critical thinking skills in problem solving

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critical thinking skills in problem solving

How to build critical thinking skills for better decision-making

It’s simple in theory, but tougher in practice – here are five tips to get you started.

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Have you heard the riddle about two coins that equal thirty cents, but one of them is not a nickel? What about the one where a surgeon says they can’t operate on their own son?

Those brain teasers tap into your critical thinking skills. But your ability to think critically isn’t just helpful for solving those random puzzles – it plays a big role in your career. 

An impressive 81% of employers say critical thinking carries a lot of weight when they’re evaluating job candidates. It ranks as the top competency companies consider when hiring recent graduates (even ahead of communication ). Plus, once you’re hired, several studies show that critical thinking skills are highly correlated with better job performance.

So what exactly are critical thinking skills? And even more importantly, how do you build and improve them? 

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate facts and information, remain objective, and make a sound decision about how to move forward.

Does that sound like how you approach every decision or problem? Not so fast. Critical thinking seems simple in theory but is much tougher in practice, which helps explain why 65% of employers say their organization has a need for more critical thinking. 

In reality, critical thinking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. In order to do it well, you need to:

  • Remain open-minded and inquisitive, rather than relying on assumptions or jumping to conclusions
  • Ask questions and dig deep, rather than accepting information at face value
  • Keep your own biases and perceptions in check to stay as objective as possible
  • Rely on your emotional intelligence to fill in the blanks and gain a more well-rounded understanding of a situation

So, critical thinking isn’t just being intelligent or analytical. In many ways, it requires you to step outside of yourself, let go of your own preconceived notions, and approach a problem or situation with curiosity and fairness.

It’s a challenge, but it’s well worth it. Critical thinking skills will help you connect ideas, make reasonable decisions, and solve complex problems.

7 critical thinking skills to help you dig deeper

Critical thinking is often labeled as a skill itself (you’ll see it bulleted as a desired trait in a variety of job descriptions). But it’s better to think of critical thinking less as a distinct skill and more as a collection or category of skills. 

To think critically, you’ll need to tap into a bunch of your other soft skills. Here are seven of the most important. 


It’s important to kick off the critical thinking process with the idea that anything is possible. The more you’re able to set aside your own suspicions, beliefs, and agenda, the better prepared you are to approach the situation with the level of inquisitiveness you need. 

That means not closing yourself off to any possibilities and allowing yourself the space to pull on every thread – yes, even the ones that seem totally implausible.

As Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D. writes in a piece for Psychology Today , “Even if an idea appears foolish, sometimes its consideration can lead to an intelligent, critically considered conclusion.” He goes on to compare the critical thinking process to brainstorming . Sometimes the “bad” ideas are what lay the foundation for the good ones. 

Open-mindedness is challenging because it requires more effort and mental bandwidth than sticking with your own perceptions. Approaching problems or situations with true impartiality often means:

  • Practicing self-regulation : Giving yourself a pause between when you feel something and when you actually react or take action.
  • Challenging your own biases: Acknowledging your biases and seeking feedback are two powerful ways to get a broader understanding. 

Critical thinking example

In a team meeting, your boss mentioned that your company newsletter signups have been decreasing and she wants to figure out why.

At first, you feel offended and defensive – it feels like she’s blaming you for the dip in subscribers. You recognize and rationalize that emotion before thinking about potential causes. You have a hunch about what’s happening, but you will explore all possibilities and contributions from your team members.


Observation is, of course, your ability to notice and process the details all around you (even the subtle or seemingly inconsequential ones). Critical thinking demands that you’re flexible and willing to go beyond surface-level information, and solid observation skills help you do that.

Your observations help you pick up on clues from a variety of sources and experiences, all of which help you draw a final conclusion. After all, sometimes it’s the most minuscule realization that leads you to the strongest conclusion.

Over the next week or so, you keep a close eye on your company’s website and newsletter analytics to see if numbers are in fact declining or if your boss’s concerns were just a fluke. 

Critical thinking hinges on objectivity. And, to be objective, you need to base your judgments on the facts – which you collect through research. You’ll lean on your research skills to gather as much information as possible that’s relevant to your problem or situation. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about the quantity of information – quality matters too. You want to find data and details from a variety of trusted sources to drill past the surface and build a deeper understanding of what’s happening. 

You dig into your email and website analytics to identify trends in bounce rates, time on page, conversions, and more. You also review recent newsletters and email promotions to understand what customers have received, look through current customer feedback, and connect with your customer support team to learn what they’re hearing in their conversations with customers.

The critical thinking process is sort of like a treasure hunt – you’ll find some nuggets that are fundamental for your final conclusion and some that might be interesting but aren’t pertinent to the problem at hand.

That’s why you need analytical skills. They’re what help you separate the wheat from the chaff, prioritize information, identify trends or themes, and draw conclusions based on the most relevant and influential facts. 

It’s easy to confuse analytical thinking with critical thinking itself, and it’s true there is a lot of overlap between the two. But analytical thinking is just a piece of critical thinking. It focuses strictly on the facts and data, while critical thinking incorporates other factors like emotions, opinions, and experiences. 

As you analyze your research, you notice that one specific webpage has contributed to a significant decline in newsletter signups. While all of the other sources have stayed fairly steady with regard to conversions, that one has sharply decreased.

You decide to move on from your other hypotheses about newsletter quality and dig deeper into the analytics. 

One of the traps of critical thinking is that it’s easy to feel like you’re never done. There’s always more information you could collect and more rabbit holes you could fall down.

But at some point, you need to accept that you’ve done your due diligence and make a decision about how to move forward. That’s where inference comes in. It’s your ability to look at the evidence and facts available to you and draw an informed conclusion based on those. 

When you’re so focused on staying objective and pursuing all possibilities, inference can feel like the antithesis of critical thinking. But ultimately, it’s your inference skills that allow you to move out of the thinking process and onto the action steps. 

You dig deeper into the analytics for the page that hasn’t been converting and notice that the sharp drop-off happened around the same time you switched email providers.

After looking more into the backend, you realize that the signup form on that page isn’t correctly connected to your newsletter platform. It seems like anybody who has signed up on that page hasn’t been fed to your email list. 


3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

3 ways to improve your communication skills at work

If and when you identify a solution or answer, you can’t keep it close to the vest. You’ll need to use your communication skills to share your findings with the relevant stakeholders – like your boss, team members, or anybody who needs to be involved in the next steps.

Your analysis skills will come in handy here too, as they’ll help you determine what information other people need to know so you can avoid bogging them down with unnecessary details. 

In your next team meeting, you pull up the analytics and show your team the sharp drop-off as well as the missing connection between that page and your email platform. You ask the web team to reinstall and double-check that connection and you also ask a member of the marketing team to draft an apology email to the subscribers who were missed. 


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two more terms that are frequently confused. After all, when you think critically, you’re often doing so with the objective of solving a problem.

The best way to understand how problem-solving and critical thinking differ is to think of problem-solving as much more narrow. You’re focused on finding a solution.

In contrast, you can use critical thinking for a variety of use cases beyond solving a problem – like answering questions or identifying opportunities for improvement. Even so, within the critical thinking process, you’ll flex your problem-solving skills when it comes time to take action. 

Once the fix is implemented, you monitor the analytics to see if subscribers continue to increase. If not (or if they increase at a slower rate than you anticipated), you’ll roll out some other tests like changing the CTA language or the placement of the subscribe form on the page.

5 ways to improve your critical thinking skills

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Beyond the buzzwords: Why interpersonal skills matter at work

Think critically about critical thinking and you’ll quickly realize that it’s not as instinctive as you’d like it to be. Fortunately, your critical thinking skills are learned competencies and not inherent gifts – and that means you can improve them. Here’s how:

  • Practice active listening: Active listening helps you process and understand what other people share. That’s crucial as you aim to be open-minded and inquisitive.
  • Ask open-ended questions: If your critical thinking process involves collecting feedback and opinions from others, ask open-ended questions (meaning, questions that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”). Doing so will give you more valuable information and also prevent your own biases from influencing people’s input.
  • Scrutinize your sources: Figuring out what to trust and prioritize is crucial for critical thinking. Boosting your media literacy and asking more questions will help you be more discerning about what to factor in. It’s hard to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, but approaching information with questions (rather than unquestioning trust) will help you draw better conclusions. 
  • Play a game: Remember those riddles we mentioned at the beginning? As trivial as they might seem, games and exercises like those can help you boost your critical thinking skills. There are plenty of critical thinking exercises you can do individually or as a team . 
  • Give yourself time: Research shows that rushed decisions are often regrettable ones. That’s likely because critical thinking takes time – you can’t do it under the wire. So, for big decisions or hairy problems, give yourself enough time and breathing room to work through the process. It’s hard enough to think critically without a countdown ticking in your brain. 

Critical thinking really is critical

The ability to think critically is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to most of us. It’s just easier to stick with biases, assumptions, and surface-level information. 

But that route often leads you to rash judgments, shaky conclusions, and disappointing decisions. So here’s a conclusion we can draw without any more noodling: Even if it is more demanding on your mental resources, critical thinking is well worth the effort.

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How to build your critical thinking skills in 7 steps (with examples)

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Critical thinking is, well, critical. By building these skills, you improve your ability to analyze information and come to the best decision possible. In this article, we cover the basics of critical thinking, as well as the seven steps you can use to implement the full critical thinking process. 

Critical thinking comes from asking the right questions to come to the best conclusion possible. Strong critical thinkers analyze information from a variety of viewpoints in order to identify the best course of action.

Don’t worry if you don’t think you have strong critical thinking abilities. In this article, we’ll help you build a foundation for critical thinking so you can absorb, analyze, and make informed decisions. 

What is critical thinking? 

Critical thinking is the ability to collect and analyze information to come to a conclusion. Being able to think critically is important in virtually every industry and applicable across a wide range of positions. That’s because critical thinking isn’t subject-specific—rather, it’s your ability to parse through information, data, statistics, and other details in order to identify a satisfactory solution. 

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Top 8 critical thinking skills

Like most soft skills, critical thinking isn’t something you can take a class to learn. Rather, this skill consists of a variety of interpersonal and analytical skills. Developing critical thinking is more about learning to embrace open-mindedness and bringing analytical thinking to your problem framing process. 

In no particular order, the eight most important critical thinking skills are:

Analytical thinking: Part of critical thinking is evaluating data from multiple sources in order to come to the best conclusions. Analytical thinking allows people to reject bias and strive to gather and consume information to come to the best conclusion. 

Open-mindedness: This critical thinking skill helps you analyze and process information to come to an unbiased conclusion. Part of the critical thinking process is letting your personal biases go and coming to a conclusion based on all of the information. 

Problem solving : Because critical thinking emphasizes coming to the best conclusion based on all of the available information, it’s a key part of problem solving. When used correctly, critical thinking helps you solve any problem—from a workplace challenge to difficulties in everyday life. 

Self-regulation: Self-regulation refers to the ability to regulate your thoughts and set aside any personal biases to come to the best conclusion. In order to be an effective critical thinker, you need to question the information you have and the decisions you favor—only then can you come to the best conclusion. 

Observation: Observation skills help critical thinkers look for things beyond face value. To be a critical thinker you need to embrace multiple points of view, and you can use observation skills to identify potential problems.

Interpretation: Not all data is made equal—and critical thinkers know this. In addition to gathering information, it’s important to evaluate which information is important and relevant to your situation. That way, you can draw the best conclusions from the data you’ve collected. 

Evaluation: When you attempt to answer a hard question, there is rarely an obvious answer. Even though critical thinking emphasizes putting your biases aside, you need to be able to confidently make a decision based on the data you have available. 

Communication: Once a decision has been made, you also need to share this decision with other stakeholders. Effective workplace communication includes presenting evidence and supporting your conclusion—especially if there are a variety of different possible solutions. 

