Outline Of Thought

The following outline of thought is provided as an overview of and topical guide to thought (thinking):

Thought (also called thinking) is the mental process in which beings form psychological associations and models of the world. Thinking is manipulating information, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solvingreason and make decisions. Thought, the act of thinking, produces more thoughts. A thought may be an idea, an image, a sound, or even control an emotional feeling.

See also: New Thought and History Of New Thought

Nature of thought

Thought (or thinking) can be described as all of the following:

  • An activity taking place in a:
    • brain – organ that serves as the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals (only a few invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, adult sea squirts and starfish do not have a brain). It is the physical structure associated with the mind.
      • mind – abstract entity with the cognitive faculties of consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, and memory. Having a mind is a characteristic of living creatures. Activities taking place in a mind are called mental processes or cognitive functions.
    • computer (see § Machine thought below) – general purpose device that can be programmed to carry out a set of arithmetic or logical operations automatically. Since a sequence of operations (an algorithm) can be readily changed, the computer can solve more than one kind of problem.
  • An activity of intelligence – intelligence is the intellectual prowess of which is marked by cognition, motivation, and self-awareness. Through intelligence, living creatures possess the cognitive abilities to learn, form concepts, understand, apply logic, and reason, including the capacities to recognize patterns, comprehend ideas, plan, problem solve, make decisions, retaining, and use language to communicate. Intelligence enables living creatures to experience and think.
    • A type of mental process – something that individuals can do with their minds. Mental processes include perception, memory, thinking, volition, and emotion. Sometimes the term cognitive function is used instead.
  • Thought as a biological adaptation mechanism
    • Neural Network explanation: Thoughts are created by the summation of neural outputs and connections of which vectors form. These vectors describe the magnitude and direction of the connections and action between neurons. The graphs of these vectors can represent a network of neurons whose connections fire in different ways over time as synapses fire. These large thought vectors in the brain cause other vectors of activity. For example: An input from the environment is received by the neural network. The network changes the magnitude and outputs of individual neurons. The altered network outputs the symbols needed to make sense of the input.

Types of thoughts

Content of thoughts

  • Argument – Attempt to persuade or to determine the truth of a conclusion
  • Belief – Psychological state of holding a proposition or premise to be true
  • Communication – Act of conveying intended meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs and rules
  • Data – individual units of information
  • Information – That which informs; the answer to a question of some kind; that from which data and knowledge can be derived
  • Knowledge – Familiarity, awareness, or understanding of information or skills acquired through experience or education
  • Schema
Guitar playing ape

Guitar playing ape

Types of thought (thinking)

Listed below are types of thought, also known as thinking processes.

Animal thought

Further information: Animal cognition and Animal intelligence

Human thought

Human thought

Classifications of thought

Creative processes


Main article: Decision-making

Erroneous thinking

See also: Error and Human error

Emotional intelligence (emotionally based thinking)

Emotional intelligence – Capability to understand one’s emotions and use it to guide thinking and behavior

Problem solving

Problem solving – Consists of using generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly manner, for finding solutions to problems

  • Problem solving steps
  • Process of elimination
  • Systems thinking
  • Problem-solving strategy – steps one would use to find the problem(s) that are in the way to getting to one’s own goal. Some would refer to this as the ‘problem-solving cycle’ (Bransford & Stein, 1993). In this cycle one will recognize the problem, define the problem, develop a strategy to fix the problem, organize the knowledge of the problem cycle, figure-out the resources at the user’s disposal, monitor one’s progress, and evaluate the solution for accuracy.
    • Abstraction – Conceptual process where general rules and concepts are derived from the usage and classification of specific examples – solving the problem in a model of the system before applying it to the real system
    • Analogy – using a solution that solves an analogous problem
    • Brainstorming – Group creativity technique – (especially among groups of people) suggesting a large number of solutions or ideas and combining and developing them until an optimum solution is found
    • Divide and conquer – breaking down a large, complex problem into smaller, solvable problems
    • Hypothesis testing – assuming a possible explanation to the problem and trying to prove (or, in some contexts, disprove) the assumption
    • Lateral thinking – approaching solutions indirectly and creatively
    • Means-ends analysis – Problem solving technique – choosing an action at each step to move closer to the goal
    • Method of focal objects – synthesizing seemingly non-matching characteristics of different objects into something new
    • Morphological analysis – assessing the output and interactions of an entire system
    • Proof – try to prove that the problem cannot be solved. The point where the proof fails will be the starting point for solving it
    • Reduction – transforming the problem into another problem for which solutions exist
    • Research – employing existing ideas or adapting existing solutions to similar problems
    • Root cause analysis – Method of identifying the fundamental causes of faults or problems – identifying the cause of a problem
    • Trial-and-error – testing possible solutions until the right one is found
    • Troubleshooting –
  • Problem-solving methodology



