Thinking (or cognition) refers to the mental manipulation of images, concepts, words, rules, symbols, and precepts. It involves attention, pattern recognition, memory, decision making, intuition, knowledge, and more. Images, muscular responses, concepts, and language or symbol are the basic units of thought. It takes many forms, including daydreaming, fantasizing, problem solving . . . . In addition to thinking that is mechanical, insightful, or based on understanding, we can add that thought may be:
Inductive (going from specific facts or observations to general principles) or deductive (going from general principles to specific situations), logical (proceeding from given information to new conclusions on the basis of explicit rules) or illogical (intuitive, associative, or personal). Creative thinking involves all these styles of thought (in varying combinations) plus fluency, flexibility, and originality (Guilford, 1950). The creativity of your suggestions could be rated in this way (By totaling the number of times you showed fluency, flexibility, and originality, we could rate the creativity of your thinking on this problem--speaking more generally, we would be rating your capacity for divergent thinking (Wallach, 1985):
Fluency is defined as the total number of suggestions you are able to make.
Flexibility is defined as the number of times you shift from one class of possible uses to another.
Originality refers to how novel or unusual your suggestions are.
Divergent Thought. Thinking that produces many ideas or alternatives; a major elementin original or creative thought. It is the most widely used measure of creative problem solving. Many possibilites are developed from one starting point.
Convergent Thought. Thinking directed toward discovery of a single established correct answer; conventional thinking. In routine problem solving or thinking, there is one correct answer, and the problem is to find it. This leads to convergent thought (lines of thought converge on the correct answer).
[Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989. Chapter: Learning & Cognition]
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