7 steps to critical thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that you can build by following these seven steps. The seven steps to critical thinking help you ensure you’re approaching a problem from the right angle, considering every alternative, and coming to an unbiased conclusion.

 First things first: When to use the 7 step critical thinking process

There’s a lot that goes into the full critical thinking process, and not every decision needs to be this thought out. Sometimes, it’s enough to put aside bias and approach a process logically. In other, more complex cases, the best way to identify the ideal outcome is to go through the entire critical thinking process. 

The seven-step critical thinking process is useful for complex decisions in areas you are less familiar with. Alternatively, the seven critical thinking steps can help you look at a problem you’re familiar with from a different angle, without any bias. 

If you need to make a less complex decision, consider another problem solving strategy instead. Decision matrices are a great way to identify the best option between different choices. Check out our article on 7 steps to creating a decision matrix .

1. Identify the problem

Before you put those critical thinking skills to work, you first need to identify the problem you’re solving. This step includes taking a look at the problem from a few different perspectives and asking questions like: 

What’s happening? 

Why is this happening? 

What assumptions am I making? 

At first glance, how do I think we can solve this problem? 

A big part of developing your critical thinking skills is learning how to come to unbiased conclusions. In order to do that, you first need to acknowledge the biases that you currently have. Does someone on your team think they know the answer? Are you making assumptions that aren’t necessarily true? Identifying these details helps you later on in the process. 

2. Research

At this point, you likely have a general idea of the problem—but in order to come up with the best solution, you need to dig deeper. 

During the research process, collect information relating to the problem, including data, statistics, historical project information, team input, and more. Make sure you gather information from a variety of sources, especially if those sources go against your personal ideas about what the problem is or how to solve it.

Gathering varied information is essential for your ability to apply the critical thinking process. If you don’t get enough information, your ability to make a final decision will be skewed. Remember that critical thinking is about helping you identify the objective best conclusion. You aren’t going with your gut—you’re doing research to find the best option

3. Determine data relevance

Just as it’s important to gather a variety of information, it is also important to determine how relevant the different information sources are. After all, just because there is data doesn’t mean it’s relevant. 

Once you’ve gathered all of the information, sift through the noise and identify what information is relevant and what information isn’t. Synthesizing all of this information and establishing significance helps you weigh different data sources and come to the best conclusion later on in the critical thinking process. 

To determine data relevance, ask yourself:

How reliable is this information? 

How significant is this information? 

Is this information outdated? Is it specialized in a specific field? 

4. Ask questions

One of the most useful parts of the critical thinking process is coming to a decision without bias. In order to do so, you need to take a step back from the process and challenge the assumptions you’re making. 

We all have bias—and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Unconscious biases (also known as cognitive biases) often serve as mental shortcuts to simplify problem solving and aid decision making. But even when biases aren’t inherently bad, you must be aware of your biases in order to put them aside when necessary. 

Before coming to a solution, ask yourself:

Am I making any assumptions about this information? 

Are there additional variables I haven’t considered? 

Have I evaluated the information from every perspective? 

Are there any viewpoints I missed? 

5. Identify the best solution

Finally, you’re ready to come to a conclusion. To identify the best solution, draw connections between causes and effects. Use the facts you’ve gathered to evaluate the most objective conclusion. 

Keep in mind that there may be more than one solution. Often, the problems you’re facing are complex and intricate. The critical thinking process doesn’t necessarily lead to a cut-and-dry solution—instead, the process helps you understand the different variables at play so you can make an informed decision. 

6. Present your solution

Communication is a key skill for critical thinkers. It isn’t enough to think for yourself—you also need to share your conclusion with other project stakeholders. If there are multiple solutions, present them all. There may be a case where you implement one solution, then test to see if it works before implementing another solution. 

7. Analyze your decision

The seven-step critical thinking process yields a result—and you then need to put that solution into place. After you’ve implemented your decision, evaluate whether or not it was effective. Did it solve the initial problem? What lessons—whether positive or negative—can you learn from this experience to improve your critical thinking for next time? 

Depending on how your team shares information, consider documenting lessons learned in a central source of truth. That way, team members that are making similar or related decisions in the future can understand why you made the decision you made and what the outcome was. 

Example of critical thinking in the workplace

Imagine you work in user experience design (UX). Your team is focused on pricing and packaging and ensuring customers have a clear understanding of the different services your company offers. Here’s how to apply the critical thinking process in the workplace in seven steps: 

Start by identifying the problem

Your current pricing page isn’t performing as well as you want. You’ve heard from customers that your services aren’t clear, and that the page doesn’t answer the questions they have. This page is really important for your company, since it’s where your customers sign up for your service. You and your team have a few theories about why your current page isn’t performing well, but you decide to apply the critical thinking process to ensure you come to the best decision for the page. 

Gather information about how the problem started

Part of identifying the problem includes understanding how the problem started. The pricing and packaging page is important—so when your team initially designed the page, they certainly put a lot of thought into it. Before you begin researching how to improve the page, ask yourself: 

Why did you design the pricing page the way you did? 

Which stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making process? 

Where are users getting stuck on the page?

Are any features currently working?

Then, you research

In addition to understanding the history of the pricing and packaging page, it’s important to understand what works well. Part of this research means taking a look at what your competitor’s pricing pages look like. 

Ask yourself: 

How have our competitors set up their pricing pages?

Are there any pricing page best practices? 

How does color, positioning, and animation impact navigation? 

Are there any standard page layouts customers expect to see? 

Organize and analyze information

You’ve gathered all of the information you need—now you need to organize and analyze it. What trends, if any, are you noticing? Is there any particularly relevant or important information that you have to consider? 

Ask open-ended questions to reduce bias

In the case of critical thinking, it’s important to address and set bias aside as much as possible. Ask yourself: 

Is there anything I’m missing? 

Have I connected with the right stakeholders? 

Are there any other viewpoints I should consider? 

Determine the best solution for your team

You now have all of the information you need to design the best pricing page. Depending on the complexity of the design, you may want to design a few options to present to a small group of customers or A/B test on the live website.

Present your solution to stakeholders

Critical thinking can help you in every element of your life, but in the workplace, you must also involve key project stakeholders . Stakeholders help you determine next steps, like whether you’ll A/B test the page first. Depending on the complexity of the issue, consider hosting a meeting or sharing a status report to get everyone on the same page. 

Analyze the results

No process is complete without evaluating the results. Once the new page has been live for some time, evaluate whether it did better than the previous page. What worked? What didn’t? This also helps you make better critical decisions later on.

Critically successful 

Critical thinking takes time to build, but with effort and patience you can apply an unbiased, analytical mind to any situation. Critical thinking makes up one of many soft skills that makes you an effective team member, manager, and worker. If you’re looking to hone your skills further, read our article on the 25 project management skills you need to succeed . 


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Critical Thinking

Developing the right mindset and skills.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

We make hundreds of decisions every day and, whether we realize it or not, we're all critical thinkers.

We use critical thinking each time we weigh up our options, prioritize our responsibilities, or think about the likely effects of our actions. It's a crucial skill that helps us to cut out misinformation and make wise decisions. The trouble is, we're not always very good at it!

In this article, we'll explore the key skills that you need to develop your critical thinking skills, and how to adopt a critical thinking mindset, so that you can make well-informed decisions.

What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the discipline of rigorously and skillfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions, and beliefs. You'll need to actively question every step of your thinking process to do it well.

Collecting, analyzing and evaluating information is an important skill in life, and a highly valued asset in the workplace. People who score highly in critical thinking assessments are also rated by their managers as having good problem-solving skills, creativity, strong decision-making skills, and good overall performance. [1]

Key Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinkers possess a set of key characteristics which help them to question information and their own thinking. Focus on the following areas to develop your critical thinking skills:

Being willing and able to explore alternative approaches and experimental ideas is crucial. Can you think through "what if" scenarios, create plausible options, and test out your theories? If not, you'll tend to write off ideas and options too soon, so you may miss the best answer to your situation.

To nurture your curiosity, stay up to date with facts and trends. You'll overlook important information if you allow yourself to become "blinkered," so always be open to new information.

But don't stop there! Look for opposing views or evidence to challenge your information, and seek clarification when things are unclear. This will help you to reassess your beliefs and make a well-informed decision later. Read our article, Opening Closed Minds , for more ways to stay receptive.

Logical Thinking

You must be skilled at reasoning and extending logic to come up with plausible options or outcomes.

It's also important to emphasize logic over emotion. Emotion can be motivating but it can also lead you to take hasty and unwise action, so control your emotions and be cautious in your judgments. Know when a conclusion is "fact" and when it is not. "Could-be-true" conclusions are based on assumptions and must be tested further. Read our article, Logical Fallacies , for help with this.

Use creative problem solving to balance cold logic. By thinking outside of the box you can identify new possible outcomes by using pieces of information that you already have.


Many of the decisions we make in life are subtly informed by our values and beliefs. These influences are called cognitive biases and it can be difficult to identify them in ourselves because they're often subconscious.

Practicing self-awareness will allow you to reflect on the beliefs you have and the choices you make. You'll then be better equipped to challenge your own thinking and make improved, unbiased decisions.

One particularly useful tool for critical thinking is the Ladder of Inference . It allows you to test and validate your thinking process, rather than jumping to poorly supported conclusions.

Developing a Critical Thinking Mindset

Combine the above skills with the right mindset so that you can make better decisions and adopt more effective courses of action. You can develop your critical thinking mindset by following this process:

Gather Information

First, collect data, opinions and facts on the issue that you need to solve. Draw on what you already know, and turn to new sources of information to help inform your understanding. Consider what gaps there are in your knowledge and seek to fill them. And look for information that challenges your assumptions and beliefs.

Be sure to verify the authority and authenticity of your sources. Not everything you read is true! Use this checklist to ensure that your information is valid:

  • Are your information sources trustworthy ? (For example, well-respected authors, trusted colleagues or peers, recognized industry publications, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Is the information you have gathered up to date ?
  • Has the information received any direct criticism ?
  • Does the information have any errors or inaccuracies ?
  • Is there any evidence to support or corroborate the information you have gathered?
  • Is the information you have gathered subjective or biased in any way? (For example, is it based on opinion, rather than fact? Is any of the information you have gathered designed to promote a particular service or organization?)

If any information appears to be irrelevant or invalid, don't include it in your decision making. But don't omit information just because you disagree with it, or your final decision will be flawed and bias.

Now observe the information you have gathered, and interpret it. What are the key findings and main takeaways? What does the evidence point to? Start to build one or two possible arguments based on what you have found.

You'll need to look for the details within the mass of information, so use your powers of observation to identify any patterns or similarities. You can then analyze and extend these trends to make sensible predictions about the future.

To help you to sift through the multiple ideas and theories, it can be useful to group and order items according to their characteristics. From here, you can compare and contrast the different items. And once you've determined how similar or different things are from one another, Paired Comparison Analysis can help you to analyze them.

The final step involves challenging the information and rationalizing its arguments.

Apply the laws of reason (induction, deduction, analogy) to judge an argument and determine its merits. To do this, it's essential that you can determine the significance and validity of an argument to put it in the correct perspective. Take a look at our article, Rational Thinking , for more information about how to do this.

Once you have considered all of the arguments and options rationally, you can finally make an informed decision.

Afterward, take time to reflect on what you have learned and what you found challenging. Step back from the detail of your decision or problem, and look at the bigger picture. Record what you've learned from your observations and experience.

Critical thinking involves rigorously and skilfully using information, experience, observation, and reasoning to guide your decisions, actions and beliefs. It's a useful skill in the workplace and in life.

You'll need to be curious and creative to explore alternative possibilities, but rational to apply logic, and self-aware to identify when your beliefs could affect your decisions or actions.

You can demonstrate a high level of critical thinking by validating your information, analyzing its meaning, and finally evaluating the argument.

Critical Thinking Infographic

See Critical Thinking represented in our infographic: An Elementary Guide to Critical Thinking .

