What is Linear Thinking and How to Keep Thoughts Straight?
Updated on January 31, 2024
6 min read

What is Linear Thinking and How to Keep Thoughts Straight?

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One of the traditional modes of thought generation is known as linear thinking. It can be compared to the binary type of data processing, as it gives only two options for the answer — the correct and the incorrect one.

Our intelligence controls how effective this kind of thinking will be. So growing our mental capacity, we consequently grow linear manner of processing.  However, it also limits our spontaneous generation of original thoughts. So approaching your life, try to learn combining rationality with intuition and strong reason with creativity. As a result, assimilating new knowledge becomes an enjoyable activity, and data structuring won’t cause any difficulties. Now, let’s learn more about the topic of linear thinking and keeping one’s thoughts in focused manner.

What is Linear Thinking?

Our cognitive process of thought creation tends to form lines with logical links and relationships. Such lines don’t have space for imagination, hypothetical approaches, abstract thinking, or perception beyond facts. The assumption in recognizing someone as a linear thinker is that any inference or findings are based on logical facts and arguments, and judgments are clear and free from unwanted insignificant details. A person who thinks in the opposite style of linear thinking will have an array of unrelated thoughts that can be somewhat confusing and lead to poor conclusions. These styles of thought engendering are considered broad and can be diversified to enhance decision-making.

Examples of the Linear Thought

When it comes to the application of linear skills, for example, such activity as content creation requires lining up the writer’s thoughts. This is how it is possible to follow the logic of the topic, stir up strong emotions, and after listing the main points, make a convincing conclusion that leaves no room for a feeling of uncertainty. But of course, following a clear sequence of facts can make the article boring and lacking excitement. Just creative perception can also harm the manner in which the article is written. Of course, everything depends on the theme and goals of the content, but it should be remembered that only linear thinking is not enough —  we need to be inventive and apt.

When Linear Thinking Works Best: Back Up Your Choices

Our current system of reasoning is established upon linear thinking that is, in turn, arranged in a logical sequence of interconnected strings of information, facts, and arguments that ultimately lead to finding a workable solution. Past data and your logic skills can be combined to come up with a new idea. Since such an approach is data-driven, your linear thought process heeds only proven arguments. This brain framework means facts reinforce each mental product. Whatever choice you make, it will not be blind but confirmed and supported by our experiences or already gained knowledge.

Of course, such skills perfectly serve lots of professions, especially in the fields where analytical abilities are critical. But it does not mean that such skills have no effect on our ordinary everyday choices. Moreover, one of the biggest stereotypes is labeling people engaged in creative work as non-linear, whilst mathematicians, scientists, and engineers have only straight and logical thought patterns. And while the latter category really needs to hone the skills of a linear manner of reasoning, it is still recommended to leave room for other types of thinking, for example, lateral information perception. Sometimes, even performing engineering projects, indirect data processing must occur to detect not-so-obvious reasons that cause one or another scenario. Being capable of inventing several solutions to one issue can be quite beneficial for further success since it gives more freedom.

Are You a Linear or Lateral Thinker: Analyze Your Thinking Patterns

The brain in an individual who is more linear is wired differently than in those who don’t reason straight. But still, it can be reprogrammed and rebalanced. The key thing is to understand whether you are more linear or more free-thinker. Once you detect such a brain’s personal uniqueness, you can understand where to move next to always be content with your mental performance. For example, suppose one is capable of completing a task, project, or some assigned piece of work that must be finished within a defined timeframe inch by inch from starting point to the very end without losing attention. In that case, it means that this individual is fully linear. However, if one’s brain resists settling the issue one step at a time and there is a tendency to jump from one issue to another without finishing them, it means that such a mind is not straight. It is important to understand that these mechanisms should not suppress each other. On the contrary, they should complement one another.

How to Improve Linear Thinking?

A key component of our cognitive mechanism is data processing. And here is when the agile human mind launches ingenuity to settle issues in an original and clever way. Our brain already knows how to analyze and synthesize information, break it down into smaller data series, and, vice versa combine it into one holistic idea. It is possible to exploit brain power to gain the most spectacular mental results through strong memory or the ability to deal with standard problems using outside-of-box perception. And the result of all mental actions usually becomes our decisions. If you’ve confined yourself to what you already know and limited your knowledge, your mind can become passive and slowed down. Therefore, working on the skills of multiple thinking modes is needed to avoid a dormant mind that lacks energy and is a little bit indolent. To strengthen our natural potential, we can explore how to improve memory, what are the best aids for our logic, and how to balance non-linear cognitive activity and linear thought producing, as in most cases, it is precisely this balance that helps us to stay strong-minded.

To avoid spinning out of mental or emotional control, apart from linear perception, try to train other skills that we usually miss, e.g., reflective thinking and a habit of ruminating on past mistakes. Be ready to attune yourself to constant training in the future because once results are gained, it doesn’t mean you have to stop. The made progress will not be permanent. Remember that your mind must be dynamic each time it deals with challenges. Of course, linear thought is achieved in the shortest possible way since the path is straight and the distance between the point when the problem arose and the point when it is solved is as short as possible. But solutions must be not only prompt but also efficient. So the task of the training is to speed up your path while maintaining quality. Try never to go on the easiest path. To be sure each of your decisions is a solid, bringing the expected outcomes, you need to reshape your thinking modes. Thus, it is recommended to doubt even the most logical conclusions instead of being sure that you know the answer. And linear thinking must help you find accurate evidence and proof supporting or disproving your hypothesis.

At the same time, to set training priorities correctly, one thing must be understood. If you are among that category of thinkers who pride themselves on being super logical and consistent, then it is advised to check the creative part of the mind. Well-structured opinions and evidence-proved inferences are great. But it can bring some biases and cause blocks. It is extremely important to enhance awareness of linearity in cognitive processes and non-linearity and how it shapes your worldview.

Here are a few more tips. In case you take things/events/surrounding more literally, learn how to grasp abstract things. The number of aids for your visualization is vast: mind mapping, digital apps and games, book retelling, and exercises for training to evoke and blend multiple senses at once (e.g., when thinking about an orange, you need to imagine its smell, color, taste, texture, shape). Some are more standard, while some are quite unusual. But suppose you are bestowed with an innate talent to visualize scenes without barriers. In that case, you must train yourself to extract only the needed information free from abstractions and non-literal concepts. Total control over cognition opens up a new perspective. So learn to recognize which mental functions are activated when a certain action is performed. This is how you can switch from one mechanism to another within one cognitive system.


What is linear and non-linear thinking?

Linear meaning is about a brain setting where thoughts follow one another and when the answer to the previous step must be founded before the next one is made. With the non-straight way of reasoning, our brain can connect unrelated concepts. Such individuals tend to deduce conclusions based on data from several sources rather than one solid source. Both modes must be trained.

What is the opposite of a linear thinker?

If one’s brain is not linear, it means that there can always be found several starting points, and the view on one problem/event/situation is diversified. Such a thinking style must be controlled to avoid being paralyzed by multiple options.

What are linear thinkers good at?

It is good to be a linear thinker if you are engaged in the IT sphere, do some technical projects, or study exact sciences.

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