Applying Cognitive Science to Critical Thinking among Higher Education Students

  • Jason M. Lodge
  • Erin O’Connor
  • Rhonda Shaw
  • Lorelle Burton


One of the main aims of higher education is for students to develop their analytical and critical thinking in order for graduates to function as competent professionals (e.g., Burton, Westen, and Kowalski 2012). The importance of this supposed generic skill is reflected in the ubiquitous inclusion of critical thinking as a graduate capability in universities (Moore 2011). While there exist many ways of defining and understanding critical thinking, at its core, critical thinking involves addressing our assumptions about how the world works. It is, therefore, essential for competent practice as a professional (Moon 2008). Without exposure to effective training in critical thinking, assumptions are more often than not based on the cognitive biases that are either inherent or conditioned through experience. The cognitive and emotional processes underpinning biases in thinking are often difficult to overcome. Our natural tendency to take mental shortcuts has allowed us to effectively navigate our environment and process only those stimuli that are of immediate value to us and to our survival. These shortcuts, however, often make it difficult for students to engage deeply with a complex concept, idea, or discipline in a higher education context. Ensuring that graduates are capable of thinking beyond their tendency to take mental shortcuts therefore poses a significant challenge for teaching critical thinking in higher education institutions.


Critical Thinking Cognitive Science Critical Thinking Skill High Education Research Metacognitive Monitoring 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Martin Davies and Ronald Barnett 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason M. Lodge
  • Erin O’Connor
  • Rhonda Shaw
  • Lorelle Burton

There are no affiliations available

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