Types of Thinking

Thinking may be divided into two general types: (1) autistic and (2) realistic.

Autistic Thinking

is mainly subjective, being almost completely controlled by the thinker's needs and wishes. It includes dreams and daydreams. Daydreams help to release tensions and sometimes provide a relaxed mental state in which the thinker can solve problems apparently by intuition. When it replaces realistic thinking to a great extent, however, daydreaming is a symptom of a personality disorder.

Dreams are in many respects similar to daydreams, but are even less limited by reality. In dreams, objects and events usually symbolize objects perceived and events and feelings experienced during waking hours.

Realistic Thinking

may be motivated by the thinker's needs and wishes, but it takes into account the requirements and limitations of reality. Reasoning, problem solving, creative thought, some kinds of recalling, and certain learning processes are examples of realistic thinking.

Reasoning is the conscious direction of thought processes in an orderly sequence to a logical conclusion. Deduction is reasoning from the general to the particular. For example: if all humans can think, and if Mr. Jones is human, then it is true that Mr. Jones can think. Induction is reasoning from the specific to the general. For example: a large number of humans are studied and it is found that they can think; it is therefore assumed that all humans can think. Evaluation is critical reasoning, or the judging of the correctness and effectiveness of an opinion or theory.

Problem solving usually makes use of deduction, induction, and evaluation. In addition, other types of thinking are involved, such as recalling past experiences or symbols. The steps in problem solving include awareness of the problem; working out possible solutions through reasoning; and checking, or testing, the chosen solution or solutions.

Insight is often a part of problem solving. It is an apparently sudden understanding of important relationships between the various elements of the problem.

Creative thinking is originality. The creative thinker depends upon reasoning, especially induction and insight, but also makes great use of imagination. Creativity is found in artistic and scientific endeavor, resulting in works of art and literature, inventions, and discoveries. It can also play a part in such everyday activities as gardening and cooking.