. Questioning abilities require an understanding of the concepts of ambiguity and vagueness. Inferential abilities require an understanding of the difference between conclusive and defeasible inference (traditionally, between deduction and induction), as well as of the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Experimenting abilities require an understanding of the concepts of hypothesis, null hypothesis, assumption and prediction, as well as of the concept of statistical significance and of its difference from importance. They also require an understanding of the difference between an experiment and an observational study, and in particular of the difference between a randomized controlled trial, a prospective correlational study and a retrospective (case-control) study. Argument analysis abilities require an understanding of the concepts of argument, premiss, assumption, conclusion and counter-consideration. Additional critical thinking concepts are proposed by Bailin et al. (1999b: 293), Fisher & Scriven (1997: 105–106), Black (2012), and Blair (2021).

According to Glaser (1941: 25), ability to think critically requires knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning. If we review the list of abilities in the preceding section, however, we can see that some of them can be acquired and exercised merely through practice, possibly guided in an educational setting, followed by feedback. Searching intelligently for a causal explanation of some phenomenon or event requires that one consider a full range of possible causal contributors, but it seems more important that one implements this principle in one’s practice than that one is able to articulate it. What is important is “operational knowledge” of the standards and principles of good thinking (Bailin et al. 1999b: 291–293). But the development of such critical thinking abilities as designing an experiment or constructing an operational definition can benefit from learning their underlying theory. Further, explicit knowledge of quirks of human thinking seems useful as a cautionary guide. Human memory is not just fallible about details, as people learn from their own experiences of misremembering, but is so malleable that a detailed, clear and vivid recollection of an event can be a total fabrication (Loftus 2017). People seek or interpret evidence in ways that are partial to their existing beliefs and expectations, often unconscious of their “confirmation bias” (Nickerson 1998). Not only are people subject to this and other cognitive biases (Kahneman 2011), of which they are typically unaware, but it may be counter-productive for one to make oneself aware of them and try consciously to counteract them or to counteract social biases such as racial or sexual stereotypes (Kenyon & Beaulac 2014). It is helpful to be aware of these facts and of the superior effectiveness of blocking the operation of biases—for example, by making an immediate record of one’s observations, refraining from forming a preliminary explanatory hypothesis, blind refereeing, double-blind randomized trials, and blind grading of students’ work. It is also helpful to be aware of the prevalence of “noise” (unwanted unsystematic variability of judgments), of how to detect noise (through a noise audit), and of how to reduce noise: make accuracy the goal, think statistically, break a process of arriving at a judgment into independent tasks, resist premature intuitions, in a group get independent judgments first, favour comparative judgments and scales (Kahneman, Sibony, & Sunstein 2021). It is helpful as well to be aware of the concept of “bounded rationality” in decision-making and of the related distinction between “satisficing” and optimizing (Simon 1956; Gigerenzer 2001).

Critical thinking about an issue requires substantive knowledge of the domain to which the issue belongs. Critical thinking abilities are not a magic elixir that can be applied to any issue whatever by somebody who has no knowledge of the facts relevant to exploring that issue. For example, the student in Bubbles needed to know that gases do not penetrate solid objects like a glass, that air expands when heated, that the volume of an enclosed gas varies directly with its temperature and inversely with its pressure, and that hot objects will spontaneously cool down to the ambient temperature of their surroundings unless kept hot by insulation or a source of heat. Critical thinkers thus need a rich fund of subject-matter knowledge relevant to the variety of situations they encounter. This fact is recognized in the inclusion among critical thinking dispositions of a concern to become and remain generally well informed.

Experimental educational interventions, with control groups, have shown that education can improve critical thinking skills and dispositions, as measured by standardized tests. For information about these tests, see the Supplement on Assessment .

What educational methods are most effective at developing the dispositions, abilities and knowledge of a critical thinker? In a comprehensive meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies of strategies for teaching students to think critically, Abrami et al. (2015) found that dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring each increased the effectiveness of the educational intervention, and that they were most effective when combined. They also found that in these studies a combination of separate instruction in critical thinking with subject-matter instruction in which students are encouraged to think critically was more effective than either by itself. However, the difference was not statistically significant; that is, it might have arisen by chance.

Most of these studies lack the longitudinal follow-up required to determine whether the observed differential improvements in critical thinking abilities or dispositions continue over time, for example until high school or college graduation. For details on studies of methods of developing critical thinking skills and dispositions, see the Supplement on Educational Methods .

12. Controversies

Scholars have denied the generalizability of critical thinking abilities across subject domains, have alleged bias in critical thinking theory and pedagogy, and have investigated the relationship of critical thinking to other kinds of thinking.

McPeck (1981) attacked the thinking skills movement of the 1970s, including the critical thinking movement. He argued that there are no general thinking skills, since thinking is always thinking about some subject-matter. It is futile, he claimed, for schools and colleges to teach thinking as if it were a separate subject. Rather, teachers should lead their pupils to become autonomous thinkers by teaching school subjects in a way that brings out their cognitive structure and that encourages and rewards discussion and argument. As some of his critics (e.g., Paul 1985; Siegel 1985) pointed out, McPeck’s central argument needs elaboration, since it has obvious counter-examples in writing and speaking, for which (up to a certain level of complexity) there are teachable general abilities even though they are always about some subject-matter. To make his argument convincing, McPeck needs to explain how thinking differs from writing and speaking in a way that does not permit useful abstraction of its components from the subject-matters with which it deals. He has not done so. Nevertheless, his position that the dispositions and abilities of a critical thinker are best developed in the context of subject-matter instruction is shared by many theorists of critical thinking, including Dewey (1910, 1933), Glaser (1941), Passmore (1980), Weinstein (1990), Bailin et al. (1999b), and Willingham (2019).

McPeck’s challenge prompted reflection on the extent to which critical thinking is subject-specific. McPeck argued for a strong subject-specificity thesis, according to which it is a conceptual truth that all critical thinking abilities are specific to a subject. (He did not however extend his subject-specificity thesis to critical thinking dispositions. In particular, he took the disposition to suspend judgment in situations of cognitive dissonance to be a general disposition.) Conceptual subject-specificity is subject to obvious counter-examples, such as the general ability to recognize confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions. A more modest thesis, also endorsed by McPeck, is epistemological subject-specificity, according to which the norms of good thinking vary from one field to another. Epistemological subject-specificity clearly holds to a certain extent; for example, the principles in accordance with which one solves a differential equation are quite different from the principles in accordance with which one determines whether a painting is a genuine Picasso. But the thesis suffers, as Ennis (1989) points out, from vagueness of the concept of a field or subject and from the obvious existence of inter-field principles, however broadly the concept of a field is construed. For example, the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning hold for all the varied fields in which such reasoning occurs. A third kind of subject-specificity is empirical subject-specificity, according to which as a matter of empirically observable fact a person with the abilities and dispositions of a critical thinker in one area of investigation will not necessarily have them in another area of investigation.

The thesis of empirical subject-specificity raises the general problem of transfer. If critical thinking abilities and dispositions have to be developed independently in each school subject, how are they of any use in dealing with the problems of everyday life and the political and social issues of contemporary society, most of which do not fit into the framework of a traditional school subject? Proponents of empirical subject-specificity tend to argue that transfer is more likely to occur if there is critical thinking instruction in a variety of domains, with explicit attention to dispositions and abilities that cut across domains. But evidence for this claim is scanty. There is a need for well-designed empirical studies that investigate the conditions that make transfer more likely.

It is common ground in debates about the generality or subject-specificity of critical thinking dispositions and abilities that critical thinking about any topic requires background knowledge about the topic. For example, the most sophisticated understanding of the principles of hypothetico-deductive reasoning is of no help unless accompanied by some knowledge of what might be plausible explanations of some phenomenon under investigation.

Critics have objected to bias in the theory, pedagogy and practice of critical thinking. Commentators (e.g., Alston 1995; Ennis 1998) have noted that anyone who takes a position has a bias in the neutral sense of being inclined in one direction rather than others. The critics, however, are objecting to bias in the pejorative sense of an unjustified favoring of certain ways of knowing over others, frequently alleging that the unjustly favoured ways are those of a dominant sex or culture (Bailin 1995). These ways favour:

  • reinforcement of egocentric and sociocentric biases over dialectical engagement with opposing world-views (Paul 1981, 1984; Warren 1998)
  • distancing from the object of inquiry over closeness to it (Martin 1992; Thayer-Bacon 1992)
  • indifference to the situation of others over care for them (Martin 1992)
  • orientation to thought over orientation to action (Martin 1992)
  • being reasonable over caring to understand people’s ideas (Thayer-Bacon 1993)
  • being neutral and objective over being embodied and situated (Thayer-Bacon 1995a)
  • doubting over believing (Thayer-Bacon 1995b)
  • reason over emotion, imagination and intuition (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • solitary thinking over collaborative thinking (Thayer-Bacon 2000)
  • written and spoken assignments over other forms of expression (Alston 2001)
  • attention to written and spoken communications over attention to human problems (Alston 2001)
  • winning debates in the public sphere over making and understanding meaning (Alston 2001)

A common thread in this smorgasbord of accusations is dissatisfaction with focusing on the logical analysis and evaluation of reasoning and arguments. While these authors acknowledge that such analysis and evaluation is part of critical thinking and should be part of its conceptualization and pedagogy, they insist that it is only a part. Paul (1981), for example, bemoans the tendency of atomistic teaching of methods of analyzing and evaluating arguments to turn students into more able sophists, adept at finding fault with positions and arguments with which they disagree but even more entrenched in the egocentric and sociocentric biases with which they began. Martin (1992) and Thayer-Bacon (1992) cite with approval the self-reported intimacy with their subject-matter of leading researchers in biology and medicine, an intimacy that conflicts with the distancing allegedly recommended in standard conceptions and pedagogy of critical thinking. Thayer-Bacon (2000) contrasts the embodied and socially embedded learning of her elementary school students in a Montessori school, who used their imagination, intuition and emotions as well as their reason, with conceptions of critical thinking as

thinking that is used to critique arguments, offer justifications, and make judgments about what are the good reasons, or the right answers. (Thayer-Bacon 2000: 127–128)

Alston (2001) reports that her students in a women’s studies class were able to see the flaws in the Cinderella myth that pervades much romantic fiction but in their own romantic relationships still acted as if all failures were the woman’s fault and still accepted the notions of love at first sight and living happily ever after. Students, she writes, should

be able to connect their intellectual critique to a more affective, somatic, and ethical account of making risky choices that have sexist, racist, classist, familial, sexual, or other consequences for themselves and those both near and far… critical thinking that reads arguments, texts, or practices merely on the surface without connections to feeling/desiring/doing or action lacks an ethical depth that should infuse the difference between mere cognitive activity and something we want to call critical thinking. (Alston 2001: 34)

Some critics portray such biases as unfair to women. Thayer-Bacon (1992), for example, has charged modern critical thinking theory with being sexist, on the ground that it separates the self from the object and causes one to lose touch with one’s inner voice, and thus stigmatizes women, who (she asserts) link self to object and listen to their inner voice. Her charge does not imply that women as a group are on average less able than men to analyze and evaluate arguments. Facione (1990c) found no difference by sex in performance on his California Critical Thinking Skills Test. Kuhn (1991: 280–281) found no difference by sex in either the disposition or the competence to engage in argumentative thinking.

The critics propose a variety of remedies for the biases that they allege. In general, they do not propose to eliminate or downplay critical thinking as an educational goal. Rather, they propose to conceptualize critical thinking differently and to change its pedagogy accordingly. Their pedagogical proposals arise logically from their objections. They can be summarized as follows:

  • Focus on argument networks with dialectical exchanges reflecting contesting points of view rather than on atomic arguments, so as to develop “strong sense” critical thinking that transcends egocentric and sociocentric biases (Paul 1981, 1984).
  • Foster closeness to the subject-matter and feeling connected to others in order to inform a humane democracy (Martin 1992).
  • Develop “constructive thinking” as a social activity in a community of physically embodied and socially embedded inquirers with personal voices who value not only reason but also imagination, intuition and emotion (Thayer-Bacon 2000).
  • In developing critical thinking in school subjects, treat as important neither skills nor dispositions but opening worlds of meaning (Alston 2001).
  • Attend to the development of critical thinking dispositions as well as skills, and adopt the “critical pedagogy” practised and advocated by Freire (1968 [1970]) and hooks (1994) (Dalgleish, Girard, & Davies 2017).

A common thread in these proposals is treatment of critical thinking as a social, interactive, personally engaged activity like that of a quilting bee or a barn-raising (Thayer-Bacon 2000) rather than as an individual, solitary, distanced activity symbolized by Rodin’s The Thinker . One can get a vivid description of education with the former type of goal from the writings of bell hooks (1994, 2010). Critical thinking for her is open-minded dialectical exchange across opposing standpoints and from multiple perspectives, a conception similar to Paul’s “strong sense” critical thinking (Paul 1981). She abandons the structure of domination in the traditional classroom. In an introductory course on black women writers, for example, she assigns students to write an autobiographical paragraph about an early racial memory, then to read it aloud as the others listen, thus affirming the uniqueness and value of each voice and creating a communal awareness of the diversity of the group’s experiences (hooks 1994: 84). Her “engaged pedagogy” is thus similar to the “freedom under guidance” implemented in John Dewey’s Laboratory School of Chicago in the late 1890s and early 1900s. It incorporates the dialogue, anchored instruction, and mentoring that Abrami (2015) found to be most effective in improving critical thinking skills and dispositions.

What is the relationship of critical thinking to problem solving, decision-making, higher-order thinking, creative thinking, and other recognized types of thinking? One’s answer to this question obviously depends on how one defines the terms used in the question. If critical thinking is conceived broadly to cover any careful thinking about any topic for any purpose, then problem solving and decision making will be kinds of critical thinking, if they are done carefully. Historically, ‘critical thinking’ and ‘problem solving’ were two names for the same thing. If critical thinking is conceived more narrowly as consisting solely of appraisal of intellectual products, then it will be disjoint with problem solving and decision making, which are constructive.

Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives used the phrase “intellectual abilities and skills” for what had been labeled “critical thinking” by some, “reflective thinking” by Dewey and others, and “problem solving” by still others (Bloom et al. 1956: 38). Thus, the so-called “higher-order thinking skills” at the taxonomy’s top levels of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are just critical thinking skills, although they do not come with general criteria for their assessment (Ennis 1981b). The revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2001) likewise treats critical thinking as cutting across those types of cognitive process that involve more than remembering (Anderson et al. 2001: 269–270). For details, see the Supplement on History .

