10 Barriers to Critical Thinking & Tips to Overcome Them
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Critical thinking is an essential life skill, especially in an age where deceptions like “my truth” and “your truth” run rampant.
It allows us to think our way through issues and arrive at effective solutions, and it is a skill that deserves the dedication it takes to hone it.
In some cases, there are invisible barriers to critical thinking that must first be broken down before progress can be made.
Because it is so vitally important for our teens to develop such skills—to think for themselves in a world pressuring them to tow the line—I think it’s worth addressing potential obstacles in their way.
Here are 10 common barriers to critical thinking that may reveal themselves as you seek to teach this vital skill.
1. Lack of Practice
Considering what causes a lack of critical thinking , the word “practice” comes to mind.
The phrase “practice makes progress” rings true when developing critical thinking skills .
Critical thinking may be discussed at length and encouraged theoretically, but is it expressed in the assignments or exercises our teens do on a daily basis?
Sadly, many assignments simply ask for regurgitated facts from a textbook that require little to no real thinking.
If we want to see our students thrive in the realm of critical thinking, we need to provide them with opportunities to practice and apply what they’ve learned in real-life situations.
2. Perceived Inability to Teach It
The idea that you’re not capable of teaching such a thing may just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you believe you can’t teach critical thinking, you may not even try. If you do try, you may be plagued by self-doubt that shakes your confidence.
If you’ve ever thought …
“Why is critical thinking so difficult?”
You’re not alone.
It can be hard to plainly identify what critical thinking is and how to teach it. That’s one of the main reasons we created Philosophy Adventure —to provide an intriguing way to teach critical thinking effectively.
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3. Normalcy Bias
Normalcy bias is a subconscious response that falsely assures things will remain the same as they always were.
Every type of bias works against critical thinking as it uses emotion to make decisions rather than rational thought rooted in truth.
This bias encourages our minds to ignore danger and new information in favor of maintaining the safety and security of our “regular” lives.
For example, normalcy bias leads us to believe that freedom will always be free despite growing threats to quench it.
Frankly, it’s a dangerous barrier to critical thinking with the potential for lasting consequences.
The group-think effect is a phenomenon where individuals conform to the beliefs of others in order to avoid appearing different.
It can lead to mass conformity in which society grows blind to flaws in opinion-based reasoning.
Why think for yourself when someone else can do it for you? It’s a sobering thought—and a major obstacle to critical thinking—but I fear it’s one that is sweeping the world.
This is an especially tough barrier for teenagers who are often desperate to be accepted and liked by their peers.
Rather than relying on critical thinking to decipher between right and wrong, they may cave to peer pressure because “everyone else is doing it.”
This barrier is yet another poignant example of why it’s so important to help our children develop critical thinking skills.
5. Distorted View of Truth
We’re also susceptible to having a distorted view of what is fact and what isn’t. If we’re not careful, our view of truth can be distorted by misleading opinions.
Passionate people with deeply held beliefs are often willing to loudly defend them.
Such passion and charisma can seduce teens and adults alike who may not fully know what they believe— or why they believe it .
Of all the psychological obstacles to critical thinking, fear is a weighty one.
I humbly suggest that it is the fear of failure or the fear of change that is most likely to act as a hindrance to critical thinking.
Sometimes, when we look at an issue from every angle, we find that the only right reaction is to change.
Likewise, if we fear failure, we’re likely to not act or try at all.
And when it comes to trying to discern the truth in order to act upon it, not doing so can be far worse than the perceived failure itself.
7. Viewing Everything Through the Lens of “Self”
Some people call it “egocentric thinking.” Whatever the name, it is the tendency to think about the world only as it relates to us.
This self-centered thinking is natural, but there’s great value in training our minds to be able to view issues from another’s point of view. When problem-solving, it’s important to consider other perspectives.
This is particularly true when dealing with people who may be affected by our actions.
8. Past Experiences
Past experiences, relationships, even trauma can change us in a number of ways.
What happened in the past surrounding any given thing most certainly influences how we think and feel about that thing in the future.
But it’s important to recognize past experiences for what they are—a single moment (or period) of time.
They should not define our thoughts, nor should they dictate our actions as we seek to answer life’s questions objectively.
Undoubtedly, it can be difficult to put such things in perspective so, and it calls for self-control, but it’s important to train our teens to try.
Relying exclusively on the past to make decisions today can lead to negative outcomes as it relies on information that may not be true.
Assumptions dampen our ability to learn. Though often flawed, assumptions quench our desire to ask questions because we think we already know the answers.
What a sad state to be stuck in because the truth is …
We don’t know what we don’t know.
How can we learn what we don’t know if we never root out the truth in a given matter?
Similarly, some people assume that because they don’t understand something, then it must be impossible to learn.
That’s simply not true. We have an innate ability to learn new things, and critical thinking helps us do just that—with integrity.
10. Time Constraints
There’s so much to learn in school that it can be hard to find the time to invest in critical thinking discussion and activities .
This skill can often be moved to the side while teens learn about world history and how to write a proper essay—both of which are no doubt important.
But I would argue that critical thinking gives students the foundation to not only better digest the material learned but to excel in it.
How to Overcome Common Barriers to Critical Thinking
We’ve established that critical thinking is an essential part of becoming a discerning adult, unmoved by news biases or passionate, emotional language.
