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:
- 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.
- The ability to deconstruct a complex problem into a set of separate components as needed.
- The ability to define an exhaustive set of possible causes. For the set to be exhaustive and mutually exclusive is even better.
- 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.”
- The ability to interpret test results in order to rule out certain possible causes or at least weight particular causes more or less heavily.
- 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.
- 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.
- Awareness of one’s own ignorance and limited capability both in theoretical necessity and also in multi-specific reality.