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5 Types of Thinking, Explained

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5 Minutes

Did you know that thinking can be classified into at least five categories? Knowing how you think and why you think that way can give you an edge at work and in life. In this blog post, we are going to look at the 5 common types of thinking.

1. Creative thinking

Do you love to think outside the box? Do you tend to approach problems differently? Do you try to find new ways to carry out your tasks?

If you answered yes to these questions, you might be a creative thinker!

Creative thinking is not just for artists, musicians, and the like. This type of thinking is common among people who can perceive new patterns, face challenges in a new way, and introduce unorthodox methods on how they do things. Creative thinkers don’t bind themselves with a set of rules.

2. Critical thinking

Do you tend to break a problem or challenge down into its basic parts to solve it? Do you methodically approach a task?

If your answer is yes, then most likely you are a critical thinker.

A critical thinker logically approaches a problem. They have the ability to think rationally and clearly. Critical thinkers can understand the link between ideas, identify errors in an argument, and determine the relevance of ideas. Some jobs that require critical thinking skills include:

  • Judges
  • Engineer
  • Physician
  • Chemist
  • Pilots
  • Financial advisors
  • Human resources specialists, etc.

3. Abstract thinking

Do you love looking at paintings and understanding the message the painter is trying to portray? Do you often speak figuratively?

If yes, then you are an abstract thinker!

Also known as conceptual thinking, abstract thinking is a type of thought process that involves objects, ideas, and principles that are not physically present. Abstract thinking makes it possible for people to be creative. Take comedians for example. These people are great at observing the world around them. They see all the incongruities and absurdities not apparent to most people and then create jokes and connections out of it.

If you want to improve your abstract thinking ability, consider these:

  • Learn to improvise
  • Build 3D models and solve puzzles
  • Have fun with optical illusions
  • Make use of figurative speech

4. Concrete thinking

Do you take instructions literally? Do you base your actions and decisions on factual knowledge?

You are a concrete thinker.

Concrete thinking or perceptual thinking is the polar opposite of abstract thinking. While abstract thinkers focus on the unknown and make connections with the wider world, concrete thinkers are grounded in the physical world. Your reasonings and actions are based on what you can see, hear, and feel now.

Concrete thinking is very dominant among babies and is the first form of thinking that children master. Certain studies suggest that concrete thinking can help you learn from traumatic experiences. It can also prevent you from overgeneralizing, which is very common among people who are suffering from depression.

5. Intuitive thinking

Do you listen to your gut when making decisions? If yes, then you are using a thought process called intuitive thinking.

According to psychologist Gordon Pennycook, all human beings are “gut” thinkers. And there is some truth behind this. You and I know that we often let our emotions guide us as we make choices and solve problems every day. Up to this day, scientists still consider intuitive thinking as a mystery. Here are some quick tips on how you can strengthen your intuition:

  • Learn to meditate
  • Get creative
  • Spend more time in nature
  • Learn to think less and feel more
  • Take a break from your daily routines

You are not limited to one type of thinking

The problems and challenges that we face every day are different. And each can help us grow into a better version of ourselves. One challenge may require a creative approach --- let's take, for example, an art project. Others may need some critical and analytical thinking skills like figuring out how to balance an accounting sheet. And lastly, there are decisions in our lives that we need to make without fully knowing why --- relying only on a hunch or gut feeling. Point is, we are complex individuals and we are not walled to a single type of thinking. It’s all up to you to decide which type of thinking skill to develop so you can gain an advantage at school, work, and life.