That being said, how do we break through the barriers that hinder critical thinking and move forward to teach such a significant skill?
You can help your students better develop their critical thinking skills by encouraging thoughtful questions and debate.
When consuming news from around the world, inspire them to challenge their initial emotional reactions to the information presented. Teach them how to seek impartial data and use that to form an educated opinion.
Providing real-world examples and connections between topics is a great way to encourage teens to think more deeply about a subject.
Rather than presenting multiple choice answers or fill-in-the-blanks, ask them to talk through the question out loud based on the information they’ve been given.
You can also try a fun exercise with these critical thinking questions for kids .
The ability to clearly vocalize beliefs and express thoughts is a priceless skill, and one that we have weaved into every lesson of Philosophy Adventure :
will your children recognize truth?
Critical thinking is a learned skill that requires practice (and breaking down barriers when they arise).
However, the ability to identify logical fallacies in arguments and recognize deception is well worth investing in.
Recognizing potential barriers that are obstructing that end goal is a solid first step.
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How to Identify and Remove Barriers to Critical Thinking
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Contrary to popular belief, being intelligent or logical does not automatically make you a critical thinker.
People with high IQs are still prone to biases, complacency, overconfidence, and stereotyping that affect the quality of their thoughts and performance at work. But people who scored high in critical thinking —a reflection of sound analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities—report having fewer negative experiences in and out of the office.
Top 5 Barriers to Critical Thinking
To learn how to think critically, you’ll need to identify and understand what prevents people from doing so in the first place. Catching yourself (and others) engaging in these critical thinking no-no’s can help prevent costly mistakes and improve your quality of life.
Here are five of the most common barriers to critical thinking.
Egoism, or viewing everything in relation to yourself, is a natural human tendency and a common barrier to critical thinking. It often leads to an inability to question one’s own beliefs, sympathize with others, or consider different perspectives.
Egocentricity is an inherent character flaw. Understand that, and you’ll gain the open-minded point of view required to assess situations outside your own lens of understanding.
Groupthink and Social Conditioning
Everyone wants to feel like they belong. It’s a basic survival instinct and psychological mechanism that ensures the survival of our species. Historically, humans banded together to survive in the wild against predators and each other. That desire to “fit in” persists today as groupthink, or the tendency to agree with the majority and suppress independent thoughts and actions.
Groupthink is a serious threat to diversity in that it supports social conditioning, or the idea that we should all adhere to a particular society or culture’s most “acceptable” behavior.
Overcoming groupthink and cultural conditioning requires the courage to break free from the crowd. It’s the only way to question popular thought, culturally embedded values, and belief systems in a detached and objective manner.
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Drone Mentality and Cognitive Fatigue
Turning on “autopilot” and going through the motions can lead to a lack of spatial awareness. This is known as drone mentality, and it’s not only detrimental to you, but those around you, as well.
Studies show that monotony and boredom are bad for mental health . Cognitive fatigue caused by long-term mental activity without appropriate stimulation, like an unchanging daily routine full of repetitive tasks, negatively impairs cognitive functioning and critical thinking .
Although you may be tempted to flip on autopilot when things get monotonous, as a critical thinker you need to challenge yourself to make new connections and find fresh ideas. Adopt different schools of thought. Keep both your learning and teaching methods exciting and innovative, and that will foster an environment of critical thinking.
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Personal Biases and Preferences
Everyone internalizes certain beliefs, opinions, and attitudes that manifest as personal biases. You may feel that you’re open minded, but these subconscious judgements are more common than most people realize. They can distort your thinking patterns and sway your decision making in the following ways:
- Confirmation bias: favoring information that reinforces your existing viewpoints and beliefs
- Anchoring bias: being overly influenced by the first piece of information you come across
- False consensus effect: believing that most people share your perspective
- Normalcy bias: assuming that things will stay the same despite significant changes to the status quo
The critical thinking process requires being aware of personal biases that affect your ability to rationally analyze a situation and make sound decisions.
Research shows that persistent stress causes a phenomenon known as allostatic overload . It’s serious business, affecting your attention span, memory, mood, and even physical health.
When under pressure, your brain is forced to channel energy into the section responsible for processing necessary information at the expense of taking a rest. That’s why people experience memory lapses in fight-or-flight situations. Prolonged stress also reduces activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles executive tasks.
Avoiding cognitive impairments under pressure begins by remaining as calm and objective as possible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and slow your thoughts. Assume the role of a third-party observer. Analyze and evaluate what can be controlled instead of what can’t.
Train Your Mind Using the 9 Intellectual Standards
The bad news is that barriers to critical thinking can really sneak up on you and be difficult to overcome. But the good news is that anyone can learn to think critically with practice.
Unlike raw intelligence, which is largely determined by genetics , critical thinking can be mastered using nine teachable standards of thought:
- Clarity: Is the information or task at hand easy to understand and free from obscurities?
- Precision: Is it specific and detailed?
- Accuracy: Is it correct, free from errors and distortions?
- Relevance: Is it directly related to the matter at hand?
- Depth: Does it consider all other variables, contexts, and situations?
- Breadth: Is it comprehensive, and does it encompass other perspectives?
- Logical: Does it contradict itself?
- Significance: Is it important in the first place?
- Fairness: Is it free from bias, deception, and self-interest?
