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What Is Convergent Thinking?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Convergent thinking is a style of thought that attempts to consider all available information and arrive at the single best possible answer. Most of the thinking called for in schools is convergent, as schools require students to gather and remember information and make logical decisions and answers accordingly. Convergent thinking is not, generally speaking, particularly creative and is best employed when a single correct answer does exist and can be discovered based on an analysis of available stored information. In contrast to the convergent style of thought is divergent thinking, which is more creative and which often involves multiple possible solutions to problems.

J.P. Guilford first proposed the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking based on his studies of how different people responded to different types of problems. Guilford was an American psychologist that conducted extensive research in the area of human intelligence and problem solving. He observed that most people have a preference for either divergent or convergent thinking, rather than employing an even mix of the two types. Other psychologists have observed that most people show a preference for convergent thinking, as modern schooling pushes students to look for the best possible answers rather than to seek a variety of different, creative answers.

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Convergent thinking has a strong emphasis on speed, accuracy, and logic. Arriving at the best, most logical answer in the least time possible is usually the primary objective of the convergent thinker. A convergent thinker usually tries to accumulate knowledge that can be applied in future situations. He will also work to learn strategies and techniques that can be replicated effectively to solve similar types of problems. Previously-acquired information and a logical thought process are essential to the convergent thinker, as he is usually not adept at creatively solving subjective or unfamiliar problem types.

This contrasts directly with divergent thinking, which is more interested in looking at a problem from a variety of angles and discovering several different possible solutions for a problem. Divergent thinking often focuses on drawing information and knowledge from a variety of disciplines and using that knowledge to find several different angles from which to view a problem. Divergent thinkers are often more concerned than convergent thinkers with applying their knowledge to figuring out the world and their place in it. A divergent thinker tends to excel at open-ended problems with a variety of possible solutions, and will tend to be more resourceful, though less inclined toward logic, than a convergent thinker.

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Discuss this Article

Acracadabra
Post 3

@CaithnessCC - I agree with you to some extent, but I do think things are changing. Look at companies like Google, a great example of employees who combine both ways of thinking in a 21st century way.

I wouldn't say that this is a fast paced revolution, or even that it is a global one. I just feel comforted by the small changes that are taking place.

Bakersdozen
Post 2

My sister is definitely from the divergent learning side of this debate. She struggled endlessly in school, especially with the rules and routines and deadlines which are such a part of that.

I now know that many kids fail in the education system for the same reasons. Luckily she was able to find other outlets and had some home tutor support. She has found her feet teaching critical thinking at a good university, but I know she's one of the few who make it through the system intact.

CaithnessCC
Post 1

Although I think both approaches are of equal value it seems society tends to favor one over the other. Take a look at convergent and divergent thinking from the angle of the occupations they tend to be linked with. Doesn't it seem like those which depend on convergent reasoning and validity skills, such as math, science and computing, get more respect?

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