As to creative thinking, it overlaps with critical thinking (Bailin 1987, 1988). Thinking about the explanation of some phenomenon or event, as in Ferryboat , requires creative imagination in constructing plausible explanatory hypotheses. Likewise, thinking about a policy question, as in Candidate , requires creativity in coming up with options. Conversely, creativity in any field needs to be balanced by critical appraisal of the draft painting or novel or mathematical theory.

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How emotions affect logical reasoning: evidence from experiments with mood-manipulated participants, spider phobics, and people with exam anxiety

Recent experimental studies show that emotions can have a significant effect on the way we think, decide, and solve problems. This paper presents a series of four experiments on how emotions affect logical reasoning. In two experiments different groups of participants first had to pass a manipulated intelligence test. Their emotional state was altered by giving them feedback, that they performed excellent, poor or on average. Then they completed a set of logical inference problems (with if p, then q statements) either in a Wason selection task paradigm or problems from the logical propositional calculus. Problem content also had either a positive, negative or neutral emotional value. Results showed a clear effect of emotions on reasoning performance. Participants in negative mood performed worse than participants in positive mood, but both groups were outperformed by the neutral mood reasoners. Problem content also had an effect on reasoning performance. In a second set of experiments, participants with exam or spider phobia solved logical problems with contents that were related to their anxiety disorder (spiders or exams). Spider phobic participants' performance was lowered by the spider-content, while exam anxious participants were not affected by the exam-related problem content. Overall, unlike some previous studies, no evidence was found that performance is improved when emotion and content are congruent. These results have consequences for cognitive reasoning research and also for cognitively oriented psychotherapy and the treatment of disorders like depression and anxiety.

Introduction

In the field of experimental psychology, for a long time the predominant approach was a “divide and conquer” account in which cognition and emotion have been studied in strict isolation (e.g., Ekman and Davidson, 1994 ; Wilson and Keil, 2001 ; Holyoak and Morrison, 2005 ). Yet, in the last decade many researchers have realized that this is a quite artificial distinction and have regarded both systems as distinct but interacting (Dalgleish and Power, 1999 ; Martin and Clore, 2001 ). This new line of research resulted in many interesting findings and showed that emotions can have an influence on how we think and how successful we are at solving cognitive tasks (e.g., Schwarz and Clore, 1983 ; Bless et al., 1996 ; Schwarz and Skurnik, 2003 ). Such findings are not only relevant for basic cognitive research, such as reasoning (e.g., Blanchette, 2014 ), but may also have implications for cognitively oriented psychotherapy and the treatment of disorders like depression and anxiety.

In the present paper we explore the effect of emotion on a cognitive task that is often considered to be a test of rational thinking par excellence: logical reasoning. We start with a brief description of the logical problems that were used in our study. Then we summarize what is currently known about the connection between logical reasoning and emotional states. In the main part of the paper, we describe our hypotheses concerning the connection between logical reasoning and emotional states and then report a series of four experiments, two with a mood induction and two with participants who have a fear of either exams or spiders. In the final section we discuss the connection between logical reasoning and emotions and draw some general conclusions.

Logical reasoning problems

Logical reasoning goes back to the antique Greek philosopher Aristotle and is today considered to be essential for the success of people in school and daily life and all kinds of scientific discoveries (Johnson-Laird, 2006 ). In the psychological lab it is often investigated by means of conditional reasoning tasks. Such tasks are composed of a first premise, a second premise and a conclusion. The first premise consists of an “if p, then q” statement that posits q to be true if p is true. The second premise refers to the truth of the antecedent (“if” part) or the consequent (“then” part). The participants‘ task is to decide whether the conclusion follows logically from the two given premises. In this regard, two inferences are valid and two are invalid (given they are interpreted as implications and not as biconditionals, i.e., as “if and only if”). The two valid inferences are modus ponens (MP; “if p, then q, and p is true, then q is true”) and modus tollens (MT; “if p, then q, and q is false, then p is false”), whereas the two invalid inferences are affirmation of consequent (AC; “if p, then q, and q is true, then p is true”) and denial of antecedent (DA; “if p, then q, and p is false, then q is false”). This type of reasoning task was used for Experiments 2–4 while a Wason selection task (Wason, 1966 ) was used for Experiment 1. The classical Wason selection task (WST) consists of a conditional rule (e.g., “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side.”) accompanied by four cards marked with a letter or number, visible only from one side (e.g., A, D, 2, 3). Thus, one side of the card presents the truth or falsity of the antecedent (e.g., A, D) and the other side the truth or falsity of the consequence (e.g., 2, 3). This task requires turning over only those cards which are needed in order to check the validity of the rule. The logically correct response is to turn over the A-card (to check whether the other side is marked with an even number, MP) and the 3-card (because this is not an even number and therefore no vowel should be on the other side, MT). For reasons of brevity, the reader is referred to Johnson-Laird ( 2006 ) and Knauff ( 2007 ) for a detailed overview of the different types of reasoning problems used in the present paper. We used these tasks in the present work since sentential conditional tasks and the Wason selection task are the best understood problems of logical reasoning research (overview in Johnson-Laird and Byrne, 2002 ).

Previous studies and main hypotheses

Several studies on logical reasoning found that participants' performance is modulated by their emotional state. In several experiments, participants underwent a mood induction or were recruited based on their pre-existing emotional state. In both conditions, the emotional state often resulted in a deterioration of reasoning performance (Oaksford et al., 1996 ). In another study participants were recruited because they reported being depressed (Channon and Baker, 1994 ). They were presented with categorical syllogisms and their performance was worse than that of non-depressed participants. One possible explanation is that emotionally congruent information (e.g., sad content in case of being depressed) put additional load on working memory (e.g., Baddeley, 2003 ). Other explanations are that different emotional states affect people's motivation to solve rather complex cognitive tasks (Melton, 1995 ) or that the emotional state affects how attention is allocated (e.g., Gable and Harmon-Jones, 2012 ) even with positive material (e.g., Gable and Harmon-Jones, 2013 ).

The content of the reasoning task can also have an effect on performance. For instance, the content can result in a stereotypical reaction which negatively affects performance on a conditional reasoning task (Lefford, 1946 ; see also De Jong et al., 1998 ). Other studies have shown that negative as well as positive content has a detrimental effect on conditional reasoning performance as opposed to neutral content which may be due to reduced working memory resources (Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ; Blanchette, 2006 ). The problem content can also be freed from any semantic value by using non-words that have been conditioned via classical conditioning to assume an emotional value. Therefore, the effect of non-semantic emotional material on reasoning performance can be investigated. Classical conditioning has been used to condition non-words and neutral words with a negative or positive emotional value and resulted in participants providing fewer logically valid answers in a conditional reasoning task (Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ; Blanchette, 2006 ). The hypothesis that emotions affect how conditional reasoning tasks are interpreted could not be confirmed (Blanchette, 2006 ).

The literature review shows that mood and emotional problem content negatively affect logical reasoning performance. However, the effects on reasoning performance are still ambiguous, in particular when mood is combined with a problem content that is relevant to the mood, e.g., a participant in a sad mood is presented with a sad reasoning problem about bereavement (mood and content are congruent). Some studies have shown that such a combination results in worse performance. Health-anxiety patients, when reasoning about health-threats in a Wason selection task, have a threat-confirming strategy (Smeets et al., 2000 ), for example, they very likely interpret a tremor as a sign of Parkinson's disease or chest pain as an indicator for cardiac infarction, etc., even though other—less dangerous—causes are much more likely. Thus, threat-confirming participants select the card that confirms (rather than falsifies) their fears about the anticipated illness. Controls that do not have health-anxiety do not show such a bias when reasoning about health-threats. These findings are similar to another study that also used a Wason selection task where spider-phobic participants confirmed danger rules and falsified safety rules more often for phobia-relevant information than controls (De Jong et al., 1997a ). Furthermore, socially anxious participants performed worse in relational inference tasks when the content was relevant to social anxiety as opposed to neutral content (Vroling and de Jong, 2009 ). However, spider phobic patients compared to non-phobic controls performed worse when the reasoning problem's content was specifically related to their phobia as well as when it contained general threat material (De Jong et al., 1997b ).

Other studies found no difference between control participants in a neutral mood, participants with health-anxiety (De Jong et al., 1998 ) or participants who were not recruited from a clinical population but nevertheless reported anxiety symptoms (Vroling and de Jong, 2010 ). Participants in a neutral mood as well as anxious participants performed worse in the threat condition. Lastly, some studies even found a beneficial effect of emotions on logical reasoning performance. After the bombing in London in 2005 a study was carried out to investigate if the increased amount of fear which was related to the bombing, has an impact on the performance of participants when solving conditional reasoning tasks that were related in content to the bombing (Blanchette et al., 2007 ). It resulted that fearful participants provided more correct responses on a reasoning task with fear-related content than participants that did not report a high level of fear. In another study participants that had been primed to be angry or who remembered an incident when they have been cheated on, performed better when the reasoning task involved detecting cheaters (Chang and Wilson, 2004 ). This mood congruent effect was not found when participants who remembered an altruistic incident had to detect altruists. An evolutionary psychology explanation is offered for these findings as the authors suggest that the ability to detect cheaters provides an evolutionary advantage (Chang and Wilson, 2004 ).

The ambiguous results in the literature motivated us to bring together the effect of the reasoners' emotional state and the effect of the reasoning problems' emotionally-laden content. Based on this combination we formulated and tested the following hypotheses:

  • Positive and negative emotion 1 will result in a reduction of reasoning performance.
  • Positive and negative problem content will result in a reduction of reasoning performance.
  • There will be an interaction between the person's emotional state and the emotional content of the problem.

To test these hypotheses, four experiments have been carried out to investigate the effect of emotion, problem content and the combination of the two on reasoning performance. The experiments are:

  • Experiment 1: Positive, negative or neutral emotion (induced) paired with a Wason selection task that had positive, negative or neutral problem content.
  • Experiment 2: Positive, negative or neutral emotion (induced) paired with conditional reasoning tasks that had positive, negative or neutral problem content.
  • Experiment 3: Anxious or neutral emotion (spider-phobic or non-phobic participants) paired with conditional reasoning tasks that had neutral, negative or anxious (phobia-relevant) content.
  • Experiment 4: Anxious or neutral emotion (exam anxiety or confidence) paired with conditional reasoning tasks that had neutral, negative or anxious (exam anxiety-relevant) content.

Experiment 1: emotions in the wason selection task

This experiment was designed in order to test the hypotheses that emotion and emotional content have a disrupting effect on reasoning performance. The participants' emotion was either neutral or induced to be positive or negative and then they had to solve Wason selection tasks. The content of the reasoning tasks which all participants had to solve was positive, negative or neutral as well.

Participants

Thirty students from the University of Giessen participated in this study (mean age: 22.93 years; range: 19–30 years; 18 female, 12 male). They did not participate in any previous investigations on conditional reasoning and they received a monetary compensation of eight Euro. The participants came from a range of disciplines and none of them were psychology students. They were all native German speakers and provided informed written consent.

Design and materials

First, the emotional state of the participants was measured with the German version of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988 ; Krohne et al., 1996 ) with which a score for negative and one for positive affect can be computed. Then the participants' emotional state was altered by a manipulated IQ-test. The procedure is described below. However, participants were not told that their emotional state was to be altered with a success-failure-method and they were randomly assigned to the “success group,” “neutral group,” and “failure group.” This method has high reliability and ecological validity (Nummenmaa and Niemi, 2004 ).

During the logical reasoning task participants had to solve 24 Wason selection tasks based on the three types of content (positive, negative, and neutral). While Wason selection tasks with positive emotional value described success situations, the negative ones described failure situations. This was done to create a link between emotion and the content of the reasoning material. Table ​ Table1 1 shows examples of the positive, negative, and neutral logical reasoning problems. The sentences were presented in German language. Each problem was presented by means of four different virtual cards on a computer screen as can be seen in Figure ​ Figure1. 1 . The participants were told that each card contained one part of the rule on one side and the other part of the rule on the other side. On one set of cards, for example, one side of the card contained the information about whether somebody succeeds or not and on the other side whether somebody is glad or not (the correct answer in our example is card 1 and card 4 which means to verify and to falsify the rule; card 1 and card 3 which is the empirically most frequent answer means that participants in both cases try to verify the rule). The order of cards on the screen was pseudo-randomized and the order of Wason selection problems was completely randomized across participants.

Examples for negative (mirroring failure situations), positive (mirroring success situations) and neutral rules (words and sentences were presented in German language in all experiments) .

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Example of a WST problem with the four corresponding cards .

Participants were tested individually in a quiet laboratory room at the Department of Psychology of the University of Giessen. Prior to the experiment they were informed about the procedure. The emotional state of the participants was measured with the German version of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS; Watson et al., 1988 ; Krohne et al., 1996 ) with which a score for negative and for positive affect can be computed. This scale is based on 10 positive and 10 negative adjectives. Participants are required to state the emotional intensity of each word on a five point scale: 1 = “not at all,” 2 = “a little,” 3 = “moderately,” 4 = “quite a bit,” and 5 = “very much.” Thus, for the positive as well as for the negative affect a score ranging between 10 and 50 points could be computed. Examples of the test adjectives are: afraid, guilty, inspired, proud, etc. This emotion measurement schedule has been validated in several studies (e.g., Krohne et al., 1996 ; Crawford and Henry, 2004 ).

After that the participants carried out a subset of items from the IST2000R (Amthauer et al., 2001 ), which is a popular IQ-test in psychological research and practice. This subtest consisted of 13 items from three different categories: sentence completion, calculation and matrix tasks. These items were selected from all items by using the norming data from the intelligence test. For one group we selected the 13 problems that are most difficult, for the second group we selected items with moderate difficulty according to the norms and for the third group we used the easiest items from the IST2000R. Here is one example for the calculation tasks: (24/144) × 96 = ? (difficult), (3/6) + (20/8) = ? (moderate), and 8 × 123 = ? (easy). The items were presented on a sheet of paper and had to be solved by the participants in a limited time. In order to boost the effect of the emotion manipulation we also told them that the test was especially developed to predict academic success and that an average student solves approximately 50% of the items correctly. The time limit was 15 min. After finishing the test the participants received a manipulated verbal feedback on their performance to influence their emotional state. The feedback for the negative emotion group with the difficult problems was: “We are sorry to say that the analysis of your data showed that your performance was below the average student performance.” The feedback for the neutral emotion group with moderate item difficulty was: “The analysis of your data showed that your performance was on average student performance.” The participants from the positive emotion group with the easy items were told that their performance was above the average of student performance. Please note that this feedback did not reflect their real performance, because even if participants managed to solve the difficult problems they got the negative feedback. Accordingly, the participants in the positive emotional group got positive feedback even if they failed to solve the problems.