When evaluating any task, situation, or piece of information, consider these intellectual standards to hone your critical thinking skills in a structured, practiced way. Keep it up, and eventually critical thinking will become second nature.
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7 barriers to critical thinking and how to overcome?
Critical thinking is a skill that lets one understand and evaluate an issue or situation logically. All available facts and information related or likely to be related to the issue are analyzed. It involves sorting, organizing, and analyzing facts and information to define a problem and then find an effective solution. It is a mindset that is crucial for the desired development of our personal and professional life. In this article, we will discuss critical thinking and process, barriers of critical thinking, and how to overcome it.
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is the quality of Thinking clearly and thoroughly. It’s a Careful application of reason to explain an issue. It is the ability to define and analyze facts to understand a problem deeply. It often involves a few steps that start from identifying and characterizing a problem and continues through analysis, interpretation, and ends up with developing a solution.
A critical thinker questions any idea or assumption rather than accepting it blindly. They approach the problem consistently and systematically rather than by intuition. Identify, make, and evaluate arguments and use the facts, arguments, and findings to build the real picture.
Examples of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking can be applied in every sphere of our life. Doctors, Lawyers, Scientists, Politicians, and business Professionals always using the Critical thinking approach. Few examples of Critical thinking are given bellow.
Today we are confronting with plenty of news and events every day. We are getting information from various media e.g., newspapers, radio, television, and online media like the internet and social media. With the blessing of these media, it has become effortless to get information from anywhere anytime today.
At the same time, it is tough to say whether any news we came across is authentic or not. Doubt regarding online news is increasing nowadays, as fake news is widespread there today. While we think to find a solution to this problem, critical thinking is the only one that can apply.
Whenever we come across any news or information, we should not take it as a divine word. We should try to find or guess the answer to few questions like “From whom it came, what is the place it came from, why did he make it, is there any interest of him or anyone else and so on.”
By analyzing the answers to these questions, we can justify the news’s reliability and authenticity.
Deciding to Purchase a product
Deciding to purchase a product also requires to think critically today. A few years back, we didn’t need to overthink to buy something. It was easy to go to the mall or market, look for the item we need, choose one from the available item, and buy it.
As we are living in a digital age, there is also scope to apply a critical thinking approach to decide to buy something. If you would like to purchase something, you first justify the need for the thing, i.e., do you need the item, or can another way meet it.
If you feel the need, then search the product on the internet to find the model and brand available in the market and know each one’s merits and demerits. Ask your friends and others within your network to see the product’s experience if you find anyone having a good experience to collect further details of the product from him and the internet.
If you do this, there is a low chance of having a bad experience with this product.
Taking care of Health
Health is one of the prime concern to every conscious people today. Most of us try to keeping well, try to get rid of obesity, etc. And there Is no scarcity of suggestions and information around us regarding this. Some of these are not scientific, exaggerated, and rumor.
Moreover, any time information is continually changing. So we need to apply critical thinking to decide how to lead our lives, choose a healthy diet, eat, and what not to eat.
Presently we are facing the COVID-19 situation throughout the world. And this Pandemic disease is somewhat different from other diseases. Even the scientists are getting baffled to suggest what to do.
Suggestions and information regarding the disorders are frequently changing. A recognized treatment yet to be discovered. If we apply critical thinking, we can be benefitted at least a bit.
Business organizations today are undergoing various risks. Economic uncertainty, Political agitation, Climate change, Cyberattack, etc. are continuously pushing the business organization into a threat. To survive within such an environment, business organizations need to assess the risk and threat it abounds with. And it is the employee’s critical thinking ability, which can evaluate the risk with the right approximate.
It involves the activity like listing the risk, defining the nature and extent of each, finding out the factor that influences the risk, whether it is a temporary or permanent risk, and finally to take measures to mitigate the risks.
Some industries are more risk involved e.g., a construction company where the working environment is risky for workers’ lives. So here, addressing and assessing the risk factor is essential.
Otherwise, there could be injuries or even deaths that cause workforce shortage and negatively impact its reputation. Similarly, a financial organization is much more prone to be affected by some financial index.
For example, the introduction of a new law affects overall business activities and customers. It requires critical thinking skills, such as analysis, creativity, and problem-solving. If the financial institution doesn’t apply these critical thinking skills, it could result in losing profit or will suffer legal consequences from regulatory non-compliance.
Elements of Critical thinking process
Critical thinking is a process that compromises some elements and requires a few steps to follow.
1. Problem Identification
critical thinking process begins with the identification of a problem. Note abnormalities and indications that are likely to cause a problem. Consider it is a problem, why is it a problem. Determine why this problem is there and the possible consequences if no attempt is taken to solve it.
2. Information Gathering
Once something is considered as a problem, gather information about it. Engage yourself to learn as much as possible about the problem. Look for possible reasons, facts, and evidence; Ask other people’s opinions and perspectives regarding the issue. Gather information from multiple sources.
In this step, evaluate the information collected in the previous stage. Assess the validity and reliability of the information and ensure that they are accurate. Evaluate the source of information and check whether it is from a single source or more than one source.
4. Find solutions
After evaluating the information and evidence collected, try to deduce solutions to the problem. Plan several solutions based on the conclusions made in the evaluation. List the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
5. Choose the best solution and Implement
This is the final stage where each solution already suggested is evaluated by considering all the advantages and disadvantages. Consider the risk a solution pose and think whether a solution is easy or difficult to implement. Finally, a practical solution is chosen and implemented.
