Critical Thinking Improves Life OutcomesSubmitted by the Learning Assessment Committee

Did you know? Critical thinking predicts a wide range of life events! That’s the major finding of a series of recent studies conducted by Heather Butler and her colleagues in the psychology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Butler et al. asked people to complete an inventory of life events—“I forgot about an exam”; “I cheated on my romantic partner who I had been with for more than a year”; “I have over $5,000.00 of credit-card debt”—and take the Halpern Critical Thinking Assessment. The result: critical thinkers experience fewer negative life events. As Butler points out in her essay in Scientific American, “People who were strong on either intelligence or critical thinking experienced fewer negative events, but critical thinkers did better.”

This is an important finding! While intelligence is mostly genetic, and therefore static, critical thinking can be improved with training. So, what are you doing to improve your students’ lives?

One thing you can do is to engage your students in higher-level thinking. Higher-level thinking IS critical thinking! This flowchart has been designed to help you look at your assessment or instructional questions and determine whether or not the question is lower- or higher-level. Use it to determine the level of your questions.

Something else you can do? Join the Critical Thinking Community of Practice (CoP)! This CoP offers full-time and adjunct faculty an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues to, among other things, develop a deeper understanding of critical thinking as a mindset and as a set of skills, and the strategies to develop both in students. Contact Brett Fulkerson-Smith at or call ext. 6785 for more information about the group.