Choices, decisions and information overload, oh my! Part 5

Qualities of critical thinking.

At any given time on any given day we are thinking about a variety of issues. Those issues may include what to eat for dinner, what song shall I listen to, why the gas prices are what they are, and why is wearing a seat belt the law. We are constantly bombarded with issues, questions, laws, preferences, choices and this not only occurs in our own home, but our neighborhood, city, town, state, and tribe, country and beyond! How do we begin to make the best choices for us, our family, tribe, and community? As we have moved into an era of technology where information is at our finger tips, we are able to review an abundant amount of data on any of the questions and situations that we face on a daily basis. But how do we synthesize all the information that we are seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing? A better question is why would we want to synthesize and think critically? The answer simply is to ensure that we are creating a quality of life which is based on our quality of thought.

As we explore critical thinking there are established universal intellectual standards and questions which are used to reason a problem, issue or situation. Often times the universal intellectual standards are integrated with lesson plans and are executed through the use of questions posed to students. The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools written by Richard Paul and Lind Elder (2006) explain several traits that are essential to the critical thinking. A few intellectual traits of virtues include:

  • Intellectual autonomy vs. intellectual conformity –
    • The ability to think for one’s self. To have rational control of one’s own beliefs, values, and thought process.
  • Intellectual integrity vs. intellectual hypocrisy –
    • To hold yourself to the same standards as others. That you are consistent in those same standards and to practice what one advocates to and for others.
  • Fair-mindedness vs. intellectual unfairness –
    • Having the ability to treat all viewpoints the same, without referring to your feelings or interests. Adhering to intellectual standards without referring to you own advantage or of the group.
  • Intellectual courage vs. intellectual cowardice –
    • Being able to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs, situations, and viewpoints that you strongly disagree with or have not given much thought. It is the understanding that ideas that are considered dangerous are at times rationally justified. That our own beliefs or values are at times false or misleading. To determine for ourselves which way to believe we must critically think about our beliefs and how they were formed.
  • Intellectual empathy vs. intellectual narrowmindedness –
    • The ability to put yourself in the place of others in order to genuinely understand them. This would require the individual to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others rather than their own.

Each of these traits will ideally assist you to create your own critical thinking standard. To explore a full list of essential intellectual traits please visit the The Critical Thinking Community website.

To learn more about Government and Public Policy programs offered through Michigan State University Extension please contact me, Tribal Extension educator with questions or comments at (231)-439-8927 or To contact an expert in your area, visit the expert page, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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