What are the barriers to critical thinking and how to overcome?
Critical thinking is an important mindset that can help improve our personal life and our professional life. But in reality, very few among us can think critically. Most people don’t have Critical thinking skills because of some reason.
The following are the barriers to critical thinking that prevent us from thinking critically. Also, how to get around this barrier is discussed here.
1. Egocentric behavior
It is the tendency of a person to relate everything to himself and leads to the inability to evaluate others’ perspectives and feelings. He can not tolerate anything beyond his philosophy. He wants others to think of an issue in the same way he thinks.
As a result, he can not broaden his thinking, and the Peoples surrounding him dishearten to think critically. It is one of the most significant Barriers to Critical Thinking and many a time challenging to overcome.
It is complicated to correct this behavior for a person as he can not find this character flaw. One thing that can help eliminate this tendency is to bring them to an environment where everyone can exchange their views, respect others’ opinions, and question any ideas. Arrange debates, open question-answer session, and group discussion to make them accustomed to open thinking.
2. Group thinking
It is another harmful thing or one of the barriers to Critical thinking. In this case, most of the group people don’t give their views or ask any questions. They remain idle and support whatever other says without any argument.
To overcome this obstacle, each group member should stand apart and question and argue ideas and opinions presented before him and give his thoughts, beliefs, and ideas.
Only suggesting to do such is not sufficient; also inspire them to think and ask questions, help them grow thinking capability, bring context, and create a situation before him to believe and ask questions easily.
3. Drone mentality
It can be described as a person’s inability to pay attention to what’s going on around him. These kinds of people cannot be attentive in a class meeting or discussion. It becomes a habit for them, and as a result, they cannot think so much.
This habit grows when a person gets exhausted from working a long time and find work tedious. To overcome this barrier, Teachers, supervisors, or hosts Should aware of their audience or officials, make things interesting to them, change topics and tasks.
4. Social condition
The society we live in has some values, thoughts, and assumptions prevailing. Therefore many of us think in a particular way. Their thinking is related to society’s values, beliefs, and assumptions. Usually, it is challenging for them to think beyond this spectrum.
Again, this is one of the significant barriers to critical thinking as it confined our thinking to a limit. This barrier is also tough to overcome as most people do not realize they are being conditioned to think in a certain way.
Only social and cultural awareness can help to overcome this barrier.
5. Personal Biases
Personal Biases hinder Critical thinking because they influence a person’s justice, and It also prevents one from using experience, reasoning, and common sense to make correct decisions.
To overcome this decision, everyone should practice honesty and integrity.
6. Work pressure
We often are swamped in the workplace. We don’t have much time to accomplish the work assigned. It does affect our skill of critical thinking awfully. When the time is short, and the deadline is knocking the door, most of us walk in a way that does not involve any strategic thinking to complete the job. And here is when the barrier arises to think critically.
To overcome this barrier, we should have a plan and schedule for each job, whether small or big. Also, we should not keep work piled for the future.
It hinders the overall growth and development of a person. As an effect, it is also a barrier to critical thinking. Fear makes a person unconfident and demotivated, and he is not willing to think beyond his circle.
To remove fear from people’s minds, managers, supervisors, or heads of the workplace can play an essential role by ensuring the right working environment.
How can I apply critical thinking to my life ?
In our everyday life, we frequently face various situations, problems, or difficulties. And many a time we conventionally get around this. But if we apply critical thinking, we can quickly meet that moreover, the solution we find here would be more effective than anyone we get otherwise.
Whatever types of situations or problems we encounter and whatever professional we are, student, teacher, doctor, engineer, lawyer, and so on, we first treat everything that we face or everything that we do a problem. And we have the determination or passion for having a solution to it.
Then we try to collect information on this. To do so, we should fond of acquiring knowledge. We always keep our sense alert to receive information from our surroundings.
Next, we must have a certain level of analytical ability to deduce facts from data. However, this requires practice. If we start thinking in this way and continue, hopefully, we could apply critical thinking in our life.
The human being is the best of creations because of the incredible power of its brain. Critical thinking is nothing but to utilize the brain more effectively. We could realize how powerful our brain is if we start thinking critically.
Critical thinking has tremendous value to the employer. Already it is in the list of top seeking soft skills in the world. So it is time for all of us to start thinking critically and make the future generations habituated with this.
But there are some barriers to critical thinking process and If we try, we will be able to overcome them.
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1 Barriers to critical thinking
First, let’s briefly examine some barriers to critical thinking.
Take another look at the visual summary below on critical and analytical thinking, which was introduced at the end of Session 3. Note the warning sign next to the ‘black pit’ to the lower right of this figure.
This figure shows a visual summary of critical and analytical thinking. It includes phrases such as ‘objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement’, ‘abilities’, ‘dispositions’ and ‘questioning’.
We have provided you with a larger version of this image in PDF format [ Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. ( Hide tip ) ] .
What are the common pitfalls or barriers to thinking critically and analytically? Some of these were highlighted in the visual summary, and include:
- Misunderstanding . This can arise due to language or cultural differences, a lack of awareness of the ‘processes’ involved, or a misunderstanding that critical thinking means making ‘negative’ comments (as discussed in Sessions 3 and 4).