After this the emotional state was assessed again to see whether the mood induction was successful. Finally they were given the Wason selection tasks. In order to hide the real purpose of our study, we told the participants they had to do the PANAS since current emotions could influence their performance on intelligence tests and that we wanted to control for this. All our experiments were approved by the ethics committee of the German Psychological Association (DGPs).

The experiment then started with the emotion induction sequence [PANAS (t1), intelligence test items, feedback and PANAS(t2)], followed by the 24 Wason selection tasks. A computer administered the Wason selection problems using the SuperLab 4.0 software (Cedrus Corporation, San Pedro, CA) and recorded participants‘ answers (in all experiments). A self-paced design was used for data collection. When the problem with the four cards was presented on the screen participants had to decide which of the cards they would like to turn over in order to check the validity of the given rule. They were asked to pick one or more cards by pressing the corresponding keys on the labeled keyboard. For instance, to turn over card 1 they had to press the “1” key, which was clearly labeled “card 1.” The problems were separated by the instruction to press the <spacebar> whenever ready for the next problem. At the beginning one practice problem was presented to familiarize participants with the task but no feedback was given. At the end of the experiment all participants were informed about the true nature, the intention and the manipulations of the experiment. In all experiments data was analyzed with SPSS19 (IBM © ) using analyses of variance (ANOVAs) and t -tests (details are given in each of the Results sections).

The emotion manipulation was successful, as can be seen in Figure ​ Figure2. 2 . The success group revealed a significant increase of positive affect from t1 to t2 [ t (9) = −4.906, p = 0.001], while the negative affect decreased. The failure group scores showed a significant decrease in positive affect [ t (9) = 5.471, p < 0.001] and a significant increase in negative affect [ t (9) = −4.226, p > 0.01]. For the neutral group no differences were found, neither for the positive nor the negative affect. A One-Way ANOVA including the factor “positive difference scores” and a between-subject factor (neutral, success, or failure group) revealed significant group differences [ F (2, 27) = 23.964, Mean Squared Error ( MSE ) = 6.511, p < 0.001]. A second One-Way ANOVA with the factor “negative difference scores” also showed group differences [ F (2, 27) = 7.975, MSE = 6.407, p < 0.01]. Planned t -tests for independent samples revealed significant differences in positive difference scores for the success and neutral group [ t (18) = 4.618, p < 0.001] and for the success and failure group [ t (18) = 7.069, p < 0.001]. Significant differences in the negative scores were observed for the comparison between success group and failure group [ t (18) = −3.192, p < 0.01], as well as for the comparison between failure group and neutral group [ t (18) = 4.024, p = 0.001].

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Difference scores (t 2 - t 1 ) for the emotion induction of Experiment 1 for each group . ** p ≤ 0.01, *** p ≤ 0.001.

On average, participants only solved 5% of the problems correctly (turning card 1 and card 4; every other decision was incorrect which occurred in 95% of the cases). We are aware that this performance is very low. Therefore, we initially thought that it might be useful to statistically test whether this performance significantly differs from chance level. We then decided, however, not to follow this idea, because our results agree with the entire literature on the Wason selection task (Wason and Johnson-Laird, 1972 ; overview in Manktelow, 2004 ). Moreover, the usual way of dealing with these low performance rates is to use the “falsification index” and the “confirmation index,” which have been introduced by Oaksford et al. ( 1996 ). These indices give a better performance measurement than just comparing correct answers in the Wason selection tasks. The indices can range from +2 to −2 and provide a measure of whether an individual tried to verify or to falsify a given rule by turning over certain cards or card combinations (Oaksford et al., 1996 ; Chang and Wilson, 2004 ). The falsification index (FI) is computed with the formula FI = (p + not q) − (not p + q) and stands for the participants' tendency to choose the p and not q cards in order to falsify the rule. Note, that a score of +2 is equivalent to full logicality. The confirmation index (CI) is the “complement” of the falsification index; it stands for the degree to which participants choose the p and q cards in order to confirm the rule. It is calculated with the formula CI = (p + q) − (not p + not q) (Oaksford et al., 1996 ). Note that a score of +2 is equivalent to a confirming strategy without falsifying the given rule. The mean falsification index is shown in Figure ​ Figure3 3 .

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Falsification index (ranging from −2 to 2) for the WSTs for each group . It represents the choices of p and not-q in order to falsify the rule (modus tollens). ** p ≤ 0.01.

Falsification indices were then used in an ANOVA including the within-subject factor content (positive, negative, neutral) and the between-subject factor group (success, failure, neutral). This analysis showed that emotion of participants resulted in a significant difference, F (2, 27) = 6.033, MSE = 0.574, p < 0.01, but not the content of the reasoning problem. Post-hoc t -tests showed that the falsification index of the failure group differed significantly from those of the neutral group [ t (3.737) = −3.435, p < 0.01] and the success group [ t (10.353) = 3.14, p = 0.01]. Overall, the neutral group [ Mean Falisification Index (MFI) = 0.636, Standard Error (SE) = 0.19] performed better than the success group ( MFI = 0.426, SE = 0.14) and the success group in turn was better than the failure group ( MFI = − 0.029, SE = 0.038). A more detailed descriptive analysis showed that this effect is due to a specific type of error. In fact, participants in the failure group have chosen the p and q card most frequently (Figure ​ (Figure4 4 ).

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Choices of the p and q cards of the WSTs in relative frequencies (%) for each group . With p and q (modus ponens) participants tried to confirm the rule.

The results indicate that the emotions of an individual have an effect on reasoning performance independent from task content. In particular, a negative emotion resulted in a lower falsification index meaning that participants in a negative emotional state were more likely to deviate from logical norms. The participants in a positive state were also not as good as the neutral group, but this difference was less pronounced. Overall, participants in a neutral emotional state performed best. However, no interaction has been found between participants' emotion and the emotional task content, neither for the falsification index, nor for the confirmation index. Thus, it was not easier for individuals in positive (negative) emotion to solve Wason selection tasks with positive (negative) content. The reason for this might be that the Wason selection task overall is too difficult to solve and that there is no generally accepted theory about what makes the tasks so complex. A recent overview of such approaches can be found in Klauer et al. ( 2007 ). For our studies the reasons for the difficulty of the Wason selection task are not particularly essential. However, a detrimental result might be that participants' low performance could result in a “floor effect” and thus existing effects of the emotional content might not be visible in the data. In order to control for this possible deficit, a paradigm for the subsequent experiment has been chosen which is known to result in better performance.

Experiment 2: emotions and conditional reasoning tasks

The intention of this experiment was to use a reasoning task which participants find easier to solve than a Wason selection task. We therefore used a conditional reasoning paradigm. If such a task is easier, any difference between groups' performance should be much clearer and such differences can be more readily attributed to the experimental manipulation. Again, the conditional reasoning tasks had a positive, negative or neutral content and like in the previous experiment, participants' emotions were either induced (positive or negative) or neutral.

Thirty students from the University of Giessen participated in this study (mean age: 22.6 years; range: 20–27 years; 22 female, 8 male). They did not participate in any of the other investigations. They received an eight Euro compensation for participation. All participants were naïve with respect to the aim of the study, none were psychology students. All were native German speakers and provided informed written consent.

The same success-failure-method which was used in the previous experiment was used for the emotion induction. Reasoning problems consisted of pairs of premises that were followed by a to-be-validated conclusion. Four premise-pairs had a positive, four a neutral and four a negative content. These 12 problems were combined with the four possible inferences: modus ponens (MP), modus tollens (MT), denial of antecedent (DA) and affirmation of consequence (AC), resulting in 48 conditional inferences per participant. All problems were randomized for each participant. Half of the presented conclusions were valid; the other half were invalid. Here are two examples of inferences with a valid conclusion:

  • Modus ponens/positive emotional content
  • Premise 1: When a person succeeds, then the person is glad.
  • Premise 2: A person succeeds.
  • Conclusion: This person is glad.
  • Modus tollens/negative emotional content
  • Premise 1: When a person performs poorly, then this person is angry.
  • Premise 2: A person is not angry.
  • Conclusion: This person did not perform poorly.

The participants were tested individually in a quiet laboratory room at the Department of Psychology of the University of Giessen. Prior to the experiment, the participants were again instructed about the procedure of the experiment. Subsequently, the emotion induction started and resulted in a “success group,” a “failure group,” and a “neutral group.” Then the inferences were presented on a computer screen. A self-paced design was used. After reading the first premise on the screen, participants had to press the space bar to reach the next premise, then again the space bar to reach the conclusion. While both premises were presented in black letters the conclusion was presented in red. The task required an evaluation whether the conclusion followed necessarily from the premises (no evaluations as biconditionals). Participants responded by pressing either a “Yes” key or a “No” key on the keyboard. There were two practice trials at the beginning of the experiment but no feedback was given. At the end of the experiment there was a debriefing and a detailed explanation of the true purpose of the experiment.

The emotion induction was again successful. In the success group the positive affect was elevated and the negative affect reduced (similar to the previous experiments' mood induction). In the failure group the positive affect decreased and the negative affect increased (although the latter was not significant, due to a large standard error). No alteration for positive and negative affect was found in the neutral group. The ANOVA revealed significant group differences [ F (2, 27) = 15.964, MSE = 13.607, p < 0.001] and the t -tests for independent samples showed that the success and neutral group were dissimilar in the difference scores of positive affect [ t (18) = 2.146, p < 0.05], as well as the success and failure group [ t (18) = 5.666, p < 0.001] and the failure and neutral group [ t (18) = −3.854, p < 0.01].

Performance for the sentential conditional inference problems was better than for the Wason selection tasks as 61.46% of the problems were correctly solved. Error rates were compared using an ANOVA for the emotionality of the participants (success, failure, and neutral group) and the emotional content (positive, negative, neutral). Significant differences were found for both factors.

With respect to the emotional state the performance of the participants in the three groups was reliably different [ F (2, 27) = 3.68, MSE = 2.492, p < 0.05] and paired sample t -tests show that error rates for the failure group were significantly higher compared to the neutral group [ t (18) = 2.622, p < 0.05]. The neutral group showed best performance [ Mean (M) = 0.310, SE = 0.046] followed by the success group ( M = 0.402, SE = 0.035) and the failure group which committed most errors ( M = 0.446, SE = 0.024). These results are represented in Figure ​ Figure5 5 .

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Error rates in relative frequencies (%) for the conditional reasoning task for each group . * p ≤ 0.05.

The difference between positive and negative content of the reasoning problems was also significant. The ANOVA showed a significant main effect [ F (2, 54) = 3.159, MSE = 0.555, p = 0.05] and the post-hoc paired sample t -tests revealed a significant difference in error rates between positive and negative content [ t (29) = 2.491, p < 0.05]. The fewest errors were made with negative content ( M = 0.356, SE = 0.029), followed by neutral content ( M = 0.385, SE = 0.022), and positive content ( M = 0.417, SE = 0.028). This is visualized in Figure ​ Figure6. 6 . However, no interaction was found between emotional state and task content.

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Error rates in relative frequencies (%) for the conditional reasoning task for each type of content . * p ≤ 0.05.

The reported findings show that several factors can influence reasoning performance. Performance can be affected either by the emotion of the individual or the content of the problem or the type of inference.

The effect of emotion might be due to the fact that emotion results in representations in working memory that occupy the same subsystems that are also needed for reasoning (Oaksford et al., 1996 ). The content effect is also interesting since it challenges previous findings. While we found fewer errors in inferences with negative content, Blanchette and Richards ( 2004 ) found that emotions impair reasoning performance no matter whether they are positive or negative.

Experiment 3: spider-phobic participants and conditional reasoning

In contrast to the previous experiments the sample for this experiment was selected from a population with spider phobia. Therefore, it was not necessary to induce emotions as participants were selected for their anxiety with high ecological validity. This was done to expand the findings of the previous experiments in order to see if a difference in performance can be found for participants that already have pre-existing moods in certain situations without any mood induction. Additionally, we were interested in whether content relevant to the illness of such participants has any effect on their reasoning abilities.

Nine spider phobic students (mean age: 22.33 years; range: 20–26 years; 7 female, 2 male) and seven non-phobic control students (mean age: 22.86 years; range: 20–26 years; 7 female) from the University of Giessen participated in the experiment. Participants were selected from a larger sample by means of scores on the Spider Phobia Questionnaire (SPQ; Klorman et al., 1974 ). SPQ scores of spider fearful students ( M = 20.22; SE = 0.878) were significantly higher than those of the non-fearful control students ( M = 2.00; SE = 0.873) [ t (14) = −14.459; p < 0.001]. Each participant received five Euro or a course credit for participation. Moreover, we controlled for participants being no psychology students (thus, no pre-experience with logical reasoning tasks) and all were native German speakers. All participants provided informed written consent.

Design and procedure were similar to that of Experiment 2. Forty-eight reasoning problems consisted of pairs of premises that were followed by a to-be-validated conclusion. However, the content differed because four statements had a spider phobia relevant content, four were generally negative and four neutral. The presentation of the 48 three-term problems was randomized across participants. Examples of the statements are presented in Table ​ Table2 2 .

Examples of statements with different content .

All participants were tested individually in a quiet room at the Department of Psychology of the University of Giessen. At the beginning participants filled out the SPQ. Afterwards the logical reasoning tasks had to be solved. Presentation of problems and recording of responses was identical to Experiment 2.

Error rates of the conditional reasoning task were compared using an ANOVA with the between-subject factor group and the two within-subject factors content and type of reasoning.

