• Dr. V.S. Gayathri

Two Modes of Thinking!

Updated: Jul 1

Right from our birth, we start learning many things through all our senses and using our abilities as well. We are capable of leaning many things and concepts in our lives. However, the test of knowledge happens we have to apply or implement the learnings in handling/managing and executing different situations in life. This is where the learning gets transformed into thinking.


Let us understand how the human brain thinks in different ways and learns different concepts.


Recently, psychologists have proposed a theory of dual systems of our mind: System 1 and System 2. It is not that the brain is not divided like this, but there is a useful analogy:


· System 1 thinking is automatic, quick, intuitive, emotional and reactive


· System 2 thinking is conscious, effortful, logical, and deliberate


In the first system, we tend to jump to the answer quickly, while in the second one deals thinking and analyzing through the right answer.


We can explain the same by the concept of Focused and Diffuse Modes of Thinking.


Focused thinking as the name suggests is direct and focused. It helps our brain to build up the initial skills. While, diffuse thinking helps our brain to look at the bigger picture and establish connections involving your new skills second nature. During diffuse thinking, the brain tries to find lots of different ways to connect the new pathways that it discovers.


Let us look at them in a detail.




Focused Mode of Thinking


Focused thinking is straightforward, so when we use this mode of thinking we are really concentrating on the matter at hand. It is like a highly attentive state of mind where the brain uses its best concentration abilities ignoring all external information. Experts feel that it is the preferred method for studying knowledge-intensive subjects.

When we are in our focused mode of thinking, our brain starts thinking like a one-track mind for solving the matter at hand. There is no room for distractions. Whether it is a physical or analytical problem, the focused thinking allows us to zoom directly in on the most explicit information.


Diffuse Mode of Thinking


Diffuse thinking, on the other hand, looks at the big picture. Unlike focused thinking, diffuse thinking is all about distractions. This mode of thinking lets your mind wander freely, look into the deeper details, and making connections at random. The diffuse mode of thinking utilizes the entire area of the brain and not focused in one part. In fact, that is the beauty of diffuse thinking: your brain has the opportunity to connect the dots and link neural processes.

Diffuse thinking happens as you do other things, rather more leisurely things. That’s why taking a shower or going for a run to take a break from studying can actually lead to an important breakthrough. While the conscious mind is relaxed, your brain is able to form a creative solution to a problem or finally link ideas that had been passing unnoticed by the focused thought.



Which one is better - Can we judge?


Well, it is something that is very difficult to judge or to say it both are important in a given situation.


While both of them are contrasting to each other, both are required in order to master a topic or make progress on a difficult project. When we are learning something new, we need to understand both the context for the information (diffuse) and the specifics of the subject (focused).


Our brain can operate in both the modes for good reasons. We need them both in order to really process information that comes our way. So, try to use both of them when you are learning to see better results.




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