8 General Critical Thinking Skills

People sure talk alot about general and critical thinking skills. I’m not always sure what they mean, but in my present view the following 8 skills would qualify, all of which I deem important:

  1. The ability to clearly identify the problem. This includes the ability to define the problem as a statement or as a research question in a specific, clear, and meaningful way.
  2. The ability to deconstruct a complex problem into a set of separate components as needed.
  3. The ability to define an exhaustive set of possible causes. For the set to be exhaustive and mutually exclusive is even better.
  4. The ability to construct positive and negative tests. “If X is true then Y is expected,” or “If X is true then Y would not be expected.”
  5. The ability to interpret test results in order to rule out certain possible causes or at least weight particular causes more or less heavily.
  6. The ability to prove that a solution is unobtainable in the case where a solution is unobtainable. For example, the ability to prove that no valid test of a potential cause may be constructed.
  7. The ability to distinguish theory from reality and use both in a complimentary fashion to obtain a truth-maximizing conclusion. This includes the ability to incorporate considerations of practical feasibility into research design.
  8. Awareness of one’s own ignorance and limited capability both in theoretical necessity and also in multi-specific reality.
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