Critical thinking means being able to evaluate evidence, to tell fact from opinion, to see holes in an argument, to tell whether cause and effect has been established and to spot illogic. “Most research shows you can teach these skills,” notes cognitive psychologist D. Alan Bensley of Frostburg State University, Maryland. “But critical-thinking skills are different from critical-thinking dispositions, or a willingness to deploy those skills.”
A tendency to employ critical thinking, according to studies going back a decade, goes along with certain personality traits, not necessarily with intelligence. Being curious, open-minded, open to new experiences and conscientious indicates a disposition to employ critical thinking, says Prof. Bensley. So does being less dogmatic and less authoritarian, and having a preference for empirical and rational data over intuition and emotion when weighing information and reaching conclusions.