Under thinking all operations are summarized trying to form an inner preoccupation with images, memories and concepts a realization. Consciousness are thereby usually only the end products of thought, not the thought processes that produce them. Introspective guesses - Thinking aloud - but they are very unreliable.

Thinking is generally distinguished from perception and intuition. This is justified in terms of the fact that perception and intuition are nonconceptually, thoughts are however seen as conceptual or propositional. Thinking can be based on an idea, spontaneously through feelings, situations, sensations or persons are triggered or it is abstract and constructively developed. Automatic thinking, unconsciously, unintentionally, involuntarily and effortlessly runs, can be distinguished from controlled thinking that is conscious, deliberate, voluntary and expensive. Daniel Kahneman also distinguishes a "System 1 " which works quickly and automatically with little or no effort and without conscious control, the " System 2", which require those strenuous mental activity, attention, assigns them. The activities of the second system are often associated with authorship, freedom of choice and concentration.

As thinking is done in detail of research is of different disciplines. Sociology of knowledge, anthropology, psychology (particularly psychology of thinking ) and cognitive science consider thinking very differently. Some try descriptively to describe the present forms of thought and to find specific patterns and heuristics, where the thinking of individuals or groups in general, specific groups or in individual cases follows. These forms can be viewed in the perspective of sociology, general psychology, personality psychology or cognitive science models in turn. The brain research and related disciplines examine the psychological, neural and biochemical mechanisms underlying the concrete process of thinking. Examine epistemology, game theory, logic and psychology of thinking, which rules the mind must follow in order to assimilate perceptions meaningful to arrive at true beliefs or to correct problems to solve or draw conclusions.

  • 5.1 Philosophy
  • 5.2 Psychology and Brain Engineering
  • 5.3 Literature in English


In analogy to the concepts of behavioral biology is called:

  • As a way of thinking ( to practice ) the individual thought
  • As thought patterns ( behavioral pattern ) as periodic nature in response to a situation of thought

The typical ways of thinking and patterns of a person depend on the disposition of socialization (including education, training ), the experience gained in dealing with others and the nature of social relations from.


Cognitive Psychology

In cognitive psychology, thinking is considered to be a mixture of memory and logically abstract symbol processing.

With the help of models, the so-called cognitive architectures, including thinking and problem-solving processes are simulated. The most popular models are

  • The ACT theory of John R. Anderson,
  • The PSI theory by Dörner and Dietrich
  • The SOAR theory of Allen Newell.

Thinking as problem solving

A problem exists when from a given initial state from a desired target state can not be readily achieved. The obstacle between the actual and desired state lying must be eliminated through the use of tools (called operators). For this purpose, thought processes are required.

In this context, complex tasks are used in contrast to intelligence tests, such as the Towers of Hanoi or computer-simulated problem solving scenarios.

The main categories of thought - conscious, unconscious or preconscious thinking - can not be separated in problem solving. Every conscious thought process is preceded by unconscious thinking steps. Many findings "mature" unconsciously, in a period of relaxation when you have distanced themselves from the problem. Several major scientific insights came the researchers apparently in his sleep or " out of the blue ".

Analytical thinking vs. analogical thinking

In cognitive psychology, the distinction between analytical thinking, the o on an analysis of facts Ä plays. based, and analog thinking, which does not require an analysis, an important role. The same thinking is associative, place spontaneously. In this way, can be tapped by connotations about a complex issue. Example, it is possible to interpret a difficult literary text by the associative painting a picture, without having previously made ​​an interpretation based on a textual analysis.

Developmental Psychology

Thinking often has to do with knowledge and experience. In developmental psychology, researchers investigate how children learn to identify causal relationships. This " causality knowledge" often grows through experience and representational thinking.

The objective - causal thinking of a child is to be noted from about nine months; it is a phase of "pre - causality " forward. Similarly, it seems to be with the aforementioned associative thought processes. With about three years too abstract causality is understood, but are errors in logical thinking often "resistant" ( stay long persist ), but this also occurs in adults (see the research of Jean Piaget ).

