Improving critical thinking: Effects of dispositions and instructions on economics students' reasoning skills

Anita Heijltjes*, Tamara van Gog, Jimmie Leppink, Fred Paas

*Corresponding author for this work

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This experiment investigated the impact of critical thinking dispositions and instructions on economics students' performance on reasoning skills. Participants (N = 183) were exposed to one of four conditions: critical thinking instruction, critical thinking instruction with self-explanation prompts during subsequent practice, critical thinking instruction with activation prompts during subsequent practice, or no critical thinking instruction or prompts (control). In all conditions, practice was a within-subjects factor, some task categories present in the test were practiced on a business case, others were not. Participants in the instruction conditions significantly outperformed participants in the control condition on the immediate and delayed post-test, but only on the practiced task categories - with the exception of the self-explanations condition, which also showed a better performance than the control condition on not-practiced categories, though only on the immediate post-test. Dispositions (i.e., Actively Open-minded Thinking and Need for Cognition) predicted reasoning skills at pre-test but did not interact with instructions on post-tests performances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-42
JournalLearning and Instruction
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Critical thinking instructions
  • Dispositions
  • Biased reasoning

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