Peak Performance:
Success In College And Beyond

Chapter 10

Become A Critical Thinker And Creative Problem Solver


Controlling Impulses

•      Impulse  A sudden wish or feeling that can lead to unplanned and unwise actions.


•      Acting on impulse occasionally is relatively harmless. When impulses guide your behavior, you do things that are not good for you or others such as:


–    wasting time, disregarding obligations and letting people down

–    overreacting and making comments you wish you could take back later

–    driving dangerously

–    compulsive spending

–    overeating or abusing alcohol and other drugs

–    jumping into unhealthy relationships

Controlling Impulses continued…

•             Thinking Long-Term  It’s easy to trick yourself into believing small, impulsive actions, don’t have long-term consequences.


•              Delaying gratification doesn’t mean punishing yourself.     It means choosing a later, bigger reward.


•             When you feel an impulse coming on:

•            Stop.   Realize you are about to act impulsively. 

•            Think. What will I gain in the short term? What will I lose in the long term?

•            Decide. Given the consequences, is it worth it?




•      Critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant.

•      They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical, and fair. 

•      They apply these skills to their reading and writing as well as to their speaking and listening. 

•      They apply them in history, science, math, philosophy, and the arts; in professional and personal life.


•      The Problem:

•      Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to

•      itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced.

•      Yet,

•      the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends

•      precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in

•      money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be

•      systematically cultivated.

A Definition:


•      Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.


•      The Result:

•      A well cultivated critical thinker:


•       Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;


•      Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it

•        effectively;


•      Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against

•        relevant criteria and standards


•     Thinks open mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing

•      and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences;

•     And,

•     communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.


•     Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It requires rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use.

•     It entails effective communication and

•     problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Standards of Critical Thinking

•      The key to thinking critically is to hold yourself to high standards.


•      We can specify nine standards for excellent critical thinking.


•      Whenever you think, speak, or write, you should try to follow each standard.


Success Secret

•      Look at critical thinking as a learning process.

Critical Thinking continued…

•             Clarity  It is the foundation of critical thinking.

        A thought or statement is clear if it is clearly worded easily understood.

•             Could you elaborate further?

•             Could you give me an example?

•             Could you illustrate what you mean?


–           Unclear: Students need to indicate which classes on the sign-up sheet they would like to take due to the fact that the December 13 deadline is approaching.


–           Why It’s Unclear: The sentence is too wordy and long-winded. It makes a simple statement into a complicated mess.


–           Clear: Students need to sign up for classes before     December 13.


•           Precision  Exactness.

•            Could you be more specific?

•            Could you give me more details?

•            Could you be more exact?  

–          Imprecise: Too much TV makes kids more violent.


–          Why It’s Imprecise: The statement does not specify what kinds of programs make children more violent.


–          Precise: Children who are exposed to gratuitous violence on TV are more inclined to become aggressive.



•           Accuracy  Factual Truth. Ask yourself:

–          Is this really true?

–          Is it possible to check whether this is true? (If not, the statement is probably not accurate.)

–          What is this based on?

–          How reliable is the source of this information?

–          How could we check on that?

–           How could we find out if that is true?

–          How could we verify or test that?



4. Relevance  A fact or idea is relevant if it has a direct connection to the subject being discussed.  Ask yourself:

–   Is this connected to the issue?

–   Is this being introduced to change the subject, criticize others, or shift the blame?

–   How does that relate to the problem?

  How does that bear on the question?

–   How does that help us with the issue?



5. Depth  A thought has depth if it digs below the surface to consider the substance of the issue.

•      What factors make this a difficult problem?

•       What are some of the complexities of this question?

•      What are some of the difficulties we need to deal with?

–    Shallow: Building more prisons will solve our drug problem.

–    Why It’s Shallow: This is a superficial solution to a difficult problem.

–    Deep: Building more prisons will allow more drug dealers to be imprisoned, but it won’t address the causes of drug addiction.