When toddlers learn, for example, to group individual elements or building blocks, are appreciably with increasing exercise, the effects of logical operations. First, they focus on a feature later on a few characteristics. The Logical multiplication - for example, as a combined observance of form and color - is only successful with a number of years, but is encouraged by chance experiences.

Various attempts - including the mentally handicapped - contradict the assumption often expressed that children have alternative ways of thinking. " Innate " How much of the child's knowledge is and whether its conceptual thought structure corresponds to that of adults, is currently being studied intensively.

Motivation Psychology

Thinking is also relevant to the achievement motivation, such as in competitive sports. This is in this context, perhaps as important as psychomotor and coaching or training. It is the thinking, the idea that the current perception and even the memory to concentrate on the target. Automation of all important reactions and sequences is required. So also it is under pressure to perform all personal performance spectrum.

Even ambition, selfishness, will, and working towards higher-level goals can be viewed from a cognitive perspective.

Social Psychology

The thinking is always under the influence of the two main motives of people:

  • The need for a positive self-image and
  • The need for a realistic worldview.

As a player in the social field of the man with his limited resources (limited attention, limited short-term memory, weakness of long-term memory, etc.) while thinking is constantly rely on heuristics, eg, automatic thinking, tacit knowledge, attitudes such as prejudice, sympathy, etc. schemes such as judgment heuristics, implicit personality theories, etc. through cognitive overload thinking errors and cognitive distortions may occur.


Philosophy ( Ancient and Modern Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally means " love of wisdom " ), in contrast to the individual sciences not limited subject area. In general one could characterize as an attempt of critical- rational self-examination of thinking, as a methodological reflection, the content tends to be directed to an overall interpretation of the world and of human existence. The thought itself is particularly discussed in the epistemology of philosophy of logic, philosophy of language and in moral philosophy ( in the theory of moral judgment ).

Thinking as a wordless language?

The thinking could be as dumb Speaking in an inner language common to all men call after the philosopher Jerry Fodor language of thought (eg: language of the mind ) or mentalese: is called (such as " Denkisch " or " Mentalisch " ). The idea of ​​a language of thought ( a lingua mentis ) is also found already - starting from a theory of the Greek philosopher Aristotle - in the philosophy of the Middle Ages. A quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein puts this as the expression: " All philosophy is a critique of language. "

However, there is also a way of thinking in images that knows the art and the style of the dream and the imagination - the imagination ( Such as in the legend that the chemist Friedrich August Kekulé ring structure of the benzene molecule was dreaming ).

Martin Heidegger, one of the main founders of phenomenology, describes thinking as a way. The to - Thinking eludes man and pulls him with. Because the to - Thinking the man withdraws and turns away from him, it takes him to complete. Man thus becomes a sign and refers to that which eludes him.


Thinking may be culturally; this assertion is supported by findings that assign different cultures, different thinking styles. So individualistic societies will be awarded a more analytical way of thinking and, in contrast, collectivist cultures a more holistic way of thinking.

When analytical thinking, the context is often ignored at the level of perception; in viewing an image for example, the main object is more focused than the background. This is called field independence. An analytically minded person takes more objects with respect to their true characteristics and assigns them then into categories. Based on this categorization judgments about future events and behaviors are taken. So used an analytical thinker rules to predict behavior. In decision-making situations he chooses clearly "pro" or " contra " instead of the " golden mean ".

In contrast, holistic thinking is directed his attention to the relationship between the focused object and the context ( field dependence ). You try on this basis (rather than on the basis of rules ) to explain and predict events. Holistic approaches are based more on experience and less on abstract logic. Holistic thinking can be intuitive. Also dialectical thinking is sometimes referred to as holistic, since opposites worked out perceived contradictions and changes in the form of syntheses and compromises are sought.