How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

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    Understand your own biases. Human judgement can be subjective, frail, and spiteful. One recent study found that parents who were given corrected information about the safety of vaccines were less likely to have their children vaccinated.[3] Why? The hypothesis is that parents given this information accept that the information is true, but push back people it damages their self-esteem — something that is very important to most people. Understanding what your biases are and where they may affect how you deal with information.

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    Think several moves ahead. Don't just think one or two steps ahead. Think several. Imagine you're a chess grandmaster who's dueling with someone with the capacity to think dozens of moves ahead, with hundreds of permutations. You have to match wits with him. Try to imagine the possible futures the problem you're working on may take on.

    • Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com, famously understood the benefits of thinking several steps ahead. He tired Wired Magazine in 2011: "If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that."[4] When the Kindle first hit stores in 2007 it was more than three years in development, at a time when e-readers were on nobody's radar.[5]

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    Read great books. Nothing beats the transformation of a great book. Whether it's Moby Dick or Philip K. Dick, great writing has the power to frame debate (literature), enlighten (nonfiction), or unleash emotion (poetry). And reading isn't only for bookworms. Elon Musk, the tech giant, said he mastered rocket science by pretty much "reading and asking questions."[6]

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    Put yourself in other peoples' shoes. Empathy can also help you develop your critical thinking skills. Whether it's improving your negotiation tactics or understanding literature better, putting yourself in the shoes of others will help you imagine their motivations, aspirations, and turmoils. You can use this information to get leverage, be persuasive, or just plain be a better person. Empathy doesn't need to be heartless.
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    Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to improve your brain function. Carve out 30 minutes in your busy day to make your brain more sleek and powerful. There are dozens of ways that you can do this. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Solve a problem a day. Spend a little bit of time figuring out a problem and then try to solve it.[7] The problem could be a theoretical or a personal one.
    • Find the time to exercise consistently. 30 minutes of aerobic exercise — as little as a walk around the neighborhood — can help improve brain function.[8]
    • Eat the right kinds of foods. Avocados, blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, as well as brown rice play an instrumental role in keeping your brain healthy.[9]


Category: Critical thinking

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