Long-term memory and critical thinking are both methods of reasoning and cognition that are interrelated. Critical thinking involves the willful engaging of the reasoning process in order to appraise or dissect information or to solve problems. It's connected to long-term memory because, during the critical thinking process, the brain often relies on remembered information.
The memory is composed of three basic parts: attention, storage, and retrieval. The attention is noticing information in the first place. This information is stored in either the short-term or long-term memory, and the data stored in the long-term memory lasts longer. The retrieval is the process of accessing the stored information when the need arises.
An individual trying to use critical thinking to solve a problem will rely on the information stored in the long-term memory to a large extent. This is because most of what he or she will use to solve the problem is information that he or she has learned in the past that is stored there. For instance, a person trying to solve a math problem will rely on equations and mathematical processes he or she learned in the past. This information is stored in the long-term memory for retrieval when needed.
This relationship between long-term memory and critical thinking can be seen in almost every facet of life. For example, a business manager trying to use critical thinking to resolve a crisis in his or her organization will rely on information retrieved from the long-term memory. This could include memories about business practices, the individual personalities of those he or she is dealing with, and previous tactics that have helped in the past. Even babies use both to some degree as part of their cognitive development. For instance, a toddler who has been burned by a candle flame in the past may make the conscious decision to move around a burning candle that is in his or her path. This is a somewhat simple version of critical thinking on the toddler’s part, involving information retrieved from the long-term memory.
Another way of looking at long-term memory and critical thinking is to regard long-term memory as experience. An individual trying to use critical thinking to solve a problem or create a solution will rely on his or her experience, the long-term memory of a similar experience. The person may also refer to other emergent factors or new information stored in the short-term memory.