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Critical Thinking Definition, Skills, and Examples

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Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

Good critical thinkers can draw reasonable conclusions from a set of information, and discriminate between useful and less useful details to solve problems or make decisions. Employers prioritize the ability to think critically—find out why, plus see how you can demonstrate that you have this ability throughout the job application process. 

Why Do Employers Value Critical Thinking Skills?

Employers want job candidates who can evaluate a situation using logical thought and offer the best solution.

 Someone with critical thinking skills can be trusted to make decisions independently, and will not need constant handholding.

Hiring a critical thinker means that micromanaging won't be required. Critical thinking abilities are among the most sought-after skills in almost every industry and workplace. You can demonstrate critical thinking by using related keywords in your resume and cover letter, and during your interview.

Examples of Critical Thinking

The circumstances that demand critical thinking vary from industry to industry. Some examples include:

  • A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated.
  • A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job.
  • An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.
  • A manager analyzes customer feedback forms and uses this information to develop a customer service training session for employees.

Promote Your Skills in Your Job Search

If critical thinking is a key phrase in the job listings you are applying for, be sure to emphasize your critical thinking skills throughout your job search.

Add Keywords to Your Resume

You can use critical thinking keywords (analytical, problem solving, creativity, etc.) in your resume. When describing your  work history , include top critical thinking skills that accurately describe you. You can also include them in your  resume summary , if you have one.

For example, your summary might read, “Marketing Associate with five years of experience in project management. Skilled in conducting thorough market research and competitor analysis to assess market trends and client needs, and to develop appropriate acquisition tactics.”

Mention Skills in Your Cover Letter

Include these critical thinking skills in your cover letter. In the body of your letter, mention one or two of these skills, and give specific examples of times when you have demonstrated them at work. Think about times when you had to analyze or evaluate materials to solve a problem.

Show the Interviewer Your Skills

You can use these skill words in an interview. Discuss a time when you were faced with a particular problem or challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking to solve it.

Some interviewers will give you a hypothetical scenario or problem, and ask you to use critical thinking skills to solve it. In this case, explain your thought process thoroughly to the interviewer. He or she is typically more focused on how you arrive at your solution rather than the solution itself. The interviewer wants to see you analyze and evaluate (key parts of critical thinking) the given scenario or problem.

Of course, each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.

Top Critical Thinking Skills

Keep these in-demand critical thinking skills in mind as you update your resume and write your cover letter. As you've seen, you can also emphasize them at other points throughout the application process, such as your interview. 

Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. People with  analytical skills  can examine information, understand what it means, and properly explain to others the implications of that information.

  • Asking Thoughtful Questions
  • Data Analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Questioning Evidence
  • Recognizing Patterns


Often, you will need to share your conclusions with your employers or with a group of colleagues. You need to be able to  communicate with others  to share your ideas effectively. You might also need to engage in critical thinking in a group. In this case, you will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems.

  • Active Listening
  • Collaboration
  • Explanation
  • Interpersonal
  • Presentation
  • Verbal Communication
  • Written Communication

Critical thinking often involves creativity and innovation. You might need to spot patterns in the information you are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. All of this involves a creative eye that can take a different approach from all other approaches.

  • Flexibility
  • Conceptualization
  • Imagination
  • Drawing Connections
  • Synthesizing


To think critically, you need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information you receive. You need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

  • Objectivity
  • Observation

Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another critical thinking skill that involves analyzing a problem, generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Employers don’t simply want employees who can think about information critically. They also need to be able to come up with practical solutions.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Clarification
  • Decision Making
  • Groundedness
  • Identifying Patterns

More Critical Thinking Skills

  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Noticing Outliers
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Brainstorming
  • Optimization
  • Restructuring
  • Integration
  • Strategic Planning
  • Project Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Causal Relationships
  • Case Analysis
  • Diagnostics
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Business Intelligence
  • Quantitative Data Management
  • Qualitative Data Management
  • Risk Management
  • Scientific Method
  • Consumer Behavior

Key Takeaways

  • Demonstrate that you have critical thinking skills by adding relevant keywords to your resume.
  • Mention pertinent critical thinking skills in your cover letter, too, and include an example of a time when you demonstrated them at work.
  • Finally, highlight critical thinking skills during your interview. For instance, you might discuss a time when you were faced with a challenge at work and explain how you applied critical thinking skills to solve it.

University of Louisville. " What is Critical Thinking ."

American Management Association. " AMA Critical Skills Survey: Workers Need Higher Level Skills to Succeed in the 21st Century ."

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Developing your critical thinking skills, critical thinking skills, critical thinking skills are the navigational tools needed for everyday life and in any professional journey. they enable you to analyze and solve complex problems effectively, allowing you to gain a competitive edge and empowering you to make smarter decisions.    .

With these skills, you’ll be able to think outside the box, adapt to change, and handle risks with greater efficiency. By improving your critical thinking abilities, you're setting yourself up to succeed in any field. 

This guide explores different types of critical thinking skills and how you can learn and apply them in your everyday life.

critical thinking skills in problem solving

What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking skills refer to your ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret information in a logical and systematic manner to determine possible solutions. Think of it as employing objective reasoning and sound judgment to assess situations, solve problems, make decisions, and draw meaningful conclusions.

These skills assist you in thinking clearly and making sensible decisions when needed to solve problems, make better choices, think independently, consider multiple viewpoints, and apply thoughtful analysis to complex issues.

Why Are Critical Thinking Skills Important?

Critical thinking skills are highly valued by employers and are crucial in today's job market for several reasons. Let’s have a look at why these skills are important:

  • Decision-making: You can make informed decisions based on careful analysis, which leads to more effective decision-making, minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities. 
  • Effective problem-solving: These skills provide the foundation for effective problem-solving in different professional contexts. These skills equip you to effectively identify, define, and analyze problems from different perspectives.
  • Promote open-mindedness: Critical thinking leads to innovative ideas and approaches that will make you challenge assumptions. These challenges lead to innovative ideas and approaches. 
  • Effective communication: By enabling you to clearly organize your thoughts and articulate ideas, critical thinking skills promote effective communication.

critical thinking skills in problem solving

What are the Benefits of Having Critical Thinking Skills?

As mentioned above, critical thinking skills are crucial in every profession and enable you to stand out and succeed in your field. Let’s explore some of the benefits of critical thinking skills and how they add value to your profession:

Stronger analytical abilities: You enhance your analytical thinking capabilities, allowing you to gather, assess, and interpret data effectively. Using logical reasoning, you can identify patterns, extract relevant insights, and draw meaningful conclusions from complex information. This skill is valuable in problem-solving, decision-making, and strategic planning.  

Flexibility: Being flexible enables you to adapt to changing circumstances and swiftly navigate uncertainties. By considering multiple perspectives, evaluating information gathered, and adjusting your thinking, you can adapt your strategies and approaches to respond effectively to evolving situations. This adaptability is crucial in today's fast-changing work environments. 

Lifelong learning: By embracing a growth mindset and engaging in lifelong learning, you can acquire new skills, question assumptions, seek new knowledge, critically evaluate your beliefs, and stay relevant in your chosen field.  

Vision clarity: Having a clear vision enables you to forecast situations and goals. Critical thinking skills provide a framework for purposeful action. This concept also guarantees that your efforts are consistently directed toward achieving the desired outcomes.

Endless possibilities: Solid critical thinking skills allow you to uncover an array of potential outcomes, ideas, and opportunities to go beyond the familiar. 

critical thinking skills in problem solving

Examples of Critical Thinking Skills in the Workplace

Critical thinking skills can be applied in many ways across various professions. Here are some practical examples:

Analysis: You can ask relevant questions, evaluate evidence, and draw logical conclusions based on available information. You can uncover a trend or problem through analysis and make a well-informed decision based on your findings. 

Evaluation: You can weigh different perspectives, consider biases or limitations, and make informed judgments about the quality and validity of information or claims presented. You can distinguish between credible and unreliable sources by evaluating evidence, claims, or proposals and determining the best cause of action.

Creative thinking: Thinking creatively means being innovative, embracing new perspectives, and engaging in divergent thinking to discover fresh insights and possibilities.  

Inference: You can draw logical conclusions based on available evidence, observations, or patterns. By making reasoned judgments and connecting pieces of information, you can delve deeper into complex situations leading to better solutions. 

Reflection: You can critically examine your thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. By displaying self-awareness and introspection, you enhance self-directed learning and promote continuous improvement.  

How Will I Use Critical Thinking Skills?

By developing and applying critical thinking skills, you will be better equipped to navigate complex work environments, contribute to organizational success, and excel in your chosen career path. 

These skills are applicable across various professional roles and industries. For example, with IT careers, you can use critical thinking skills in the following fields:

IT Career: In the IT industry, critical thinking skills are essential for problem-solving and troubleshooting. For example, you’ll be able to analyze the symptoms, gather relevant information, and evaluate potential causes. IT careers such as risk analysts , information manager and IT manager require solid critical thinking skills.

With health careers you can use critical thinking skills in the workplace. This includes:

Accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions: Critical thinking skills are crucial for the hospital environment and beyond.  For instance, as a nurse or doctor with strong critical thinking skills, you will carefully assess a patient's symptoms, review medical history, and analyze test results. Most careers in healthcare such as community health workers , ICU nurses , medical records manager , etc., require these skills.

With education careers, you’ll discover how critical thinking skills are useful in the classroom and beyond:

Designing engaging classroom activities: As a teacher with strong critical thinking skills, you’ll design engaging classroom activities and questions. You can promote problem-solving and creative learning. Most careers in education such as teaching assistants , preschool teachers , and even high school teachers need these skills.

With business professions you incorporate critical thinking skills into everyday decisions in the workplace:

Evaluating market trends: As a decision-maker in business, critical thinking skills help you evaluate market trends, analyze financial data, and assess potential risks and opportunities. You’ll use logical reasoning and sound judgment to make informed business-related decisions such as product development, resource allocation, and business strategies. Most business-related careers such as project management, actuary , human resources management , etc., need these skills.

Critical thinking skills provide a foundation for thoughtful approaches in each field.

How Can I Learn Critical Thinking Skills?

At WGU, our curriculum is designed to foster critical thinking skills by incorporating interactive and thought-provoking course content. 

Our courses are structured to encourage active learning and provide opportunities to apply critical thinking skills in different subject areas.  

For example, in the Leavitt School of Health , the following degree programs teach critical thinking as part of the coursework:

  • BS Nursing (BSRN) 
  • BS Nursing (RN- to BSN Degree), BSNU
  • BS Nursing-Prelicensure (BSPRN) 

In nursing and other health-related degrees, you’ll learn to:

  • Identify reliable and credible sources of information. 
  • Identify different academic arguments concerning a particular issue.
  • Identify potential sources of bias when analyzing a given issue. 
  • Gather relevant facts to form a judgment.
  • Analyze data from various sources and contexts. 

In critical thinking courses, you’ll encounter challenging concepts, case studies, and real-world scenarios that require critical analysis and problem-solving. 

You’ll be able to engage in collaborative learning activities, such as group projects, discussions, and simulations. You’ll also complete a capstone project that integrates and applies the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired. 

These activities encourage you to share ideas, consider diverse perspectives, and provide an opportunity to demonstrate your proficiency in critical thinking while also showcasing your ability to apply it practically. 

Our goal at WGU is to provide a comprehensive learning experience that enhances your critical thinking skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is critical thinking used in everyday life?

You can apply critical thinking to various aspects of everyday life, such as:

  • Making logical decisions when solving problems. 
  • Assessing the credibility of the information you encounter online to avoid being misled or scammed.
  • Understanding and questioning norms, biases, and stereotypes leading to a change in policies and social justice. 

How do you say you’re good at critical thinking in your résumé?

You must provide concrete examples to demonstrate your abilities as a critical thinker in your résumé. 

For example, you can describe situations where you successfully applied critical thinking to solve problems or make decisions. 

