Critical and Analytical Thinking

Oluwaseun Macaulay Written by Oluwaseun Macaulay · 1 min read >

Analytical reasoning is the ability to break a situation down into different parts / smaller elements to solve a problem or complete a task. Looking at information and being able to discern the patterns within it.

Here, we are thinking about our thinking while we are thinking in order to make our thinking better. With the goal of being able to make informed errors and minimizing cognitive errors.

Systems of Mental Orientation

There are two systems of mental orientation

System 1

In this system, our minds work in an automatic manner. It is effortless and for the most part, subconscious. We do not have direct control over it.

System 2

This is controlled and effort full. We know exactly what is going on in our heads in this situation and we are usually conscious, logical and rule-governed.

The main issue with System 1 is the currency if information. It may lose its relevance to the current situation, hence, does it still fit in the current context. We always have to think logically in context. We have things which are stored in your subconscious but unless your are aware of this you may subconsciously lead yourself according to that bias.

We should focus more on System 2 mental orientation when important decisions need to be maid.

For a systematic process for analysing a problem:

Understand the Situation in Context

  • Identify and collect all relevant information;
  • Distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information.

Answer the 5 W’s and 1 H, which are the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions would have positive benefits in our critical thinking process. It further aids us in having a clear understanding the situation we are focused on, in order to define the problem accurately.

Define the Problem

  • Avoid confusing symptoms with problems;
  • The way you state your problem frames your decision. Hence, frame the problem in an actionable manner’

Clarify the Objective

  • A clear objective of the decision, produces the direction to follow;
  • Be clear about the goals to be achieved.

What are your Options

  • Create alternatives / options;
  • Create a good diverse team of people to provide different outlooks on the situation;
  • Brainstorming sessions are a useful source of alternatives.

Identify Relevant Criteria

  • These are the conditions in which we must meet in order to achieve the objective;
  • These are considerations and limitations.

This aids us in focusing on what is important. It also stops us from creating baseless inclination towards any of the options.

Evaluate Options against Criteria

  • Evaluate the criteria using the established alternatives
  • Consider both qualitative and quantitative issues

Here we look at the short term and long-term outcomes. We also look at the trade-offs / opportunity cost / consequences.


  • After the earlier steps you can make informed choices of what the most optimal option would be to fulfil your objective
  • Before anything is done, put yourself in the zone and really consider what entails making this decision. If there is an uneasy feeling, then most likely we have missed something in our analysis


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