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Abstract thinking is the act of going from specific to general. Unless you have an actual mental illness, you probably already do use your abstract thinking skills - you just didn't realize that was what you were doing!

Abstract thinking is when you look at a situation and generalize - if you read about someone who was driving when they were drunk and who wrecked their car and killed someone, you would generalize and think "drunk driving is dangerous because people can wreck their cars and kill someone."

Abstract thinking is when you move from the specific to the general - you might see someone driving a blue Mustang car, and you might move to the general and think "I like Mustangs," or "I like blue cars," or even "I want a car!"

Abstract thinking involves thinking about ideas and concepts instead of specific events. An abstract thinker would move beyond counting how many pencils he has and think about the concept of numbers, or the idea of counting, or even mathematics in general.

Here are some tips to help you understand how to think more abstractly:

  • look for connections between things
  • look for similarities between events and your own life
  • look for explanations for what happened
  • look for more questions that you can ask about something
  • look for other ways to look at things (other perspectives or viewpoints)
  • look for ways to organize situations (making order from chaos)
  • look for ways to evaluate situations
  • look for ways to draw conclusions or inferences from situations (if this is true, what else is true?)
  • look for analogies in situations (how is this like this other thing?)
  • use comparisons to help with difficult concepts (how is this idea working like something else I am familiar with?)
  • use visual tools to help you understand - draw a diagram, make a map, doodle a picture, or chart a graph!
One exercise you might try to test your abstract thinking skills is to see how many ways you can think of to describe something, or how many different things of one sort you can name - thinking games like this teach you to search your memory for words that are similar, and can help you think more abstractly.
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