For the content of reasoning problems a significant main effect was obtained [ F (2, 28) = 4.645; p < 0.05]. Further paired t -tests showed that error rates for spider phobia relevant problems ( M = 36.72%; SE = 4.30%) resulted in significantly more errors than neutral ones ( M = 30.47%; SE = 4.41%) [ t (15) =2.928; p = 0.01]. This was due to spider phobics performing worse on phobia relevant contents. This interaction between problem content and emotion was significantly different [ F (2, 28) = 6.807; p < 0.01]. A post-hoc paired t -test revealed that spider phobics performed significantly worse for inference problems with spider phobia relevant content ( M = 43.06%; SE = 4.47%) compared to negative ones ( M = 34.72%; SE = 5.01%) [ t (8) = 2.667; p < 0.05]. Furthermore, phobia relevant problems resulted in more errors than neutral ones ( M = 36.81%; SE = 4.71%) but marginally failed to reach significance [ t (8) = 2.268; p = 0.053]. However, non-phobics made significantly more errors for inferences with negative content ( M = 33.93%; SE = 6.38%) compared to spider phobia relevant ( M = 28.57%; SE = 7.20%) [ t (6) = −2.521; p < 0.05] and neutral problems ( M = 22.32%; SE = 7.33%) [ t (6) = −3.653; p < 0.05]. This interaction pattern between the groups and the task content of the conditional reasoning task is visualized in Figure ​ Figure7 7 .

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Error rates in relative frequencies (%) for the spider phobic and non-phobic participants . * p ≤ 0.05.

Our results show that Spider phobics' performance was worst on problems related to spider phobia. We are aware of the fact that our sample size is rather small. One reason was that it is difficult to find spider phobics, because they usually avoid situations where they are confronted with spiders. However, our control group was also small. The reason for that is that we initially also tested nine participants in the control group (same number as in the experimental group) but then we had to eliminate two participants (due to response strategy, incomplete data recording) and could not replace them by two new participants for technical reasons. However, we do not think that this is a serious problem, because even with this small sample size our differences reached the level of statistical significance. Given these thoughts we think that our results reliably show that illness related tasks impair reasoning for anxiety patients.

There are a couple of possible explanations of how (positive and negative) emotions impeded on reasoning performance. One explanation is that all kinds of emotions have negative effects on the motivation or effort of the participants (e.g., Lefford, 1946 ). Other explanations are based on dual process models (System or Type 1: automatic, fast, intuitive, based on prior knowledge; System or Type 2: effortful, slow, explicit, rule-based, e.g., Stanovich, 2010 ). A good overview on the different theories is provided in Blanchette ( 2014 ). However, we believe that the most reasonable explanation for the current findings is provided by the suppression theory (Oaksford et al., 1996 ): processing phobia relevant material comprised the confrontation with the phobic object which causes fear. This yields a strong emotional response resulting in a pre-load of working memory resources. Moreover, there is evidence that spider phobia could change reasoning patterns. De Jong et al. ( 1997a ) showed that spider phobics tend to rely on a danger-confirming reasoning strategy while solving phobia relevant Wason selection tasks. While spider phobics performed worst on phobia relevant problems in our study, non-phobics revealed worst performance on problems with negative content. These results are in line with Blanchette and Richards ( 2004 ) and Blanchette ( 2006 ). Overall affirmation of consequence and denial of antecedent with spider phobia relevant and negative content resulted in more errors which is similar to findings of Blanchette and Richards ( 2004 ).

Experiment 4: exam-anxious participants and conditional reasoning tasks

This experiment was designed to investigate if the effect found in Experiment 3 extends to other anxiety related conditions such as exam-anxiety. Therefore, participants were also selected based on their anxious state and some of the problems had an emotional content which was relevant to exam-anxiety while others were neutral or generally negative.

The sample consisted of 17 students with exam anxiety and 17 students without exam-anxiety. They have been selected from a larger sample ( N = 47) based on their scores of a measure for exam-anxiety (Hodapp, 1991 ). They were all female because exam-anxiety is more prevalent amongst women (Zeidner and Safir, 1989 ; Chapell et al., 2005 ; Wacker et al., 2008 ). The age range was 20–29 years (mean age for participants with exam-anxiety: 24.24 years, without exam-anxiety: 23.12 years). For remuneration they could choose to receive five Euro or a course credit. Psychology students and people who have already taken part in experiments about this topic were excluded. All participants were native German speakers and provided informed written consent.

Participants were assessed with the TAI-G (Hodapp, 1991 ), a measure for exam-anxiety, in order to differentiate between exam-anxious and non-anxious participants. The TAI-G consists of 30 statements which describe emotions and thoughts in exam situations. Participants are asked how well those statements describe them when they have to take exams. Statements were ranked on a scale from “never” (1), “sometimes” (2), “often” (3) to “almost always” (4).

Examples of such statements are:

“I have a strange sensation in my stomach.”

“Thoughts suddenly start racing through my head that block me.”

“I worry that something could go wrong.”

Scores of the TAI-G range from 30 to 120. In order to be classified as exam-anxious a minimum score of 84 is necessary while a score below 54 is classified as non-exam-anxious. Those limits were obtained in a study with 730 students (Wacker et al., 2008 ) in which one standard deviation ( SD = 14.8) was subtracted from the mean score ( m = 69.1) to obtain the lower limit and added to obtain the upper limit.

Once participants finished the TAI-G, they were given the conditional inference problems. The 48 conditional inference problems consisted of “if, then”-statements of which one third were exam-anxiety-related, one third generally negative and one third emotionally neutral. Examples are given in Table ​ Table3. 3 . Presentation of the problems and recording of answers was identical to Experiments 2 and 3.

The selection of exam-phobic and non-exam phobic groups of participants was successful. The group of the exam-anxious participants had a TAI-G score that ranged from 84 to 107 and a mean of 97 ( SE = 1.586). The group of non-exam-anxious participants had a score between 39 to 54 and a mean of 48 ( SE = 1.047). A t -test for independent samples showed a significant difference between groups [ t (32) = 25.788, p < 0.001].

Moreover, as expected, the ANOVA revealed a significant main effect with respect to content [ F (2, 64) = 8.058; p = 0.001]. Post-hoc t -tests showed that conditional inference problems with fear-related content ( M = 44.67%; SE = 2.52%) resulted in more errors than other negative ( M = 36.58%; SE = 2.53%) [ t (33) = 3.703; p = 0.001] and neutral problems ( M = 37.87%; SE = 2.80%) [ t (33) = 2.626; p < 0.05]. A repeated measures ANOVA was carried out based on error rates for type of inference (MP, MT, AC, and DA), content (fear-related, negative, and neutral) and exam-anxiety. However, no significant interaction was found for content and group. This means that both exam-anxious and non-exam-anxious participants performed similar across fear-relevant, negative, and neutral problems.

Our results show that exam-anxious and non-exam-anxious participants performed similar across fear-relevant, negative and neutral problems. Inferences about exam-anxiety resulted in reduced performance in both groups. This may be because all participants were currently enrolled at university and so can relate to exam-anxiety. Moreover, physiological changes have been observed in people who are high-exam-anxious as well as low-exam-anxious (Holroyd et al., 1978 ). Therefore, associations to exam-situations can get triggered which reduce working memory resources and subsequently performance on reasoning problems (Oaksford et al., 1996 ; Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ). In contrast to previous findings (Lefford, 1946 ; De Jong et al., 1998 ; Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ; Blanchette, 2006 ) negative problems did not result in a reduction of performance. Even though these problems were emotional and negative (e.g., “if a person has a miscarriage, then this person will get depressed”) participants may not have been able to relate to the content as it was not as personally relevant to students as the exam-related content.

General discussion

We conducted two experiments with participants who underwent a mood induction and two with participants that were either anxious about spiders or exams. Experiment 1 showed that the emotions of an individual have an effect on reasoning performance independent from task content. In Experiment 2, we found that reasoning performance can be affected either by the emotion of the individual or the content of the problem or the type of inference. In Experiment 3, spider-phobic participants showed lower reasoning performance in spider-related inferences, but in Experiment 4, exam-anxious participants did not perform worse on inferences with an exam-related content.

The results agree with some of our hypotheses but not with all of our initial assumptions. Our first hypothesis was that positive and negative emotion will result in a reduction of logical reasoning performance. This was confirmed as in the first and second experiment participants in a neutral emotional state outperformed those in negative or positive emotion independent of the task (WST and conditionals). These findings are consistent with previous research (Channon and Baker, 1994 ; Melton, 1995 ; Oaksford et al., 1996 ). When a negative or positive emotional state has been induced in participants this results in a deterioration of performance on a Wason selection task compared to participants in a neutral emotional state (Oaksford et al., 1996 ). In another study participants were recruited because they reported being depressed (Channon and Baker, 1994 ). They were presented with categorical syllogisms and their performance was worse than that of non-depressed participants. An explanation that has been offered is that as emotionally congruent information gets retrieved and processed this takes away resources from working memory (e.g., Baddeley, 2003 ) that should have been used to process the reasoning task. In addition, positive emotional states also result in poorer performance (Melton, 1995 ), as it is assumed that people in a positive mood pursuit more global reasoning strategies, paying less attention, and are therefore more prone to errors than people in a negative, analytic mood.

Our results concerning the second hypothesis (predicting a detrimental effect on performance of positive and negative problem content) are mixed. It was confirmed by the third experiment in which non-phobic participants performed best when the content was neutral. On the other hand, the content had no effect on performance in the first experiment, and in the second experiment, best performance was measured with negative content, whereas most errors were committed with positive content. In the fourth experiment there was no difference between negative and neutral content and performance was worst with exam-anxiety related content. These findings partially agree with previous research showing that performance is affected when the content is related to general threats because then participants tend to select threat-confirming and safety-falsification strategies in a Wason selection task (De Jong et al., 1998 ). Other studies have shown that negative as well as positive content has a detrimental effect on conditional reasoning performance as opposed to neutral content which may be due to reduced working memory resources (Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ; Blanchette, 2006 ). Furthermore, if the content is controversial, it can stir up emotions that result in a stereotypical reaction that negatively affects performance of a conditional reasoning task (Lefford, 1946 ). In this study participants made more errors when the content was controversial (e.g., stereotypical responses such as “homeless person are lazy”) as opposed to neutral.

The third hypothesis stating there may be an effect on performance when positive and negative mood is combined with positive and negative problem content was only supported by Experiment 3, which found the expected interaction. Nonetheless, the absence of the suggested interaction in three of four experiments is in line with some previous findings (e.g., De Jong et al., 1998 , health-anxiety; Vroling and de Jong, 2010 , anxiety symptoms in a non-clinical population).

Only in the third experiment participants who are afraid of spiders performed worse on problems with a spider phobia relevant content compared to a negative content which strengthens other findings (De Jong et al., 1997a , b ; Smeets et al., 2000 ; Vroling and de Jong, 2009 ). A similar trend was observed for the performance on spider phobia relevant problems compared to neutral ones. Yet this difference was insignificant, maybe a bigger sample would have yielded clearer results. A previous study showed that, when reasoning about health-threats in a Wason selection task, health-anxiety patients have a threat-confirming strategy (Smeets et al., 2000 ). Controls that do not have health-anxiety do not show such a bias when reasoning about health-threats. These findings are similar to another study that also used a Wason selection task where spider-phobic participants confirmed danger rules and falsified safety rules more often for phobia-relevant information than controls (De Jong et al., 1997a ). Furthermore, socially anxious participants performed worse in relational inference tasks when the content was relevant to social anxiety as opposed to neutral content (Vroling and de Jong, 2009 ). However, spider phobic patients compared to non-phobic controls performed worse when the content of the reasoning problem was specifically related to their phobia as well as when it contained general threat material (De Jong et al., 1997b ).

Why did we find no evidence showing that performance is improved when emotion and content are congruent? In Blanchette et al. ( 2007 ) fearful participants provided more correct responses on a reasoning task with fear-related content than participants that did not report a high level of fear. In another study participants who had been primed to be angry or who remembered an incident when they had been cheated on performed better when the reasoning task involved detecting cheaters (Chang and Wilson, 2004 ).

We think that the ambiguity in previous findings (Channon and Baker, 1994 ; Melton, 1995 ; Oaksford et al., 1996 ; Chang and Wilson, 2004 ; Blanchette et al., 2007 ) and our own experiments may be due to the differences between samples. The first two experiments induced emotions in participants who were primarily sad and frustrated whereas the last two experiments' participants were anxious. Hence one is not comparing like with like. The latter two experiments can be further differentiated as the third experiment selected people for the control group who are not afraid of spiders. However, most students experience some form of exam-anxiety and the sample of the fourth experiment was entirely made up of students. This may explain why participants who reported exam anxiety as well as those who reported none both performed poorly when the content was exam anxiety related.

According to the suppression theory (Oaksford et al., 1996 ), emotion has a detrimental effect on performance because resources are otherwise allocated and not available to solve the task at hand. This means that emotional participants should perform worse than those in a neutral state. This has been confirmed in Experiments 1 and 2. Content may give rise to emotion and so similar results due to reduced working memory resources should also be found in experiments with emotional content. In Experiment 3 best performance was with neutral content, possibly because spider-related content triggered a response that used resources of working memory that would otherwise have been used to solve the task (e.g., avoidance strategy). Anxious content in Experiment 4 resulted in worst performance possibly for the same reason.

Thus far we focused on working memory resources, but it is also possible that attentional processes are of major relevance in this context. For example, correct decisions and decision times may be compromised during emotional (especially negative) processing, since emotional processing (in addition to reasoning) requires attentional resources (see for instance the work of Harmon-Jones et al.). However, we cannot fully dissolve this problem of working memory vs. attention at this stage with these experiments.

The findings of Experiment 3 are in contrast to those of Experiments 1 and 2, where no content and interaction effect were found. People with a phobia may perform worse on problems that have a content which is related to their phobia because they try to avoid stimuli that are anxiety-provoking (American Psychiatric Association, 2000 ). This avoidance is not necessarily found in depressed participants as they tend to ruminate on depressive material (American Psychiatric Association, 2000 ). While participants in Experiments 1 and 2 were not clinically depressed, the emotion that was induced had a depressive quality and therefore may explain why no interaction was found in these experiments. In addition maybe only anxiogenic stimuli have a depleting effect on working memory and previous research was largely based on anxiety (De Jong et al., 1998 ; Blanchette and Richards, 2004 ; Blanchette, 2006 ). In contrast, Lefford's ( 1946 ) material was not anxiogenic but he found an effect. He argued that this was due to a stereotypical response. However, if people do not relate to the content, then this will not result in a stereotypical response.

