39 Types Of Thought Process
John Spacey, March 12, 2016 updated on March 20, 2021
Thought is the process of perceiving and making sense of the world or perhaps the universe. It includes several distinct types and approaches:
Abductive ReasoningFormulating theories to explain what you observe.
AbstractionModeling ideas with concepts that differ from concrete reality.
Analogical ReasoningUsing an analogy to develop understanding and meaning.
Analytic ReasoningReasoning based on facts that require no interpretation based on experience.
Backward InductionReasoning backwards starting with potential conclusions.
Cognitive BiasesPatterns of thought that lead to suboptimal results such as poor decisions.
Cold LogicLogic that fails to consider human factors.
Conceptual ThinkingThe identification of patterns and abstractions in information.
ConjectureThe ability to guess at theories when information is missing.
ContemplationDeep reflective thought that involves absolute focus on an idea for an extended period of time.
Convergent ThinkingThe process of finding the "correct answer" by following predetermined steps.
Counterfactual ThinkingThinking about the impossible. For example, thinking about past choices not taken that are now impossible.
CreativityCreating new and unique thoughts and products of thought.
Critical ThinkingDisciplined, systematic thinking that arrives at an opinion, judgment or critique.
Divergent ThinkingThe ability to solve problems by considering a large number of solutions in a creative and exploratory way. Often contrasted with convergent thinking.
Emotional IntelligenceThe ability to recognize and read emotions in yourself and others and use emotions in a directed way.
FlowFlow is a state of focus in which a person is absorbed by tasks. Considered important to productivity.
GeneralizationThe ability to find general theories that explain observations.
Group CognitionSocial thought processes such as conversation, debate and peer review to build and challenge ideas.
HeuristicsHeuristics are practical approximations that aren't guaranteed to be optimal. They can be calculated quickly and are often used to make decisions or react to fast moving situations.
ImaginationThe ability to think about things beyond your direct experience or beyond present realities. Allows simulations of ideas to support creativity, decision making, problem solving and prediction.
Inductive ReasoningA process of formulating theories to explain observations that allows for guesses.
InferenceInferring new facts from what you know.
InstinctAn innate tendency towards a complex behavior. For example, it has been suggested that people tend to be instinctively curious and social.
Internal MonologueThinking in words.
IntrospectionThe process of examining your own thoughts, emotions and thought processes.
IntuitionThe ability to acquire knowledge and make judgments almost instantaneously without conscious thought. Carl Jung defined it as "perception via the unconscious."
JudgementJudgement is the process of evaluating information to guide actions and decisions.
LogicLogic is the discipline of valid reasoning. It is essentially a formal approach to rational thought. However, logic has limitations that don't apply to rational thought. For example, some systems of logic can only consider true or false with nothing in between.
MetacognitionThinking about thinking.
Minds EyeVisualizing with your mind including both realistic visualizations from memory or imagination and visual abstractions.
Motivated ReasoningUsing logic to support a choice that's primarily driven by motivations such as desires and fears.
PredictionConjecture about future events typically supported by experience and information such as trends.
Rational ThoughtA state of being reasonable. Often associated with logic. However, rational thought may use natural language, visual abstractions, heuristics and partial truths that go beyond the capabilities of formal logic.
ReasoningA broad term that includes most types of thinking but excludes emotional thought processes and intuition.
Situational AwarenessThought processes that deal with fast moving situations such as riding a bicycle. Related to perception, comprehension, judgment, intuition and heuristics.
Social CognitionThe ability to successfully read and navigate social situations.
Speculative ReasonReason that is theoretical as opposed to practical in nature. Speculative reason includes things such as contemplating philosophy.
Thought ExperimentTesting ideas in your head or on paper without need of acquiring real world data. Often involves either a proof from first principles or use of an analogy.
ThinkingThis is the complete list of articles we have written about thinking.
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HeuristicsA few common types of heuristic.
ImaginationThe definition of imagination with examples.
IntrapersonalThe definition of intrapersonal with examples.
Motivated ReasoningAn overview of motivated reasoning.
SubjectivityThe definition of subjectivity with examples.
Ways Of ThinkingA list of thinking approaches and mindsets.
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