Differences in Thinking

Critical thinkers and problem solvers are two groups of people.  Sadly, these two groups are almost mutually exclusive. However, it is important that thinkers and solvers develop both skillsets to a certain level of competence.

The purpose of this post is to try and explain in detail critical thinking vs problem-solving in term of individual differences.

Thinking is a slow deliberate process that takes to do. In other words, a person must decide to think. Since there is a requirement of active effort, thinking is something that few people value and appreciate as they should.

Thinking involves processing information from the viewpoint of central processing. This means to examine the content of a message for its worth. Furthermore, when a person is developing their own arguments thinking involves developing support for one’s position. Often when people argue or disagree today they tend to get upset. This is an indication that their emotions are determining their position rather than their mind. They might use their mind on occasion to strengthen their argument but the foundation of their position is often emotional rather than based on strong thought.

Developing the mind usually involves reading. Reading exposes an individual to good and poor examples of thinking.  From these examples, an individual thinks about the strengths and merits of each. This process of thinking about other people’s thoughts helps a person to develop their own opinion. When an is formed it can be shared with others who are then able to judge for themselves the merit of the person’s opinion.

This process of thinking is not often required for academic studies. The focus has moved more towards problem-solving. Problem-solving is In an excellent form of thinking when the end goal is often binary in nature. This means that when a problem solves, either they solve the problem or they do not.

Critical thinking involves a certain fuzziness to it that problem-solving lacks  For example, whether a speech or paper is good or bad involves critical thinking because judging quality involves fuzziness to it. This sense of a shade of gray would make solving problems difficult at the least. T

However, if you are called to determine why a computer does not connect to the internet this is problem-solving. The goal is to get back on the internet. You have to think but the desired outcome is clear. Once the computer is back on the internet there is nothing to think about. In most cases, particular with non techie people, how you get back on the internet does not even matter. In other words, the “why does this work” is often something that problem solvers do not care about but this is exactly the type of thing critical thinking has to be able to explain when developing an argument.

Problem-solving involves action and not as much contemplation. The focus is on experience and not theory. It is not that problem-solvers never read and contemplate, rather, they learn primarily through doing. Examples include trial and error. 

Most companies want problem solvers and not necessarily critical thinkers. In other words, businesses want things done. They do not want people going around and questioning unless this helps to solve a problem.  Companies claim to want thinking but what they really want are people who think how to solve the company’s problems. Questioning the company is not one of the wiser things to do.

The fuzziness of critical thinking frustrates problem-solvers who want to solve problems and not simply talk. This is not a negative thing but rather a difference in personality. The problem is that problem solvers and critical thinkers do not see this as a matter of difference but a matter of ignorance on one hand and irrelevance on the other hand. Thinkers think and problem solvers do is a common description of both sides


Critical thinking and problem-solving are two skills that everyone needs. To focus on either to the exclusion of the other is detrimental. A combination of thought and action creates a balanced individual who is able to get things done while still have a depth of thought to support their actions.

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