Abstract thinking is of great importance for all people. Its high level of development allows not only to improve the quality of life, but also to achieve much more success. The development of this type of thinking should be done in childhood, but you should not stop training as you get older. Only regular exercise will improve and maintain their intellectual abilities. This will help knowing how to develop abstract thinking in adults and children. All methods can be put into practice on their own, without resorting to outside help. Abstract thinking is an abstract-notional form of thinking that develops with the formation of the second signal system. Abstract thinking is unique to humans. The second signal system provides thinking with the help of different notions, categories, formulas.
Abstract thinking is divided into forms, each of which corresponds to the features of the thinking process accompanied by abstraction. There are three of them in all:
- Concept. Implies the definition of one common property for different objects. A very important point is the importance of this unifying feature. For example, the legs of tables or green leaves in different trees.
- Judgement. In a judgment there is an affirmation or denial of a particular event. Everything is usually described by a phrase or short sentence. Judgments can be simple or complex. In the first, they refer to a single object or person in action (e.g., “the boy bought milk”). In the second case, the judgement involves several parties at once (“Clouds appeared, it got dark outside”). It can also be true – based on subjective conclusions – or false – based on self-interest.
- Inference. An inference is an idea whose formation is based on several judgments. It consists of a premise, a conclusion, and a conclusion. All three processes occur in the human mind in sequence. Everything begins with an initial judgment (premise), then proceeds to the stage of reflection (conclusion), and ends with the formation of a new judgment (conclusion).
Abstract thinking can be applied in any of these three forms. An adult in everyday life uses them all. Nevertheless, even those who can abstract well need to develop them.
The clearest example of abstract thinking can be found in the exact sciences, such as astronomy, physics and mathematics, etc. More often than not, it serves as their base. As such, a person does not see numbers and formulas, but is able to calculate, measure, count, group objects and find their quantity.
The same is true of life itself. What is life? It is when there is a body in which consciousness functions. We cannot give an exact definition of “life,” but we can accurately tell when one is alive and when one is dead.
Abstract thinking is no less evident when we look to the future. We do not know what awaits us, but we have plans and goals, aspirations and desires.
The Role of Different Brain Structures in Providing Thinking
It has been suggested that the development of human thinking abilities is related to quantitative changes in the number of neural networks involved in information processing. There are two forms of using concepts in judgments and inferences: induction (from the particular to the general – the left hemisphere first analyzes the information and then the right hemisphere synthesizes it); deduction (from the general to the particular – performed in the right hemisphere).
- The right hemisphere (especially the parieto- temporal cortex) provides concrete-imaginative thinking (I signal system), better solution of visual-spatial tasks, single-step holistic processing of information, intuitive thinking;
- left hemisphere (especially frontal cortex) provides abstract-image thinking (II signal system), better time estimation capabilities, analytical, step-by-step information processing, information awareness (“cognitive” mediators – dopamine, acetylcholine, GABA – predominate in the left hemisphere).
It has been established that the associative areas of the cerebral cortex are the most important for thinking. The information extracted from memory merges with sensory information and allows a person to interpret specific information from the senses. The most complex part of the integrative activity is in the frontal lobes, which have extensive bilateral connections with the limbic system, which gives an emotional character to the processed information. Receiving various information about the state of the organism and the environment, the organism uses the frontal cortex to evaluate its importance at the present moment and select information of primary importance. The frontal cortex is responsible for selecting goals for the future. People with damaged frontal lobes become irresponsible and unable to take a series of sequential actions to achieve a goal when life situations change. The frontal cortex interacts with all parts of the cerebral cortex, especially the CNS structures that condition language functions. Temporal cortex is involved in memory processes. Pathology of the temporal cortex leads to loss of long-term memory. The activity of the frontal cortex in making plans for the future is connected with retrieval of information from the long-term memory, which is mainly provided by the activity of the temporal cortex.
It is assumed that the development of human thinking abilities is related to quantitative changes in the number of neural networks involved in information processing.