  • Abstract thinking – Conceptual process where general rules and concepts are derived from the usage and classification of specific examples
  • Adaptive reasoning
  • Analogical reasoning
  • Analytic reasoning
  • Case-based reasoning
  • Critical thinking – The analysis of facts to form a judgment
  • Defeasible reasoning – Reasoning that is rationally compelling, though not deductively valid – from authority: if p then (defeasibly) q
  • Diagrammatic reasoning – reasoning by means of visual representations. Visualizing concepts and ideas with of diagrams and imagery instead of by linguistic or algebraic means
  • Emotional reasoning (erroneous) – a cognitive distortion in which emotion overpowers reason, to the point the subject is unwilling or unable to accept the reality of a situation because of it.
  • Fallacious reasoning (erroneous) – logical errors
  • Heuristics
  • Historical thinking
  • Intuitive reasoning
  • Lateral thinking
  • Logic – The study of inference and truth / Logical reasoning
    • Abductive reasoning – Form of logical inference which seeks the simplest and most likely explanation – from data and theory: p and q are correlated, and q is sufficient for p; hence, if p then (abducibly) q as cause
    • Deductive reasoning – Method of reasoning by which premises understood to be true produce logically certain conclusions – from meaning postulate, axiom, or contingent assertion: if p then q (i.e., q or not-p)
    • Inductive reasoning – theory formation; from data, coherence, simplicity, and confirmation: (inducibly) “if p then q“; hence, if pthen (deducibly-but-revisably) q
    • Inference
  • Moral reasoning – process in which an individual tries to determine the difference between what is right and what is wrong in a personal situation by using logic. This is an important and often daily process that people use in an attempt to do the right thing. Every day for instance, people are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to lie in a given situation. People make this decision by reasoning the morality of the action and weighing that against its consequences.
  • Probabilistic reasoning – from combinatorics and indifference: if pthen (probably) q
  • Proportional reasoning – using “the concept of proportions when analyzing and solving a mathematical situation.”
  • Rational thinking
  • Semiosis
  • Statistical reasoning – from data and presumption: the frequency of qs among ps is high (or inference from a model fit to data); hence, (in the right context) if p then (probably) q
  • Synthetic reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning – understanding and reasoning using concepts framed in words
  • Visual reasoning – process of manipulating one’s mental image of an object in order to reach a certain conclusion – for example, mentally constructing a piece of machinery to experiment with different mechanisms

Machine thought

Main article: Machine thought

Organizational thought

Organizational thought (thinking by organizations)

Aspects of the thinker

Aspects of the thinker which may affect (help or hamper) his or her thinking:

Properties of thought

  • Accuracy and precision – Closeness to true value or to each other
  • Cogency
  • Dogma – An official system of principles or doctrines of a religion or a philosophical school
  • Effectiveness – Capability of producing the desired result
  • Efficacy – Able to finish something satisfactorly
  • Efficiency – Degree to which a process minimizes waste of resources
  • Freethought – positions regarding truth should be formed only on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism
  • Frugality
  • Prudence
  • Rights – Fundamental legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory
  • Skepticism – Questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief
  • Soundness – Logical term meaning that an argument is valid and its premises are true
  • Validity – Argument whose conclusion must be true if its premises are
  • Value theory
  • Wrongdoing – Act that is illegal or immoral

Fields that study thought

Thought tools and thought research

History of thinking

History of reasoning

Nootropics (cognitive enhancers and smart drugs)

Nootropic – Drug, supplement, or other substance that improves cognitive function

Substances that improve mental performance:

Organizational thinking concepts

Main articles: Organizational studies and Industrial and organizational psychology

Teaching methods and skills

Main article: Education

Awards related to thinking

Awards for acts of genius

  • Nobel Prize – Set of five annual international awards, primarily established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel
  • Pulitzer Prize – U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition
  • MacArthur Fellows Program






Television programs

Persons associated with thinking

People notable for their extraordinary ability to think

Scientists in fields that study thought

Scholars of thinking

Related concepts

Awareness and perception

Main articles: Awareness and Perception

Learning and memory

Main articles: EducationLearning, and Memory

  • Autodidacticism
  • Biofeedback
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Dual-coding theory
  • Eidetic memory (total recall)
  • Emotion and memory
  • Empiricism
  • Feedback
  • Feedback loop
  • Free association
  • Heuristics
  • Hyperthymesia
  • Hypnosis
  • Hypothesis
  • Imitation
  • Inquiry
  • Knowledge management
  • Language acquisition
  • Memorization
  • Memory and aging
  • Memory inhibition
  • Memory-prediction framework
  • Method of loci
  • Mnemonics
  • Neurofeedback
  • Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)
  • Observation
  • Pattern recognition
  • Question
  • Reading
  • Recall
  • Recognition
  • Recollection (recall)
  • Scientific method
  • Self-perception theory
  • Speed reading
  • Study Skills
  • Subvocalization
  • Transfer of learning
  • Transfer of training
  • Visual learning

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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