Different Types of Thinking and How They Impact us

Thinking is a form of cognitive process wherein we use our brain cells to understand things and actions taking place around us and decide on our respo

Thinking is a form of cognitive process wherein we use our brain cells to understand things and actions taking place around us and decide on our response to things, people and situations. Thinking never stops and even when we are asleep, our unconscious brain is thinking up ‘dreams’. During our conscious state, what we think becomes our thoughts and our thoughts determine our view of the world around us. Eventually, it is our faculty of thinking that leads to innovations and changes to the world.

What sets us humans apart from all other living beings is our ability of developing strategically thinking. We don’t just use thinking as a natural reflexive or subconscious thought process the way other living organisms do, but we can also use our power of thinking to comprehend things beyond the visual or the routine and process information in a way that it can be used in multiple ways.

Let’s take a look at multiple ways of thinking to understand them better:

Perception or perceptual thinking

Perception is thinking at its simplest. In this form, we consider things to be dependant upon how we experience them. For instance, a person who got bit by a dog might consider dogs to be dangerous whereas a dog lover might see them as their best friend. The drawback with perceptual thinking is that it can sometimes make a person rigid and limited in thought as he/she forms perceptions based on personal experiences only.

Conceptual or abstract thinking

In this thought process, a person considers different concepts, languages and opinions etc. This kind of thinking is conducive to developing a global outlook and encourages experimentation and innovation.

Reflections or reflective thinking

This is self-explanatory as the process of reflective thinking makes a person delve into personal experiences, knowledge and skills. For instance, a business advisor is likely to use the power of reflective thinking to guide a start-up owner on the process of establishing a new brand and raising funding etc. Reflective thinking is primarily a form of strategic thinking that empowers a person to take well measured and knowledge based decisions.

Creative thinking

This is probably the most talked about form of thinking. Creative thinking is about coming up with new ideas and concepts based on one’s observations of the world and experiences. Through creative thinking, we can analyse the knowledge and data available to come up with a new solution. It is more of an on-the-go thought process and it makes one adept at exploring and relying on intuition and innovation.

Critical thinking or analytical thinking 

Critical thinking is all about reasoning logically without any biases, assumptions and rigid opinions. The aim of critical thinking is to analyse and deep-dive, find the truth and solve difficult problems. This is a greater form of cognitive thinking.

The examples of critical thinking can be seen in almost all areas of life. For instance, one would need to apply critical thinking when faced with a choice of spending available funds on a startup or spending it on education. In a business environment, critical thinking skills might be applied to decide whether to hire a full-time employee or outsource the job to freelancers or manpower agencies.

Typically, critical thinking is about comprehending the situation and carefully evaluating all possibilities to arrive at the most logical and beneficial conclusion.

Free flowing thought or associative thinking

This is all about letting your imagination take over. In this form of thinking, we usually explore new possibilities. This type of thought process is not channelled toward any specific objective, but it is about finding creative solutions and letting the power of the subconscious mind take charge. Meditation is an example of this form of thinking as it doesn’t focus on any specific thought, but just allows our unconscious mind to take over and bring clarity of thought to us.


Different forms of thinking processes can yield different outcomes and help us evolve as superior beings or we could continue to rely on our own limited experiences as perceptual thinking is prone to do. Each human being is capable of cultivating these forms of thought processes and depending upon your location, profession and aspirations, one or the other might serve you best!


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