Outline of thought

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A thinking chimpanzee

The following outline 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 solving, reason 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.

Nature of thought[edit]

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.
    • 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 process of which is marked by cognition, motivation, and self-awareness.[3] 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[4]
    • 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[edit]

  • Concept – Mental representation or an abstract object
    • Abstract concept – Metaphysics concept covering the divide between two types of entities
    • Concrete concept – Metaphysics concept covering the divide between two types of entities
  • Conjecture – Proposition in mathematics that is unproven
  • Decision (see Decision-making)
  • Definition – Statement that attaches a meaning to a term
  • Explanation – Set of statements constructed to describe a set of facts which clarifies causes
  • Hypothesis – Proposed explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem
  • Idea – Mental image or concept
  • Logical argument
  • Logical assertion
  • Mental image – Representation in the mind of objects, activities or events, whether they existed or not
  • Percept / Perception
  • Premise – Statement that an argument claims will induce or justify a conclusion
  • Proposition – Non-linguistic meaning of a sentence
  • Syllogism – Type of logical argument that applies deductive reasoning
  • Theory – Supposition or system of ideas intended to explain something
  • Thought experiment – Hypothetical situation

Content of thoughts[edit]

  • 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 meaning
  • Data – Units of information
  • Information – Facts provided or learned about something or someone
  • Knowledge – Awareness of facts or being competent
  • Schema – Technique to encode and retrieve memories

Types of thought (thinking)[edit]

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

Animal thought[edit]

Human thought[edit]

Human thought

Classifications of thought[edit]

Creative processes[edit]


Erroneous thinking[edit]

Emotional intelligence (emotionally based thinking)[edit]

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

Problem solving[edit]

Problem solving – Approaches to problem solving

  • Problem solving steps
  • Process of elimination – Logical method to identify an entity of interest among several ones by excluding all other entities
  • Systems thinking – Examining complex systems as a whole
  • 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 – Process of generalisation – solving the problem in a model of the system before applying it to the real system
    • Analogy – Cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another – 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 – Process of understanding a complex topic or substance – 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 – Manner of solving problems – approaching solutions indirectly and creatively



  • Abstract thinking – Process of generalisation
  • Adaptive reasoning
  • Analogical reasoning – Cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another
  • Analytic reasoning
  • Case-based reasoning – Process of solving new problems based on the solutions of similar past problems
  • Critical thinking – 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
  • Heuristic – Problem-solving method that is sufficient for immediate solutions or approximationss
  • Historical thinking
  • Intuitive reasoning
  • Lateral thinking – Manner of solving problems
  • Logic – Study of correct reasoning / 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 – Form of reasoning – from meaning postulate, axiom, or contingent assertion: if p then q (i.e., q or not-p)
    • Inductive reasoning – Method of logical reasoning – theory formation; from data, coherence, simplicity, and confirmation: (inducibly) "if p then q"; hence, if p then (deducibly-but-revisably) q
    • Inference – Act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true
  • Moral reasoning – Study in psychology that overlaps with moral philosophy – 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.[5] 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 p then (probably) q
  • Proportional reasoning – using "the concept of proportions when analyzing and solving a mathematical situation."[6]
  • 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
  • Strategic thinking
  • 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[edit]

Organizational thought[edit]

Organizational thought (thinking by organizations)

Aspects of the thinker[edit]

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

  • Ability – Ability to influence the behavior of others
  • Aptitude – Ability; competence to do a certain kind of work at a certain level
  • Attitude – Psychological construct, a mental and emotional entity that inheres in, or characterizes a person
  • Behavior – Actions by entities within a system
  • Cognitive style – Concept in cognitive psychology
  • Common sense – Sound practical judgement in everyday matters
  • Experience – Conscious event, perception or practical knowledge
  • Instinct – Behaviour due to innate biological factors
  • Intelligence – Ability to perceive, infer, retain or apply information
  • Metacognition – Thinking about thinking, higher-order thinking skills
  • Mental image – Representation in the mind of objects, activities or events, whether they existed or not
  • Mindset – Term in decision theory and general systems theory
  • Preference – To like one thing more than another
  • Rationality – Quality of being agreeable to reason
  • Skill – Ability to carry out a task
  • Wisdom – Ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight

Properties of thought[edit]

  • Accuracy and precision – Characterization of measurement error
  • Cogency
  • Dogma – Principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
  • Effectiveness – Capability of producing the desired result
  • Efficacy – Ablility to finish a task satisfactorily
  • Efficiency – Degree to which a process minimizes waste of resources
  • Freethought – Position that beliefs should be formed only on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism
  • Frugality – Being frugal in the consumption of consumable resources
  • Meaning
  • Prudence – Ability to regulate oneself with use of reason
  • Rights – Legal, social, or ethical principles
  • Skepticism – Questioning attitude or doubt towards 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 – Concept in sociology and philosophy
  • Wrongdoing – Act that is illegal or immoral

Fields that study thought[edit]

Thought tools and thought research[edit]

History of thinking[edit]

History of reasoning

Nootropics (cognitive enhancers and smart drugs)[edit]

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

Substances that improve mental performance:

Organizational thinking concepts[edit]

Teaching methods and skills[edit]

Awards related to thinking[edit]

Awards for acts of genius[edit]

  • Nobel Prize – Prizes established by Alfred Nobel in 1895
  • Pulitzer Prize – Award for achievements in journalism, literature, and musical composition within the United States
  • MacArthur Fellows Program – Annual prize by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation






Television programs[edit]

Persons associated with thinking[edit]

People notable for their extraordinary ability to think[edit]

Scientists in fields that study thought[edit]

Scholars of thinking[edit]

Related concepts[edit]

Awareness and perception[edit]

Learning and memory[edit]

See also[edit]





  1. ^ Dictionary.com, "mind": "1. (in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.: the processes of the mind. 2. Psychology. the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities. 3. intellect or understanding, as distinguished from the faculties of feeling and willing; intelligence."
  2. ^ Google definition, "mind": "The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness." [1]
  3. ^ Tirri, Nokelainen (January 2012). Measuring Multiple Intelligences and Moral Sensitivities in Education. Springer. ISBN 978-94-6091-758-5.
  4. ^ Danko Nikolić (2014). "Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind. arXiv:1402.5332 [q-bio.NC]".
  5. ^ "Definition of: Moral Reasoning". Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Dictionary Search › proportional reasoning - Quizlet".
  7. ^ "History of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy". National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. Archived from the original on November 26, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2011.

External links[edit]