You can also provide relevant certifications or coursework if you’ve completed any courses or certifications related to critical thinking. Make sure that you highlight them in the education section of your résumé.

What are the barriers to critical thinking?

There are various factors that can limit your ability to think critically:

  • Allowing emotions to influence your thinking process.
  • Conforming to cultural and social norms.
  • Lacking access to accurate information about a subject. 
  • Having insufficient time to thoroughly evaluate information.
  • Lacking exposure to situations that require critical thinking.

Find Your Degree

Are you ready to embark on an exciting journey where your analytical reasoning and problem-solving abilities set you apart? 

Take the degree quiz and find the perfect degree program for you. Prepare to embrace a future of exciting possibilities and success in every facet of your life.

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5.3: Using Critical Thinking Skills- Decision Making and Problem Solving

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In previous lessons, you learned about characteristics of critical thinkers and information literacy. In this module, you will learn how to put those skills into action through the important processes of decision making and problem solving.

As with the process of developing information literacy, asking questions is an important part of decision making and problem solving. Thinking is born of questions. Questions wake us up. Questions alert us to hidden assumptions. Questions promote curiosity and create new distinctions. Questions open up options that otherwise go unexplored. Besides, teachers love questions.

We make decisions all the time, whether we realize it or not. Even avoiding decisions is a form of decision making. The student who puts off studying for a test until the last minute, for example, might really be saying, “I’ve decided this course is not important” or “I’ve decided not to give this course much time.”

Decisions are specific and lead to focused action. When we decide, we narrow down. We give up actions that are inconsistent with our decision.

In addition to decision making, critical thinking skills are important to solving problems. We encounter problems every single day, and having a solid process in place is important to solving them.

At the end of the lesson, you will learn how to put your critical thinking skills to use by reviewing an example of how critical thinking skills can help with making those everyday decisions.

Using Critical Thinking Skills: Asking Questions

Questions have practical power. Asking for directions can shave hours off a trip. Asking a librarian for help can save hours of research time. Asking how to address an instructor—by first name or formal title—can change your relationship with that person. Asking your academic advisor a question can alter your entire education. Asking people about their career plans can alter your career plans.

You can use the following strategies to develop questions for problem solving and decision making:

Ask questions that create possibilities. At any moment, you can ask a question that opens up a new possibility for someone.

  • Suppose a friend walks up to you and says, “People just never listen to me.” You listen carefully. Then you say, “Let me make sure I understand. Who, specifically, doesn’t listen to you? And how do you know they’re not listening?”
  • Another friend tells you, “I just lost my job to someone who has less experience. That should never happen.” You respond, “Wow, that’s hard. I’m sorry you lost your job. Who can help you find another job?”
  • A relative seeks your advice. “My mother-in-law makes me mad,” she says. “You’re having a hard time with this person,” you say. “What does she say and do when you feel mad at her? And are there times when you don’t get mad at her?”

These kinds of questions—asked with compassion and a sense of timing—can help people move from complaining about problems to solving them.

Discover new questions. Students sometimes say, “I don’t know what questions to ask.” Consider the following ways to create questions about any subject you want to study or about any

area of your life that you want to change:

  • Let your pen start moving. Sometimes you can access a deeper level of knowledge by taking out your pen, putting it on a piece of paper, and writing down questions—even before you know what to write. Don’t think. Just watch the pen move across the paper. Notice what appears. The results might be surprising.
  • Ask about what’s missing . Another way to invent useful questions is to notice what’s missing from your life and then ask how to supply it. For example, if you want to take better notes, you can write, “What’s missing is skill in note taking. How can I gain more skill in taking notes?” If you always feel rushed, you can write, “What’s missing is time. How do I create enough time in my day to actually do the things that I say I want to do?”
  • Pretend to be someone else. Another way to invent questions is first to think of someone you greatly respect. Then pretend you’re that person. Ask the questions you think she would ask.
  • What can I do when ... an instructor calls on me in class and I have no idea what to say? When a teacher doesn’t show up for class on time? When I feel overwhelmed with assignments?
  • How can I ... take the kind of courses that I want? Expand my career options? Become much more effective as a student, starting today?
  • When do I ... decide on a major? Transfer to another school? Meet with an instructor to discuss an upcoming term paper?
  • What else do I want to know about ... my academic plan? My career plan? My options for job hunting? My friends? My relatives? My spouse?
  • Who can I ask about ... my career options? My major? My love life? My values and purpose in life?

Many times you can quickly generate questions by simply asking yourself, “What else do I want to know?” Ask this question immediately after you read a paragraph in a book or listen to someone speak.

Start from the assumption that you are brilliant. Then ask questions to unlock your brilliance.

Using Critical Thinking Skills in Decision Making

As you develop your critical thinking skills, you can apply them as you make decisions. The following suggestions can help in your decision-making process:

Recognize decisions. Decisions are more than wishes or desires. There’s a world of difference between “I wish I could be a better student” and “I will take more powerful notes, read with greater retention, and review my class notes daily.” Deciding to eat fruit for dessert instead of ice cream rules out the next trip to the ice cream store.

Establish priorities. Some decisions are trivial. No matter what the outcome, your life is not affected much. Other decisions can shape your circumstances for years. Devote more time and energy to the decisions with big outcomes.

Base decisions on a life plan. The benefit of having long-term goals for our lives is that they provide a basis for many of our daily decisions. Being certain about what we want to accomplish this year and this month makes today’s choices more clear.

Balance learning styles in decision making. To make decisions more effectively, use all four modes of learning explained in a previous lesson. The key is to balance reflection with action, and thinking with experience. First, take the time to think creatively, and generate many options. Then think critically about the possible consequences of each option before choosing one. Remember, however, that thinking is no substitute for experience. Act on your chosen option, and notice what happens. If you’re not getting the results you want, then quickly return to creative thinking to invent new options.

Choose an overall strategy. Every time you make a decision, you choose a strategy—even when you’re not aware of it. Effective decision makers can articulate and choose from among several strategies. For example:

  • Find all of the available options, and choose one deliberately. Save this strategy for times when you have a relatively small number of options, each of which leads to noticeably different results.
  • Find all of the available options, and choose one randomly. This strategy can be risky. Save it for times when your options are basically similar and fairness is the main issue.
  • Limit the options, and then choose. When deciding which search engine to use, visit many search sites and then narrow the list down to two or three from which to choose.

Use time as an ally. Sometimes we face dilemmas—situations in which any course of action leads to undesirable consequences. In such cases, consider putting a decision on hold. Wait it out. Do nothing until the circumstances change, making one alternative clearly preferable to another.

Use intuition. Some decisions seem to make themselves. A solution pops into your mind, and you gain newfound clarity. Using intuition is not the same as forgetting about the decision or refusing to make it. Intuitive decisions usually arrive after we’ve gathered the relevant facts and faced a problem for some time.

Evaluate your decision. Hindsight is a source of insight. After you act on a decision, observe the consequences over time. Reflect on how well your decision worked and what you might have done differently.

Think of choices. This final suggestion involves some creative thinking. Consider that the word decide derives from the same roots as suicide and homicide . In the spirit of those words, a decision forever “kills” all other options. That’s kind of heavy. Instead, use the word choice , and see whether it frees up your thinking. When you choose , you express a preference for one option over others. However, those options remain live possibilities for the future. Choose for today, knowing that as you gain more wisdom and experience, you can choose again.

Using Critical Thinking Skills in Problem Solving

Think of problem solving as a process with four Ps : Define the problem , generate possibilities ,

create a plan , and perform your plan.

Step 1: Define the problem. To define a problem effectively, understand what a problem is—a mismatch between what you want and what you have. Problem solving is all about reducing the gap between these two factors.

Tell the truth about what’s present in your life right now, without shame or blame. For example: “I often get sleepy while reading my physics assignments, and after closing the book I cannot remember what I just read.”

Next, describe in detail what you want. Go for specifics: “I want to remain alert as I read about physics. I also want to accurately summarize each chapter I read.”

Remember that when we define a problem in limiting ways, our solutions merely generate new problems. As Albert Einstein said, “The world we have made is a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far. We cannot solve problems at the same level at which we created them” (Calaprice 2000).

This idea has many applications for success in school. An example is the student who struggles with note taking. The problem, she thinks, is that her notes are too sketchy. The logical solution, she decides, is to take more notes; her new goal is to write down almost everything her instructors say. No matter how fast and furiously she writes, she cannot capture all of the instructors’ comments.

Consider what happens when this student defines the problem in a new way. After more thought, she decides that her dilemma is not the quantity of her notes but their quality . She adopts a new format for taking notes, dividing her notepaper into two columns. In the right-hand column, she writes down only the main points of each lecture. In the left-hand column, she notes two or three supporting details for each point.

Over time, this student makes the joyous discovery that there are usually just three or four core ideas to remember from each lecture. She originally thought the solution was to take more notes. What really worked was taking notes in a new way.

Step 2: Generate possibilities. Now put on your creative thinking hat. Open up. Brainstorm as many possible solutions to the problem as you can. At this stage, quantity counts. As you generate possibilities, gather relevant facts. For example, when you’re faced with a dilemma about what courses to take next semester, get information on class times, locations, and instructors. If you haven’t decided which summer job offer to accept, gather information on salary, benefits, and working conditions.

Step 3: Create a plan. After rereading your problem definition and list of possible solutions, choose the solution that seems most workable. Think about specific actions that will reduce the gap between what you have and what you want. Visualize the steps you will take to make this solution a reality, and arrange them in chronological order. To make your plan even more powerful, put it in writing.

Step 4: Perform your plan. This step gets you off your chair and out into the world. Now you actually do what you have planned.

Ultimately, your skill in solving problems lies in how well you perform your plan. Through the quality of your actions, you become the architect of your own success.

When facing problems, experiment with these four Ps, and remember that the order of steps is not absolute. Also remember that any solution has the potential to create new problems. If that happens, cycle through the four Ps of problem solving again.

Critical Thinking Skills in Action: Thinking About Your Major, Part 1

One decision that troubles many students in higher education is the choice of a major. Weighing the benefits, costs, and outcomes of a possible major is an intellectual challenge. This choice is an opportunity to apply your critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. The following suggestions will guide you through this seemingly overwhelming process.

The first step is to discover options. You can use the following suggestions to discover options for choosing your major:

Follow the fun. Perhaps you look forward to attending one of your classes and even like completing the assignments. This is a clue to your choice of major.

See whether you can find lasting patterns in the subjects and extracurricular activities that you’ve enjoyed over the years. Look for a major that allows you to continue and expand on these experiences.

Also, sit down with a stack of 3 × 5 cards and brainstorm answers to the following questions:

  • What do you enjoy doing most with your unscheduled time?
  • Imagine that you’re at a party and having a fascinating conversation. What is this conversation about?
  • What kind of problems do you enjoy solving—those that involve people? Products? Ideas?
  • What interests are revealed by your choices of reading material, television shows, and other entertainment?
  • What would an ideal day look like for you? Describe where you would live, who would be with you, and what you would do throughout the day. Do any of these visions suggest a possible major?

Questions like these can uncover a “fun factor” that energizes you to finish the work of completing a major.

Consider your abilities. In choosing a major, ability counts as much as interest. In addition to considering what you enjoy, think about times and places when you excelled. List the courses that you aced, the work assignments that you mastered, and the hobbies that led to rewards or recognition. Let your choice of a major reflect a discovery of your passions and potentials.

Use formal techniques for self-discovery. Explore questionnaires and inventories that are designed to correlate your interests with specific majors. Examples include the Strong Interest Inventory and the Self-Directed Search. Your academic advisor or someone in your school’s career planning office can give you more details about these and related assessments. For some fun, take several of them and meet with an advisor to interpret the results. Remember inventories can help you gain self-knowledge, and other people can offer valuable perspectives. However, what you do with all this input is entirely up to you.