6. Breadth  The degree to which a statement considers other arguments and points of view.

•      Do we need to look at this from another perspective?

•      Do we need to consider another point of view?

•      Do we need to look at this in other ways?

–    Narrow: I don’t know why people like Mike’s guitar playing—it’s terrible.


–    Why It’s Narrow: This statement assumes that there is only one correct point of view on Mike’s guitar playing.


–    Broad: Mike’s guitar playing appeals to metal fans, but it doesn’t appeal to me.


7. Logic  The process of drawing the correct conclusions from the facts and providing valid explanations from your conclusions.

•       Does all this make sense together?

•       Does your first paragraph fit in with your last?

•       Does what you say follow from the evidence?

–    Illogical: All of our students are above average.


–    Why It’s Illogical: It is statistically impossible for a majority of people to  be above average when compared to each other.


–    Logical: All of our students have special talent in a certain area.


8. Significance

•     Is this the most important problem to consider?


•     Is this the central idea to focus on?


•     Which of these facts are most important?

9. Fairness

•      Do I have any vested interest in this issue?

•      Am I sympathetically representing the viewpoints of others?


•      Th e STa n da r d S

•     Clarity             

•     Precision

•     Accuracy            

•     Significance

•     Relevance           

•     Logic         

•     Breadth             

•     Depth

•     Fairness

Must be Applied to:

•     Th e     el e m e n T S

•     Purposes             Inferences

•      Questions            Concepts

•     Points of view       Implications

•     Information          Assumptions

As we learn to develop:

•     InT e l l e c T ua l  Tr a I T S

•     Intellectual Humility      

•     Intellectual Perseverance

•     Intellectual Autonomy      

•     Confidence in Reason

•     Intellectual Integrity     

•     Intellectual Empathy

•     Intellectual Courage        Fairmindedness

Tour Guide for an Alien

•     Pretend that you have been assigned the task of conducting a tour for aliens who are visiting earth and observing human life. You're riding along in a blimp, and you float over a professional baseball stadium. One of your aliens looks down and becomes very confused, so you tell him that there is a game going on.


•     Try to answer the following questions for him.

•     What is a game?

•     Why are there no female players?

•     Why do people get so passionate watching other people play games?

•     What is a team?

•     Why can't the people in the seats just go down on the field and join in?


Fact or Fiction

•      My mom is the best mom on earth.

•      My dad is taller than your dad.

•      My telephone number is difficult to memorize.

•      The deepest part of the ocean is 35,813 feet deep.

•      Dogs make better pets than turtles.

•      Smoking is bad for your health.

•      Eighty-five percent of all cases of lung cancer in the U.S. are caused by smoking.

•      If you flatten and stretch out a Slinky toy it will be 87 feet long.

•      Slinky toys are fun.

•      One out of every hundred American citizens is color blind.

•      Two out of ten American citizens are boring.


Snap Judgments and Critical Thinking

•     If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already; three who were deaf, two who were blind, one
mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she
 have an abortion?


•     It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts.

•     Here are the facts about the three candidates:

•     Candidate A - Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologists. He's had two Mistresses.  He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to10 martinis a day.


•     Candidate B - He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

•     Candidate C - He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer, and never cheated on his wife.



•    Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.


•    Candidate B is Winston Churchill.

•    Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.


•    And, by the way, on your answer to the abortion question: If you said yes,
you just killed Beethoven.


•     Finally, can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics:
* 29 have been accused of spousal abuse
* 7 have been arrested for fraud
* 19 have been accused of writing bad checks
* 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses


    * 3 have done time for assault
* 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
* 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
 * 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
 * 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
* 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year...
 Can you guess which organization this is?


•    It's the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group of
idiots that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to
keep the rest of us in line.


