Thinking Process and Different Types of Thinking


We all well aware of thinking process and we are considered as rational beings because of our ability to think. Human beings are the superior from other animals just because of their ability to think better. Due to our ability to think we can learn better and have better adjustment power then other animals. Most of the time in our life we think. When we are awake as well as when we are sleeping or dreaming our thinking process is happening. We think and process information almost all the time of a day. You are also thinking something while reading this article.

According to the APA dictionary of psychology “thinking” is defined as a cognitive behavior which is consist of experiencing and manipulation of information, images, ideas, mental representation as well as so many other hypothetical elements of our thought. This process includes both symbolic and covert process that makes us able to create models and form psychological association with our surroundings to understand the world better. So, our thinking process includes concept formation, free association, imagining, problem solving, remembering, daydreaming, and so many other cognitive processes.

Elements of Thinking

There are three primary elements of thinking process. These elements are concept, signs or symbols and brain functioning.

Concept: when we interact with any external stimuli or object, the ideas and notion about that object and stimuli come into our mind is called concept. Such as, we presented with the word “parrot”, we just not think that it is a bird. But also all other information related to it comes into our mind such as it can speak and green in color. These concepts also include our previous knowledge, experience and memories.

Signs/Symbols: these are not the actual idea or object but provide all the information about certain object and ideas. Such as, song, flags, traffic signals, a yellow cone on the road and danger sign. These all are signs and symbols that convey proper information about any subject or ides.

Brain Functioning: brain is the most important part where thinking takes place. When we encounter with any object, image, symbol and other stimuli from our environment it registered through our sensory system. Then interpreted through our brain and become our thoughts.

Thinking Levels

According to the cognitive hierarchy of behavior thinking process is divided into six levels.

Level 1, Knowledge

It is all the terms, facts and principles that we learns and experience in our life. We can recall them as same as we learn them. For example our knowledge helps us to create new but related thoughts for an object or any other thing.

Level 2, Comprehension

In this level the form of our understanding is at its lowest. Without relating information to other things and even when the full meaning is not seen we still can understand and think about what the other person wants to communicate. This is the level of thinking where we understand ideas and facts through interpretation, translation, comparison and organization and create relative thoughts.

Level 3, Application

It is a level where we use our previous knowledge to solve problems and make decisions. In this level we apply our knowledge, techniques, rules and facts to handle different situations of our lives.

Level 4, Analysis

In this level we examine, break into parts, find causes and evidence and make inferences about external stimuli or information. As the name indicates that in this level we start to analysis information to better understand and to survive in the difficult situations. This level is very important to survive in this world. Because through analysis we are able to know what is right and wrong etc.

Level 5, Synthesis

In this level we compile different old and new information together in different ways. When we have new information and this information also related to any previous information we combine them and make new pattern of thoughts.

Level 6, Evaluation

In this level we make judgments, find validity, notice quality and create opinion about information gathered from our surroundings on the bases of certain criteria.

Types of Thinking

There are different types of thinking according to our thought patterns and what we think in a particular situation.

Perceptual/Concrete Thinking

This is the simplest form of thinking. It includes creation of thoughts through our perceptions and interpretation of information that we observed through our senses. There is another name of perceptual thinking that is concrete thinking. This is called as concrete because it is only focused on concrete object and what we feel, see, hear and experience in the present time without applying other different ideas and concepts to interpret the information. It includes simple exact interpretation and literal meanings of information we observe from environment. This is the first step of thinking process and important to understand the abstract thinking.

Children start seeing their world as concrete thinkers in their early life years. They only can create thoughts about things as long as that thing present in the environment. When that thing has been removed from environment child will also lost memories about that object. In this type a child only notice and create thoughts what he/she can see, hear and experience not anything else.