Critical Thinking Skills in Action: Thinking About Your Major, Part 2

As you review the following additional suggestions of discovering options, think about what strategies you already use in your own decision-making process. Also think about what new strategies you might try in the future.

Link to long-term goals. Your choice of a major can fall into place once you determine what you want in life. Before you choose a major, back up to a bigger picture. List your core values, such as contributing to society, achieving financial security and professional recognition, enjoying good health, or making time for fun. Also write down specific goals that you want to accomplish 5 years, 10 years, or even 50 years from today.

Many students find that the prospect of getting what they want in life justifies all of the time, money, and day-to-day effort invested in going to school. Having a major gives you a powerful incentive for attending classes, taking part in discussions, reading textbooks, writing papers, and completing other assignments. When you see a clear connection between finishing school and creating the life of your dreams, the daily tasks of higher education become charged with meaning.

Ask other people. Key people in your life might have valuable suggestions about your choice of major. Ask for their ideas, and listen with an open mind. At the same time, distance yourself from any pressure to choose a major or career that fails to interest you. If you make a choice solely on the basis of the expectations of other people, you could end up with a major or even a career you don’t enjoy.

Gather information. Check your school’s catalog or website for a list of available majors. Here is a gold mine of information. Take a quick glance, and highlight all the majors that interest you. Then talk to students who have declared these majors. Also read the descriptions of courses required for these majors. Do you get excited about the chance to enroll in them? Pay attention to your gut feelings.

Also chat with instructors who teach courses in a specific major. Ask for copies of their class syllabi. Go to the bookstore and browse the required texts. Based on all of this information, write a list of prospective majors. Discuss them with an academic advisor and someone at your school’s career-planning center.

Invent a major. When choosing a major, you might not need to limit yourself to those listed in your school catalog. Many schools now have flexible programs that allow for independent study. Through such programs, you might be able to combine two existing majors or invent an entirely new one of your own.

Consider a complementary minor. You can add flexibility to your academic program by choosing a minor to complement or contrast with your major. The student who wants to be a minister could opt for a minor in English; all of those courses in composition can help in writing sermons. Or the student with a major in psychology might choose a minor in business administration, with the idea of managing a counseling service some day. An effective choice of a minor can expand your skills and career options.

Think critically about the link between your major and your career. Your career goals might have a significant impact on your choice of major.

You could pursue a rewarding career by choosing among several different majors. Even students planning to apply for law school or medical school have flexibility in their choice of majors. In addition, after graduation, many people tend to be employed in jobs that have little relationship to their major. And you might choose a career in the future that is unrelated to any currently available major.

Critical Thinking Skills in Action: Thinking About Your Major, Part 3

Once you have discovered all of your options, you can move on to the next step in the process— making a trial choice.

Make a Trial Choice

Pretend that you have to choose a major today. Based on the options for a major that you’ve already discovered, write down the first three ideas that come to mind. Review the list for a few minutes, and then choose one.

Evaluate Your Trial Choice

When you’ve made a trial choice of major, take on the role of a scientist. Treat your choice as a hypothesis, and then design a series of experiments to evaluate and test it. For example:

  • Schedule office meetings with instructors who teach courses in the major. Ask about required course work and career options in the field.
  • Discuss your trial choice with an academic advisor or career counselor.
  • Enroll in a course related to your possible major. Remember that introductory courses might not give you a realistic picture of the workload involved in advanced courses. Also, you might not be able to register for certain courses until you’ve actually declared a related major.
  • Find a volunteer experience, internship, part-time job, or service-learning experience related to the major.
  • Interview students who have declared the same major. Ask them in detail about their experiences and suggestions for success.
  • Interview people who work in a field related to the major and “shadow” them—that is, spend time with those people during their workday.
  • Think about whether you can complete your major given the amount of time and money that you plan to invest in higher education.
  • Consider whether declaring this major would require a transfer to another program or even another school.

If your “experiments” confirm your choice of major, celebrate that fact. If they result in choosing a new major, celebrate that outcome as well.

Also remember that higher education represents a safe place to test your choice of major—and to change your mind. As you sort through your options, help is always available from administrators, instructors, advisors, and peers.

Choose Again

Keep your choice of a major in perspective. There is probably no single “correct” choice. Your unique collection of skills is likely to provide the basis for majoring in several fields.

Odds are that you’ll change your major at least once—and that you’ll change careers several times during your life. One benefit of higher education is mobility. You gain the general skills and knowledge that can help you move into a new major or career field at any time.

Viewing a major as a one-time choice that determines your entire future can raise your stress levels. Instead, look at choosing a major as the start of a continuing path that involves discovery, choice, and passionate action.

As you review this example of how you can use critical thinking to make a decision about choosing your major, think about how you will use your critical thinking to make decisions and solve problems in the future.

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Critical Thinking: A Model of Intelligence for Solving Real-World Problems

Diane f. halpern.

1 Department of Psychology, Claremont McKenna College, Emerita, Altadena, CA 91001, USA

Dana S. Dunn

2 Department of Psychology, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA 18018, USA; ude.naivarom@nnud

Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. A high IQ is correlated with many important outcomes (e.g., academic prominence, reduced crime), but it does not protect against cognitive biases, partisan thinking, reactance, or confirmation bias, among others. There are several newer theories that directly address the question about solving real-world problems. Prominent among them is Sternberg’s adaptive intelligence with “adaptation to the environment” as the central premise, a construct that does not exist on standardized IQ tests. Similarly, some scholars argue that standardized tests of intelligence are not measures of rational thought—the sort of skill/ability that would be needed to address complex real-world problems. Other investigators advocate for critical thinking as a model of intelligence specifically designed for addressing real-world problems. Yes, intelligence (i.e., critical thinking) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem such as COVID-19, which we use as an example of contemporary problems that need a new approach.

1. Introduction

The editors of this Special Issue asked authors to respond to a deceptively simple statement: “How Intelligence Can Be a Solution to Consequential World Problems.” This statement holds many complexities, including how intelligence is defined and which theories are designed to address real-world problems.

2. The Problem with Using Standardized IQ Measures for Real-World Problems

For the most part, we identify high intelligence as having a high score on a standardized test of intelligence. Like any test score, IQ can only reflect what is on the given test. Most contemporary standardized measures of intelligence include vocabulary, working memory, spatial skills, analogies, processing speed, and puzzle-like elements (e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Fourth Edition; see ( Drozdick et al. 2012 )). Measures of IQ correlate with many important outcomes, including academic performance ( Kretzschmar et al. 2016 ), job-related skills ( Hunter and Schmidt 1996 ), reduced likelihood of criminal behavior ( Burhan et al. 2014 ), and for those with exceptionally high IQs, obtaining a doctorate and publishing scholarly articles ( McCabe et al. 2020 ). Gottfredson ( 1997, p. 81 ) summarized these effects when she said the “predictive validity of g is ubiquitous.” More recent research using longitudinal data, found that general mental abilities and specific abilities are good predictors of several work variables including job prestige, and income ( Lang and Kell 2020 ). Although assessments of IQ are useful in many contexts, having a high IQ does not protect against falling for common cognitive fallacies (e.g., blind spot bias, reactance, anecdotal reasoning), relying on biased and blatantly one-sided information sources, failing to consider information that does not conform to one’s preferred view of reality (confirmation bias), resisting pressure to think and act in a certain way, among others. This point was clearly articulated by Stanovich ( 2009, p. 3 ) when he stated that,” IQ tests measure only a small set of the thinking abilities that people need.”

3. Which Theories of Intelligence Are Relevant to the Question?

Most theories of intelligence do not directly address the question of whether people with high intelligence can successfully solve real world problems. For example, Grossmann et al. ( 2013 ) cite many studies in which IQ scores have not predicted well-being, including life satisfaction and longevity. Using a stratified random sample of Americans, these investigators found that wise reasoning is associated with life satisfaction, and that “there was no association between intelligence and well-being” (p. 944). (critical thinking [CT] is often referred to as “wise reasoning” or “rational thinking,”). Similar results were reported by Wirthwein and Rost ( 2011 ) who compared life satisfaction in several domains for gifted adults and adults of average intelligence. There were no differences in any of the measures of subjective well-being, except for leisure, which was significantly lower for the gifted adults. Additional research in a series of experiments by Stanovich and West ( 2008 ) found that participants with high cognitive ability were as likely as others to endorse positions that are consistent with their biases, and they were equally likely to prefer one-sided arguments over those that provided a balanced argument. There are several newer theories that directly address the question about solving real-world problems. Prominent among them is Sternberg’s adaptive intelligence with “adaptation to the environment” as the central premise, a construct that does not exist on standardized IQ tests (e.g., Sternberg 2019 ). Similarly, Stanovich and West ( 2014 ) argue that standardized tests of intelligence are not measures of rational thought—the sort of skill/ability that would be needed to address complex real-world problems. Halpern and Butler ( 2020 ) advocate for CT as a useful model of intelligence for addressing real-world problems because it was designed for this purpose. Although there is much overlap among these more recent theories, often using different terms for similar concepts, we use Halpern and Butler’s conceptualization to make our point: Yes, intelligence (i.e., CT) can be enhanced and used for solving a real-world problem like COVID-19.

4. Critical Thinking as an Applied Model for Intelligence

One definition of intelligence that directly addresses the question about intelligence and real-world problem solving comes from Nickerson ( 2020, p. 205 ): “the ability to learn, to reason well, to solve novel problems, and to deal effectively with novel problems—often unpredictable—that confront one in daily life.” Using this definition, the question of whether intelligent thinking can solve a world problem like the novel coronavirus is a resounding “yes” because solutions to real-world novel problems are part of his definition. This is a popular idea in the general public. For example, over 1000 business managers and hiring executives said that they want employees who can think critically based on the belief that CT skills will help them solve work-related problems ( Hart Research Associates 2018 ).

We define CT as the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal directed--the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions, when the thinker is using skills that are thoughtful and effective for the particular context and type of thinking task. International surveys conducted by the OECD ( 2019, p. 16 ) established “key information-processing competencies” that are “highly transferable, in that they are relevant to many social contexts and work situations; and ‘learnable’ and therefore subject to the influence of policy.” One of these skills is problem solving, which is one subset of CT skills.

The CT model of intelligence is comprised of two components: (1) understanding information at a deep, meaningful level and (2) appropriate use of CT skills. The underlying idea is that CT skills can be identified, taught, and learned, and when they are recognized and applied in novel settings, the individual is demonstrating intelligent thought. CT skills include judging the credibility of an information source, making cost–benefit calculations, recognizing regression to the mean, understanding the limits of extrapolation, muting reactance responses, using analogical reasoning, rating the strength of reasons that support and fail to support a conclusion, and recognizing hindsight bias or confirmation bias, among others. Critical thinkers use these skills appropriately, without prompting, and usually with conscious intent in a variety of settings.

One of the key concepts in this model is that CT skills transfer in appropriate situations. Thus, assessments using situational judgments are needed to assess whether particular skills have transferred to a novel situation where it is appropriate. In an assessment created by the first author ( Halpern 2018 ), short paragraphs provide information about 20 different everyday scenarios (e.g., A speaker at the meeting of your local school board reported that when drug use rises, grades decline; so schools need to enforce a “war on drugs” to improve student grades); participants provide two response formats for every scenario: (a) constructed responses where they respond with short written responses, followed by (b) forced choice responses (e.g., multiple choice, rating or ranking of alternatives) for the same situations.