- Reluctance to critique the ‘norm’ or experts in a field and consider alternative views (feeling out of your ‘comfort zone’ or fearful of being wrong).
- Lack of detailed knowledge . Superficial knowledge (not having read deeply enough around the subject).
- Wanting to know the answers without having to ask questions .
Why do you think being aware of these potential pitfalls is important?
As a critical and reflective thinker, you will need to be aware of the barriers, acknowledge the challenges they may present, and overcome these as best you can. This starts with an understanding of expectations. Some students feel anxious about questioning the work of experts. Critical thinking does not mean that you are challenging someone’s work or telling them that they are wrong, but encourages a deeper understanding, a consideration of alternative views, and engagement in thought, discourse or research that informs your independent judgement. At postgraduate level you will also need to read widely around a subject in order to engage effectively with critical and analytical thinking, and to ask questions: there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, only supported arguments. This is at the heart of postgraduate study.
Critical thinking encourages you to be constructive, by considering the strengths and weaknesses of a claim and differing sides to an argument. It helps you to clarify points, encourages deeper thought, and allows you to determine whether information that you come across is accurate and reliable. This helps you to form your own judgement, and drives research forward.
People can find it difficult to think critically, irrespective of their education or intellectual ability. The key to understanding critical thinking is not only knowing and making sure that you understand the process, but also being able to put this into practice by applying your knowledge.
Critical and reflective thinking are complex and lifelong skills that you continue to develop as part of your personal and professional growth. In your everyday life, you may also come across those who do not exercise critical thinking, and this might impact on decisions that affect you. It is important to recognise this, and to use critical and reflective thinking to ensure that your own view is informed by reasoned judgement, supported by evidence.
Take another look at the visual summary. You will see two aspects to critical thinking: one focusing on the disposition of the person engaged in critical and reflective thinking, and the other concerning their abilities. Let’s focus here on dispositions. At a personal level, barriers to critical thinking can arise through:
- an over-reliance on feelings or emotions
- self-centred or societal/cultural-centred thinking (conformism, dogma and peer-pressure)
- unconscious bias, or selective perception
- an inability to be receptive to an idea or point of view that differs from your own (close-mindedness)
- unwarranted assumptions or lack of relevant information
- fear of being wrong (anxious about being taken out of your ‘comfort zone’)
- poor communication skills or apathy
- lack of personal honesty.
Be aware that thinking critically is not simply adhering to a formula. For example, reflect on the following questions:
- How can you communicate with those who do not actively engage with critical thinking and are unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue?
- How would you react or respond when you experience a lack of critical thinking in the media, amongst your own family members, colleagues at work, or on your course?
Barriers in Critical Thinking
The ability to think critically is crucial in both our personal and professional life. It is a cognitive process that involves the capacity to conceptualize, apply, analyze, and evaluate knowledge gained through experience, reflection, or communication actively and competently. Although this talent is essential, a number of barriers may prevent it from being used effectively. By being aware of these obstacles, we can develop our capacity for critical thought and make more sensible choices.
Impact of Critical Thinking Barriers
Practically every element of our life requires the use of critical thinking . It has the power to influence our interpersonal relationships, career goals, and worldview. We may make logical and sane decisions regarding the information we receive by using critical thinking. By assessing the truthfulness and importance of arguments, we can form well-rounded viewpoints and come to wise conclusions.
Our capacity to digest information effectively and logically can be affected by barriers to critical thinking. They may impair our judgment and cause us to draw biased or inaccurate conclusions. Both personally and professionally, this may have detrimental effects.
Importance in personal and professional life:
- Critical thinking is essential in making rational, well-thought-out decisions in our personal lives. It helps us to evaluate the credibility of information, question assumptions, and understand perspectives different from our own.
- Barriers to critical thinking, such as egocentric thinking or social conformity, can lead to biased decision-making or an inability to think independently. This can affect our relationships, personal growth, and ability to navigate life's challenges effectively.
- In the workplace, critical thinking is crucial for problem-solving, decision-making, and innovation. It allows us to thoroughly analyze situations and propose effective solutions.
- Barriers to critical thinking, like groupthink or drone mentality, can limit creativity and productivity in a professional setting. It can lead to poor business decisions and a lack of innovation.
4 Common Examples
Our capacity to think critically can be hampered by a number of typical barriers. By understanding these barriers, we can endeavor to lessen their negative impacts.
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon where individuals conform to the ideas and opinions of a group, often neglecting their own thoughts or ideas. It happens due to the desire to maintain harmony and unity in the group, even when it can result in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making.
- Drone Mentality
Drone mentality refers to the tendency to follow along without questioning the status quo. It involves accepting information or adopting behaviors based solely on what is deemed 'normal' or 'common' by society. This mentality can limit one's capacity to question, analyze, or form individual opinions.
- Egocentric Thinking
Egocentric thinking is a self-centered perspective where individuals consider their viewpoints and interests as the most important. It can lead to a lack of consideration for alternative viewpoints and a resistance to new information that contradicts personal beliefs. This barrier can hinder open-mindedness, a crucial element of critical thinking.
- Social Conformity
Social conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms or societal expectations. The desire to fit in can often lead to the suppression of personal thoughts and opinions. This barrier can limit the diversity of perspectives and hinder the ability to think independently.
Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Critical Thinking
Identifying and understanding these barriers are the first steps towards overcoming them. Here are some strategies to overcome these barriers:
Encourage Independent Thinking
Groupthink and social conformity can be fought by promoting an environment where people feel free to voice their viewpoints. Independent thinking creates diversity of viewpoints and improves critical thinking.
- Definition: Independent thinking refers to the ability to think on your own, analyze information independently, and make decisions based on your understanding and judgement.
- Application: Encourage an environment where everyone can express their unique thoughts and ideas, which will help counteract both groupthink and social conformity. This approach fosters a diversity of perspectives, enhancing the overall quality of decision-making and problem-solving efforts.
Understanding our prejudices and biases might assist reduce egocentricity and the drone mindset. Being conscious of our cognitive processes enables us to assess their reliability and make necessary adjustments.
- Definition: Self-awareness is a conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It allows us to understand our biases and preconceived notions.
- Application: Promoting self-awareness can help mitigate egocentric thinking and drone mentality. By understanding our own thought processes, we can evaluate their validity, adjust our biases, and make better, more informed decisions.
The negative impacts of egocentric thinking and social conformity can be lessened by being receptive to new ideas and prepared to weigh various points of view. A more thorough grasp of topics can be fostered by embracing open-mindedness.
- Definition: Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider new ideas, opposing arguments, and alternative viewpoints. It involves being receptive to different ways of looking at things.
- Application: Fostering open-mindedness can alleviate the effects of egocentric thinking and social conformity. Being open to different perspectives promotes a more comprehensive understanding of various issues and encourages a healthy exchange of ideas.
Promote Continuous Learning
Our perspectives are widened by seeking knowledge and insight, and we are given new tools for critical analysis. This can support more effective critical thinking while reducing the impact of all these obstacles.
- Definition: Continuous learning is the constant expansion of skills and skill-sets through learning and increasing knowledge. It involves the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and understanding.
- Application: Encouraging continuous learning can help counter the effects of all these barriers, as it broadens our perspectives and provides us with more information for critical evaluation. This in turn fosters more effective critical thinking, spurring innovation and problem-solving capabilities.
What are the signs of poor critical thinking?
Poor critical thinking can take many different forms, including the inability to draw logical conclusions, the propensity to jump to conclusions, the inability to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of an argument, and intolerance to new ideas.
Poor critical thinking can manifest in several ways:
- Inability to think independently : Relying heavily on others for opinions or solutions may indicate a lack of critical thinking skills.
- Resisting new ideas : A resistance to change or new ideas may suggest a lack of critical thinking.
- Making decisions based on emotion, rather than logic : This could indicate a lack of critical thinking skills.
Is stress a barrier to critical thinking?
Yes, stress can seriously impair our ability to think critically. People may find it harder to focus, organize their ideas, and come to logical conclusions when they are under stress.
Is lack of knowledge a barrier to critical thinking?
Absolutely. Critical thinking skills might be hampered by ignorance or a lack of information. Making informed decisions and evaluating information are two aspects of critical thinking that might be difficult to do when one is unfamiliar with the topic.
Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes. Houghton Mifflin.
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: The nature of critical and creative thought. Journal of Developmental Education, 30(2), 34.
Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized. Cambridge University Press.
Chaffee, J. (2015). Thinking critically. Cengage Learning.
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What are the Barriers to Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking skills are essential for students at all levels of education. Critical thinking helps students to understand and analyze facts and information. It helps students to develop effective problem solving skills. It also allows students to make right decisions at the right time.
This skill is not only useful in the field of education but also in others areas of life. But the question is, why do students lack critical thinking skills? There are many barriers which hinder students to develop these skills.
Barriers to critical thinking
Following are the 8 common barriers to critical thinking:
1 . Wrong assumptions
Many students make wrong assumptions about concept . They accept information as it is. They don’t ask questions. They don’t seek clarification from their teachers and peers. Therefore wrong assumptions have a negative impact on students ability to think critically.
2. Personal Bias
Personal bias is a common barrier to critical thinking. When students are biased, they can’t think clearly about a topic and make decisions based on logic and facts. Overconfidence is the most common personal bias. It affects students’ decisions making skill.
3. Emotional barrier
Negative emotions have a profound effect on students’ critical thinking. When emotions are strong, students can’t think objectively and may fail to take right decisions. A recent study found that when students are emotional, their critical thinking abilities decrease.
4. Too much distractions
Attention plays important role in developing the critical thinking skills in students. When students are given a task that requires them to think critically, they are often distracted by external stimuli. Therefore, they should work in distraction free environment.
5. Afraid to take decision
Decision making is a important part of critical thinking. But sometimes students afraid to take decisions. This may be due to the following reasons:
6. Overload of information
One of the barriers to critical thinking is the amount of information that students are bombarded with on a daily basis. With too much information, students may find it hard to figure out what information is important or what is not.
7. Environmental barrier
There is also an effect of environment on students’ critical thinking. Sometimes students do not get conducive environment in school and home which in turn decreases their ability to think critically. There is lack of opportunities for students to practice critical thinking skills.
How to overcome barriers to critical thinking ?
There are many barriers to critical thinking. These barriers can be cultural, psychological and environmental. These can exist inside and outside the classroom.
However, these barriers can be overcome by proper education, practice and self reflection.
