Abstract thinking: what it means in simple words, features, examples from life
What is abstract thinking
Abstract thinking – analysis and understanding of information, identifying patterns and relationships at a more complex level, without an active connection with material objects, space and time. Abstract categories include numbers, properties, sets, statements, philosophical principles, ideas.
What is the difference between abstract thinking and concrete thinking:
- Abstractions cannot be touched or seen (material things are always concrete and tangible);
- Only a human being has abstract thinking (this is its peculiarity, because animals have no access to such a complex way of understanding the world).
The abstract way of thinking develops gradually. In childhood, concrete thinking, the ability to perceive only what you see right in front of you, prevails. The formation of an abstract understanding of reality usually occurs in adolescence. Its appearance indicates a transition to a more conscious way of life.
The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (author of “Stages of Intellectual Development” and other books) believed that the first rudiments of abstract thinking appears between the ages of 2 and 7, when a child can already perceive symbols, letters and sounds. It is not until around the age of 12 that most people begin to transition to abstract thinking.
For example, many of the mathematical problems we solved at school are examples of this thinking factor, as is the study of languages, philosophy, logic, and psychology. Thinking in abstract categories can be difficult in some forms of autism and schizophrenia, dementia, and lack of mental development.
Concept in simple terms
Simply put, abstract thinking is the ability to think about general categories, ideas, concepts, not just events and phenomena that occur “here and now.” Without this way of thinking, a person essentially has only his experience and current perception of reality. But he is not capable of anticipating any situations in advance, creating an artistic or philosophical work, or tracing patterns between phenomena.
The thinker who thinks abstractly is not focused on the apple on the table in front of him, but on all the apples on the planet or on the metaphors and allegories associated with the forbidden fruit of paradise. Having this way of thinking, a person is able to better understand philosophical problems, art, invent and create something new.
However, many researchers have noted the negative properties of this kind of thinking:
- A tendency to unnecessary generalizations;
- Lack of specificity;
- The inability to come to definitive conclusions.
It is best to maintain a healthy compromise between the abstract and concrete view of the world in order to think really effectively and be useful to society.
Signs of abstract thinking
The abstract method of understanding the world is characterized by the ability to imagine, predict, and make connections. It can be used to identify patterns that are not recognizable in the concrete, tangible study of objects, create concepts, and process and analyze information to solve a problem.
- The ability to see things from different angles;
- lack of dependence on the current situation, time, events;
- tendency to generalize;
- Use of analogies and metaphors;
- no need to see material objects or events about which one can form an idea;
- close connection with the linguistic form of expressing ideas, thoughts;
- the ability to transfer acquired knowledge from one context to another.
The abstract thinker, more often than not, is repulsed by general tendencies, isolating recurring elements in order to find the main thing and to identify stable connections or their absence. He always uses all his baggage of knowledge, experience, generalizes, compares and analyzes.
Independence, impartiality, absence of cognitive distortions are important in the normal abstract thought process.
Concepts are used all the time in everyday life. For example, we say, “motion” or “dominance,” implying by these words some process or the predominance of some phenomena over others.
Judgments are also used by everyone from school age onward, and there is no specificity in this. Example: If you don’t learn a lesson, you get a bad grade. Usually a judgment is expressed in a fairly short form, more often simple than complex.
Inferences are a more difficult category. They are transformations of simple judgments into some kind of conclusion based on logical operations. Example: we specify the premises and conclusions, placing them, under each other. We draw a line and write the conclusion.
The investigator cannot participate in the investigation of a case if he is
an interested person and a relative of the victim.
There are deductive, inductive and other types of such inferences, as well as inferences by analogy.
How to develop abstract thinking
Abstract cognition of the world can be stimulated in many ways. To learn to abstract from the current situation, it is advisable to:
- To read a lot;
- solve crossword puzzles and puzzles;
- play chess and other intellectual games;
- to combine different activities (exact sciences and painting or theater, for example).
It is traditionally believed that engaging in math and logic tasks develops the ability to think abstractly. Thinking is advised to be stimulated simultaneously in different fields (for example, mathematics, literature, natural sciences).
Students are encouraged to “think out loud”, questioning different theories and making analogies to get to the truth. For example, this method was used by ancient Greek philosophers who engaged their followers in complex conversations, gradually taking them to higher and higher levels of understanding and abstraction.
Also, popular concept of developing imaginative thinking in solving mathematical and other problems. It also helps to constantly compare different ways of understanding the world: concrete, figurative, and abstract, which demonstrates different approaches, their disadvantages, specifics, as well as advantages.
What abstraction can be, examples
The function of abstract cognition in achieving the truth, obtaining new knowledge. To make sure that the abstract inference is true, it is usually tested in practice.
Examples of abstract concepts abound. For example, the terms “justice,” “species,” and “freedom” cannot be touched or seen in front of you. They are pure abstractions. Such concepts also include metaphors. For example, grapes “ladyfingers” or “glass man”.
The peculiarity of abstraction is that it is created in the course of the thought process.
By its definition, abstract thinking is the ability to consider concepts beyond what we observe physically. The dominance of the abstract way of thinking demonstrates the intellectual level of a person, his ability to a higher level of perception of reality.