There is a large and growing empirical literature to support the assertion that CT skills can be learned and will transfer (when taught for transfer). See for example, Holmes et al. ( 2015 ), who wrote in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , that there was “significant and sustained improvement in students’ critical thinking behavior” (p. 11,199) for students who received CT instruction. Abrami et al. ( 2015, para. 1 ) concluded from a meta-analysis that “there are effective strategies for teaching CT skills, both generic and content specific, and CT dispositions, at all educational levels and across all disciplinary areas.” Abrami et al. ( 2008, para. 1 ), included 341 effect sizes in a meta-analysis. They wrote: “findings make it clear that improvement in students’ CT skills and dispositions cannot be a matter of implicit expectation.” A strong test of whether CT skills can be used for real-word problems comes from research by Butler et al. ( 2017 ). Community adults and college students (N = 244) completed several scales including an assessment of CT, an intelligence test, and an inventory of real-life events. Both CT scores and intelligence scores predicted individual outcomes on the inventory of real-life events, but CT was a stronger predictor.

Heijltjes et al. ( 2015, p. 487 ) randomly assigned participants to either a CT instruction group or one of six other control conditions. They found that “only participants assigned to CT instruction improved their reasoning skills.” Similarly, when Halpern et al. ( 2012 ) used random assignment of participants to either a learning group where they were taught scientific reasoning skills using a game format or a control condition (which also used computerized learning and was similar in length), participants in the scientific skills learning group showed higher proportional learning gains than students who did not play the game. As the body of additional supportive research is too large to report here, interested readers can find additional lists of CT skills and support for the assertion that these skills can be learned and will transfer in Halpern and Dunn ( Forthcoming ). There is a clear need for more high-quality research on the application and transfer of CT and its relationship to IQ.

5. Pandemics: COVID-19 as a Consequential Real-World Problem

A pandemic occurs when a disease runs rampant over an entire country or even the world. Pandemics have occurred throughout history: At the time of writing this article, COVID-19 is a world-wide pandemic whose actual death rate is unknown but estimated with projections of several million over the course of 2021 and beyond ( Mega 2020 ). Although vaccines are available, it will take some time to inoculate most or much of the world’s population. Since March 2020, national and international health agencies have created a list of actions that can slow and hopefully stop the spread of COVID (e.g., wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding group gatherings), yet many people in the United States and other countries have resisted their advice.

Could instruction in CT encourage more people to accept and comply with simple life-saving measures? There are many possible reasons to believe that by increasing citizens’ CT abilities, this problematic trend can be reversed for, at least, some unknown percentage of the population. We recognize the long history of social and cognitive research showing that changing attitudes and behaviors is difficult, and it would be unrealistic to expect that individuals with extreme beliefs supported by their social group and consistent with their political ideologies are likely to change. For example, an Iranian cleric and an orthodox rabbi both claimed (separately) that the COVID-19 vaccine can make people gay ( Marr 2021 ). These unfounded opinions are based on deeply held prejudicial beliefs that we expect to be resistant to CT. We are targeting those individuals who beliefs are less extreme and may be based on reasonable reservations, such as concern about the hasty development of the vaccine and the lack of long-term data on its effects. There should be some unknown proportion of individuals who can change their COVID-19-related beliefs and actions with appropriate instruction in CT. CT can be a (partial) antidote for the chaos of the modern world with armies of bots creating content on social media, political and other forces deliberately attempting to confuse issues, and almost all media labeled “fake news” by social influencers (i.e., people with followers that sometimes run to millions on various social media). Here, are some CT skills that could be helpful in getting more people to think more critically about pandemic-related issues.

Reasoning by Analogy and Judging the Credibility of the Source of Information

Early communications about the ability of masks to prevent the spread of COVID from national health agencies were not consistent. In many regions of the world, the benefits of wearing masks incited prolonged and acrimonious debates ( Tang 2020 ). However, after the initial confusion, virtually all of the global and national health organizations (e.g., WHO, National Health Service in the U. K., U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) endorse masks as a way to slow the spread of COVID ( Cheng et al. 2020 ; Chu et al. 2020 ). However, as we know, some people do not trust governmental agencies and often cite the conflicting information that was originally given as a reason for not wearing a mask. There are varied reasons for refusing to wear a mask, but the one most often cited is that it is against civil liberties ( Smith 2020 ). Reasoning by analogy is an appropriate CT skill for evaluating this belief (and a key skill in legal thinking). It might be useful to cite some of the many laws that already regulate our behavior such as, requiring health inspections for restaurants, setting speed limits, mandating seat belts when riding in a car, and establishing the age at which someone can consume alcohol. Individuals would be asked to consider how the mandate to wear a mask compares to these and other regulatory laws.

Another reason why some people resist the measures suggested by virtually every health agency concerns questions about whom to believe. Could training in CT change the beliefs and actions of even a small percentage of those opposed to wearing masks? Such training would include considering the following questions with practice across a wide domain of knowledge: (a) Does the source have sufficient expertise? (b) Is the expertise recent and relevant? (c) Is there a potential for gain by the information source, such as financial gain? (d) What would the ideal information source be and how close is the current source to the ideal? (e) Does the information source offer evidence that what they are recommending is likely to be correct? (f) Have you traced URLs to determine if the information in front of you really came from the alleged source?, etc. Of course, not everyone will respond in the same way to each question, so there is little likelihood that we would all think alike, but these questions provide a framework for evaluating credibility. Donovan et al. ( 2015 ) were successful using a similar approach to improve dynamic decision-making by asking participants to reflect on questions that relate to the decision. Imagine the effect of rigorous large-scale education in CT from elementary through secondary schools, as well as at the university-level. As stated above, empirical evidence has shown that people can become better thinkers with appropriate instruction in CT. With training, could we encourage some portion of the population to become more astute at judging the credibility of a source of information? It is an experiment worth trying.

6. Making Cost—Benefit Assessments for Actions That Would Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Historical records show that refusal to wear a mask during a pandemic is not a new reaction. The epidemic of 1918 also included mandates to wear masks, which drew public backlash. Then, as now, many people refused, even when they were told that it was a symbol of “wartime patriotism” because the 1918 pandemic occurred during World War I ( Lovelace 2020 ). CT instruction would include instruction in why and how to compute cost–benefit analyses. Estimates of “lives saved” by wearing a mask can be made meaningful with graphical displays that allow more people to understand large numbers. Gigerenzer ( 2020 ) found that people can understand risk ratios in medicine when the numbers are presented as frequencies instead of probabilities. If this information were used when presenting the likelihood of illness and death from COVID-19, could we increase the numbers of people who understand the severity of this disease? Small scale studies by Gigerenzer have shown that it is possible.

Analyzing Arguments to Determine Degree of Support for a Conclusion

The process of analyzing arguments requires that individuals rate the strength of support for and against a conclusion. By engaging in this practice, they must consider evidence and reasoning that may run counter to a preferred outcome. Kozyreva et al. ( 2020 ) call the deliberate failure to consider both supporting and conflicting data “deliberate ignorance”—avoiding or failing to consider information that could be useful in decision-making because it may collide with an existing belief. When applied to COVID-19, people would have to decide if the evidence for and against wearing a face mask is a reasonable way to stop the spread of this disease, and if they conclude that it is not, what are the costs and benefits of not wearing masks at a time when governmental health organizations are making them mandatory in public spaces? Again, we wonder if rigorous and systematic instruction in argument analysis would result in more positive attitudes and behaviors that relate to wearing a mask or other real-world problems. We believe that it is an experiment worth doing.

7. Conclusions

We believe that teaching CT is a worthwhile approach for educating the general public in order to improve reasoning and motivate actions to address, avert, or ameliorate real-world problems like the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence suggests that CT can guide intelligent responses to societal and global problems. We are NOT claiming that CT skills will be a universal solution for the many real-world problems that we confront in contemporary society, or that everyone will substitute CT for other decision-making practices, but we do believe that systematic education in CT can help many people become better thinkers, and we believe that this is an important step toward creating a society that values and practices routine CT. The challenges are great, but the tools to tackle them are available, if we are willing to use them.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, D.F.H. and D.S.D.; resources, D.F.H.; data curation, writing—original draft preparation, D.F.H.; writing—review and editing, D.F.H. and D.S.D. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

No IRB Review.

Informed Consent Statement

No Informed Consent.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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The Salesforce Consultant’s Guide pp 151–160 Cite as

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

  • Heather Negley 2  
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Critical thinking is a type of systematic thinking that is used to solve problems using logic. The first step is to gather the information needed to help you solve your problem. You start by analyzing and evaluating sources for authority to give you the best shot at finding something truthful and unbiased. Watch Out For information overload. Access to information is easier than ever these days, and it is easy to get overwhelmed by it all. As you conduct your research, keep your information organized by filtering, synthesizing, and distilling it. And keep your effort timeboxed. Start broad enough to obtain a wide berth, like a fisherman casting a large net into an ocean. This helps find multiple points of view. But don’t spend more time than necessary. Practicing collecting what is sufficient to answer your questions.

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Critical Thinking: A Simple Guide and Why It’s Important

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Critical Thinking: A Simple Guide and Why It’s Important was originally published on Ivy Exec .

Strong critical thinking skills are crucial for career success, regardless of educational background. It embodies the ability to engage in astute and effective decision-making, lending invaluable dimensions to professional growth.

At its essence, critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information in a logical and reasoned manner. It’s not merely about accumulating knowledge but harnessing it effectively to make informed decisions and solve complex problems. In the dynamic landscape of modern careers, honing this skill is paramount.

The Impact of Critical Thinking on Your Career

☑ problem-solving mastery.

Visualize critical thinking as the Sherlock Holmes of your career journey. It facilitates swift problem resolution akin to a detective unraveling a mystery. By methodically analyzing situations and deconstructing complexities, critical thinkers emerge as adept problem solvers, rendering them invaluable assets in the workplace.

☑ Refined Decision-Making

Navigating dilemmas in your career path resembles traversing uncertain terrain. Critical thinking acts as a dependable GPS, steering you toward informed decisions. It involves weighing options, evaluating potential outcomes, and confidently choosing the most favorable path forward.

☑ Enhanced Teamwork Dynamics

Within collaborative settings, critical thinkers stand out as proactive contributors. They engage in scrutinizing ideas, proposing enhancements, and fostering meaningful contributions. Consequently, the team evolves into a dynamic hub of ideas, with the critical thinker recognized as the architect behind its success.

☑ Communication Prowess

Effective communication is the cornerstone of professional interactions. Critical thinking enriches communication skills, enabling the clear and logical articulation of ideas. Whether in emails, presentations, or casual conversations, individuals adept in critical thinking exude clarity, earning appreciation for their ability to convey thoughts seamlessly.

☑ Adaptability and Resilience

Perceptive individuals adept in critical thinking display resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges. Instead of succumbing to panic, they assess situations, recalibrate their approaches, and persist in moving forward despite adversity.

☑ Fostering Innovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of progressive organizations, and critical thinking serves as its catalyst. Proficient critical thinkers possess the ability to identify overlooked opportunities, propose inventive solutions, and streamline processes, thereby positioning their organizations at the forefront of innovation.

☑ Confidence Amplification

Critical thinkers exude confidence derived from honing their analytical skills. This self-assurance radiates during job interviews, presentations, and daily interactions, catching the attention of superiors and propelling career advancement.

So, how can one cultivate and harness this invaluable skill?

✅ developing curiosity and inquisitiveness:.

Embrace a curious mindset by questioning the status quo and exploring topics beyond your immediate scope. Cultivate an inquisitive approach to everyday situations. Encourage a habit of asking “why” and “how” to deepen understanding. Curiosity fuels the desire to seek information and alternative perspectives.

✅ Practice Reflection and Self-Awareness:

Engage in reflective thinking by assessing your thoughts, actions, and decisions. Regularly introspect to understand your biases, assumptions, and cognitive processes. Cultivate self-awareness to recognize personal prejudices or cognitive biases that might influence your thinking. This allows for a more objective analysis of situations.

✅ Strengthening Analytical Skills:

Practice breaking down complex problems into manageable components. Analyze each part systematically to understand the whole picture. Develop skills in data analysis, statistics, and logical reasoning. This includes understanding correlation versus causation, interpreting graphs, and evaluating statistical significance.