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6 Steps to Beat Common Critical Thinking Barriers at Work
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- It requires effort: Critical thinking requires a conscious effort to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and make logical and informed decisions. This can be mentally taxing and time-consuming.
- It goes against intuition: Critical thinking often requires us to question our assumptions, beliefs, and biases and to consider alternative perspectives that may challenge our preconceived notions. This can be uncomfortable and may need us to change our thinking or behavior.
- Emotions can influence it: Emotions can influence our thinking and decision-making, leading us to make biased or irrational judgments. Critical thinking requires us to recognize and regulate our emotions to ensure that our review is objective and rational.
- It requires knowledge and skills: Critical thinking requires knowledge of the relevant subject matter and the ability to apply logical reasoning and analytical skills. Without these skills, it can be challenging to evaluate information and make informed decisions.
- It can be affected by external factors: Critical thinking can be influenced by external factors such as social and cultural norms, group dynamics, and the media. These factors can create biases and limit our ability to think critically.
Emotional bias, limited knowledge or information, time constraints, social or cultural bias.
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- Be aware of biases: Recognize and acknowledge your own preferences and assumptions. This will help you to evaluate information objectively and consider alternative perspectives.
- Seek out diverse perspectives: Expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints and opinions. This can help you to challenge your own beliefs and assumptions and to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
- Ask questions: Question everything, including your assumptions and the assumptions of others. Ask questions to clarify information, identify underlying assumptions, and evaluate arguments.
- Analyze information: Take the time to analyze data and evaluate arguments. Use critical thinking skills, such as logic and reasoning, to assess the validity and reliability of the information.
- Consider the context: Consider the context in which information is presented. Be aware of external factors that may influence your thinking, such as social and cultural norms, group dynamics, and the media.
- Practice: Critical thinking is a skill that can be developed and improved with practice. Make a conscious effort to think critically in your daily life, whether it is at work, in your personal life, or in the media you consume.
- Ad hominem fallacy: Attacking the character or personal traits of an individual rather than addressing the substance of their argument. For example, “I can’t believe anything he says; he’s a known liar.”
- Appeal to authority fallacy: Supporting an idea with an authority figure rather than presenting evidence or logical reasoning. For example, “Dr. Smith says that this treatment is effective, so it must be true.”
- False cause fallacy: Assuming that one event caused another simply because it happened before the second event. For example, “I wore my lucky socks, and we won the game, so my socks must have caused the win.”
- Straw man fallacy: Misrepresenting an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack. For example, “My opponent thinks we should do nothing about climate change, which is ridiculous.”
- Slippery slope fallacy: Suggesting that one event will inevitably lead to a chain of events without presenting evidence or logical reasoning. For example, “If we allow gay marriage, next we’ll be allowing people to marry animals.”
- False dichotomy fallacy: Presenting an argument as if there are only two options when in fact, there are more. For example, “Either you’re with us, or you’re against us.”
- Hasty generalization fallacy: Making a generalization based on insufficient or unrepresentative evidence. For example, “I met one rude French person, so all French people must be rude.”
- Red herring fallacy: Introducing an unrelated topic to distract from the main argument. For example, “I know my proposal is controversial, but what about all the good things I’ve done for this company?”
- Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: Assuming that one event caused another simply because it happened after the first event. For example, “I took this pill, and then my cold went away, so the pill must have cured my cold.”
- False analogy fallacy: Comparing two things that are not similar enough to support the conclusion drawn. For example, “Driving a car is like flying a plane, so if you can do one, you can do the other.
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9 Deadly Critical Thinking Barriers (And How to Eliminate Them)
Anthony Metivier | November 9, 2023 | Podcast , Thinking
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The answer is simple:
It’s because they’re lurking inside you.
And if you don’t know that these barriers are standing between you and exploding your thinking abilities, you’re powerless to improve your situation.
Starting right now, let’s identify and remove the biggest barriers.
You’ll experience greater clarity of mind just by knowing what they are and how to get them out of your life.
Let’s dive in.
The 9 Most Common Barriers to Critical Thinking (And How to Overcome Them)
As you go through this list, keep a journal.
Write down the ones that pose the biggest issue for you.
Then make time on your calendar to deal with each.
Rest assured, without putting in the time, nothing will change.
But when you do, your independent thinking abilities will explode. In fact, your critical thinking abilities will improve overall .
One: Letting The World Revolve Around You
Most of us experience inner talk . And it’s normal to include yourself and your experiences in the topics you think about.
But those who have excellent critical thinking skills know how to contextualize their SRIN.
What is SRIN?
Self-referential Inner Narrative.
Others call this the “blah blah blah” monkey-mind.
No matter what you call it, if you can’t think about contexts larger than your immediate self, it will be impossible to think critically.
Here’s what to do instead:
- Notice when you say or think things like, “I don’t personally know anyone this has happened to.”
- Stop and think about the larger context at the level of your neighborhood, your city, your region, your country, your continent, your hemisphere and the world. Where relevant, include the entire universe.
- Imagine a topic through the eyes of at least one other person. In autobiographical memory studies, this is called shifting from the field perspective to the observer perspective.
- Ask about what would be true even if you did not exist.
For more help, these critical thinking examples will help you think through other perspectives.
Two: Lack Of Critical Thinking Skills
If you want to remove the obstacles to critical thinking you’re experiencing, some study will be involved.