The reason for why no effect was found in Experiments 1 and 2 might be that the material was not as personally relevant and therefore did not trigger sufficient emotions for an effect to show. This does not explain why in Experiments 2 and 4 best performance was with negative content. One could argue that since this content is negative, participants are more deliberate in order to avoid negative consequences (if personally relevant for them). Furthermore, a more analytic processing style has been proposed for depression (Edwards and Weary, 1993 ) so that this content may have triggered such a processing style compared to a more global processing strategy with a positive emotion. Considering this one would have expected superior performance for negative emotion in Experiments 1 and 2 which was not the case.

Therefore, more clarity might be achieved if experiments compare personally relevant emotional content and emotional content that is not personally relevant. Content should also be differentiated according to it being anxious or depressive. Furthermore, anxious participants should be compared to depressed participants. A distinction has to be made between avoidance caused by anxiety and rumination caused by depression. If a detrimental effect on performance is found in both groups it has to be investigated whether this has the same cause, namely depleted working memory resources (or attentional resources).

From a psychotherapeutic point of view our studies are interesting as they show that spider phobic patients do not only show inadequate emotional responses to spiders. They, in fact, also show a decrement in performing cognitive tasks, such as logical reasoning if they have to do with spiders. The study shows an apparent connection between reported fear on the SPQ (Klorman et al., 1974 ) and behavior during experiments (error rates). Experiments 1 and 2 show that it is neither misery nor happiness but “common unhappiness” (Freud, 1895 , p. 322) that is desirable, because participants in a negative or positive mood did not perform well. This has been the case for decades in some therapeutic approaches which have recognized that being freed from misery better equips one to deal with life's adversities (Freud, 1895 ). People appear to find it easiest to process neutral (non-emotional) information (Experiments 1 and 2) but ideally sessions work with hot cognitions and elicit key emotions and cognitions (Safran and Greenberg, 1982 ; Beck, 1995 ). If neutral information becomes the focus of sessions, then sessions would elicit less key emotions and cognitions and turn into a nice chat which will be remembered pleasantly by the patient. Thereby the patient does not get overwhelmed with emotional material which will have a detrimental effect on reasoning. Instead the emotional material can be introduced bit by bit (e.g., as is the case in systematic desensitization in cognitive behavioral therapy).

It is worthwhile for patients to remember what has been discussed in sessions because new behaviors and alternative viewpoints which have been collaboratively developed in sessions may be easily forgotten, especially when the patient is suffering from a depression which often results in decreased concentration. Some therapists recommend that their patients take notes during sessions (Beck, 1995 ) but if only things that are easily remembered are discussed, this problem is circumvented. Therefore, if the patient wishes to get stabilized, non-emotional material may be best. If they want to work through distressing material however, it will not be possible to avoid emotional content. Hence emotions and cognitions are related and influence each other and one has to combine them according to what the goal is.

Thus far the key finding is that emotional state and content may interact to modulate logical reasoning. This is however only the case if (mood) state and (task) content are related (Experiment 3; spider-related content among spider phobics). But, this does so far not generalize to other contexts, since it could for example not be found in a sample with exam anxiety (Experiment 4; exam anxiety in combination with exam content). These ambiguities, the role of working memory and attentional processes need to be addressed in future studies in order to explain the influence of emotional content and emotion on human reasoning performance.

Author contributions

Nadine Jung did the statistical analysis and wrote the paper. Christina Wranke designed and conducted the experiments, and did the statistical analysis. Kai Hamburger designed the experiments and wrote the paper. Markus Knauff designed the experiments and wrote the paper.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by DFG-Graduate Program ”Neuronal Representation and Action Control—NeuroAct” (DFG 885/2) to Christina Wranke and by DFG Grant KN465/9-1 to Markus Knauff. We thank Luzie Jung and Nadja Hehr for carrying out some of the experiments. We further thank Sarah Jane Abbott and Carolina Anna Bosch for proofreading the manuscript. Finally, we thank the reviewers for their valuable comments.

1 For reasons of simplicity the term “emotion” is also used to represent “mood” (emotional state). The distinction between emotion and mood will only be pointed out were necessary.

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How Emotions Can Support Critical Thinking

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reason emotion and communication in critical thinking

Ask “what role should emotions play in critical thinking?” and you get an unsurprising response from almost everywhere: They shouldn’t. This response comes from a wide variety of sources ranging from Internet crowdsourcing favorite Yahoo Answers – “emotion severely HAMPERS the critical thinking process as it clouds our judgment to fact and reason” to the Academic Journal Teaching of Psychology – “critical thinking avoids emotions and emotional reasoning.” Recently, I have questioned this view that feelings have no place in critical thinking.

In the fall, a beginning teacher asked me why emotions didn’t belong in the critical thinking process and I couldn’t come up with an answer I actually stood behind. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t see emotions and critical thinking as two planets orbiting different suns. In fact, often critically thinking about an issue leads us to have big feelings about the issue. The reverse is true as well. Big feelings often lead us to think critically about an issue. So, feelings and thinking are very connected. This connection was on display in my classroom throughout a debate and writing assignment on Felon Disenfranchisement. Emotions played a central role in framing the debate and contributing to the students engagement with the issue.

Earlier this year, during a unit on voting, my class looked at this blog post from KQED’s The Lowdown titled States Where Felons Can’t Vote . The students quickly noticed that the rules about felon voting vary significantly from state to state. For example, Maine lets felons vote even while they are in prison while Florida denies the vote to prisoners, parolees, probationers, and ex-felons. My students asked great questions, “Can ex-felons from Arizona just move to Illinois so their right to vote will be restored?” And they gave great responses, “Well, only if you, as an ex-felon, have the money to move across the country and are willing to leave your family and community. Seems like doing too much for a chance to vote.” This discussion led into table debates on the topic “Should there be a national law banning felon disenfranchisement?”

I love this debate lesson and do it almost every year. This year I updated this lesson with my new focus on asset-based thinking strategies that I outlined in a previous post , structuring the lesson with these strategies in mind: A) supporting claims with evidence, B) considering different viewpoints and perspectives, and C) wondering and asking thoughtful questions. Interestingly, as the debate unfolded, I noticed that a completely different thinking strategy came to dominate my students approach – identifying patterns and themes. While they certainly used strategies like asking thoughtful questions and considering different viewpoints, they were most engaged in the process of unearthing key themes such as how it felt to be prohibited from voting, or how it felt to have someone who has broken the social contract vote within your community. And this strategy, this way of thinking, emerged from my students’ emotional engagement with the topic.

It took me a while to catch what they had done. The students framed a very academic debate about voting rights through the lens of teenage emotions and feelings. Specifically, the feeling of being “left out” or excluded and the feeling of being “betrayed.”

The students arguing for a felon’s right to vote articulated that denying them a vote makes the felons feel excluded from the community when they return. They are “half citizens, kept on the sidelines of the community.” They don’t really belong. The students who argued against a felon’s right to vote used “betrayal” as their central theme. The felon “violated the trust of his/her fellow citizens” when he/she broke the law. “You can’t just expect your community to trust you again and let you take part fully in the community relationship.”

And it worked. The evidence for each side wasn’t framed as a set of rational facts to help you win the debate – the more facts you stack up the better. The table discussions emerged from and were framed by emotional arguments – it’s upsetting to feel excluded or it hurts to be betrayed. One set of students focused on felons being “locked out of their own society” and how humans respond when they are “basically invisible” to their community. Another set of students focused on how when people betray and “disrespect their community and people, [they] have to pay. [They} have to pay with something big, like voting.” The students didn’t stop there. They supported these frames, based in emotional reasoning, with evidence and facts based in academic evidence. They made connections to other groups of people such as legal residents who are also treated as “half citizens” as well as made connections to American history, “whatever happened to no taxation without representation” and John Locke’s ideas of a social contract.

Age and maturity come with many benefits including perspective and the ability to manage setbacks and recognize when they are not the end of the world. However, creating this emotional distance can be a loss, too. The energy and passion and BIG FEELINGS of young people are effective and beautiful for framing issues of justice. Emotions and emotional framing can assemble and organize all the evidence in a way that makes someone care. It did for me that day. I stopped counting the facts the students used as they made their points and I pictured the humans who were living these facts.

Months later, on the final exam, I asked the students an essay question about voting in today’s society. Although the question did NOT specifically mention felon disenfranchisement, many of the students referenced this debate, they referenced the emotional frames, and they used these to answer the question thoughtfully.

Now when I teach critical thinking I try to figure out how to communicate that emotions can and do play a role in thinking while balancing that idea with the view that emotions cannot be the sole basis for critical thinking. More recently, my students and I practiced this more nuanced approach as we examined the rights students have on school campuses and talked about managing personal finances. It was refreshing to admit that feelings play a role in deciding how people will spend and budget money. It feels more honest – and more instructive – to not only acknowledge that their feelings are part of their equation as they think about these issues, but to encourage them to reflect critically on how they can engage their own emotional responses and feelings in combination with academic, evidence-based analysis. Doing so can amplify their power as critical thinkers.

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Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Emotional Intelligence

The link between emotional intelligence and critical thinking, critical thinking requires self-regulation..

Posted December 1, 2022 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

  • Leave emotion at the door when engaging in critical thinking.
  • Emotional intelligence isn’t an emotion, it’s a way in which we process emotions.

In a recent entry on this blog, I discussed my interest in emotional intelligence (EI) and referred to it as an important psychological function. Some readers commented on links they saw between my discussion of EI and my generally sour view on emotion in scenarios that require critical thinking (CT). I'd like to clarify what EI is.

The generally sour view I have of emotion in the context of critical thinking is that it acts as a barrier to critical thought . I often advise that people should leave emotion at the door as much as they can when engaging in critical thinking. Of course, it is not possible to entirely eliminate emotion or its associated biases from thinking. However, by being aware of the impact of emotion and bias , we can work to account for such influences in the manner in which we draw conclusions and make decisions. Think of it as being particularly cautious. I know some great thinkers who have drawn rather poor conclusions regarding topic areas they feel passionate about and it’s likely a result of that passion (see a previous post about the concept of passion ).

How does emotional intelligence relate to this? To start, EI isn’t an emotion, rather, it’s a way in which we process emotions; for example, through appraising and regulating them. Think of a time when you have been insulted by something someone has said. Depending on the situation, it may be in your best interest to keep your true feelings about the insult to yourself. Your ability to appraise the situation and self-regulate consistent with the desired expression (or suppression of emotion in this case) is an example of emotional intelligence in action. This process is quite similar to other processes inherently involved in CT.

Through my work in developing a critical thinking framework (see, for example, Dwyer, 2017; Dwyer, Hogan & Stewart, 2014; 2015), a self-regulatory functions component was included, consisting of an array of (meta)cognitive mechanisms, like executive functioning , disposition, and motivation . The self-regulation comparison between EI and critical thinking is largely self-evident. That is, we need to self-regulate to think critically and EI is, simply, a form of self-regulation. Indeed, its self-regulatory function might even be more important than I initially gave it credit for when I started working on the framework. Only in recent years, as my focus turned towards factors that impede CT, have I realised how important EI might indeed be to CT.

I’ve been called out before for advising people to "leave emotion at the door" as if we can somehow flip the off switch on emotion. As I addressed above, we can’t eliminate all emotion. But, we can diminish its power if we make efforts to account for the influence of emotion on our thinking. Arguably, this could be half the battle. For example, before putting my foot down on an argument I feel passionate about (cue sensationalist headline, clickbait on social media ), simply pausing beforehand to ask myself whether or not my conclusion is a result of credible evidence alone or is potentially biased because of my feelings, is a great way of playing the necessary devil’s advocate to ensure the right conclusion is drawn and not just the conclusion I want to be right. In this way, EI works in a manner akin to reflective judgment , which is also a fundamental part of critical thinking.

In other words, engage your EI. If the impact of emotion on thinking is one of the biggest barriers to CT, as I believe it is, then the ability to self-regulate your thinking in a manner that accounts for such potential impact is of utmost importance. And so, we as individuals who place great value on critical thinking must in turn place great value on emotional intelligence.

Dwyer, C.P. (2017). Critical thinking: Conceptual perspectives and practical guidelines. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Dwyer, C. P., Hogan, M. J., & Stewart, I. (2014). An integrated critical thinking framework for the 21st century. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 12, 43–52.

Dwyer, C.P., Hogan, M.J., & Stewart, I. (2015). The evaluation of argument mapping-infused critical thinking instruction as a method of enhancing reflective judgment performance. Thinking Skills & Creativity, 16, 11-26.

Christopher Dwyer Ph.D.

Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., is a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland.

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Unlocking The Power: How Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking

reason emotion and communication in critical thinking

Hook: Emotions are an integral part of our daily lives. They shape our experiences, influence our decisions, and impact our interactions with others. But have you ever considered the role of emotions in enhancing critical thinking abilities?

Thesis statement: Emotions play a crucial role in enhancing critical thinking abilities. By understanding the link between emotions and critical thinking, harnessing the power of emotions, and overcoming challenges and pitfalls, we can unlock our full potential for effective decision-making.

In this article, we will explore the connection between emotions and critical thinking, delve into the impact of emotions on cognitive processes, and discuss strategies for harnessing the power of emotions to enhance critical thinking skills.

But first, let’s define what we mean by emotions and critical thinking.

Table of Contents

Understanding Emotions and Critical Thinking

To comprehend the relationship between emotions and critical thinking, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of these two concepts.

Definition of emotions: Emotions are complex psychological states that arise in response to our thoughts, experiences, and external stimuli. They encompass a wide range of feelings, including joy, fear, anger, sadness, and surprise. Emotions can significantly influence our perceptions, judgments, and decision-making processes.

Definition of critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information objectively and logically. It involves questioning assumptions, considering multiple perspectives, and making informed decisions based on evidence and reasoning. Critical thinking is crucial for problem-solving, decision-making, and effective communication.

Importance of critical thinking in decision-making: Critical thinking is essential for making sound decisions. It helps us evaluate information, weigh different options, and consider the potential consequences of our choices. By applying critical thinking skills, we can make more informed decisions that align with our goals and values.

Now that we have a clear understanding of emotions and critical thinking, let’s explore the link between the two.

The Link between Emotions and Critical Thinking

Emotions have a profound impact on our cognitive processes, including our ability to think critically. Let’s delve into two aspects of this link: how emotions influence cognitive processes and the connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.

A. How emotions impact cognitive processes:

The influence of positive emotions on creativity and problem-solving: Positive emotions, such as joy and excitement, can enhance our creativity and problem-solving abilities. They broaden our thinking, increase our flexibility in considering different solutions, and improve our ability to generate innovative ideas.

