Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when individuals understand the different types of thinking needed in learning. In order to gain this understanding, one must have some concept of how the brain works.
As part of a personal effort to improve my own study skills, I am reading a book titled The World Book of Study Power, volume 1, and attempting to share a little of what I learn with my readers. Teaching others what I have learned helps to solidify the information in my own brain and is, therefore, a valuable learning tool. Most of the information that follows, including quotes and ideas, come from this book.
The brain is the organ where thinking and learning take place. It is capable of performing many tasks automatically, such as breathing, which happens without any instructions from the person. The brain is capable of performing many complex tasks at the same time as well as being able to think in many different ways.
The brain has two halves called hemispheres that communicate with each other through a “cable of nerves” called the corpus callosum. The two hemispheres work together but differently.
Different parts of the brain perceive and interpret information in different ways. One kind of thinking is in play when you act rationally and logically, analyze information, follow steps in directions, plan, keep track of time, or put your thoughts into words. We refer to these types of thinking as “analytic” because when you analyze information, you do so step-by-step, part-to-whole.
The root of the word “analyze” means “to understand by taking apart.” If you were programming a computer, building an engine, or conducting a scientific experiment, you’d have to think analytically. Unless you code information into your computer in a specific order, your computer couldn’t do what you want. When you put something together, such as a car engine, you must start with the most basic parts and build from there. If you are conducting an experiment, you must do things in a certain order to get the correct result.
But analyzing is only one way in which your brain functions. Other times, you daydream, imagine, or listen to the voice in the back of your head. We think of this as using intuition, acting on a hunch, or getting a message from a “sixth sense.
When you do this, you use intuitive, holistic, and subjective thinking because you’re relying on more than meets the eye. When you decide whether to trust someone, how to carve a block of wood into a statue, or which way to turn when you’re lost your way, you use this kind of thinking. Improvising songs on the piano or imagining the perfect world in your mind also falls into this category.
When you’re lost in these thoughts, time becomes less relevant because you’re wrapped up in the experience. These brain functions often are called “global.” When you think globally, you synthesize, or combine, information by making parts into a whole. This is the opposite of analyzing, which is breaking down a lot of information into small parts.
We do not have to choose a certain way of thinking for every single action. For instance, most people do not have to think about breathing because breathing is regulated by the brain. Most people do not have to consciously think about getting to a place where they have to go every day (school) or a task they do often (washing dishes) because the brain remembers. At other times, we do have to actually think about what we are doing. Runners, swimmers, weight lifters, etc. have to consciously think about their breathing in order to perform well. We have to think about where we are going if we are walking or driving in a new area. If we are washing the china that Mom inherited from Grandma, we pay close attention to what we are doing.
Most of us face problems fairly often, and most problems demand some thinking. However, whatever “problem you’re facing, you can choose how to respond,” and either way is okay. One example is grocery shopping. One can shop with a grocery list or simply walk through the store trying to remember what is needed. A second example is moving furniture to a new configuration. No one wants to move furniture any more than needed, but some people choose to draw out the new scheme on paper while others do it in their mind. In such cases, one should choose the way that works best for them.
Parents can help children to learn the two basic ways that the brain works. They can give a child a list of items needed from another room. The parent can see if the child can remember all the items or if they work better with a written list. A parent can ask a child to visualize what the room would look like if their bed or their dresser was in a different spot. Maybe they can do it better by drawing a picture. Another task that might be suggested is to decide whether a flower garden should be - alongside the driveway or in the corner.
Putting Lego sets together is analytical because the set must be built in a certain process in order for it to become what it is supposed to be. However, simply building with whatever Lego pieces one chooses is more “global.” Both types of thinking are important for each individual to learn, and each has its purpose. Individuals who learn to think both analytically and globally are stronger and can strengthen their families, communities, and nations.