Why is Critical Thinking More Important Than Intelligence?

Why critical thinking is more important than intelligence

Why is Critical Thinking More Important Than Intelligence?

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to be really smart but still make silly mistakes? Or why others may not have the highest IQ but always seem to make good decisions?

The answer lies in understanding the difference between intelligence and critical thinking. While intelligence is about how much information you can store in your brain, critical thinking is about how well you can use that information.

Critical thinking means carefully analyzing information, considering different perspectives, and making reasoned judgments. It’s about thinking for yourself rather than just believing everything you’re told.

In this blog post, we’ll explore why developing strong critical thinking skills is so important – even more vital than just having a high IQ. We’ll look at real-world examples, powerful strategies, and fun activities to boost your brain power.

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence refers to our ability to learn, reason, solve problems, and understand complex ideas. It’s often measured by IQ (intelligence quotient) tests that assess skills like:

  • Memory
  • Math abilities
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Language skills

While IQ tests can identify patterns of strengths and weaknesses, they don’t tell the whole story about a person’s capabilities.

For example, someone may score highly on an IQ test due to an excellent memory for facts and figures. But that same person may struggle to think independently or see different sides of an issue.

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking involves going beyond simply memorizing information. It means:

  • Asking questions and evaluating evidence
  • Analyzing different points of view
  • Applying logic and reasoning
  • Making judgments based on objective criteria
  • Solving problems creatively

In other words, it’s about developing mental muscles to process information in an active, careful way rather than passively accepting everything at face value.

Why Critical Thinking Trumps Intelligence

While both intelligence and critical thinking are valuable, here’s why strong critical thinking skills are ultimately more important:

  1. The world is full of misleading information. With the internet and social media, we’re constantly bombarded with opinions, fake news, advertising, and complex issues. Critical thinking helps us separate fact from fiction and see through biases or hidden agendas.
  2. IQ alone doesn’t prevent foolish choices. History is full of examples of highly intelligent people who made disastrous decisions due to flawed thinking – like getting caught up in conspiracy theories or being overconfident in flawed assumptions. Critical thinking acts as a check against these mental blind spots.
  3. Critical thinkers can learn and adapt better. People with high critical thinking abilities don’t just accept information passively. They actively question, analyze, and connect ideas in new ways. This makes them more curious, creative, and able to apply their intelligence flexibly.
  4. Critical thinking builds life skills. Evaluating evidence, analyzing different perspectives, and making reasoned decisions are skills that apply to every area of life – from school and work to relationships, health, and finances. Critical thinkers end up more capable and successful overall.

Real-Life Examples

Let’s look at two contrasting examples that show why critical thinking trumps raw intelligence:

Example 1: Academic Success vs. Life Skills Amy had an exceptional IQ and aced every exam in school. However, she tended to accept things at face value and follow instructions rigidly without questioning them.

Her classmate Justin had a slightly above-average IQ. But he constantly asked “why?” and tried to understand concepts from multiple angles. He did very well academically, but also developed life skills like:

  • Analyzing different solutions to problems
  • Seeing potential flaws or unintended consequences
  • Expressing his views persuasively

As an adult, Amy struggled in the real world because she had difficulty thinking independently and adapting to new situations. Meanwhile, Justin became a successful entrepreneur and leader due to his strong critical thinking abilities.

Example 2: Chess Grandmasters studies have compared the skills of chess grandmasters (among the highest levels of chess expertise) versus players rated at an intermediate level. While the grandmasters have extraordinary skills for quickly recognizing patterns and retrieving relevant knowledge from memory, researchers found the intermediate players sometimes made better moves in critical positions.

Why? The grandmasters’ pattern-recognition abilities were so powerful that they sometimes fell into inflexible thinking. But the intermediate players, while less knowledgeable overall, maintained more flexibility and open-mindedness about evaluating the board objectively.

