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Critical Thinking and Decision Making

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Critical Thinking and Decision Making

Through the exploration of critical thinking and decision-making, it becomes evident that the two are quite often linked. While critical thinking can take place without the need to make a decision, one would think that making a decision should never take place without thinking critically about the decision that needs to be made. On the other hand, there are times when it seems that decisions are made without any critical thinking involved.

What is Critical Thinking?

Through a review of the text, Readings in Critical Thinking, the reader will note that critical thinking is "a set of skills and attitudes [whereby an individual reacts] with systematic evaluation to what [he/she] has heard or read" (3). The Little Brown Compact Handbook notes, "CRITICAL here does not mean 'negative' but 'skeptical,' 'exacting,' 'creative' " (281). Using this information, it can be determined that critical thinking is a process by which an individual evaluates information being heard or read to determine the validity of the information and any other issues that may be imbedded in the information.

Readings in Critical Thinking recommends evaluation of information based on a set of questions as follows:

1. What are the issues and the conclusions?

2. What are the reasons?

3. What words or phrases are ambiguous?

4. What are the value conflicts and assumptions?

5. What are the descriptive assumptions?

6. Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?

7. How good is the evidence?

8. Are there rival causes?

9. Are the statistics deceptive?

10. What significant information is omitted?

11. What reasonable conclusions are possible? (11)

While it is not necessary to directly use these questions when evaluating information, they are helpful in learning the process of critical thinking and as a guideline when evaluating information related to a particularly difficult problem or decision that needs to be made.

What is Decision Making?

Further exploration of Readings in Critical Thinking, shows that decision-making is a process through which "the decision maker [comes] up with a solution [to] a recognized and defined problem" (73). Miriam Webster Online (http://www.m-w.com) defines a decision as "a determination arrived at after consideration." Using these definitions, it can be determined that decision-making is the act of evaluating information in order to reach a conclusion to a problem.

How do Critical Thinking and Decision Making Relate to Each Other?

Through a review of the definitions of critical thinking and decision-making, it can be determined that those making decisions must use critical thinking to determine the best solution for a problem. Without critical thinking, details of a situation can be missed and the best solution may be bypassed. For example, as an individual is driving his/her car, the driver must be aware of his/her surroundings in order to maintain proper control of the car. As the individual proceeds, the vehicle in front may suddenly come to a stop. If the driver is aware, he/she must make a quick decision, especially if he/she is following too closely. By maintaining an awareness of his/her surroundings through critical thinking, the driver may know that the next lane is empty, thereby making it available for a quick lane change in order to avoid an accident. Without this evaluation of his/her surroundings, the driver would not know of the availability of the lane, nor might he/she even realize that the car in front stopped, thereby causing an accident.

Another example would be in determining the best applicant for an available position. The first step is to properly evaluate the requirements for the position. Asking a series of questions regarding the position will aid in the determination of the types of qualifications the applicant needs. Through an evaluation of the needs of the position as they relate to the qualification of the applicants, the person trying to fill the position should be able to determine the best applicant. Also, the person trying to fill the position should ask the applicant a series of questions to determine if "significant information is omitted" (Readings in Critical Thinking, 11) or anything else that may pertain to the position being filled.

As stated



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