Essential Life Skill #5: Critical Thinking

Every decision we make depends for its success on our ability to weigh the evidence and choose the wisest course, given our objectives. In session 5 of her Big Think Mentorworkshop on The Seven Essential Life Skills, Ellen Galinsky reviews the research and offers tips for building critical thinking skills in adults and children.

What's the Big Idea?

“Critical thinking”, says Ellen Galinsky, “ is the search for valid and reliable information and that’s important because the information that we have, the way we see the world guides not only what we think but what we do.” Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making and president of the Families and Work Institute, sees a dangerous, inverse relationship between the proliferation of information sources on the one hand, and our ability to judge reliability on the other. Consider this article. Is this journalism? A blog? An op-ed? In a traditional news source like the New York Times, the distinctions are made clear. But out here on the Web, it’s a jungle – anyone can claim anything and it’s up to the reader to evaluate the source.

A couple of decades ago, when there were only three or four major national newspapers and a handful of well-known investigative journalists and news anchors, it was somewhat less risky to be complacent about where your information was coming from. But as the recent vaccine “debate” demonstrates, and the fact that it persists in spite of the thorough debunking of the vaccines/autism connection, Pandora’s Box is well and truly open – and it’s high time we all fine tuned our bullsh*t meters.

Critical thinking is an essential life skill, says an abundance of cognitive psychology research, because it serves us in every aspect of our lives – not just in reading the news. Every decision we make depends for its success on our ability to weigh the evidence and choose the wisest course, given our objectives. In session 5 of her Big Think Mentor workshop on The Seven Essential Life Skills, Ellen Galinsky reviews the research and offers tips for building critical thinking skills in adults and children.

Video: Essential Life Skill #5 Critical Thinking, with Ellen Galinsky (free preview: full video available with subscription to Big Think Mentor


In a fast-changing world, only our higher-order thinking skills can keep us aware, engaged, and growing.  In The Seven Essential Life Skills, her workshop for Big Think Mentor, Mind in the Making author Ellen Galinsky teaches lessons learned over decades of psychological research into how humans learn throughout the lifespan.  The seven essential skills she teaches here, and demonstrates with stunning video footage of classic psychological experiments, are invaluable tools for adapting to, learning from, and thriving within a world in rapid flux.

The seven essential life skills you’ll hone in this workshop are:

  • Focus and Self-Control

  • Perspective Taking

  • Communicating

  • Making Connections

  • Critical Thinking

  • Taking on Challenges

  • Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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