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What Are the Different Uses of Critical Thinking in Psychology?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Critical thinking is an important skill in all areas of psychology, including research, therapy, and education. Many different aspects of psychology are or appear to be subjective, so critical thinking in psychology is necessary to distinguish poor logic from unavoidable uncertainty. Critical thinking in psychology gives one the ability to effectively analyze psychological research papers, present logically-rigorous work, and make important but obscure therapeutic connections.

Analyzing arguments is an important part of professional research in psychology, just as in other scientific fields. Scientific papers usually explain experiments and their results and attempt to draw conclusions from those results. Critical thinking in psychology is important, as psychologists need to be able to judge for themselves whether or not the conclusions are valid. This involves critically examining the experimental methods and results as well as the conclusions drawn from them. Failure to apply critical thinking in psychology may lead a researcher, therapist, or educator to blindly accept erroneous results.

It is also important for psychologists to apply critical thinking in psychology to their own experimental and therapeutic endeavors. A researcher must be able to critically examine his experiment in order to identify flaws or uncontrolled variables. He must also examine any conclusions drawn from his experiments and ensure that they follow logically from the results. When they do not, they should be amended or the assumptions made should be explicitly noted.

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Therapeutic psychologists use critical thinking in psychology to notice and understand inconsistencies or trends in patients' behavior and speech. Patients tend not to understand their psychological problems very well and obvious solutions are not often the best solutions. It often takes critical analysis of behaviors, speech, psychological tests, and even some physiological factors for a therapist to determine the best possible treatment.

Even people seeking psychological therapy are expected to exercise some level of critical thinking in psychology when possible. In many cases, simply understanding the problems in one's life is the most important step toward reaching psychological health. This understanding cannot be obtained without a critical examination of one's own lifestyle, behaviors, and life history. A patient may also be called upon to apply critical thinking to the judgments and conclusions of therapists. In spite of their training, psychotherapists are not always correct, and their conclusions should be examined critically.

Psychiatrists are also expected to practice critical thinking, though often of a different kind. They must often make decisions about the appropriate drugs to prescribe to treat psychological problems. Critical thinking in psychology is necessary in order to prescribe the correct amounts of the right drugs and to adjust treatment based on previous results when necessary.

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