Critical thinking books abound and it is worth spending time with some of the best. Look for books that include examples and exercises .
You’ll also want to think about a particular goal for critical thinking that you have. For example, do you want to think better as a student preparing for law school? Or do you need thinking skills for being a better contributor to your family or neighborhood?
Setting a goal can help guide which resources you choose and your study and practice plan .
Three: Not Knowing Your Cognitive Biases
We are all included to make serious errors in our thinking.
But we’re not alone in making them. Far from it.
In fact, because all of us operate from having a human brain, psychologists have identified patterns.
These are called cognitive biases .
One that I suffer from quite badly is called “ recency bias .” Basically, it’s very tempting for me to judge reality based on the most recent events, rather than looking at the broad scope of history.
I use all of the tips on this page to cope and improve. One of the most helpful benefits of critical thinking is the ability to engage in continual discussions with friends about history. It’s something I continue to read for one simple reason.
The more you know and discuss the past, the more you are automatically reminded of a bias like this.
What cognitive biases are strongest in your life?
Four: Being In A Hurry
We’re all in a rush once in a while.
But it’s one of the biggest critical thinking challenges all the same.
If you don’t stop and think, mistakes are so much easier to make.
One of my favorite tools for making sure I don’t rush into making decisions without thinking about them is called W.R.A.P.
- Widen Your Options
- Reality Test
- Attain Distance
- Prepare To Fail
As can see, it has tools in it to help you slow down.
It’s also a superior alternative to “trusting your gut.” In fact, Chip and Dan Heath who came up with it in their book Decisive did a lot of research on it for the book.
They show that relying on gut instinct is often very harmful. (And it’s often a cognitive bias that drives us to rely on it anyway.)
How do you remember to use the W.R.A.P. technique? You need to get thinking about it deep into your procedural memory .
For that, a Memory Palace will help. Grab this free course so you know how to create and use one:
Five: Lack Of Scientific Literacy
Unfortunately, a lot of people leave school not knowing how to evaluate research. They often have limited numeracy skills.
They also barely understand some of the core principles of science, such as:
- Sampling and generalizability
- Probability and coincidence
- Correlation and causation
- Differentiating fact from opinion
- Logical reasoning
To remove these barriers from your life, make sure to learn what science is really all about. This is the kind of understanding that can help save your life as you think better. And the best part is that it will boost your concentration skills, something far too many people lack .
Of all the most common barriers to critical thinking, not being well rested destroys our decision-making abilities.
Sleep and memory go together, and we need to remember to think critically in the first place. Please be sure to privilege your rest.
Seven: Lack Of Communication Skills
Thinking is more than a two-way street. It’s a complex network of many freeways, highways, streets and cul de sacs.
You need to communicate with many people and you need to do it well.
Some people don’t have a big enough vocabulary, so need to learn how to remember more words .
Others lack writing skills.
Yet others are not yet able to read fast enough so that they can talk and write enough to effectively communicate.
One way to improve in all these areas is to create a 90-day research and communication goal.
For example, I spent 90-days learning about the art of memory in the sixteenth century. To practice building my communication skills, I spoke with many people about it, wrote frequently and read the suggestions I got from others.
To remove your critical thinking barriers, spend the next 90 days reading about it. Find a philosophy discussion group. Start a blog or journal privately about what you’re learning.
It will help you tremendously.
Eight: Fear Of Failure
A lot of people are so afraid to make mistakes that they never take action.
Well, critical thinking is itself an action. If you never get started, you won’t be able to learn from the mistakes you will inevitably make.
This barrier circles us back to the problem of the ego and SRIN. You might be overly protective of yourself because you’re stuck in a self-referential loop.
How to get past this comes down to:
- Recognizing the issue
- Committing to get past it
- Setting a plan for when you’re going to start taking risks
One quick win would be to join a debate club. This will give you meeting deadlines and specific topics for which you need to be prepared. You’ll have removed this common barrier in no time.
Nine: Inability To Improvise
Of all the critical thinking strategies out there, you need to be able to think on your feet.
One of the reasons people fear failure so much is that they’re just not used to opening their mouths, making mistakes and being able to pivot.
I’ve learned to do this by giving lots of speeches from memory and other kinds of presentations.
And I’ve also learned and memorized a lot about logic and philosophy , in more than just one language.
Spend some time learning a language to break through this barrier. Practicing speaking in a new language will give you verbal dexterity that improves your ability to improvise in your mother tongue.
The Best Time To Remove Your Barriers Was Yesterday
Thanks for reading this post.
There are obviously more barriers than the ones we’ve gone over today, but as you can see, the nine I’ve listed are massive.
Get started on just one at a time.
Follow-up with the resources I’ve provided.
Familiarize yourself with those cognitive biases and improve your science literacy.
And if you want to get started practicing your writing skills, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below.
And if you ever spot me suffering from issues in my thinking, please let me know. I always want to improve!
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Last modified: November 9, 2023
About the Author / Anthony Metivier
4 Responses to " 9 Deadly Critical Thinking Barriers (And How to Eliminate Them) "
This article is a true masterpiece
Thank you so much for this incredible work
It’s my pleasure, Olena.
Any particular critical thinking barriers you’re facing lately?
There are way more articles on critical thinking than I expected. Thank you so much.
My pleasure. I might have more coming soon, so please stay tuned.
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