Critical Thinking and Decision Making

Essay by djmconstruction March 2003

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What is Critical Thinking?

Wade (1995) identifies eight characteristics of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves asking questions, defining a problem, examining evidence, analyzing assumptions and biases, avoiding emotional reasoning, avoiding oversimplification, considering other interpretations, and tolerating ambiguity.. Dealing with ambiguity is also seen by Strohm & Baukus (1995) as an essential part of critical thinking, "Ambiguity and doubt serve a critical-thinking function and are a necessary and even a productive part of the process" (Strohm & Baukus, p. 56). Another characteristic of critical thinking identified by many sources is metacongition. Metacongition is thinking about one's own thinking. More specifically, "metacognition is being aware of one's thinking as one performs specific tasks and then using this awareness to control what one is doing" (Jones & Ratcliff, 1993, p. 10).

What is Decision Making?

A decision is an allocation of resources. It can be likened to writing a check and delivering it to the payee.

It is irrevocable, except that a new decision may reverse it.

In the same way that a check is signed by the account owner, a decision is made by the decision maker. The decision maker is one who has authority over the resources being allocated. Presumably, he (or she) makes the decision in order to further some objective, which is what he hopes to achieve by allocating the resources.

The three features of a decision situation

At the time of the decision, the decision maker has available to him at least two alternatives, which are the courses of action that he might take. When he chooses an alternative and commits to it (i.e., signs and delivers the check), he has made the decision and then uncertainties come into play. These are those uncontrollable elements that we sometimes call luck. Different alternatives that the decision maker...