Things to Know About Concrete Thinking: Balanced Thoughts
Updated on January 31, 2024
6 min read

Things to Know About Concrete Thinking: Balanced Thoughts

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Thinking beyond what is observed is not a feature of concrete thinking patterns. Imagination, visualization, and abstractions have nothing to do with this thought mechanism. Concrete thinkers are individuals who see the information literally without any symbolism or metaphors, focusing only on physical aspects. Some failures in your life stem from this limited mental mechanism and inability to perceive things beyond actual perceptions.

By underpinning the process of thinking concretely, it would be much easier to deduce conclusions free from biases. Also, sorting their thoughts from emotions can be an uphill battle for some people. A lack of ability to think directly and keep feelings aside can be a source of anxiety and ill-considered choices. It is possible to lose control over some tasks and simple daily plans instantly. Being able to stimulate the concrete type of thinking when you need it most, it is possible to avoid overthinking, deal with emotions that gnaw from the inside and lead to a depressive mood, and get rid of the tendency to get upset easily and without reason.

For some individuals, conscious activation of concrete thinking is a tall order. In others, on the contrary, every decision is supported only by concrete facts with no room for abstraction. Remember that a combined system of thought generation is key. To tackle difficulties, one must be capable of finding a balance between abstraction and concrete things. Let’s check how to do that and become a more efficient thinker.

How is concrete thinking different?

Perceiving things straight and word-for-word without extra inaccurate details refers to concrete thinking definition. This thinking mode has both pros and cons, so it should be controlled in order to avoid being mired in issues evoked by limited cognitive functions. Using information that we gain from our senses literally can limit us. But at the same time, it allows us to make quicker choices, as no needless data won’t hamper our decision-making processes. Concrete thinkers can easily get rid of the dispirited propensity to fret and overthink problems. It is easy to manage emotions and sidestep strain and anxiety. However, it is of paramount importance to be able to detect when this thinking style becomes dominant since it is possible to end up with poor imagination and low levels of creativity. It will be hard for such a person to recognize others’ feelings or even understand facial expressions.

Sarcasm or idioms could be a hard-to-overcome mental barrier that can make communication and social life challenging. However, for thinkers who rely more on abstraction, concrete style can be a kind of compensation that re-balances this out-of-box perception. Remember that controllable mixing of several mental mechanisms is critical for having a powerful thought process. No matter which mode dominates in your case, it still can restrict and prevent smooth cognitive performance. Only a combined mode of thinking creates room for understanding complex matters, memorizing and encoding complex data for further recall, and keeping your brain in good shape.

Concrete thinking examples

Cutting through the unwanted noises around problems to generate a solution is the key benefit of concrete patterns of thinking. A good example of concrete thinking is successful project management when every aim is attained within the provided constraints. It means that no extra insignificant things have slowed down the working process. So the applied methodologies for the implementation of the specific objective were also concrete. Individuals who strive to work as engineers must also nurture this thinking style since engineering work does not usually involve alternatives or abstract ideas. This also applies to specialists, for example, in the IT industry. Having a bug (an error in programming), strong concrete thinking supports a quick and workable solution to fix the bug. So, as you can understand, you don’t need to suppress this kind of thought; you just need to learn to use them correctly.

Exercises to develop your concrete thinking

Too much reliance on abstract thinking can make one a vulnerable thinker since, thus, it is possible to lose a clear understanding of reality, logical thoughts, and a sense of rationality. Growing your concrete perception of things is quite useful. All you need is to stock up on patience and strength and show calmness combined with consistency in your training to reach spectacular cognitive results. It will give you an inroad to reshape an inaccurate and false assumption into argumentatively supported concepts that are based on lucid ideas.

Of course, processing everything concretely might be holding you back. Individuals with an inclination to suppress abstract thoughts can have difficulties with creative tasks. But still, this mode of thinking is integrated into our cognitive system, so we must learn to control and activate it when needed. No matter whether you strive to increase performance at work or just deal with your routine life, concrete thinking matters.

To be more concrete, always try to focus on factual data first. Separate important things from unimportant ones and set aside those imprecise, ill-defined, and unimportant things to extract more accurate and clear data. Another tip is limiting the use of metaphors, symbolism, and other indirect figures of speech. After all, using this in the language can harm your concrete thought process. Being bogged down in too much abstraction means too many intrusive thoughts that can affect the speed of solution generations. To fight this mental hurdle, you can incorporate mindfulness sessions.

How it can help? First of all, it raises your awareness and self-control. Training in such a way helps eliminate distractions, empty your mind, and free up space for stronger cognitive functions, whether it is about processing data more concretely or vice versa — more creatively.

Difference between abstract vs. concrete thinking

Our life consists of constant creation, processing, and analysis of concepts and judgments that lead us to new conclusions reached by our reasoning. The process through which we mentally develop and correlate ideas about what surrounds us is quite complex. Concrete thinking is a part of this cognitive system, together with abstraction. Unambiguous concepts are more about concrete style, while interpreting things in an ambiguous way is about abstract thinking.

How you see the same thing depends on the type of thinking you have launched for its interpretation. For example, reading books is much more fun if using abstractions. It is possible to detect all the hidden meanings, and grasp metaphors and everything that is represented beyond the literal meaning. As you may have already guessed, reading and concrete perception of things are hard to combine.

But be careful! For creative activity or for reading, abstraction and broad-mindedness are great. However, in real life, facts that aren’t tethered to specific features must be properly managed, as losing touch with reality is a bad perspective, especially if you are engaged in a non-creative job that requires logic and strong reasoning.

Risks of too much concrete reasoning

One of the biggest risks is drawing inaccurate or unfairly prejudiced conclusions due to excessive emotionality. Among all types of thinking, the concrete type is the most limited regarding creativity and open-mindedness. It means that understanding others’ points of view can be a back-breaking mental job. If you rely on this thinking function too much, your abilities to learn new things, show concern and sympathy for others, and be engaged with creative undertakings could be inhibited. Being devoided of kindness and compassion towards other people, one will be recognized as a cold-hearted and insensitive personality who doesn’t want to care for others. Moreover, interpretations that are literal and the tendency to misunderstand metaphors and symbolism can play a bad joke on you.

In some scenarios, governing your decision with too much reliance on facts that are concrete usually leads to good results. However, the concrete thought process can often let you down, as literal perception does not always mean the right one. Launching several thought processes is pivotal to gain more accurate mental outcomes. It would be a good idea to make some tests for detecting which thought pattern is typical for you and what kind of risks it entails to fight them more efficiently. With strong cognitive abilities, anyone is able to absorb knowledge and apply it in every life area.


What is concrete thinking in psychiatry?

Sometimes, it can be a sign of issues with mental health, but only in cases when concrete thoughts are repetitive and hard to manage.

What causes concrete thinking?

This is a mental ability we are born with. Unfortunately, it can intensify over time, so it is possible to lose mental flexibility. However, obtaining better control over our cognitive functions makes it possible to restore mind versatility.

Is concrete thinking a thought process?

This initial thought mechanism allows us to perceive reality and precisely process stimuli we receive from our senses, extracting conclusions without unclarities or vagueness.

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