The role of negative emotions in decision-making and risk assessment: Negative emotions, such as fear and anger, can also play a valuable role in critical thinking. They alert us to potential threats, help us assess risks more accurately, and motivate us to take appropriate action. Negative emotions can prompt us to evaluate situations more carefully and make more cautious decisions.

B. The connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills:

Emotional self-awareness and self-reflection: Emotional intelligence, which encompasses the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions, is closely linked to critical thinking skills. By being aware of our emotions and reflecting on how they influence our thoughts and actions, we can make more informed and rational decisions.

Empathy and perspective-taking: Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is an essential component of emotional intelligence. By practicing empathy and perspective-taking, we can consider different viewpoints, challenge our own biases, and make more objective judgments.

Now that we understand the link between emotions and critical thinking, let’s explore how we can harness the power of emotions to enhance our critical thinking skills.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we will discuss strategies for cultivating emotional intelligence and managing emotions effectively for better critical thinking.

Emotions and critical thinking are two essential aspects of human cognition that significantly impact our decision-making process. In this section, we will delve into the definitions of emotions and critical thinking, as well as explore the importance of critical thinking in decision-making.

Definition of Emotions

Emotions are complex psychological and physiological responses to stimuli that can be triggered by external events or internal thoughts. They are subjective experiences that encompass a wide range of feelings such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise. Emotions are an integral part of the human experience and greatly influence our perceptions, behaviors, and actions.

Definition of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information, ideas, and arguments in a logical and systematic manner. It involves actively questioning, reasoning, and reflecting on the validity and reliability of information before making informed decisions or forming opinions. Critical thinking requires individuals to consider multiple perspectives, assess evidence, and identify biases or fallacies in order to arrive at well-informed conclusions.

Importance of Critical Thinking in Decision-Making

Critical thinking plays a crucial role in decision-making as it enables individuals to make rational and well-reasoned choices. In today’s complex and fast-paced world, where we are bombarded with vast amounts of information and faced with numerous options, critical thinking helps us navigate through the noise and make sound judgments.

By employing critical thinking skills, individuals can:

Evaluate the credibility and accuracy of information: Critical thinking allows us to question the sources of information, assess their reliability, and differentiate between facts and opinions. This helps us make informed decisions based on trustworthy and relevant information.

Identify biases and assumptions: Critical thinking helps us recognize our own biases and assumptions, as well as those of others. By acknowledging and challenging these biases, we can avoid making decisions based on faulty reasoning or preconceived notions.

Analyze and weigh different perspectives: Critical thinking encourages us to consider multiple viewpoints and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. This helps us gain a more comprehensive understanding of complex issues and make well-rounded decisions.

Anticipate and manage potential risks: Critical thinking enables us to identify potential risks and evaluate the consequences of our actions. By considering the long-term implications and weighing the pros and cons, we can make more calculated decisions and minimize the likelihood of negative outcomes.

In conclusion, understanding emotions and critical thinking is essential for enhancing our decision-making abilities. Emotions provide us with valuable insights and perspectives, while critical thinking empowers us to analyze information objectively and arrive at well-informed conclusions. By cultivating both emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, we can make better decisions that positively impact our personal and professional lives.

In our daily lives, emotions have a profound impact on the way we think and make decisions. They can either enhance or hinder our critical thinking abilities. Understanding the link between emotions and critical thinking is crucial for personal and professional growth. In this section, we will explore how emotions influence cognitive processes and the connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills.

How emotions impact cognitive processes

  • The influence of positive emotions on creativity and problem-solving

Positive emotions such as joy, excitement, and happiness have been found to enhance creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. When we experience positive emotions, our brains are more open to new ideas and possibilities. This allows us to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to challenges.

  • The role of negative emotions in decision-making and risk assessment

While negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness are often seen as detrimental, they can actually play a valuable role in critical thinking. Negative emotions activate our fight-or-flight response, which heightens our alertness and focus. This can be beneficial when making important decisions or assessing potential risks. Negative emotions can help us consider all possible outcomes and make more informed choices.

The connection between emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as recognize and empathize with the emotions of others. It is closely linked to critical thinking skills and plays a significant role in decision-making processes.

  • Emotional self-awareness and self-reflection

Being emotionally self-aware allows us to recognize and understand our own emotions. This awareness enables us to evaluate how our emotions may be influencing our thoughts and decision-making processes. Self-reflection helps us gain insights into our emotional responses and biases, allowing for more objective and rational thinking.

  • Empathy and perspective-taking

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a key component of emotional intelligence. It enables us to consider different perspectives and viewpoints, which is essential for critical thinking. By putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we can challenge our own assumptions and biases, leading to more well-rounded and informed decision-making.

Harnessing the Power of Emotions for Better Critical Thinking

To enhance our critical thinking abilities, it is important to cultivate emotional intelligence and learn to manage our emotions effectively.

  • Developing self-awareness through mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and self-reflection, can help us become more aware of our emotions and thoughts. By practicing mindfulness, we can observe our emotions without judgment and gain a deeper understanding of how they influence our thinking. This self-awareness allows us to make more conscious and rational decisions.

  • Building empathy through active listening and understanding others’ perspectives

Active listening and seeking to understand others’ perspectives are essential for developing empathy. By actively engaging in conversations and considering different viewpoints, we can broaden our understanding and challenge our own biases. This empathetic approach enhances our critical thinking skills by encouraging us to consider multiple angles before making decisions.

Emotions and critical thinking are deeply interconnected. Emotions can either enhance or hinder our critical thinking abilities, depending on how we manage them. By cultivating emotional intelligence and harnessing the power of emotions, we can improve our decision-making processes and achieve personal and professional growth. Embracing emotions as a valuable tool for critical thinking allows us to approach challenges with creativity, empathy, and rationality. So, let us embrace the power of emotions and unlock our full potential for better decision-making.

In today’s fast-paced world, critical thinking has become an essential skill for success. It allows us to analyze information, make informed decisions, and solve problems effectively. However, what many people fail to realize is that our emotions play a crucial role in enhancing our critical thinking abilities. By understanding and harnessing the power of emotions, we can improve our decision-making processes and achieve better outcomes.

Cultivating Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions, as well as empathize with the emotions of others. It is a key component of effective critical thinking. Here are some ways to cultivate emotional intelligence:

Developing self-awareness through mindfulness practices: Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment and observing our thoughts and emotions without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, we can become more aware of our emotional states and how they influence our thinking processes. This self-awareness allows us to make more objective and rational decisions.

Building empathy through active listening and understanding others’ perspectives: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. By actively listening and seeking to understand different perspectives, we can develop empathy. This skill enables us to consider multiple viewpoints and make more well-rounded decisions.

Managing Emotions for Effective Critical Thinking

While emotions can enhance critical thinking, it is essential to manage them effectively. Here are some strategies for managing emotions to improve critical thinking:

Recognizing and controlling biases and prejudices: Our emotions can sometimes be influenced by biases and prejudices, which can cloud our judgment. By recognizing and acknowledging these biases, we can take steps to mitigate their impact on our decision-making processes. This self-awareness allows us to approach situations with a more open mind and make more objective decisions.

Using emotions as a source of motivation and inspiration: Emotions can be powerful motivators. By tapping into our emotions, we can find the drive and inspiration to tackle challenges and think creatively. For example, positive emotions such as excitement and passion can fuel our determination to overcome obstacles and find innovative solutions.

Real-Life Examples

Numerous real-life examples demonstrate how emotions positively influence critical thinking. Successful business leaders often make decisions based on intuition and emotional intelligence. They trust their gut feelings and rely on their emotional intelligence to navigate complex situations. Historical figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi used their emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change. Their passion and empathy for others fueled their determination to fight for justice and equality.

Overcoming Challenges and Pitfalls

While emotions can enhance critical thinking, it is crucial to be mindful of the dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking. Emotions can sometimes lead us astray and cloud our judgment. To overcome this challenge, we can employ strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking:

Seeking diverse perspectives and feedback: By actively seeking out diverse perspectives and feedback, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of a situation. This approach allows us to consider different viewpoints and make more well-informed decisions.

Taking time for reflection and analysis before making decisions: It is essential to take a step back and reflect on our emotions before making important decisions. By analyzing the situation objectively and considering the potential consequences, we can ensure that our emotions do not lead us astray.

Emotions play a significant role in enhancing critical thinking abilities. By cultivating emotional intelligence and managing our emotions effectively, we can harness their power for better decision-making. Embracing our emotions and using them as a source of motivation and inspiration can lead to more innovative solutions and positive outcomes. However, it is crucial to be mindful of the potential pitfalls and take steps to balance emotions with rational thinking. By doing so, we can unlock our full potential for personal and professional growth.

Case Studies and Examples

In this section, we will explore real-life case studies and examples that demonstrate how emotions can positively influence critical thinking. These examples will highlight the importance of emotional intelligence and its impact on decision-making and problem-solving.

Real-life examples of how emotions positively influenced critical thinking

Successful business leaders making decisions based on intuition and emotional intelligence

Many successful business leaders attribute their success to their ability to tap into their emotions and use them as a guide in decision-making. For example, Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was known for his intuition and ability to trust his gut feelings. He often made decisions based on his emotional connection with products and customers, which led to the creation of groundbreaking innovations.

Similarly, Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul, has built her empire by connecting with her audience on an emotional level. She understands the power of emotions in storytelling and uses it to engage and inspire her viewers. By leveraging her emotional intelligence, she has been able to make critical decisions that have propelled her career to great heights.

Historical figures who used emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change

Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of leaders who harnessed the power of emotions to drive critical thinking and bring about positive change. One such example is Mahatma Gandhi, who used nonviolent resistance as a means to fight for India’s independence from British rule. Gandhi’s ability to tap into the emotions of the masses and inspire them to take action played a crucial role in the success of the independence movement.

Another example is Martin Luther King Jr., who used his emotional intelligence to mobilize the civil rights movement in the United States. His powerful speeches and ability to connect with people on an emotional level helped to galvanize support and bring about significant social change.

These examples highlight how emotions can be a driving force behind critical thinking and decision-making, leading to positive outcomes and societal transformation.

By examining these case studies and examples, we can see that emotions can have a profound impact on critical thinking. Successful business leaders and historical figures have demonstrated how leveraging emotions and emotional intelligence can lead to innovative solutions, inspire change, and drive success . It is essential to recognize the role emotions play in decision-making and problem-solving and to harness their power for personal and professional growth.

In the next section, we will discuss the challenges and pitfalls that can arise when emotions override rational thinking. We will also explore strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking to make informed decisions. Stay tuned for valuable insights on how to navigate the delicate balance between emotions and critical thinking.

Emotions can be powerful drivers of critical thinking, but they can also present challenges and pitfalls that need to be overcome. It’s important to strike a balance between emotions and rational thinking to ensure that decisions are made with clarity and objectivity. In this section, we will explore some of the challenges that arise when emotions override rational thinking and strategies for overcoming them.

The dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking

When emotions take control, rational thinking can be compromised. This can lead to biased decision-making, impulsive actions, and poor judgment. Emotions such as fear, anger, or excitement can cloud our judgment and prevent us from considering alternative perspectives or weighing the consequences of our actions. It’s crucial to be aware of these dangers and take steps to mitigate them.

Strategies for balancing emotions and critical thinking

To overcome the challenges of letting emotions override rational thinking, it’s important to develop strategies that promote a balanced approach. Here are two strategies that can help:

Seeking diverse perspectives and feedback

When making important decisions, it’s essential to seek input from others and consider diverse perspectives. This can help to counteract the influence of emotions and provide a more objective view of the situation. By actively seeking feedback and listening to different viewpoints, we can challenge our own biases and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand.

Taking time for reflection and analysis before making decisions

In the heat of the moment, emotions can cloud our judgment and lead to impulsive decisions. Taking a step back and allowing time for reflection and analysis can help to counteract this tendency. By giving ourselves space to process our emotions and consider the facts objectively, we can make more informed decisions that are not solely driven by our emotional state.

By implementing these strategies, we can strike a balance between emotions and critical thinking, ensuring that our decisions are based on a rational assessment of the situation rather than being solely driven by our emotions.

While emotions can be powerful drivers of critical thinking, they can also present challenges and pitfalls. By being aware of the dangers of letting emotions override rational thinking and implementing strategies to balance emotions and critical thinking, we can make more informed decisions and avoid impulsive actions. Embracing and harnessing the power of emotions while maintaining a rational mindset can lead to better personal and professional growth. So, let’s strive to strike a balance and make the most of the potential impact of emotions on our decision-making process.

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Critical Thinking and Effective Communication: Enhancing Interpersonal Skills for Success

communication and critical thinking

In today’s fast-paced world, effective communication and critical thinking have become increasingly important skills for both personal and professional success. Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze situations, gather information, and make sound judgments, while effective communication involves not only conveying ideas clearly but also actively listening and responding to others. These two crucial abilities are intertwined, as critical thinking often mediates information processing, leading to a more comprehensive understanding and ultimately enhancing communication.

The importance of critical thinking and effective communication cannot be overstated, as they are essential in various aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, and relationship-building. Additionally, these skills are indispensable in the workplace, as they contribute to overall productivity and foster a positive and collaborative environment. Developing and nurturing critical thinking and effective communication abilities can significantly improve both personal and professional experiences, leading to increased success in various realms of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Critical thinking and effective communication are essential skills for personal and professional success.
  • These abilities play a vital role in various aspects of life, including problem-solving, decision-making, and relationship-building.
  • Developing and honing critical thinking and communication skills can lead to increased productivity and a more positive, collaborative environment.

Critical Thinking Fundamentals

Skill and knowledge.

Critical thinking is an essential cognitive skill that individuals should cultivate in order to master effective communication. It is the ability to think clearly and rationally, understand the logical connections between ideas, identify and construct arguments, and evaluate information to make better decisions in personal and professional life [1] . A well-developed foundation of knowledge is crucial for critical thinkers, as it enables them to analyze situations, evaluate arguments, and draw, inferences from the information they process.

Analysis and Evidence

A key component of critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, which involves breaking down complex problems or arguments into manageable parts to understand their underlying structure [2] . Analyzing evidence is essential in order to ascertain the validity and credibility of the information, which leads to better decision-making. Critical thinkers must consider factors like the source’s credibility, the existence of potential biases, and any relevant areas of expertise before forming judgments.

Clarity of Thought

Clarity of thought is an integral element of critical thinking and effective communication. Being able to articulate ideas clearly and concisely is crucial for efficient communication [3] . Critical thinkers are skilled at organizing their thoughts and communicating them in a structured manner, which is vital for ensuring the transmission of accurate and relevant information.