•      Once upon a time, a husband and a wife lived together in

•      apart of the city separated by a river from the places of

•      employment, shopping, and entertainment.  The husband

•      had to work nights.  Each evening he left his wife and took

•      the ferry to work, returning in the morning.  The wife soon

•      tired of this arrangement.  Restless and lonely, she would

•      take the next ferry into town and develop relationships with

•      a series of lovers.


•     Anxious  to preserve her marriage, she

•     always returned home before her husband.  In fact, her

•     relationships were always limited.  When they threatened to

•     become too intense, she would precipitate a quarrel with her

•     current lover and begin a new relationship.



•      One night she caused such a quarrel with a man we will call

•      Lover 1.  He slammed the door in her face, and she started

•      back to the ferry.  Suddenly  she realized that she had

•      forgotten to bring money for her return fare.  She swallowed

•      her pride and returned to Lover 1’s apartment.  But Lover 1

•      was vindictive and angry because of the quarrel.  He

•      slammed the door on his former lover, leaving her with no

•      money.


•     She remembered that a previous lover, who we

•     shall call Lover 2, lived just a few doors away.  Surely he

•     would give her the ferry fare.  However, Lover 2 was still so

•     hurt from their old quarrel that he, too, refused her the

•     money.


•      Now the hour was late and the woman was getting desperate. 

•      She rushed down to the ferry and pleaded with the ferryboat

•      captain.  He knew her as a regular customer.  She asked if he

•      could let her ride free and if she could pay the next night. 

•      But the captain insisted that rules were rules and that he

•      could not let her ride without paying the fare.


•      Dawn would soon be breaking, and her husband would be

•      returning from work.  The woman remembered that there

•      was a free bridge about a mile further on.  But the road to the

•      bridge was a dangerous one, known to be frequented by

•      highwaymen.  Nonetheless, she had to get home, so she took

•      the road.  On the way a highwayman stepped out of the

•      bushes and demanded her money.


•     She told him she had

•     none.  He seized her.  In the ensuing tussle, the highwayman

•     stabbed the woman and she died.



•      Thus ends our story.  There have been six characters:

•      Husband, Wife, Lover 1, Lover 2, Ferryboat Captain, and

•      Highwayman.  Please list, in descending order of

•      responsibility for this woman's death, all the characters.  In

•      other words, the one most responsible is listed first; the next

•      most responsible, second; and so forth.



•       Most responsible for the

•       women’s death:



•       Next most responsible



•       Next most responsible



•       Next most responsible



•       Next most responsible



•       Least responsible


•     1.  Why do you think that most people have a tendency to blame the victim?


•     2.  If the story was about a widow who was crossing the river to work to support her children, would that have

•     changed your ranking?  Why or why not?

Becoming a Better Decision Maker

•      Decision  A reasoned choice among several options or possible courses of action.


•      Good decisions matter because no positive change happens without making decisions.


•      Handling Mistakes  Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes can be valuable tools for you to learn when you view them in a healthy light.


Success Secret

•      When you make a major decision, you are creating a new future for yourself.

Steps in the Decision-Making Process

•      Step 1 Define the Decision

     Framing Effect  Decision-making bias that results from the way a decision, question or problem is worded.


•      When you are faced with a decision, take care to frame the decision in different ways so that you don’t exclude any possible options.

–    Should I accept this new job?

–    Should I settle for this new job?

–    Should I reject this new job?

–    Should I continue my job search?

–    Should I remain unemployed?


•      Step 2 List All Possible Options

     Don’t be satisfied with one or two options; brainstorm until you have a wide range of possible courses of action from which to choose.


•      Step 3 Gather Information

     The more information you can gather, the easier it will be to generate options and then evaluate them.


•      Step 4 Assess the Consequences

     Look into the future and try to gauge the possible outcomes of each course of action.


     Personal Journal 6.4  Pros and Cons


•      Step 5 Choose One Option

     Once you’ve made your choice, remember you’ve done everything in your power to choose the right course.


•      Step 6 Act

     A decision only has value if you act on it. Don’t let fear of regret scare you away from making a decision.


