What kind of thinker are you? | Sunday Observer

What kind of thinker are you?

11 October, 2020

Thinking is invisible behaviour. We are aware of it going on in our own minds and we see the products of other people’s thoughts in the solutions they find and the decisions they make.

During the time when LTTE terrorists were virtually ruling some parts of the North and the East, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga offered the Chief Minister’s post to Prabhakaran with the genuine hope that he would give up arms. However, Prabhakaran demanded Eelam. When Mahinda Rajapaksa became President he declared war on terrorism and reclaimed the areas controlled by the LTTE. This shows how different people think differently.

What we do not see is that the wheels in our minds turn in quite different ways. Take for example, two young men selecting their life partners. One of them does extensive research into the girl’s family background and education. The other person prefers to go by the looks of the girl and decides to marry her. However, we cannot say that one way of thinking is superior to the other.

Worldwide there are probably more than 50,000 people writing software for computers. We know that no computer can work without software. Our computers will behave differently depending on the software we use. However, we are not aware of anyone writing software for the human brain.

We believe that our traditional thinking software was developed by the Greek Gang of Three, popularly known as the ‘GG3’. Who were the members of this unusual gang? They were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.


Very briefly, Socrates was interested in asking leading questions. He questioned ordinary men and women and argued with them on important issues. Sometimes he questioned the young men who came to his house. However, his wife did not tolerate them.

His pupil Plato was more interested in the ultimate truth than in arguments. Although ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy, Plato considered it to be a silly system. Aristotle went a step further and created a kind of ‘box logic’. Something was in the box or not and that could never be half in and half out. Although he married twice, he never asked his wives to open their mouths to count their teeth!

This was because he knew that men had more teeth than women. He argued that creatures in the category of males like horses had more teeth than those in the category of females. Anyway, that was Aristotelian logic.

If you walk into a modern bookshop, you will not find a category called “Thinking.” Instead you will find “self-help, philosophy and psychology.” Philosophers are supposed to be thinkers, but what they really do is describe the world in concepts, perceptions and values. Philosophers do not tell us how to think. Even psychology is much more concerned with putting people into boxes on the basis of some measurements.

Today if you want to study human thinking at a university, you will not find a faculty for that. You will be asked to study philosophy or psychology. Edward de Bono, the modern guru of clear thinking, studied psychology at Oxford University. Then he was appointed the Da Vinci Professor of Thinking at the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona. He admits that very few universities have a Faculty of Thinking.

Tremendous impact

My intention is not to gloat over Edward de Bono although he had a tremendous impact on my thinking. It is much more profitable for teenagers to know a few basic thinking styles. If you look around, you will see a synthesist who is a creative person. He drives everybody around him a little crazy.

He is a kind of speculative philosopher who is not worried about concrete realities which are important to others. He has the ability to look at a problem from different perspectives. He is a good debater who can proceed from one thought to another in a logical sequence. He does not argue to win a medal, but he enjoys it.

Sooner or later, you will come across an idealist who will pursue agreement by focusing on similarities. Being a good listener, he can value what is good for others. His strength lies in morality and integrity. Sometimes, he will blame himself for missed opportunities and failure to meet high expectations. Idealists are more concerned with the future than the present.

Do not be surprised if you are sitting next to a pragmatist. He has a positive approach to life. He is not very worried about the daily problems but he will do what is possible. He has hopes that tomorrow will bring more opportunities. Although he has a vision, he does not know how to plan his programs.

However, he is innovative and resourceful but he is not a perfectionist. Wherever possible he is ready to compromise with others because he has no idea to conquer the world at once. He has the ability to tackle difficult jobs than others.


One day you are going to meet an analyst who always thinks that there is only one way to do something. To find that way, he will analyse the problem, collect data, and look for the right formula. He is certainly a concrete thinker. As far as his decision making is concerned, he will not consider your wishes and fantasies. He is not moved by praise or criticism. Analysts equate efficiency with competence.

A realist, on the other hand, will feel, hear, and experience real things. He is not worried about fanciful thoughts. He wants facts to prove or disprove something because he assumes the world is the way it appears. Remember that realists look down on yes men. They do not like people who break promises.

Every one of us falls into one of these categories. All the synthesists, idealists, pragmatists, analysts, and realists have their own strengths and weaknesses. All of them have to remember that no other species contemplates, analyses, recollects, or plans the way humans do. Although what specifically occurs when we think remains elusive, our understanding of the nature of the fundamental elements involved in thinking is growing. When I joined a logic class conducted by A.B.P. Santiago in the 1960s he asked each student why they wanted to study logic. As nobody answered his question, he thundered: “You have come here to learn logic to think critically and creatively.” Some of the students became lawyers and judges, but I chose a different path as I had some ink in my veins. Critical and creative thinkers are made, not born.

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