In summary, mastering critical thinking fundamentals, including skill and knowledge, analysis of evidence, and clarity of thought, is essential for effective communication. Cultivating these abilities will enable individuals to better navigate their personal and professional lives, fostering stronger, more efficient connections with others.

Importance of Critical Thinking

Workplace and leadership.

Critical thinking is a vital skill for individuals in the workplace, particularly for those in leadership roles. It contributes to effective communication, enabling individuals to articulate their thoughts clearly and understand the perspectives of others. Furthermore, critical thinking allows leaders to make informed decisions by evaluating available information and considering potential consequences. Developing this skill can also empower team members to solve complex problems by exploring alternative solutions and applying rational thinking.

Decisions and Problem-Solving

In both personal and professional contexts, decision-making and problem-solving are crucial aspects of daily life. Critical thinking enables individuals to analyze situations, identify possible options, and weigh the pros and cons of each choice. By employing critical thinking skills, individuals can arrive at well-informed decisions that lead to better outcomes. Moreover, applying these skills can help to identify the root cause of a problem and devise innovative solutions, thereby contributing to overall success and growth.

Confidence and Emotions

Critical thinking plays a significant role in managing one’s emotions and cultivating self-confidence. By engaging in rational and objective thinking, individuals can develop a clearer understanding of their own beliefs and values. This awareness can lead to increased self-assurance and the ability to effectively articulate one’s thoughts and opinions. Additionally, critical thinking can help individuals navigate emotionally-charged situations by promoting logical analysis and appropriate emotional responses. Ultimately, honing critical thinking skills can establish a strong foundation for effective communication and emotional intelligence.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is essential in building strong relationships and achieving desired outcomes. It involves the exchange of thoughts, opinions, and information so that the intended message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. This section will focus on three key aspects of effective communication: Verbal Communication, Nonverbal Communication, and Visual Communication.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is the use of spoken or written words to convey messages. It is vital to choose the right words, tone, and structure when engaging in verbal communication. Some elements to consider for effective verbal communication include:

  • Being clear and concise: Focus on the main points and avoid unnecessary information.
  • Active listening: Give full attention to the speaker and ask questions for clarification.
  • Appropriate language: Use language that is easily understood by the audience.
  • Emotional intelligence: Understand and manage emotions during communication.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication involves gestures, body language, facial expressions, and other visual cues that complement verbal messages. It plays a crucial role in conveying emotions and intentions, and can often have a significant impact on the effectiveness of communication. Some key aspects of nonverbal communication are:

  • Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact shows that you are attentive and engaged.
  • Posture: Good posture indicates confidence and credibility.
  • Gestures and facial expressions: Use appropriate gestures and facial expressions to support your message.
  • Proximity: Maintain a comfortable distance from your audience to establish rapport.

Visual Communication

Visual communication involves the use of visual aids such as images, graphs, charts, and diagrams to support or enhance verbal messages. It can help to make complex information more understandable and engaging. To maximize the effectiveness of visual communication, consider the following tips:

  • Relevance: Ensure that the visual aids are relevant to the message and audience.
  • Simplicity: Keep the design and content simple for easy comprehension.
  • Consistency: Use a consistent style, format, and color scheme throughout the presentation.
  • Accessibility: Make sure that the visual aids are visible and clear to all audience members.

In conclusion, understanding and implementing verbal, nonverbal, and visual communication skills are essential for effective communication. By combining these elements, individuals can establish strong connections, and successfully relay their messages to others.

Critical Thinking Skills in Communication

Listening and analyzing.

Developing strong listening and analyzing skills is crucial for critical thinking in communication. This involves actively paying attention to what others are saying and sifting through the information to identify key points. Taking a step back to analyze and evaluate messages helps ensure a clear understanding of the topic.

By improving your listening and analyzing abilities, you become more aware of how people communicate their thoughts and ideas. Active listening helps you dig deeper and discover the underlying connections between concepts. This skill enhances your ability to grasp the core meaning and identify any ambiguities or inconsistencies.

Biases and Perspective

Recognizing biases and considering different perspectives are essential components of critical thinking in communication. Everyone has preconceived notions and beliefs that can influence their understanding of information. By being aware of your biases and actively questioning them, you can strengthen your ability to communicate more effectively.

Considering other people’s perspectives allows you to view an issue from multiple angles, eventually leading to a more thorough understanding. Approaching communications with an open and receptive mind gives you a greater ability to relate and empathize with others, which in turn enhances the overall effectiveness of communication.

Problem-Solving and Questions

Critical thinking is intrinsically linked to problem-solving and asking questions. By incorporating these skills into the communication process, you become more adept at identifying issues, formulating solutions, and adapting the way you communicate to different situations.

Asking well-crafted questions helps you uncover valuable insights and points of view that may be hidden or not immediately apparent. Inquiring minds foster a more dynamic and interactive communication; promoting continuous learning, growth, and development.

Ultimately, enhancing your critical thinking skills in communication leads to better understanding, stronger connections, and more effective communication. By combining active listening, awareness of biases and perspectives, and problem-solving through questioning, you can significantly improve your ability to navigate even the most complex communications with confidence and clarity.

Improving Critical Thinking and Communication

Methods and techniques.

One approach to improve critical thinking and communication is by incorporating various methods and techniques into your daily practice. Some of these methods include:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Analyzing information from multiple perspectives
  • Employing logical reasoning

By honing these skills, individuals can better navigate the complexities of modern life and develop more effective communication capabilities.

Problem-Solving Skills

Developing problem-solving skills is also essential for enhancing critical thinking and communication. This involves adopting a systematic framework that helps in identifying, analyzing, and addressing problems. A typical problem-solving framework includes:

  • Identifying the problem
  • Gathering relevant information
  • Evaluating possible solutions
  • Choosing the best solution
  • Implementing the chosen solution
  • Assessing the outcome and adjusting accordingly

By mastering this framework, individuals can tackle problems more effectively and communicate their solutions with clarity and confidence.

Staying on Point and Focused

Staying on point and focused is a critical aspect of effective communication. To ensure that your message is concise and clear, it is crucial to:

  • Determine the main purpose of your communication
  • Consider the needs and expectations of your audience
  • Use precise language to convey your thoughts

By maintaining focus throughout your communication, you can improve your ability to think critically and communicate more effectively.

In summary, enhancing one’s critical thinking and communication skills involves adopting various techniques, honing problem-solving skills, and staying focused during communication. By incorporating these practices into daily life, individuals can become more confident, knowledgeable, and capable communicators.

Teaching and Training Critical Thinking

Content and curriculum.

Implementing critical thinking in educational settings requires a well-designed curriculum that challenges learners to think deeply on various topics. To foster critical thinking, the content should comprise of complex problems, real-life situations, and thought-provoking questions. By using this type of content , educators can enable students to analyze, evaluate, and create their own understandings, ultimately improving their ability to communicate effectively.

Instructors and Teachers

The role of instructors and teachers in promoting critical thinking cannot be underestimated. They should be trained and equipped with strategies to stimulate thinking, provoke curiosity, and encourage students to question assumptions. Additionally, they must create a learning environment that supports the development of critical thinking by being patient, open-minded, and accepting of diverse perspectives.

Engaging Conversations

Conversations play a significant role in the development of critical thinking and effective communication skills. Instructors should facilitate engaging discussions, prompt students to explain their reasoning, and ask open-ended questions that promote deeper analysis. By doing so, learners will be able to refine their ideas, understand various viewpoints, and build their argumentation skills, leading to more effective communication overall.

Critical thinking and effective communication are two interrelated skills that significantly contribute to personal and professional success. Through the application of critical thinking , individuals can create well-structured, clear, and impactful messages.

  • Clarity of Thought : Critical thinking helps in organizing thoughts logically and coherently. When engaging in communication, this clarity provides a strong foundation for conveying ideas and opinions.
  • Active Listening : A crucial aspect of effective communication involves actively listening to the messages from others. This allows for better understanding and consideration of multiple perspectives, strengthening the critical thinking process.
  • Concise and Precise Language : Utilizing appropriate language and avoiding unnecessary jargon ensures that the message is easily understood by the target audience.

Individuals who excel in both critical thinking and communication are better equipped to navigate complex situations and collaborate with others to achieve common goals. By continuously honing these skills, one can improve their decision-making abilities and enhance their relationships, both personally and professionally. In a world where effective communication is paramount, mastering critical thinking is essential to ensuring one’s thoughts and ideas are received and understood by others.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the essential aspects of critical thinking.

Critical thinking involves the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information in order to make sound decisions and solve problems. Essential aspects of critical thinking include asking better questions , identifying and challenging assumptions, understanding different perspectives, and recognizing biases.

How do communication skills impact problem-solving?

Effective communication skills are crucial in problem-solving, as they facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives. Clear and concise communication helps ensure that all team members understand the problem, the proposed solutions, and their roles in the process. Additionally, strong listening skills enable better comprehension of others’ viewpoints and foster collaboration.

How does language influence critical thinking?

Language plays a key role in critical thinking, as it shapes the way we interpret and express information. The choice of words, phrases, and structures can either clarify or obscure meaning. A well-structured communication promotes a better understanding of complex ideas, making it easier for individuals to think critically and apply the concepts to problem-solving.

What strategies can enhance communication in critical thinking?

To enhance communication during critical thinking, individuals should be clear and concise in expressing their thoughts, listen actively to others’ perspectives, and use critical thinking skills to analyze and evaluate the information provided. Encouraging open dialogue, asking probing questions, and being receptive to feedback can also foster a conducive environment for critical thinking.

What are the benefits of critical thinking in communication?

Critical thinking enhances communication by promoting clarity, objectivity, and logical reasoning. When we engage in critical thinking, we question assumptions, consider multiple viewpoints, and evaluate the strength of arguments. As a result, our communication becomes more thoughtful, persuasive, and effective at conveying the intended message .

How do critical thinking skills contribute to effective communication?

Critical thinking skills contribute to effective communication by ensuring that individuals are able to analyze, comprehend, and interpret the information being shared. This allows for more nuanced understanding of complex ideas and helps to present arguments logically and coherently. Additionally, critical thinking skills can aid in identifying any underlying biases or assumptions in the communicated information, thus enhancing overall clarity and effectiveness.

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Critical Thinking and Emotional Intelligence

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The Role of Emotion in Critical Thinking

Matthew Root

The Presidential Leadership Academy

30 August 2015

While considering the potential topics for my very first blog in the PLA, I wanted to write about something that resonated with my peers in class. I concluded that the most effective means of of doing this would be to, in a way, continue the discussion we had in our last class on Thursday. On the chance that other members of the PLA outside of my class, and on the very off chance that someone outside of Penn State is reading this blog, I’ll explain the premise of our discussion in class. Dean Brady led a conversation about the necessary qualities of critical thinking, inquired us to consider how each trait is utilized while thinking critically, and also led us to consider potential gray areas of critical thinking when some qualities are more or less essential than others, depending on the circumstances. The most compelling part of the discussion for me, was when we talked about the role of emotion in critical thinking and decision-making.

As the discussion progressed, I could not come to terms with which emotions should or should not be utilized and when. I do not think there is a single feeling on our emotional spectrum that is either 100 percent beneficial or 100 percent ineffective in critical thinking and decision-making. A little bit of greed may be useful if you’re is running a large company competing in a cut-throat industry, while too much may lead you to an Enron-type disaster. On the other side, having compassion for your employees is absolutely essential in order to build the healthy relationships which will act as the backbone for your company’s internal network, while too much may hinder your ability to make the harder decisions.  The bottom line is, no emotion should determine decisions, but emotion should definitely, in some way, facilitate critical thinking. The problem is, again, which emotions should be accessed during critical thinking and to what degree should they be used? As I wrestled with this dilemma in my head, the conclusion I came to was that it’s circumstantial. Different emotions are more important for critical thinking in different situations. A university’s President and the President of a country both need to think critically early and often, and both may use emotion in doing so, but the emotions they emphasize and reserve are most likely very different.

Though I think emotion is a necessary part of critical thinking, I also think that there is a fine line between using it effectively, and allowing it overtake critical thinking and decision-making. President Obama may be facing this dilemma as I write this blog post. As climate change warms our Oceans, many nations scramble to establish spheres of influence in the Arctic Regions, particularly aggressive participants are Russia and China. Both nations are known to be modern rivals of the United States as their names’ are associated with economic competition and political tension. The fact that these countries are moving much more quickly than the United States to grab their piece of the Artic pie presents President Obama with a situation he must address. When the President thinks critically about how to approach the situation, he may encounter certain emotions which can potentially aid or hinder his ability to analyze the situation and make an effective decision. Will he utilize his competitive spirit and use that to sharpen his focus on the matter, or will his pride for the United States cause him to overcompensate for lost ground and allocate resources ineffectively? Who knows.

I think critically thinking is a skill. And like most skills, are improved with practice. The ability to understand your own emotions and incorporate them into your critical thinking process is a valuable asset to one’s decision-making capabilities. And as the leader of the free world, I hold trust in President Obama’s seasoned critical thinking skills and have no doubt that the emotions he utilizes while considering establishing American boundaries in the Arctic are appropriate and that the outcome of that thought processed will be a calculated decision. Article:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/world/united-states-russia-arctic-exploration.html?ref=politics&_r=0

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reason emotion and communication in critical thinking

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What Is the Connection between Communication and Critical Thinking?

Communication and critical thinking are connected in many important ways. On a basic level, the ability to think critically, reason through a problem, and develop a cogent argument or explanation is important for all types of daily communication. People with the capability to really think about an issue and see it from a different perspective will then most likely be better communicators, and be less likely to react quickly in anger. On another level, critical thinkers often examine the way other people are thinking and making their arguments before they choose to respond themselves. This type of analysis is another very important aspect of the connection of communication to critical thinking.

In many cases, problems with communication are based on an inability to think critically about a situation, and see it from different perspectives. Communication and critical thinking are linked in this way because people who do possess the ability to problem-solve and consider other perspectives tend to be better communicators than those who do not. Though this is important for friendly argument and debate, it is also beneficial for all different types of communication, including workplace relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships. Despite this, many people are never taught the positive link between communication and critical thinking.

Good communicators are less likely to react in anger.