✅ Engaging in Active Listening and Observation:

Actively listen to diverse viewpoints without immediately forming judgments. Allow others to express their ideas fully before responding. Observe situations attentively, noticing details that others might overlook. This habit enhances your ability to analyze problems more comprehensively.

✅ Encouraging Intellectual Humility and Open-Mindedness:

Foster intellectual humility by acknowledging that you don’t know everything. Be open to learning from others, regardless of their position or expertise. Cultivate open-mindedness by actively seeking out perspectives different from your own. Engage in discussions with people holding diverse opinions to broaden your understanding.

✅ Practicing Problem-Solving and Decision-Making:

Engage in regular problem-solving exercises that challenge you to think creatively and analytically. This can include puzzles, riddles, or real-world scenarios. When making decisions, consciously evaluate available information, consider various alternatives, and anticipate potential outcomes before reaching a conclusion.

✅ Continuous Learning and Exposure to Varied Content:

Read extensively across diverse subjects and formats, exposing yourself to different viewpoints, cultures, and ways of thinking. Engage in courses, workshops, or seminars that stimulate critical thinking skills. Seek out opportunities for learning that challenge your existing beliefs.

✅ Engage in Constructive Disagreement and Debate:

Encourage healthy debates and discussions where differing opinions are respectfully debated.

This practice fosters the ability to defend your viewpoints logically while also being open to changing your perspective based on valid arguments. Embrace disagreement as an opportunity to learn rather than a conflict to win. Engaging in constructive debate sharpens your ability to evaluate and counter-arguments effectively.

✅ Utilize Problem-Based Learning and Real-World Applications:

Engage in problem-based learning activities that simulate real-world challenges. Work on projects or scenarios that require critical thinking skills to develop practical problem-solving approaches. Apply critical thinking in real-life situations whenever possible.

This could involve analyzing news articles, evaluating product reviews, or dissecting marketing strategies to understand their underlying rationale.

In conclusion, critical thinking is the linchpin of a successful career journey. It empowers individuals to navigate complexities, make informed decisions, and innovate in their respective domains. Embracing and honing this skill isn’t just an advantage; it’s a necessity in a world where adaptability and sound judgment reign supreme.

So, as you traverse your career path, remember that the ability to think critically is not just an asset but the differentiator that propels you toward excellence.

50 Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Critical thinking and problem solving are essential skills for success in the 21st century. Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, evaluate evidence, and draw logical conclusions. Problem solving is the ability to apply critical thinking to find effective solutions to various challenges. Both skills require creativity, curiosity, and persistence. Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills can help students improve their academic performance, enhance their career prospects, and become more informed and engaged citizens.

critical thinking skills in problem solving

Sanju Pradeepa

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

In today’s complex and fast-paced world, the ability to think critically and solve problems effectively has become a vital skill for success in all areas of life. Whether it’s navigating professional challenges, making sound decisions, or finding innovative solutions, critical thinking and problem-solving are key to overcoming obstacles and achieving desired outcomes. In this blog post, we will explore problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Table of Contents

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving.

Developing the skills needed for critical thinking and problem solving

It is not enough to simply recognize an issue; we must use the right tools and techniques to address it. To do this, we must learn how to define and identify the problem or task at hand, gather relevant information from reliable sources, analyze and compare data to draw conclusions, make logical connections between different ideas, generate a solution or action plan, and make a recommendation.

The first step in developing these skills is understanding what the problem or task is that needs to be addressed. This requires careful consideration of all available information in order to form an accurate picture of what needs to be done. Once the issue has been identified, gathering reliable sources of data can help further your understanding of it. Sources could include interviews with customers or stakeholders, surveys, industry reports, and analysis of customer feedback.

After collecting relevant information from reliable sources, it’s important to analyze and compare the data in order to draw meaningful conclusions about the situation at hand. This helps us better understand our options for addressing an issue by providing context for decision-making. Once you have analyzed the data you collected, making logical connections between different ideas can help you form a more complete picture of the situation and inform your potential solutions.

Once you have analyzed your options for addressing an issue based on all available data points, it’s time to generate a solution or action plan that takes into account considerations such as cost-effectiveness and feasibility. It’s also important to consider the risk factors associated with any proposed solutions in order to ensure that they are responsible before moving forward with implementation. Finally, once all the analysis has been completed, it is time to make a recommendation based on your findings, which should take into account any objectives set out by stakeholders at the beginning of this process as well as any other pertinent factors discovered throughout the analysis stage.

By following these steps carefully when faced with complex issues, one can effectively use critical thinking and problem-solving skills in order to achieve desired outcomes more efficiently than would otherwise be possible without them, while also taking responsibility for decisions made along the way.

what does critical thinking involve

What Does Critical Thinking Involve: 5 Essential Skill

Problem-solving and critical thinking examples.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Examples

Problem-solving and critical thinking are key skills that are highly valued in any professional setting. These skills enable individuals to analyze complex situations, make informed decisions, and find innovative solutions. Here, we present 25 examples of problem-solving and critical thinking. problem-solving scenarios to help you cultivate and enhance these skills.

Ethical dilemma: A company faces a situation where a client asks for a product that does not meet quality standards. The team must decide how to address the client’s request without compromising the company’s credibility or values.

Brainstorming session: A team needs to come up with new ideas for a marketing campaign targeting a specific demographic. Through an organized brainstorming session, they explore various approaches and analyze their potential impact.

Troubleshooting technical issues : An IT professional receives a ticket indicating a network outage. They analyze the issue, assess potential causes (hardware, software, or connectivity), and solve the problem efficiently.

Negotiation : During contract negotiations, representatives from two companies must find common ground to strike a mutually beneficial agreement, considering the needs and limitations of both parties.

Project management: A project manager identifies potential risks and develops contingency plans to address unforeseen obstacles, ensuring the project stays on track.

Decision-making under pressure: In a high-stakes situation, a medical professional must make a critical decision regarding a patient’s treatment, weighing all available information and considering potential risks.

Conflict resolution: A team encounters conflicts due to differing opinions or approaches. The team leader facilitates a discussion to reach a consensus while considering everyone’s perspectives.

Data analysis: A data scientist is presented with a large dataset and is tasked with extracting valuable insights. They apply analytical techniques to identify trends, correlations, and patterns that can inform decision-making.

Customer service: A customer service representative encounters a challenging customer complaint and must employ active listening and problem-solving skills to address the issue and provide a satisfactory resolution.

Market research : A business seeks to expand into a new market. They conduct thorough market research, analyzing consumer behavior, competitor strategies, and economic factors to make informed market-entry decisions.

Creative problem-solvin g: An engineer faces a design challenge and must think outside the box to come up with a unique and innovative solution that meets project requirements.

Change management: During a company-wide transition, managers must effectively communicate the change, address employees’ concerns, and facilitate a smooth transition process.

Crisis management: When a company faces a public relations crisis, effective critical thinking is necessary to analyze the situation, develop a response strategy, and minimize potential damage to the company’s reputation.

Cost optimization : A financial analyst identifies areas where expenses can be reduced while maintaining operational efficiency, presenting recommendations for cost savings.

Time management : An employee has multiple deadlines to meet. They assess the priority of each task, develop a plan, and allocate time accordingly to achieve optimal productivity.

Quality control: A production manager detects an increase in product defects and investigates the root causes, implementing corrective actions to enhance product quality.

Strategic planning: An executive team engages in strategic planning to define long-term goals, assess market trends, and identify growth opportunities.

Cross-functional collaboration: Multiple teams with different areas of expertise must collaborate to develop a comprehensive solution, combining their knowledge and skills.

Training and development : A manager identifies skill gaps in their team and designs training programs to enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities.

Risk assessment : A risk management professional evaluates potential risks associated with a new business venture, weighing their potential impact and developing strategies to mitigate them.

Continuous improvement: An operations manager analyzes existing processes, identifies inefficiencies, and introduces improvements to enhance productivity and customer satisfaction.

Customer needs analysis: A product development team conducts extensive research to understand customer needs and preferences, ensuring that the resulting product meets those requirements.

Crisis decision-making: A team dealing with a crisis must think quickly, assess the situation, and make timely decisions with limited information.

Marketing campaign analysis : A marketing team evaluates the success of a recent campaign, analyzing key performance indicators to understand its impact on sales and customer engagement.

Constructive feedback: A supervisor provides feedback to an employee, highlighting areas for improvement and offering constructive suggestions for growth.

Conflict resolution in a team project: Team members engaged in a project have conflicting ideas on the approach. They must engage in open dialogue, actively listen to each other’s perspectives, and reach a compromise that aligns with the project’s goals.

Crisis response in a natural disaster: Emergency responders must think critically and swiftly in responding to a natural disaster, coordinating rescue efforts, allocating resources effectively, and prioritizing the needs of affected individuals.

Product innovation : A product development team conducts market research, studies consumer trends, and uses critical thinking to create innovative products that address unmet customer needs.

Supply chain optimization: A logistics manager analyzes the supply chain to identify areas for efficiency improvement, such as reducing transportation costs, improving inventory management, or streamlining order fulfillment processes.

Business strategy formulation: A business executive assesses market dynamics, the competitive landscape, and internal capabilities to develop a robust business strategy that ensures sustainable growth and competitiveness.

Crisis communication: In the face of a public relations crisis, an organization’s spokesperson must think critically to develop and deliver a transparent, authentic, and effective communication strategy to rebuild trust and manage reputation.

Social problem-solving: A group of volunteers addresses a specific social issue, such as poverty or homelessness, by critically examining its root causes, collaborating with stakeholders, and implementing sustainable solutions for the affected population.

Problem-Solving Mindset

Problem-Solving Mindset: How to Achieve It (15 Ways)

Risk assessment in investment decision-making: An investment analyst evaluates various investment opportunities, conducting risk assessments based on market trends, financial indicators, and potential regulatory changes to make informed investment recommendations.

Environmental sustainability: An environmental scientist analyzes the impact of industrial processes on the environment, develops strategies to mitigate risks, and promotes sustainable practices within organizations and communities.

Adaptation to technological advancements : In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, professionals need critical thinking skills to adapt to new tools, software, and systems, ensuring they can effectively leverage these advancements to enhance productivity and efficiency.

Productivity improvement: An operations manager leverages critical thinking to identify productivity bottlenecks within a workflow and implement process improvements to optimize resource utilization, minimize waste, and increase overall efficiency.

Cost-benefit analysis: An organization considering a major investment or expansion opportunity conducts a thorough cost-benefit analysis, weighing potential costs against expected benefits to make an informed decision.

Human resources management : HR professionals utilize critical thinking to assess job applicants, identify skill gaps within the organization, and design training and development programs to enhance the workforce’s capabilities.

Root cause analysis: In response to a recurring problem or inefficiency, professionals apply critical thinking to identify the root cause of the issue, develop remedial actions, and prevent future occurrences.

Leadership development: Aspiring leaders undergo critical thinking exercises to enhance their decision-making abilities, develop strategic thinking skills, and foster a culture of innovation within their teams.

Brand positioning : Marketers conduct comprehensive market research and consumer behavior analysis to strategically position a brand, differentiating it from competitors and appealing to target audiences effectively.

Resource allocation: Non-profit organizations distribute limited resources efficiently, critically evaluating project proposals, considering social impact, and allocating resources to initiatives that align with their mission.

Innovating in a mature market: A company operating in a mature market seeks to innovate to maintain a competitive edge. They cultivate critical thinking skills to identify gaps, anticipate changing customer needs, and develop new strategies, products, or services accordingly.

Analyzing financial statements : Financial analysts critically assess financial statements, analyze key performance indicators, and derive insights to support financial decision-making, such as investment evaluations or budget planning.

Crisis intervention : Mental health professionals employ critical thinking and problem-solving to assess crises faced by individuals or communities, develop intervention plans, and provide support during challenging times.

Data privacy and cybersecurity : IT professionals critically evaluate existing cybersecurity measures, identify vulnerabilities, and develop strategies to protect sensitive data from threats, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.

