How Can an Adult Get Better at Abstract Thinking?
Posted by Elebra on 4/23/2012

If you are hoping to get better at abstract thinking, it is very important to understand the difference between abstract and concrete thinking. Concrete thinking is what our brains tend to do all of the time, and it is a "fact based" approach to life. Moving away from this method, however, is a lot more challenging than you might think.

Why? Well, if you have to remove yourself from the proverbial "here and now," it means that you cannot take any of the facts you absorb each day into context. Just consider, you cannot "think" about the things you've read or seen on Facebook, the Internet, the TV or even the books that you are reading. Instead, you have to reflect on ideas by considering everything as "separate".

Need some help with that one? Okay...cats. What do you think about when you read the word "cats". The concrete thinker is going to think about cats that he or she knows, facts about cats that he or she has learned, or even some cartoon cats like "Tom and Jerry". The abstract thinker, on the other hand, just begins to think about cats in general. He or she don't see the cat in the sunshine the way the concrete thinker will...he/she thinks more about the nature of the light.

The abstract thinker is going to ponder relationships and attributes. It helps to note that concrete words and abstract words can help you turn your mind more towards an abstract way of thinking. For example, chair is concrete while sitting is abstract.

You may want to begin thinking like a child if you are trying to improve your ability with abstract thinking. This is because it can help you to shift your perspective and attempt to "unlearn" a lot of the adult thought processes that impede abstract thinking. For example, the toddler who refuses to enter a room at night is doing so because he or she doesn't want to go to bed. He or she is taking the abstract idea of sleeping and cementing it to the concrete concept of the bedroom.

Do you see what this means? As an abstract thinker, your goal is to "perceive analogies and relationships" that many others do not see. This is going to allow you to understand ever-increasing levels of abstraction.

Use this exercise to gauge your current abilities: "People in glass houses should never throw stones". What does this mean? Does it talk about breaking a pane of glass? Does it mean that someone who is flawed or vulnerable should not criticize others? The second answer is a very good example of abstract reasoning!

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical or any other type of advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you.

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