Another important link between communication and critical thinking is the ability to learn how to follow another person's thought process and line of reasoning. An individual who is able to think critically about how another person is making an argument will be able to formulate a more effective response, more quickly, than someone who is not. In certain practices such as law, this skill can be invaluable. Fortunately, it is something that can be learned and practiced, and is certainly a skill that can be improved over time; by the same token, however, it cannot be learned overnight, and must be developed with practice and experience..

Educators may want to bring communication and critical thinking theories into their lesson plans.

In some situations, critical thinking ability improves communication in an indirect way. Someone who is interested in a certain topic, for instance, and has the ability to think and form questions about what he or she still needs to learn, will likely take steps to gain this knowledge. Increased knowledge and wisdom will always be beneficial in different types of communications with others. Regardless, recognizing the important links between communication and critical thinking skills is important for people of all ages and all professions; educators especially may want to bring some of this theory into their lesson plans in order to teach students not just how to solve problems, but how to be better communicators in the process.

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Discussion Comments

This article confirms what I have always suspected, which is that if one's thinking is clear, then one's writing will be good. I don't know if you have noticed, but very often, when you meet someone who is very good at articulating his opinion or thought, he/she is usually a very good thinker, too.

@ddljohn-- That’s a great question. I’m not an expert on the subject but as far as I know, critical thinking means thinking about an issue rationally and in an open minded way. People who can think critically will not come to conclusions based on biases or feelings. They will decide on issues by looking at the facts and thinking about the problem from different angles.

So in your situation, you will be thinking critically if you try to see your mom’s point of view. If you can understand where she’s coming from and why she does the things that she does. And if you consider the facts about everything your mom has done for you and what you have done for her, without being affected by anger and frustration, you are thinking critically.

If you can succeed at this, you will be able to communicate with your mom. It’s all about changing the way you see things and solving problems with positive methods. What can be more positive than talking and discussion problems openly and objectively?

I don’t get along with my mom at all. We can’t communicate and we don’t understand each other. How can critical thinking help in this situation?

I realized during our classes that the pre-law students were excellent at thinking critically and they could put together effective arguments about anything in a very short time period. I understood at that time that if a person learns to think critically, then he or she will be able to communicate easily and convince anyone about anything. Like the article said, this is very important for lawyers but it’s actually important for everyone who has to work with other people and cooperate with them.

The bottom line is, the best ideas in the world are worth nothing if we do not know how to effectively communicate them to others.

The link between critical thinking and communication is a good argument for the importance of post-secondary education.

Many people feel requiring students to take general elective courses on a variety of topics instead of just courses that apply to their chosen field is a waste of time.

However, colleges teach critical thinking, reading comprehension and information analysis through these basic classes and, in turn, expand a student's understanding of the factors that go into making an informed decision and defending that decision to employers, clients and others.

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Good communicators are less likely to react in anger.

The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

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I teach journaling workshops to help people process tough emotions and communicate better. Try these prompts to get started.

  • Journaling is an amazing skill that can help you process your emotions.
  • Through journaling, you can also learn how to better express how you feel.
  • I have taught people how to journal effectively in workshops for years. Here are my tips. 

Insider Today

"What are you feeling right now?"

I asked this of attendees as I scanned the room at the first journaling workshop I taught in New York City in 2019. I, for one, was feeling nervous. I was nervous for a few reasons; I was wondering if people would want to share from their worksheets and if I'd succeeded in creating a space where people felt safe sharing.

Then, the first person spoke up. And then the second. Soon, a room full of people who'd never met opened up to one another, sharing what they'd written from a series of reflective prompts. Talking about feeling unseen, lacking stimulation at work , and needing a break from the world that raced outside.

People told me that learning to journal helped them better express their feelings

One participant from that day later told me how encouraging them to share "led to a passionate and honest conversation between a bunch of strangers that left us all feeling inspired and renewed." Similar expressive experiences continued at each workshop.

Then the pandemic came. I changed my format as my workshops turned virtual, and I felt nervous again, wondering if people would still be willing to journal and share with strangers through a screen. And again, I was met with people — now from all over the world — being openly vulnerable , unabashedly vocal about their fears, their worries, their dreams.

I realized that in a world where we continue to answer with "fine" and "good" when someone asks, "How are you?" we crave not only a space where we can answer that question honestly but also the space to figure out what that answer is.

And I've found that journaling can provide that space — on a page.

How you can journal to get more in touch with — and better express — how you feel

Journaling offers a pathway for making sense of what feels messy in our minds and gives us the words to express it clearly. (Or at least, clearer.) Along the way, I've harnessed some of my favorite methods to make figuring out your feelings a little easier.

The first step is processing how you feel

Make a list. Take a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for 2-3 minutes, and jot down every emotion you feel. Write the big ones and even the tiny nudges on paper to take note of your immense capacity for feeling and how you are so much more than just one (even if one feels heavier than the others). If you're having trouble getting started, try this prompt: What is every emotion you've felt since you woke up today?

Go back in time. Sometimes, the best way of understanding how you feel right now is to understand how you felt in the past. Going back in time to write to a previous version of yourself can be highly cathartic and enlightening, giving you the insights you need to move forward.

Research also backs this up, showing that noticing personal growth and gaining a new perspective can be helpful for mental health. To get yourself thinking, try this prompt: Write a letter to yourself one year ago today. What do you wish you could've told yourself then?

Externalize your emotions. Personifying your feelings could be highly effective in helping you understand and empathize with them. An author and journaling mentor I admire, Amber Rae, put it well when she explained to Bullet Journal in an interview how she builds characters around her challenging emotions and then writes with them to understand their unmet needs and deepest fears. Try this prompt: Pick an emotion and write a letter to them as if they were a real person. Give them a name, and tell them how they make you feel.

Then, try to figure out how you want to express it

Get it out in a letter. Letter writing is consistently one of my go-to methods, especially when handwritten. New research shows how writing by hand can help brain connectivity and improve memory. It's also a great way to express your feelings, strengthen bonds, and put feelings on paper that might be hard to say verbally.

From apology letters to thank you letters, there are many options to practice expressing yourself to people in your life while making sense of what they mean to you. To get started, try this prompt: Think of someone you want to reconnect with. Write them a letter looking back on a favorite memory together and then invite them to make a new memory.

Write love notes. Leaving yourself love notes can be a small, sweet way to help you feel grounded again. You could journal a powerful affirmation, a kind reminder, or even one word you want to embody. You could write it on a notecard, a mirror, a whiteboard, etc. But my favorite is this prompt: Write yourself an encouraging note in your email and then schedule it for weeks away to get a pleasant surprise in your inbox.

Free-write and release. Catch yourself in the heat of a feeling? Pause before sending that text, that email, or making that phone call (or several). Write down what you want to tell the receiver. Get it all out. Sit with it. (Maybe even sleep on it.) Then, toss it and craft a fresh response with more clarity (and less intensity).

A final tip? If you ever get stuck (it happens), ask yourself, "Why am I having trouble with this specific prompt? " See what comes up when you dig into the question.

And above all else, be kind to what you find on the page.

reason emotion and communication in critical thinking

Watch: A psychologist reveals how to get rid of negative thoughts

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  1. Wk 2 Discussion

    You make dozens of choices and decisions each day, often without being consciously aware of them. Because critical thinking may be more rigorous than everyday thinking, it is important to recognize some factors that can influence the effectiveness of critical thinking, including reason, communication, and emotion.

  2. Critical Thinking: Reason, Emotion, Communication Essay

    Emotions, unwarranted assumptions, stereotyping, denial, poor communications skills, and other factors are barriers to critical thinking. Sally's case shows that it is necessary to avoid biased opinion, dishonesty, over-reliance on feelings, and self-centered thinking in daily situations to make reasonable and weighed decisions.

  3. The Power Of Emotions: Unveiling Their Impact On Critical Thinking

    Example 1: The Impulsive Purchase Example 2: The Confirmation Bias Analysis of how emotions affected critical thinking in specific situations Situation 1: The Job Interview Situation 2: The Negotiation Strategies for Balancing Emotions and Critical Thinking Recognize and Acknowledge Emotions Practice Emotional Regulation Seek Different Perspectives

  4. wk2 Reason Emotion Communication Wkst

    this. My critical thinking with reason for a healthier solution we turned back to the conversation using only "I" and "me" statements. We both acknowledged the potential safe place, and corrected both of us with reason in critical thinking.

  5. Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About

    10 Citations 1 Altmetric Explore all metrics Abstract Bioscientific advances raise numerous new ethical dilemmas. Neuroscience research opens possibilities of tracing and even modifying human brain processes, such as decision-making, revenge, or pain control.

  6. Critical Thinking

    Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is a widely accepted educational goal. Its definition is contested, but the competing definitions can be understood as differing conceptions of the same basic concept: careful thinking directed to a goal. Conceptions differ with respect to the scope of such thinking, the type of goal, the criteria and norms ...

  7. How emotions affect logical reasoning: evidence from experiments with

    Introduction. In the field of experimental psychology, for a long time the predominant approach was a "divide and conquer" account in which cognition and emotion have been studied in strict isolation (e.g., Ekman and Davidson, 1994; Wilson and Keil, 2001; Holyoak and Morrison, 2005).Yet, in the last decade many researchers have realized that this is a quite artificial distinction and have ...

  8. How Emotions Can Support Critical Thinking

    This response comes from a wide variety of sources ranging from Internet crowdsourcing favorite Yahoo Answers - "emotion severely HAMPERS the critical thinking process as it clouds our judgment to fact and reason" to the Academic Journal Teaching of Psychology - "critical thinking avoids emotions and emotional reasoning."

  9. The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

    Key points Leave emotion at the door when engaging in critical thinking. Emotional intelligence isn't an emotion, it's a way in which we process emotions. In a recent entry on this...

  10. How Do Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking: Uncovering the

    The interplay between emotions and reasoning is an ongoing subject of interest within psychology and education. When emotions are acknowledged and regulated, they can contribute to a well-rounded critical thinking process, helping individuals to approach problems with an open and creative mindset.

  11. Unlocking The Power: How Emotions Positively Influence Critical Thinking

    July 9, 2023 by shaikhah Hook: Emotions are an integral part of our daily lives. They shape our experiences, influence our decisions, and impact our interactions with others. But have you ever considered the role of emotions in enhancing critical thinking abilities?

  12. The Link Between Emotions and Critical Thinking

    1 Comment Everyone knows the importance of critical thinking. Ever notice that when emotions run high, thinking critically and strategically is almost impossible? In a previous popular blog, we discussed how emotions and critical thinking are intricately linked with each other in high-level sports.

  13. Critical Thinking and Effective Communication: Enhancing Interpersonal

    Contents 1 Key Takeaways 2 Critical Thinking Fundamentals 2.1 Skill and Knowledge 2.2 Analysis and Evidence 2.3 Clarity of Thought 3 Importance of Critical Thinking 3.1 Workplace and Leadership 3.2 Decisions and Problem-Solving 3.3 Confidence and Emotions 4 Effective Communication 4.1 Verbal Communication 4.2 Nonverbal Communication

  14. Critical Thinking and Emotional Intelligence

    However, I will also suggest that the way the concept of emotional intelligence is now being popularized — by psychologist Daniel Goleman (1995), in his book Emotional Intelligence — is fundamentally flawed. Once some preliminary distinctions are set out, I will focus on a conceptualization of the mind, its functions, and primary motivators ...

  15. The Role of Emotion in Critical Thinking

    The Role of Emotion in Critical Thinking While considering the potential topics for my very first blog in the PLA, I wanted to write about something that resonated with my peers in class. I concluded that the most effective means of of doing this would be to, in a way, continue the discussion we had in our last class on Thursday.

  16. PDF Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About

    Balancing Emotion and Reason to Develop Critical Thinking About Popularized Neurosciences François Lombard1 & Daniel K. Schneider2 & Marie Merminod 3 & Laura Weiss3 # The Author(s) 2020 Abstract Bioscientific advances raise numerous new ethical dilemmas. Neuroscience research opens possibilities of tracing and even modifying human brain ...

  17. What Is the Connection between Communication and Critical Thinking?

    Communication and critical thinking are intertwined; effective communication hinges on the clarity and coherence of thoughts, which critical thinking sharpens. By evaluating information critically, we articulate ideas more persuasively, fostering understanding and collaboration. As we navigate this symbiotic relationship, consider how enhancing ...

  18. The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking

    Emotions The Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Critical Thinking Evidence Based 5 minutes Society today is increasingly complex and challenging. With this idea in mind, why not boost your critical thinking and start making better decisions? What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term critical thinking?

  19. discussion week 2

    How do emotions positively and negatively influence critical thinking? Emoions have the ability to dramaically afect our criical thinking. Posiive emoions broaden our feel-good side, and we tend to have more varieies of posiive emoions bringing our atenions and thoughts to them.

  20. How to Influence and Persuade with Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking and effective communication are potent tools for influencing and persuading others. To connect with the audience, it's vital to articulate the "why" behind your ideas or ...

  21. Why Communication and Critical Thinking are the Most Essential 21st

    Some of the other reasons Why Communication and Critical Thinking are the most essential 21st century skills include: ... It is looked for quality to have and employers often spot it out from the candidates. A curious mind knows to control emotion and ask questions that have productive answers. An open-minded person knows to control emotion and ...

  22. Hum115 v10 wk5 Summative Assessment Critical Thinking Reflection

    This demonstrates her ability to recognize and challenge fallacious reasoning, which is essential for effective critical thinking. Reason, Emotion, and Communication. In the scenario, reason, emotion, and communication play significant roles in shaping Sally's decision-making process. Sally demonstrates reasoning by assessing the ...

  23. 7 Power Skills That Are in Demand in 2024 and How You Can ...

    Critical thinking. Teamwork. Empathy. Time management. Communication. Decision-making. ... For this reason, many organizations report that a need for employees with strong customer service skills is on the rise in 2024. ... Emotional intelligence. As a positive work-life balance becomes increasingly important for employees worldwide, so does ...

  24. How to Journal to Process Emotions and Communicate Better

    The first step is processing how you feel. Make a list. Take a blank sheet of paper, set a timer for 2-3 minutes, and jot down every emotion you feel. Write the big ones and even the tiny nudges ...

  25. Hum115 v10 wk5 reflection template

    Reason, Emotion, and Communication In this paragraph, focus on the role that reason, emotion, and communication play in the scenario. How does Sally demonstrate reasoning in this scenario? How did emotion affect Sally's HUM115 v9 wk2 09 Emily white barriers - descriptive critical thinking identifying barriers worksheet