It has been established that the associative areas of the cerebral cortex are the most important for thinking. The information extracted from memory merges with sensory information, allowing the person to interpret specific information from the sensory organs. The most complex part of the integrative activity is in the frontal lobes, which have extensive bilateral connections with the limbic system, which gives an emotional character to the processed information. Receiving various information about the state of the organism and the environment, the organism uses the frontal cortex to evaluate its importance at the present moment and select information of primary importance. The frontal cortex is responsible for selecting goals for the future. People with damaged frontal lobes become irresponsible and unable to take a series of sequential actions to achieve a goal when life situations change. The frontal cortex interacts with all parts of the cerebral cortex, especially the CNS structures that condition language functions. Temporal cortex is involved in memory processes. Pathology of the temporal cortex leads to loss of long-term memory. Activity of the frontal cortex in making plans for the future is connected with extraction of information from the long-term memory, which is mainly provided by activity of the temporal cortex.
It is rather difficult to develop abstract thinking of an adult person, as his intellect has been formed a long time ago. Nevertheless, with the help of some exercises, it is still possible to achieve a result. It is recommended to perform them daily for several weeks.
The most effective exercises:
Representation of emotions. It is required to mentally visualize exactly how different emotions are manifested in a particular person. It is recommended to use the full range of people’s possible feelings.
Reverse reading. It is necessary to turn the book over and read it in reverse order. In parallel, it is required to make logical connections between different events. It is best to choose simple works written in easy language.
Analysis of communication. It is necessary to remember all the people with whom had to communicate during the day. It is necessary to analyze not only the conversation itself, but also facial expressions, gestures, and voice of the interlocutor. Do this with your eyes closed.
Inventing contradictions. You just need to think of different word combinations that seem contradictory. They can be absolutely any (hot ice, bitter candy, etc.).
Making up abbreviations. It is enough to think up any word combination, reduce it to its first letters, and then decipher it during the day. For example, self-development of thinking (SRM).
Enumerating the functions of objects. It is required to choose any available thing and list all its functions. You can even think of unusual uses that are not commonly used.
Brainstorming. You have to choose any letter of the alphabet and write it on a piece of paper. The task is to remember the maximum number of words for that letter in a limited amount of time, writing them all down on the paper.
Combination of words. You should write nouns on one piece of paper and adjectives on the other. You don’t have to do it all at once. It is best to start with just one noun. It will be required to pick up the matching, as well as totally incompatible adjectives. All of them should be written in different columns.
Title picture of life. You need to visually record any event that happened in reality and give it an unusual name. It has to be what he might call a picture artist.
Painting. One should paint any pictures, using colored paints. In the process, one should imagine the characteristics of all the objects present. If you can’t use paints, you can start with a regular pencil drawing.
The above methods will help to develop abstract thinking also in a teenager or an elderly person. It is only necessary to apply them on a regular basis, without missing regular exercises.
Exercises for children
It is easiest to develop at a child’s age. At this time, the brain is open to external influences and can be subjected to any changes. Exercises for children are different from those offered to adults, but are just as effective.
The best exercises are:
- Reverse reading of lettering. Parents should suggest that the child play a game in which they read the signs they see in reverse order. Doing this with all the billboards will be very difficult. Therefore, additional conditions should be negotiated (for example, reading only red signs).
- Drawing unusual animals. The child should draw an animal made up of parts of other animals. When the drawing is ready, it is necessary to think up an unusual name for the new species.
- Shadow Theater. Using his or her hands, which are exposed to light from a lamp in the dark, the child should create unusual shadows depicting these or those things. You can even offer him or her to act out a favorite fairy tale with the help of shadows.
- Mental arithmetic. A child will be required to calculate simple examples using special accounts called abacus. Such training will also develop assiduity and general intelligence.
- Puzzles. You need to choose puzzles, rebuses, anagrams, etc. games, taking into account the preferences of the baby. His task will be to solve all of the given tasks. At an older age, you can add crossword puzzles to them.
- Studying the clouds. The child should look at the clouds together with their parents and name exactly what they see. Being able to visually assess each cloud for similarity to different objects or animals increases the chances of successful development.
- Construction. Parents should give their child the task of building certain objects out of toy blocks. In this way it will turn out to develop imaginative thinking and creativity.
- Associations. Your child should think of associations to everything he or she sees or feels. You can also ask him or her to represent animals by the sounds he or she hears and what they make.
- Classification. The child needs to sort all the available things or toys according to certain characteristics. For example, by shape, weight or purpose. Parents should supervise the process and give hints, if necessary.
- Questions. Parents should ask their toddler “why?”, “what if?”, etc. questions to make him think and analyze the situation. You can ask questions at any time.
Such simple exercises will allow you to achieve good results in a few weeks of training. It is recommended to combine them with other activities that will be aimed at the development of the general intellect.