Critical Thinking by Tom Chatfield [Actionable Summary]

This is a comprehensive summary of the book Critical Thinking by Tom Chatfield. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski. Supporting Members get full access.

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Quite boring – structured like a typical textbook – yet, extremely useful when the main points are distilled and studied deeply. Critical Thinking by Tom Chatfield provides a series of toolkits that aim to improve the way you think about… everything. The goal of the book is to help you grasp the real arguments of others. Understand why critical thinking is important. Overcome barriers to critical thinking. Spot errors in your judgment. Question everything. Ask better questions. Fortify your logic. Explain theories like а scientist. Become a bit more certain about uncertainty. And a lot of other things with the underlying goal of reaching a place of less stupidity.

The Core Idea:

Not just thinking. But thinking better. Indirectly, this book will help you become more skeptical about the information you read and about the arguments presented by the people around you. By taking into account our natural flaws and biases, the concepts introduced in this title will prevent you from automatically believing everything you read. Instead of accepting the first piece of information at face value, you’ll confidently question it to avoid poor judgments.

Reason To Read:

Out-of-the-box thinking is not something we’re taught to practice. We learn how to think logically and make conclusions, but hardly anyone is schooled how to question his initial assumptions so that he can potentially reach a place of less error. Critical thinking (a core thinking type) is a skill everyone should master in the age of infinitive information. Where everyone is trying to commercialize your attention.


  • Critical thinking prompts you to question everything you observe so you can reach a place of less stupidity.
  • Don’t make conclusions based only on past events or on what’s visible. Try to find the best explanations by forming theories and experiments.
  • What is necessary is never sufficient. You need a pen to write. But a pen alone won’t make you a writer. Learn to distinguish the two.

5 Key Lessons From Critical Thinking:

Lesson #1: The Importance of Critical Thinking In Our Information-Rich World

What is critical thinking?

In short, the delicate process of thinking about thinking.

You might think that this is not needed. After all, our brains are praised as the dominant factor in the evolution of our world. The largest wheel in our entire body that can create concepts that no other organism can produce. Making our domination of the world unquestionable.

Turns out, that our brains are full of flawed thoughts which can be quite harmful if not considered.

To prove this to us, the author starts with the definition of uncritical thinking – the opposite of critical thinking.

When you don’t think critically, you automatically believe everything you see, read, hear.

Someone tells you that the world is flat because the ground we walk on is (mostly) flat?

Sure, I believe you!

Someone emails you and explains how he’s the prince of a distant country, but he requires help – your help! – to get access to the wealth of his family, and after he does, he will handsomely repay you?

Sure, I’ll send you some cash!

We know that the above statements are absurd to believe. But we also know that people in the past actually believed that the world was flat. We also know that people actually send money to distant “princes” because the term spam was defined at a later stage.

With age comes experience. And by accumulating experience we learn to spot errors – false claims – without a lot of thinking.

However, our brain is predisposed to wrong judgments. We have biases that are always trying to steer us to the easiest solution.

After all, it’s easier to believe what you read and hear than to question it and try to demystify the concept. With the information around us growing every minute. We simply don’t have time to fact-check everything.

To battle this inherently flawed way of thinking. Tom Chatfield suggests nurturing our inner skeptic. Questioning everything before making a decision.

The starting point is understanding the two types of biases:

  • Conscious bias: This is when we’re consciously aware of our favorites. For example, if you’re a fan of a particular football team, you won’t hide your preference. You always talk in a positive way about your favorite team.
  • Unconscious bias: This means that our opinion is influenced by factors we’re not fully aware of. As mentioned in the book, this happens a lot when companies are looking for new hires. The person conducting interviews is usually unconsciously leaning towards the better-looking candidate.

As you can see, the second bias is more important to get. Once you examine yourself, you can spot the type of factors that are distorting your decisions and take them into account in future situations.

“Reflecting on your own thinking is an important element of becoming a more effective thinker. It can also be extremely difficult. Even the most brilliant thinkers aren’t actively engaged in critical thinking most of the time; even they suffer from the same vulnerabilities and fallibilities that affect us all. Improvement is often a matter of insight, honesty and good habits rather than sudden inspiration.” Tom Chatfield

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