Strategies to Sharpen Critical Thinking

Developing robust critical thinking abilities takes practice, but it’s a mental skill you can continually improve through the right strategies:

  1. Ask questions constantly. Get in the habit of asking “Why?” whenever you learn something new. The drive to understand the reasoning behind claims or beliefs builds curiosity and analysis.
  2. Don’t accept things at face value. Always dig deeper by considering:
    • The evidence behind arguments or “facts”
    • Potential biases or agendas
    • Alternative perspectives or interpretations
  3. Keep an open mind. Critical thinking requires being willing to change your mind when encountering new, well-reasoned information that contradicts your initial beliefs.
  4. Learn from feedback and mistakes. View setbacks as opportunities to re-evaluate your thinking process and make adjustments. Be willing to admit errors.
  5. Consume high-quality information sources. Expand your knowledge by reading books, articles, and analyses from reputable experts who back up their claims.

Activities to Exercise Your Mind

Developing a critical mindset takes regular mental exercise, just like building physical strength. Try incorporating these fun activities:

  1. Play contrarian and devil’s advocate. When you encounter a commonly accepted idea or argument, force yourself to poke holes and consider counterarguments.
  2. Analyze persuasive media. When watching ads, debates, or persuasive messages, analyze the techniques being used and look for flaws in the reasoning.
  3. Do logic puzzles and brainteasers. Working through multi-step problems that require strategic thinking provides mental CrossFit for your analytical muscles.
  4. Have Philosophical discussions. Pick complex, open-ended questions about ethics, politics, or life’s big issues and debate different perspectives.
  5. Learn a new skill. Mastering a hands-on skill provides opportunities to apply critical thinking to troubleshoot problems and find creative solutions.


While intelligence and a high IQ can help you acquire knowledge quickly, critical thinking is ultimately the more powerful skill. It enables you to:

  • Analyze information objectively
  • See different perspectives
  • Uncover biases and flaws in reasoning
  • Make well-reasoned decisions
  • Solve problems creatively

By developing robust critical thinking abilities through strategies like questioning assumptions, keeping an open mind, and constantly analyzing evidence, you’ll be better equipped for success in every area of life.


Q: But doesn’t a high IQ make critical thinking easier?

A: Not necessarily. Critical thinking is a skill that must be practiced, regardless of your IQ level. Highly intelligent people can still fall victim to flawed logic, biases, and overconfidence if they don’t apply critical analysis.

Q: Is critical thinking just about poking holes in everything?

A: Not at all! Critical thinking is about considering different perspectives objectively, not just being contrarian. The goal is to analyze information impartially to reach well-reasoned conclusions.

Q: Isn’t it more efficient to just trust authorities and experts?

A: Experts can provide valuable knowledge and insights. But you still need critical thinking to assess whether an expert is reputable and unbiased, and to draw your own conclusions from their information.

Q: How can I get better at critical thinking?

A: It takes regular practice, but try strategies like constantly asking questions, challenging your assumptions, consuming high-quality information sources, and doing analytical activities and games.

Q: Is being a critical thinker useful for kids?

A: Absolutely! Developing critical thinking skills from a young age prepares kids to analyze the world around them, learn more effectively, make wise choices, and become curious, independent thinkers.

Critical Thinking Quiz

  1. If someone presents you with a claim, you should automatically believe it if the person seems credible. A)Yes B)No. No (1 point) – Even from seemingly credible sources, you should analyze the reasoning and evidence behind any claim objectively.
  2. Understanding different perspectives is important when: A) Deciding what movie to watch B) Evaluating complex issues with no clear right answer
    C) Following a recipe The correct answer is B (1 point) – Considering diverse viewpoints is crucial for analyzing multi-faceted issues without simple solutions.
  3. Which is NOT a good strategy for improving critical thinking skills? A) Asking questions to understand reasoning B) Accepting everything you read online at face value
    C) Analyzing persuasive messages for flaws in logic The correct answer is B (1 point) – Practicing skepticism of information instead of blind acceptance builds critical thinking.
  4. Admitting when your favorite sports team made a bad play is an example of applying critical thinking. A) Yes B) No
    Yes (1 point) – Setting aside your biases and objectively evaluating the evidence, even when emotionally invested, demonstrates critical thinking.
  5. True or False: People with high intelligence never need to think critically. False (1 point) – Both intelligence and critical thinking abilities are important. Intelligence alone does not prevent flawed reasoning or poor judgment.


0-2: Keep working on removing mental blindspots and analyzing objectively

3: Not bad, but there’s still room for improvement in your critical thinking

4-5: Excellent critical thinking demonstrated! You clearly understand the importance of evidence over blind acceptance.

Leave a Reply