Abstract thinking - how to develop in children and train in adults

A variety of information about the outside world enters our brain through the senses in the form of sounds, smells, tactile sensations, visual images, and nuances of taste. But this is raw information that still needs to be processed. This requires mental activity and its highest form – abstract thinking. It is this that allows not only to make a detailed analysis of the signals entering the brain, but also to generalize, systematize, categorize them and develop an optimal behavior strategy.

Types of abstractions

Images formed without the participation of the content side of the concept:

  1. Insulating. Its goal is to highlight a characteristic feature of an object and increase attention to it. For example, there is an apple on the table. A person notices that it is green or sour.
  2. Generalization. Here the brain receives a complete picture of the appearance of the entire image. Let's use a mathematical equation as an example. The goal is a solution without taking into account individual numbers, pluses, minuses and other signs.
  3. Idealization. Discarding unimportant elements. A method of obtaining knowledge, without which exact and natural sciences cannot do.

In reality, there are no separate, unrelated elements. They cannot be touched or measured in isolation.

Essence and benefits

So, the ability to think helps a person build his own views on the world around him, cope with life’s difficulties, and achieve goals. But in most cases we use the exact variety, operating with detailed data.

When we see a guy sitting on a bench and cracking sunflower seeds, it seems to us that he is a slacker. That is, we think based on the specifics that are in front of us. But we can do this more generally, and then we will learn much more.

Stepping away from the facts and assuming context, we understand that perhaps the young man had a fight with his girlfriend, and before that he had given up smoking and therefore replaces the cigarette in a similar way. Or today he has a free day and he decided to relax and get some fresh air. Abstract thinking gives us room for imagination, to look at what is happening from different points of view and to learn a lot of interesting things.

This method is especially useful in specific everyday events when a person finds himself in an intellectual dead end. That is, she finds it difficult to find a solution to a problem or develop an objective view. But abstraction allows you to notice what was not so obvious before.

Forms of abstract thinking

Forms are divided into types depending on the final result of thinking:

  • Concept. Here the characteristics characteristic of the object are recorded. Concepts are expressed in individual words - backpack, glass, or are combined into combinations of words - school backpack, faceted glass. This is an inference. It conveys a common property characteristic of several objects.

They are different, but certain qualities allow the brain to group them into one subgroup. For example, a table. They can be round or square, tall or short, and have light or dark colors. The common thing is that it is customary to place objects on them. A similar purpose allows thinking to combine tables into a single group.

  • Judgment. A form of abstract mental type of thinking in which the characteristics and properties of an object are assessed. A judgment is expressed in the form of an affirmative sentence. Autumn has come - the simplest proposition. Autumn has come, the trees have shed their leaves - a complex structure made of two simple ones.

The human brain can use its flexibility to agree or disagree with phenomena. The verbal conclusion is unconditional. Simple - the dog barks, complex - it started to rain, it’s damp outside. The first sentence is short and clear, the second contains a logical chain.

Judgments are true or false when a person makes his own conclusions, regardless of the actual facts.

  • Conclusion. This is the final thought. Arises from a complex of 2 or more judgments. It is formed from three components: premise, processing and final conclusion - a process of logical action, the result of which is a new judgment. The brain uses its thoughts to come to its own conclusion.

In the process of learning about the world around us, the human brain strives to achieve true knowledge. Those. This is an adequate assessment of the processes and objects in which a person lives.

Scientific laws are truth. Distinguishing truth from error takes practice. It is formed in the process of the social and production function of each person over time.

Definition of the concept

The ability to think helps an individual find a way out of the current situation and form his own view of the world. But this ability comes in several varieties:

  • Accurate – there is knowledge, information and a clear understanding of what is happening.
  • Generalized – there is no data, and a person can only assume and guess.

Abstraction belongs to the second type. In scientific terms, this is a type of cognitive activity when general reasoning occurs without taking into account specific details. This makes it possible to consider what happened from different angles and find various methods for resolving it.

Of course, this doesn't always happen. Let's imagine that a man is lying on the bed and scrolling through his feed on a social network. The first thing that comes to mind is “He’s lazy.” We will most likely draw this conclusion based on what we see. But in fact, something else could have happened. He lay down to rest for 10 minutes after a hard day at work. He was ill and therefore unable to attend to his business. There are many options, and if we move away from the specifics and look at everything from different angles, we can understand and learn a lot of new things.

Abstract thoughts have approximate meaning. There is no room for specific information, and phrases such as “in general” and “maybe” are used throughout the process.

Examples of abstract thinking

One of the striking examples is the ability of a person to talk and communicate with people around him using words. There are no letters, numbers, or words in nature. But people were able to create an alphabet, put words together and designate each object, property and phenomenon with its own name.

The ability to think and create abstractions is manifested in the mathematical sciences. For example, the number 3. There is no such phenomenon in nature, but a person understands that we are talking about three identical objects, properties, functions, points, etc. The numbers were invented by people themselves to simplify and characterize many phenomena. With development, humanity began to use a lot of concepts that do not exist in nature.

