Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Methods of effective thinking

Thinking clearly and effectively is a greatest asset to any human being.  Thinking is a  natural mental activity, non-conceptual, non-logical goal-oriented process. Thinking process requires prior knowledge.  Thinking is a simpler cognitive operation involving observation, comparison and inference.  Thinking makes very extensive use of percepts, images, concepts, symbols and formulas. Thinking progresses by a chain reaction, in which induction and deduction constantly work together. Thinking always combines more than one process. Thinking generally involves analysis and reorganization. Thinking is greatly influenced by the individual’s attitude and inclination.It is cultivated by activity and influenced by society and culture.Thinking process requires language to formulate and express thoughts as well as the ability to develop representations of knowledge and concepts.

 Thinking results in insight. As one keeps on thinking about a problem, a solution may suddenly occur to him. This is called insight. By analysis, the problem is broken up into bits and each bit is understood separately. Analysis is used often in the thinking process. A thinking process involves using a sequence of skills intended to achieve a particular outcome. A process “orchestrates numerous skills” and is directed toward achieving an objective. But thinking skill is multiple habits of intelligent behaviour learned through practice.


“Thinking is a cognitive process, and a mental act by which Knowledge is acquired.” Thinking is essential to the acquisition of knowledge and on the other hand, knowledge is essential to thinking (Nickerson et al). Thinking is an internal mental process that constructs and operates on mental representation of information.

Features of ordinary thinking

Ordinary thinking is structured and consists of a family of related cognitive activities. It  is based strongly on experience and continuity with the past. It is sensitive to environmental events. Thinking style is the unconscious way a person looks at and interacts with the world.

Important aspects of thinking

1. Extracting and assessing information.
2. Constructing a sort of perceptual map.

Stages in the thinking process (Graham Wallas 1926 in ‘art of thought

Preparation - A period in which relevant information is gathered.
Incubation - A period in which thought is operating at the unconscious level.
Illumination - unconscious mental work manifests itself in spontaneous flash of idea.
Verification – where ideas are tested and organized into coherent form.

Bad thinking habits

·   Hasty thinking – too quick without taking into account of important factors.
·   Narrow thinking – one-sided thinking
·   Scattered thinking – not organized, failing to make connections.
·   Distorted  thinking – vague, ambiguous, never related to reality

kinds of thinking skills

Critical (analytical) thinking skill is a combination of skills which includes analysing, critiquing, judging, evaluating, comparing, concentrating and assessing. It is a convergent thinking involving precise, persistent and objective analysis. It examines the worth and validity of something existent. In other words critical thinking is concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors. Critical thinking has 3 dimensions like an analytic, an evaluative and a creative component. Critical thinking is a deliberate meta-cognitive (thinking about thinking) and cognitive (thinking) act.Critical thinking means good thinking. Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe  or do. It is opposite of illogical or irrational thinking.
The word ‘critical’ derives etymologically from two Greek roots kriticos meaning discerning judgement and kriterion meaning standards.  Critical means the development of “discerning judgement based on standards”.  Critical connotes the importance or centrality of thinking to an issue, question or problem of concern. Critical thinking clarifies goals, examines assumptions, discerns hidden values, evaluates evidence, accomplishes actions, and assesses conclusions.
“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined  process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action."  --Michael Scriven and Richard Paul
"Critical thinking is not just a matter of applying the rules of logic (much less scientific method).  It is a matter of thinking and feeling empathetically with others, of engaging one's imagination, of having access to a wealth of facts about the possible effects of alternative actions, of discerning patterns of meaning in experience, of looking at the world from different perspectives."  --Warren Nord.
                       Attitude+Knowledge+Thinking skills = Critical thinking

Traits of a critical thinker

  • Clarity in stating the question or concern.
  • Orderliness in working with complexity.
  • Diligence in seeking relevant information.
  • Reasonableness in selecting and applying criteria.
  • Care in focusing attention on the concern at hand.
  • Persistence through difficulties 
  • Precision to the degree permitted by the subject and the circumstances.

Creative (innovative)thinking skill includes creating, discovering, inventing, imagining, supposing, and hypothesizing. It is a divergent thinking.  It brings out a different idea that works or better than the previous idea. It generates something new or different. Creative  thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, whole new ways of understanding and conceiving things.
Strategic thinking involves gathering information, formulating ideas and planning action.  Information is gathered by recalling what you already know. The newly gathered information needs to ‘make sense’ in the light of what you already know. Formulating ideas involves thinking about the future. The thinking skills used in formulating ideas involve forecasting, prediction, imagination and visualization as well as critical evaluation. Planning action is the intended result of our strategic thinking. Planning action involves thinking critically about the possible actions to take.

Simple steps for good thinking
  1. Identify the problem
  2. Assemble all pertinent facts
  3. Gather general knowledge
  4. Sleep on it 
  5. Use a checklist
  6. Get feedback
  7. Consult with others and give new ideas a chance.

Final thoughts

Thinking is a step -by- step process. It can be taught, learned, practiced and developed. 
Different situations require different thinking styles just as in a car you shift gears according to the situation. Remember that the main purpose of thinking is to arrange the facts in our mind so that our actions and decisions become obvious.

There is … an art of thinking” - Isaac D’Israeli.

“He who learns but does not think is lost.” (Chinese Proverb)

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