Effective Thinking: A concise survey of elements, mechanisms and methods

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Abstract

This paper presents a general introduction to the elements and mechanisms underlying the processes of thinking in the brain, focusing on their limitations and how these can be overcome. An elementary thinking step, or inference, is conceived as the following of an associative connection from a concept, category or distinction to a related one. An idea is defined as a meaningful combination of concepts. Thinking, whether directed at solving a problem or free and unstructured, can be conceived as an exploration of the space of potential combinations in search of good ideas. The effectiveness of this process is limited by the combinatorial explosion, the small capacity of working memory, the self-reinforcing character of associative pathways, and the existence of cognitive biases. These intrinsic obstacles can be circumvented through a wide variety of heuristics, methods and tools for lateral thinking, critical thinking, systems thinking, and externalized thinking. These include divide-and-conquer, analogy, incubation, brainstorming, random input, checklists, notebooks, idea processing applications, embodied cognition, meditation and chunking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Practice of Thinking
Subtitle of host publicationCultivating the Extraordinary
EditorsMarta Lenartowicz, Weaver D.R. Weinbaum
Place of PublicationGent
PublisherASP / VUBPRESS
Pages87-136
ISBN (Print)9789401469814
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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