An Important Relationship The term critical thinking refers to reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on making a decision on what to do, or what to believe. Decisions are often made or selected from a choice of many alternatives. What happens in-between is both esoteric and profound in terms of human skills and abilities. The actual process of applying critical thinking principals in making sound decisions is an essential skill for successful individuals. While the relationship between critical thinking and decision-making is evidently necessary in a professional setting, it also has great importance in more personal arenas like education, building arguments, and construction of personal belief systems. Individuals who exercise critical thinking are aware of their own biases, and regularly incorporate the practices of being logical and objective.
Critical thinkers use specific aspects of this skill, such as analyzing arguments carefully, viewing the perspective of others, and looking for additional or alternative information. Decision-making is basically selecting a course of action or belief from more than one alternative. In the book "Whatever It Takes - The Realities of Managerial Decision Making," the authors list the six steps to critical thinking and decision making as: "1) a problem is defined and isolated, 2) information is gathered, 3) alternatives are set forth, 4) an end is established, 5) means are created to achieve the end, and 6) a choice is made." (McCall). Although this list may appear to be a checklist of things to do, the authors state that "executive decision-making is not a series of single linear acts," and when applied in a professional environment, these six steps are likely to be ineffective. The combination of countless other factors (such as unclear information, personal biases, and multiple problems occurring at once) makes the technical study of decision-making in real-life situations problematic. The challenge lies in getting through the unclear information, personal biases, and other problems by utilizing practiced critical-thinking skills.
On a more personal level, the marriage of critical thinking and decision-making skills (or the lack thereof) is a bit easier to recognize and define. Historical data, and experiences with arguments, the habits of family and friends, and a myriad of seemingly unimportant personal information are quickly absorbed into my thinking processes. For the good or bad of the affect on decision-making, there is information that is readily accessible to me. Thus, my natural tendency is to be less of a critical thinker on a personal level. Said another way, I tend to skip the information-gathering piece of decision-making when dealing with personal situations. I think: "of course I know what my husband / friend /mother wants from this argument." In reality I should be gathering the information directly.
In evaluating my own critical thinking and decision-making skills level, I see that assessing the reasonableness and quality of my ideas needs honing. Additionally it would be beneficial for me to become better versed in the validation of the information I share (better recall or documentation of source information). Finally, I must learn to stop and readily look at problems and decision options from different perspectives. As Dr. Robert Kizlik of the University of Virginia says: "Anything not understood in more than one way is not understood at all." Work Cited (Kizlik) List of Works Cited Kizlik, Robert, Ed. D.
AD PRIMA Education Website (Ideas for New Teachers and Education Students: Thinking Skills Vocabulary and Definitions); Copyright 1997-2001 Robert Kizlik & Associates. April 4, 2002 web McCall, M. W. , & Kaplan, R. E. Whatever It Takes - The Realities of Managerial Decision Making (2 nd ed.
). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1990.