Conceptual and Abstract Thinking

This is a type of thinking in which individual create thoughts through complex ideas and concepts from the information present in the environment. In this type we create thoughts those are real such as thoughts of freedom and vulnerability. In this type we have thoughts that are not directly attached to the physical object. It is a critical aspect of communication and our social interaction because this allows us to think in deeper and wider concepts of world. It includes thoughts generated by symbolic representation; comprehend humor, non-verbal cues and analogies.

The best example of this type is comedians. They are expert in conceptual and abstract thinking. They observe their environment, detect absurdities, incongruities, outrages and create jokes out of nowhere. This is known as a high level reasoning skill of a person. An individual use conceptual and abstract thinking when he/she solve problems, form theories, analyze situations, create things and understand concepts. This is used to create complex thoughts.

Reflective Thinking

This is a type which we use when we face complex problems in our life. In reflective thinking our brain reorganizes our past experiences according to a specific situation and finds a suitable solution by relating an experience and idea. Therefor this type of thinking also considered as introspective cognitive process. Simply, in reflective thinking we learn from our past experiences and try to resolve things in our present and try to make our future better.

We create memories according to the difficult and other type of situations. Then in future when we face relative problems we recall them and easily pass that situation. The simple example of reflective thinking is if a person leave his/her house at 9am and get late for office then the next day they try to leave before 9am.

Linear and Non-Linear Thinking

Linear thinking is a type in which a person thinks in a sequence or in order. This type is important to solve problems those need a step by step process. In linear thinking process there is a clear starting and a clear ending point to solve a problem. This type is mostly used in analytical professions, such as physics and mathematics.

On the other hand non-linear thinking is a process that doesn’t include a single line process but needs so many sources and multiple approaches to solve the problem.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking consider as the most complex type because it requires high level of cognitive abilities and skills. People with critical thinking analyze, interpret and evaluate things before making any decision. Critical thinkers are logical, clear and independent in their ideas. Because they have skills like reconstruction and reflection of their experiences and thoughts. They do not just accept all the ideas, conclusions and theories as fact but they make reasoned and logical judgments. Critical thinkers are curious about everything around them, compassionate to learn new things and have awareness about vast range of topics. Critical thinkers are analytical in their thinking process and see all the information from different angles and dimensions before making a judgment.

Individual with this type are natural problem solvers because of their habit of think logically, weight options and pinpoint the best solution from given information and data of problem. It is very important for both academic and social areas. It helps people to develop intellectually, make hard decisions, act responsibly, promote creativity and general thinking skills. This mostly helps people to find and understand new knowledge. In the world of social media we need more critical thinking skills. Because there is much irrelevant and fake content present on social media sites.

Creative Thinking

B.F Skinner said that creative thinking is an ability of a person to generate new, unusual, ingenious as well as original conclusions and predictions about their surrounding world. Creative thinkers have innovative ways to solve the problems and they can see their environment by a novelistic way. It is completely an internal mental process of our brain, that’s why this is consider as a vital component of our cognitive behavior.

Creative thinking is very important in our professional as well as in our academic life. This helps people so much when they face problems in their professional career when they have to think in unconventional way. The best example of creative thinkers is inventors. Their thinking process includes originality and imagination to invent something. Having the idea of smart phones so people can connect to each other and have every single information and knowledge of the world in their hands is the best example of this type of thinking.

Convergent and Divergent Thinking

These two are consider as the types of creative thinking. In convergent thinking an individual think about multiple solutions and then select one possibly the best solution for the specific problem. This thinking type includes analytic process and tries to find the best possible answer for the problem that’s why it is mostly accurate and less ambiguous. For example as we have multiple answers for a multiple choice question and we choose the one answer that is best suits to the question.

In divergent thinking an individual explore so many possible solutions for a problem in different ways. In this type a person open his/her mind in different directions and find out multiple solutions for a specific problem in creative way.

Thinking plays very important part in the problem solving process and our learning process. An individual require specific knowledge and experience to develop and master these different types of thinking processes. Each and every thinking type require specific opportunities, stimulating and healthy environment to develop specific thinking type.

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