As you know, critical thinking is a vital skill necessary for success in life and work. Unfortunately, barriers to critical thinking can hinder a person’s ability. This piece will discuss some of the most common internal and external barriers to critical thinking and what you should do if one of them hinders your ability to think critically.
Critical Thinking Challenges
You already know that critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating a situation or person so that you can make a sound judgment. You normally use the judgment you derive from your critical thinking process to make crucial decisions, and the choices you make affect you in workplaces, relationships, and life’s goals and achievements.
Several barriers to critical thinking can cause you to skew your judgment. This could happen even if you have a large amount of data and information to the contrary. The result might be that you make a poor or ineffective decision instead of a choice that could improve your life quality. These are some of the top obstacles that hinder and distort the ability to think critically:
1. Using Emotions Instead of Logic
Failing to remove one’s emotions from a critical thinking analysis is one of the hugest barriers to the process. People make these mistakes mainly in the relationship realm when choosing partners based on how they “make them feel” instead of the information collected.
The correct way to decide about a relationship is to use all facts, data, opinions, and situations to make a final judgment call. More times than not, individuals use their hearts instead of their minds.
Emotions can hinder critical thinking in the employment realm as well. One example is an employee who reacts negatively to a business decision, change, or process without gathering more information. The relationship between that person and the employer could become severed by her lack of critical thinking instead of being salvaged by further investigations and rational reactions.
2. Personal Biases
Personal biases can come from past negative experiences, skewed teachings, and peer pressure. They create a huge obstacle in critical thinking because they overshadow open-mindedness and fairness.
One example is failing to hire someone because of a specific race, age, religious preference, or perceived attitude. The hiring person circumvents using critical thinking by accepting his or her biases as truth. Thus, the entire processes of information gathering and objective analysis get lost in the mix.
Stubbornness almost always ruins the critical thinking procedure. Sometimes, people get so wrapped up in being right that they fail to look at the big picture. Big-picture thinking is a large part of critical thinking; without it, all judgments and choices are rash and incomplete.
It’s difficult for a person to do something he or she doesn’t believe in. It’s also challenging to engage in something that seems complex. Many people don’t think critically because they believe they must be scholarly to do so. The truth is that anyone can think critically by practicing the following steps:
- 1. Gather as much data as possible.
- 2. Have an opinion, but be open to changing it.
- 3. Understand that assumptions are not the truth, and opinions are not facts.
- 4. Think about the scenario, person, or problem from different angles.
- 5. Evaluate all the information thoroughly.
- 6. Ask simple, precise, and abundant questions.
- 7. Take time to observe.
- 8. Don’t be afraid to spend time on the problem or issue.
- 9. Ask for input or additional information.
- 10. Make it make sense.
5. Fear of Failure or Change
Fear of change and failure often hinders a person’s critical thinking process because it doesn’t allow thinking outside the box. Sometimes, the most efficient way to resolve a problem is to be open to changing something.
That change might be a different way of doing something, a relationship termination, or a shift of positions at a workplace. Fear can block out all possible scenarios in the critical thinking cycle. The result is often one-dimensional thinking, tunnel vision, or proverbial head-banging.
6. Egocentric Thinking
Egocentric thinking is also one of the main barriers to critical thinking. It occurs when a person examines everything through a “me” lens. Evaluating something properly requires an individual to understand and consider other people’s perspectives, plights, goals, input, etc.
Assumptions are one of the negative factors that affect critical thinking. They are detrimental to the process because they cause distortions and misguided judgments. When using assumptions, an individual could unknowingly insert an invalid prejudgment into a stage of the thought process and sway the final decision.
It’s never wise to assume anything about a person, entity, or situation because it could be 100 percent wrong. The correct way to deal with assumptions is to store them in a separate thought category of possibilities and then use the data and other evidence to validate or nullify them.
XYZ might be why ABC happened, but there isn’t enough information or data to conclude it. The same concept is true for the rest of the possibilities, and thus, it’s necessary to research and analyze the facts before accepting them as truths.
8. Group Thinking
Group thinking is another one of the barriers to critical thinking that can block sound decisions and muddy judgments. It’s similar to peer pressure, where the person takes on the viewpoint of the people around him or her to avoid seeming “different.”
This barrier is dangerous because it affects how some people think about right and wrong. It’s most prevalent among teens. One example is the “everybody’s doing it (drugs, bullying), so I should too” mindset.
Unfortunately, this barrier can sometimes spill over into the workplace and darken the environment when workers can’t think for themselves. Workers may end up breaking policies, engaging in negative behavior, or harassing the workers who don’t conform.
Group thinking can also skew someone’s opinion of another person before the individual gets a chance to collect facts and evaluate the person for himself. You’ve probably heard of smear campaigns. They work so well against targets because the parties involved don’t use the critical thinking process at all.
Impulsivity is the tendency to do things without thinking, and it’s a bona fide critical thinking killer. It skips right by every step in the critical thinking process and goes directly to what feels good in the moment.
Alleviating the habit takes practice and dedication. The first step is to set time aside when impulsive urges come to think about all aspects of the situation. It may take an impulsive person a while to develop a good critical thinking strategy, but it can work with time.
10. Not Knowing What’s Fact and Opinion
Critical thinking requires the thinker to know the difference between facts and opinions. Opinions are statements based on other people’s evaluative processes, and those processes may not be critical or analytical. Facts are an unemotional and unbiased piece of data that one can verify. Statistics and governmental texts are examples.
11. Having a Highly Competitive Nature
A “winning” mindset can overshadow the fair and objective evaluation of a problem, task, or person and undermine critical thinking. People who think competitively could lose sight of what’s right and wrong to meet a selfish goal that way.
12. Basing Statements on Popularity
This problem is prevalent in today’s world. Many people will accept anything a celebrity, political figure, or popular person says as gospel, but discredit or discount other people’s input. An adept critical thinker knows how to separate what’s being said from who said it and perform the necessary verification steps.
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How To Overcome Barriers in Critical Thinking
If you can identify any of the above-mentioned barriers, your critical thinking may be flawed. These are some tips for overcoming such barriers:
1. Know your flaws.
The very first step toward improving anything is to know and admit your flaws. If you can do that, you are halfway to using better critical thinking strategies.
2. Park your emotions.
Use logic, not emotion, when you are evaluating something to form a judgment. It’s not the time to think with your heart.
3. Be mindful of others.
Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes to understand their stance. A little empathy goes a long way.
4. Avoid black-and-white thinking.
Understand that there’s always more than one way to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Additionally, consider that not every person is all bad or all good.
5. Dare to be unpopular.
Avoid making decisions to please other people. Instead, evaluate the full lot of information and make the decision you feel is best.
6. Don’t assign unjustified merit.
Don’t assume someone is telling the truth or giving you more accurate information because of his or her name or status. Evaluate all people’s input equally.
7. Avoid judging others.
Try to keep biases and prejudices out of your decision-making processes. That will make them fair and just.
8. Be patient with yourself.
Take all the days you need to pick apart a situation or problem and resolve it. Don’t rush to make hasty decisions.
9. Accept different points of view.
Not everyone will agree with you or tell you what you want to hear.
10. Embrace change.
Don’t ever be afraid of changing something or trying something new. Thinking outside the box is an integral part of the critical thinking process.
Now you know the answers to the question, “What are the challenges of critical thinking?” Use the information about the barriers to critical thinking to improve your critical thinking process and make healthier and more beneficial decisions for everyone.
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