Process improvement : Professionals in manufacturing or service industries critically evaluate existing processes, identify inefficiencies, and implement improvements to optimize efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.

Multi-channel marketing strategy : Marketers employ critical thinking to design and execute effective marketing campaigns across various channels such as social media, web, print, and television, ensuring a cohesive brand experience for customers.

Peer review: Researchers critically analyze and review the work of their peers, providing constructive feedback and ensuring the accuracy, validity, and reliability of scientific studies.

Project coordination : A project manager must coordinate multiple teams and resources to ensure seamless collaboration, identify potential bottlenecks, and find solutions to keep the project on schedule.  

These examples highlight the various contexts in which problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are necessary for success. By understanding and practicing these skills, individuals can enhance their ability to navigate challenges and make sound decisions in both personal and professional endeavors.


Critical thinking and problem-solving are indispensable skills that empower individuals to overcome challenges, make sound decisions, and find innovative solutions. By honing these skills, one can navigate through the complexities of modern life and achieve success in both personal and professional endeavors. Embrace the power of critical thinking and problem-solving, and unlock the door to endless possibilities and growth.

  • Problem solving From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Critical thinking From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • The Importance of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills for Students (5 Minutes)

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critical thinking skills in problem solving

How Higher Education Fosters Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” –Albert Einstein

Critical thinking and problem-solving are the most essential skills that any college student can develop. If students are unable to think through an issue critically, they will be ill-equipped to distinguish between truth and deception. Valid conclusions can only come from the pursuit of truth. In comparison, problem-solving skills give an individual the tools to do something with the information they have gained. This combined skillset is invaluable in the professional world and everyday life.

If these skills are so important, what is the best way to foster and develop them? Education is a start. Whether it’s higher education through attending a university or self-education through personal study, the only way to develop these skills is through active participation in learning. Almost all colleges and universities cite critical thinking as one of their core objectives. So, what are the best ways for higher education to help students grow and develop these skills?

From the idea that teaching critical thinking is impossible to new approaches in teaching styles, the last two decades have produced varying theories on critical thinking. One fact that is certain, however, is that problem-solving is a natural outgrowth of critical thinking. Although there is no argument over whether critical thinking is important, there are multiple perspectives on the best ways to develop this skill. Most research, however, seems to support a hands-on, interactive approach.

Andreucci-Annunziata et al. (2023) suggests that “pedagogical approaches to critical thinking have been synthesized into four types: general method; infusion; immersion and mixed method.” The general method is teaching critical thinking as its own subject, infusion is teaching critical thinking in relation to a specific subject matter, immersion is teaching a subject in a way that encourages critical thinking, and “the mixed method consists of a combination of the general method and the infusion or immersion method.” These methods are combined with instructional strategies such as writing exercises, in-class discussion, brainstorming, using online discussion forums, etc. With so many methods and strategies available what is the best approach for educators? Two strategies seem to be gaining momentum: Decision-Based Learning and Discussion-Based Learning.

Decision-Based Learning

Decision-Based Learning (DBL), a problem-solving strategy, is a new possibility. According to one study DBL teaches students how to look at the components of a problem and come to a rational decision. Evidence shows that there is a correlation between the development of problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Plummer et al. 2022). This style encourages students to look at all sides of an issue and come to a valid conclusion.

Discussion-Based Learning

On the other hand, Discussion-Based Learning also shows promise. Various universities across the U.S. and Canada cite Discussion-Based Learning, or a form of it, as one of their primary teaching methods. Examples include the University of Calgary, Brown University, and Columbia University. The fact that discussion plays a major role in developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills is indisputable. Studies of different methods continue to support Discussion-Based Learning as one of the primary ways for students to develop both skills. In-class discussion and thought-provoking questions continue to promote the development of critical thinking within the classroom.

Are Educators Doing a Good Job?

Some researchers and professionals argue that colleges are failing to teach their students the art of critical thinking. One researcher suggests that colleges and universities fail to understand that there is a difference between “teaching students what to think (highly educated) and teaching them how to think (better educated)” (Flores, Kevin L., et al.).  A student can fill their mind with countless pieces of information without developing the skills needed to interpret and apply that information.

To combat this tendency, educators must challenge students to think through issues themselves. When students are given the tools needed to think critically, a new world of knowledge is opened to them. Regardless of varying strategies, education needs a firm foundation to stand on. At Maranatha, that foundation is the Bible.

What Makes Maranatha Different?

Education firmly grounded in biblical truth does not leave room for conclusions drawn from emotion. Instead, biblically grounded education creates an environment that fosters critical thinking and a pursuit of the truth. At Maranatha, professors understand the value of preparing students to be critical thinkers. In a world that seeks to reject a biblical worldview through science and philosophy, it is more important than ever for students to graduate grounded in biblical principles.

Mr. Nathan Huffstutler, Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities, explains, “A biblical worldview emphasizes truth. God is a God of truth. If you believe that God is a God of truth, that will make you more passionate in your search for truth. When we deal with current events or with history, it’s not just opinions that we’re trying to find. That doesn’t mean that some questions don’t have nuance or gray areas. There are some issues that are very complex, but a biblical worldview aids in the pursuit of truth even in difficult subjects.”

Without the ability to analyze ideas through a biblical lens, students will be tossed about by every new theory, unable to distinguish between the truth and lies disguised as truth. Only when students understand how to think will they be able to properly analyze ideas and come to their own conclusions.

Mr. Huffstutler further explains how he implements the instruction of critical thinking into the classroom, “I personally use discussion questions. I’ll give a question and then require students to back up their answers with evidence. They must demonstrate in their answers that it is not just their opinion. I strive to show my students how to back up their statements based on facts and support from the text. That’s what critical thinking is.” 

Discussion is the first step in the process of developing critical thinking. In-class discussion has the power to sharpen minds as students are forced to think through their reasoning and evidence. Current and past students are reaping the benefits of an education that emphasizes the development of this invaluable skill.

Hannah Mayes (’20 Communication Arts—Theatre), a teacher at Maranatha Baptist Academy and Adjunct Professor at the University, shares her experience, “The focus Maranatha professors have on teaching students how to think is particularly evident when teachers would continuously ask us, ‘Why?’ Professors encouraged us to evaluate our answers in light of a biblical worldview, but not merely so we could provide a ‘right’ answer. Many instructors encouraged me to look further beyond the simple answer, use credible sources to support my answer, and apply what I had learned to my everyday life. These interactions seemed challenging at the time, but I find myself encouraging my own students to keep asking why and how — not just what.”

Keeping the focus on teaching students how to think is essential in the development of critical thinking. When academics are taught with a biblical worldview, students are encouraged to find the truth and evidence to back up their claims. Without these skills, students will be incapable of succeeding in a professional environment.

So, does higher education foster critical thinking and problem-solving? Yes. But only when students and professors work together to find the truth, based on facts, can critical thinking flourish.

Andreucci-Annunziata, P., Riedemann, A., Cortes, S., Mellado, A., Del Rio, M. T., & Vega-Munoz, A. (2023). Conceptualizations and instructional strategies on critical thinking in higher education: A systematic review of systematic reviews. Frontiers in Education, 8.

Flores, K. L., Matkin, G. S., Burbach, M. E., Quinn, C., & Harding, H. E. (2012). Deficient Critical Thinking Skills among College Graduates: Implications for leadership. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44 (2), 212-230.

Plummer, K. J., Kebritchi, M., Leary, H. M., & Halverson, D.M. (2022). Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills through Decision-Based Learning. Innovative Higher Education, 47 (4), 711-734.

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Critical thinking definition

critical thinking skills in problem solving

Critical thinking, as described by Oxford Languages, is the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Active and skillful approach, evaluation, assessment, synthesis, and/or evaluation of information obtained from, or made by, observation, knowledge, reflection, acumen or conversation, as a guide to belief and action, requires the critical thinking process, which is why it's often used in education and academics.

Some even may view it as a backbone of modern thought.

However, it's a skill, and skills must be trained and encouraged to be used at its full potential.

People turn up to various approaches in improving their critical thinking, like:

  • Developing technical and problem-solving skills
  • Engaging in more active listening
  • Actively questioning their assumptions and beliefs
  • Seeking out more diversity of thought
  • Opening up their curiosity in an intellectual way etc.

Is critical thinking useful in writing?

Critical thinking can help in planning your paper and making it more concise, but it's not obvious at first. We carefully pinpointed some the questions you should ask yourself when boosting critical thinking in writing:

  • What information should be included?
  • Which information resources should the author look to?
  • What degree of technical knowledge should the report assume its audience has?
  • What is the most effective way to show information?
  • How should the report be organized?
  • How should it be designed?
  • What tone and level of language difficulty should the document have?

Usage of critical thinking comes down not only to the outline of your paper, it also begs the question: How can we use critical thinking solving problems in our writing's topic?

Let's say, you have a Powerpoint on how critical thinking can reduce poverty in the United States. You'll primarily have to define critical thinking for the viewers, as well as use a lot of critical thinking questions and synonyms to get them to be familiar with your methods and start the thinking process behind it.

Are there any services that can help me use more critical thinking?

We understand that it's difficult to learn how to use critical thinking more effectively in just one article, but our service is here to help.

We are a team specializing in writing essays and other assignments for college students and all other types of customers who need a helping hand in its making. We cover a great range of topics, offer perfect quality work, always deliver on time and aim to leave our customers completely satisfied with what they ordered.

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India Today

Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in curriculum

F uture careers are no longer about domain expertise or technical skills. Rather, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in employees are on the wish list of every big organization today. Even curriculums and pedagogies across the globe and within India are now requiring skilled workers who are able to think critically and are analytical.

The reason for this shift in perspective is very simple.

These skills provide a staunch foundation for comprehensive learning that extends beyond books or the four walls of the classroom. In a nutshell, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are a part of '21st Century Skills' that can help unlock valuable learning for life.

Over the years, the education system has been moving away from the system of rote and other conventional teaching and learning parameters.

They are aligning their curriculums to the changing scenario which is becoming more tech-driven and demands a fusion of critical skills, life skills, values, and domain expertise. There's no set formula for success.

Rather, there's a defined need for humans to be more creative, innovative, adaptive, agile, risk-taking, and have a problem-solving mindset.

In today's scenario, critical thinking and problem-solving skills have become more important because they open the human mind to multiple possibilities, solutions, and a mindset that is interdisciplinary in nature.

Therefore, many schools and educational institutions are deploying AI and immersive learning experiences via gaming, and AR-VR technologies to give a more realistic and hands-on learning experience to their students that hone these abilities and help them overcome any doubt or fear.


Ability to relate to the real world:  Instead of theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills encourage students to look at their immediate and extended environment through a spirit of questioning, curiosity, and learning. When the curriculum presents students with real-world problems, the learning is immense.

Confidence, agility & collaboration : Critical thinking and problem-solving skills boost self-belief and confidence as students examine, re-examine, and sometimes fail or succeed while attempting to do something.

They are able to understand where they may have gone wrong, attempt new approaches, ask their peers for feedback and even seek their opinion, work together as a team, and learn to face any challenge by responding to it.

Willingness to try new things: When problem-solving skills and critical thinking are encouraged by teachers, they set a robust foundation for young learners to experiment, think out of the box, and be more innovative and creative besides looking for new ways to upskill.

It's important to understand that merely introducing these skills into the curriculum is not enough. Schools and educational institutions must have upskilling workshops and conduct special training for teachers so as to ensure that they are skilled and familiarized with new teaching and learning techniques and new-age concepts that can be used in the classrooms via assignments and projects.

Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are two of the most sought-after skills. Hence, schools should emphasise the upskilling of students as a part of the academic curriculum.

The article is authored by Dr Tassos Anastasiades, Principal- IB, Genesis Global School, Noida. 

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Explained: Importance of critical thinking, problem-solving skills in curriculum


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