•      Step 7 Evaluate Your Progress  Ask yourself:

     Did I overlook information that would be helpful in the future?

     What can I learn from the experience to help me make a better decision the next time around?


     Activity 35: Using the Decision-Making Process

Essential Critical Thinking Skills

Bloom’s Taxonomy

–        Knowledge

–        Comprehension

–        Application

–        Analysis

–        Synthesis

–        Evaluation

Problem-Solving Steps

•           State and understand the problem

•           Gather and interpret information

•           Develop and implement a plan of action

•           Evaluate the plan or solution

P.O.W.E.R. Plan

•     Prepare: Identify your goals to help make decisions

•     Organize: Consider and assess the alternatives

•     Work: Make and carry out the decision

•     Evaluate: Consider the outcomes

•     Rethink: Reconsider your goals and options

Decision making is the process
of deciding among
various alternatives.


•     Identify your goals

•     Consider which goals are short-term and which ones are long-term


•     Develop list of flexible alternate ideas

•     Freewriting and brainstorming are strategies

•     Assess alternatives

–   Determine outcomes

–   Determine probability outcomes will occur

–   Compare alternatives



•     Give your decision time

•     Mentally visualize various alternatives

•     Ask for advice

•     Learn to view indecision as a decision

•     Go with your gut feeling

•     Final stage in decision-making is to act on your decision


•     Consider the outcome

•     Reconsider if outcome is not satisfying



•     Did decisions produce desired outcomes?

•     Were decisions appropriate?

•     Are decisions consistent with what you want out of life?

•     Do decisions fit with your guiding philosophy of life?

Problem-Solving by Using Critical Thinking Skills

•     Clarify the problem

•     Consider problem systematically

•     Determine the most critical need to be solved first

•     Use information provided

•     Break problem into smaller pieces



•     Use graph or chart to redefine problem

•     Use analogies to gain additional insight

•     View problem from another perspective

•     “Sleep on it”

•     Don’t accept generalities as factual

•     Don’t confuse opinion with fact

•     Avoid jumping to conclusions

Use Critical Thinking in Class

•     Ask questions

•     Accept that some questions have no right or wrong answer

•     Keep an open mind

•     Manage emotional reactions

•     Express your concerns

Two events that occur together does not prove that one caused the other one. Correlation does not prove causation.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Strategies

•           Have a positive attitude

•           Persistence pays off

•           Use creativity

•           Pay attention to details

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Strategies

•           See all sides of the issue

•           Use reasoning

•         Inductive


•         Deductive


Common Errors In Judgment

•    Stereotypes

•    All-or-nothing thinking

•    Snap judgments

•    Unwarranted assumptions

•    Projection

Common Errors In Judgment

•    Sweeping generalizations

•    The halo effect

•    Negative labeling

Creative Problem Solving

•           Use games, puzzles, and humor

•           Challenge the rules

•           Brainstorm

•           Work to change


•           Change your routine

•           Allow failure

Creative Problem Solving

•           Expect to be creative

•           Support, acknowledge, and reward creativity

•           Use both sides of the brain

•           Keep a journal

•           Evaluate

•           Practice and be


Math And Science Applications

Problem-solving strategies for math and science

–        Make a model or diagram

–        Draw, illustrate, and make tables, charts, or lists

–        Look for patterns and connections

–        Act out the problem

Math And Science Applications

–        Simplify

–        Translate words into equations

–        Estimate, make a reasonable guess, check the guess, and revise

–        Work backwards and eliminate

–        Summarize in a group

–        Take a quiet break

Math And Science Applications

Overcome math and science anxiety

• Be aware
• Take control
• Be realistic
• Keep up and review often

Math And Science Applications

•    Get involved

•    Study in


•    Have a positive


•    Ask for help

•    Dispute the myths


Peak Performance:
Success In College And Beyond

Chapter 10

Become A Critical Thinker And Creative Problem Solver