PsycholoGenie presents an introduction towards two thought processes observed in humans. It provides the readers with examples that help to clarify the difference concrete and abstract thinking.
TBI’s concrete thinking effect
People suffering from traumatic brain injury, or TBI, are incapable to think in an abstract manner due to improper functioning of the frontal lobe of their brain. Such people need to be trained through certain activities that shall encourage their recovery.
Concrete thinking refers to a thought process where a person perceives something that is present physically around through his/her senses and interprets it as it is. Whatever can be seen, heard, smelt, or touched is analyzed at a superficial level and no further connections are established. There is an absence of chain of thoughts.
Abstract thinking goes beyond physical referents and looks for underlying messages or interpretations. Abstract thinkers relate physical objects and sensed experiences to ‘off-topical’ theories and emotional concepts. They are capable of looking beyond the obvious.
For example, a concrete thinker would look at a green tree and say that it is a green tree. Likewise, when an abstract thinker looks at the same tree, his/her thought process would be entirely different. The green tree may spark a chain of thoughts in an abstract thinker, and he may start imagining all things related to green and tree. He might relate green to peace and green tree would relate to bounty and productivity. In this manner, he might go on relating to further objects or events.
Establishment of Relativity
The concept of being present “here and now” is what is prevalent in concrete thinking. The thoughts do not compare what is being sensed to any other instance experienced in the past. There exists a failure to establish any relation between two concepts or systems. To a concrete thinker each instruction is to be followed word by word for any work to be done. He would take each sentence in its exact literal meaning. A concrete thinker can get away with a lie easily in a conversation by answering each of the questions quite literally, which would according to him be true.
Then we have abstract thinkers who are a lot more aware of what surrounds them. They take a deep plunge into what they sense and make observations of how that particular object or event stimulates their feelings. They observe the pattern of a particular process and draw analogous inferences from them. A conversation with an abstract thinker gets really interesting, as there are infinite possibilities and directions in which the interaction can lead to. Great philosophers, artists, and researchers, have been observed to follow the pattern of abstract thinking.
Let us suppose there is a situation where two people―a concrete thinker and an abstract thinker―have been allotted a set of tasks individually. If we consider the concrete thinker, then instructions will have to be provided to him at each step of every task. This shall, however, not be the case for the abstract thinker. He shall gradually follow the pattern of the work involved and start working on personal instincts. He may even add a touch of improvisation to the work that was allotted.
Not that the concrete thinkers are slow learners or anything. They are hard to recognize in a group of people. They might be doing perfectly well in their respective fields and might even be quite successful. They are just more practical than the rest, and lack in ‘development’ of logic, and just follow a pattern that has been already defined.