Why develop abstract thinking

Modern man is constantly learning to break away from simple and concrete objects, leaving the ancient past behind. In those days, all objects were assessed for appearance, color, shape, smell and other specific characteristics. Now people who have mastered information technology are ready to more actively delve into their own subconscious.

This process is impossible without the development of abstract thinking. The sooner you start mastering these skills, the easier it will be for your child to accept new things and the more interesting life will be.

Development of abstract thinking in children

This process goes along with the activation of mathematical abilities. Almost from birth, children are able to conduct a comparative analysis - to distinguish between the sizes, temperatures, and sensory characteristics of different things. Then begins the long process of learning complex ideas related to numbers and counting, becoming familiar with the alphabet, etc.

Before you begin to develop abstract thinking, you should evaluate the child’s real abilities and not strive for instant learning in something for which his brain is not yet developed enough. At the first stage, games and tasks aimed at stimulating logical thinking will help.

How to learn to abstract yourself

Anyone can abstract, often this happens unconsciously, as a defensive reaction from the surrounding reality. Learning to do this is useful to maintain composure, control thoughts and isolate yourself from the negativity of social life. Abstraction will help you ignore negative manifestations; an example of this is the memory of a pleasant evening or childhood years.

From society

To abstract yourself from society, you need to concentrate on positive moments, learn to rest, and relax. It is important to clearly formulate thoughts and goals; this will help you understand your role in society and concentrate at the right time. This is facilitated by planning the day, drawing up plans, and the ability to prioritize goals. If, for example, noise interferes with concentration, you need to imagine it as a background that will not stop without concentrating on it. Then the brain will stop paying attention to the noise. Slow breathing on a count will help you to disengage. You need to relax and count to ten.

It will never be possible to isolate yourself from society and crowds; it is impossible to avoid crowded places. A negative reaction will be reduced by a proper daily routine and good nutrition. Imagination will help you transport yourself to a pleasant place.

Note! Thought processes suppress negative emotions. Stress and lack of sleep contribute to impaired abstract thinking.


From a person

To abstract yourself from a person, you need to not concentrate on the negative. If emotions take over, take a break. For example, stop communicating for a while. Distraction will help you switch to something positive.

You need to concentrate on the positive qualities of a person, paying a lot of attention to them. Remember what happened more in life related to him: good or bad. Focusing solely on the negative only hurts the relationship. Abstraction is the ability to sweep away the unnecessary.

From unpleasant people

When communicating with people does not bring pleasure, but you cannot stop it, you need to learn to abstract yourself. To do this, it is important to understand what exactly leads to negative emotions, identify the problem and begin to fight it. Communication and conversation with unpleasant people can help correct the situation. A calm dialogue in which the problem is voiced will get rid of the irritating factor.

From the situation

Looking at it from the outside will help you abstract yourself from the situation, as if it were happening to another person. Emotions become dull, the mind becomes clear, and solving the problem becomes much easier. You can imagine that this is a film and you need to figure out what the main characters should do to get rid of the negativity.

In any situation, you need to notice only what is important, filtering out unnecessary details. Perhaps they are what lead to irritation. Understanding that this is not worth attention will help you calm down and cope with negativity.

Abstract thinking helps you survive and become happy in the modern world. After all, there is not always an exact plan, and it is impossible to have all the knowledge. An abstract person is able to come to conclusions by analyzing available facts. The main thing is to be able to build logical chains and use your imagination. It is abstraction that helps a person draw conclusions and make decisions.

Exercises for children

Techniques intended for children are different from those used by adults. But at the same time they are no less effective. This happens because a child’s curious brain is completely open to learning new things.


They all differ in sizes, colors, shapes. To develop abstract thinking, you need to often invite your child to imagine what a specific cloud can be compared with. In the process of thinking about this task, the brain actively works, new neural connections are established, and intelligence develops.

Shadow play

By playing with the shadows of various objects, you can create many images. All you need is a light source in a dark room and prepared contours. By moving the details, you get a variety of images. The child himself, while playing, learns to predict the outcome depending on the location of the parts. You can also invite other children. In company, they will be much more willing to play this game.

You may also be interested in the article How to better develop a child - an overview of children's developmental techniques, games, objects and exercises

Mental arithmetic

The technique is intended for the development of children 4-14 years old. It allows you to teach your child fast, almost instant counting. It is based on a system of arithmetic operations using special Chinese or Japanese abacus. The technique is difficult to fully understand, so it is not used at an early age. But it can be successfully used in adolescents to improve thinking processes. The only condition is the child’s perseverance and perseverance.


The special “Abstract Thinking” is designed to create a variety of shapes and figures. The child, by manipulating details, learns to form the final goal in his head. The skill is gradually improved, and the level of developing intelligence is steadily growing. Such toys are especially useful for young children, as they stimulate the brain to active mental activity. And the inclusion of fine motor skills in the process further accelerates the child’s development.


Even simply discussing everyday activities with your child allows him to quickly increase his level of intelligence. During conversations, children think about the meaning of what they hear and formulate an answer. Of course, you don’t need to talk about just anything. It is advisable to stimulate the child to fantasize and find the right answer.

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