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    Linear and Non-Linear thinking

    Does anyone have personal experiences with this at work or in non-professional life? In Thailand and the West?

    Do we think differently? Linear vs. Non-linear thinking

    Posted by Chuck on Apr 11, 2009 in Philosophy | 123 comments
    Home » Philosophy » Do we think differently? Linear vs. Non-linear thinking
    Do we think differently? Linear vs. Non-linear thinking

    Wondering why communication is so hard? Or how two, intelligent, educated people can come to such different conclusions on any given topic?
    I suggest it’s because we don’t all use the same processes to think. Dive in and comment below – there’s a great debate and we want your opinion!

    I was tasked at work to blog on the difference between Linear and Non-Linear thinking, and how it relates to business. Not being an expert in the subject (but not feeling limited in expressing my opinion either) I dove in. Please feel free to comment – I love hearing your opinion.

    Logic and Creativity


    Some of us pride ourselves on being logical. We think through ideas with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. We enjoy structured thought and evidence-based conclusions. I’m sure you know the type – we plan out every step of a process, follow the Gantt chart to the “t”, and ensure results within schedules and deadlines.
    Others of us pride ourselves on being creative. We rejoice in the big ideas, in the new discoveries, and in the satisfaction of creation. We are always coming up with new ways to solve problems, love the questions “what if?” and don’t mind jumping ahead in a conversation to tell you what we just thought of.

    I suggest that these two characteristics of humans (logic and creativity) are often correlated with two different, but not disconnected types of thought processes: Linear and non-Linear thinking. Rather than argue that one is more important than the other, I suggest that they are both integral to success in business and, on the grander scale, life.

    The Linearity of Logic


    “Linear Thinking” is defined as:

    a process of thought following known cycles or step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be elicited before another step is taken.

    If a = b, and b = c, then a = c. The application of linear thinking can be found in the
    well known Socratic Method:


    a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate rational thinking and to illuminate ideas
    Jan Helfeld (pronounced Iain), a rather infamous libertarian reporter, provides an amusing (or infuriating – depending on who’s side you’re on) application of the Socratic method to our political representatives. It’s all very logical, and for those who don’t build their policies or opinions on logic, it’s a game that raises tempers with captivating efficiency. After watching, I tend to wonder if any of our policy makers think through their political conclusions logically. Logic seems lost from our world, like an ancient language that’s spoken only by tribes of some distant jungle.
    More important to this blog’s argument however, is that Jan’s use of the Socratic method is also extremely linear. As much as the person in the hot seat wants to jump around and evade, Jan forces them to answer one question before they move on to the next. The videos remind me of walking a puppy – when they want to walk every direction but the one you’re traveling. You rein them in every time before moving forward.

    Though you may doubt it after watching Jan Helfeld’s videos, much of our world is indeed structured upon the concept of logic (very basic logic at least). We learn math, deductive reasoning, and tend to apply these logical processes to our everyday life. Our drive to do so comes from our inherent need, as cognitive humans, to categorize our experiences in our minds and make projections about what the outcome of an action will be. We compare our expectations with our experience, weigh the similarity, and adjust our thought processes as needed.
    Linear thinkers are very much the same. They start at step one and usually do a good and efficient job of completing the task before moving on to step two. They are driven, focused, and don’t easily get off topic. Does this sound like you? Perhaps. Or maybe it sounds like the person in the office you have a tough time working with?

    The Dangers of Logic

    There’s a danger in relying too heavily on logic. The danger is in the determination of the starting point. Once a starting point is chosen, there are a limited number of logical conclusions to a problem. For example, imagine a store owner who believes that he must raise his revenues to increase his profits. He tries multiple methods including advertising, increasing inventory, and product bundling to make every possible sale to his customers. But he forgot that he could also reduce his costs to increase profits, and in doing so missed what could have been much less expensive, less demanding options.

    This example is simplistic, but it underscores the point that for any logical process, there must be a decided-upon truth as a starting point. And the beauty of logic, is that it allows us to reach an answer from a given starting point. It’s easy, however, to rely upon starting points simply because they’re what we’ve used all our lives – starting points that either may be false, or that limit us from finding a much better answer.

    Non-Linear Thinking

    Non-linear thinking, a relatively new term, is vague enough (perhaps naturally so) that a simple google search will yield more beatings-around-the-bushes than formal definitions for the phrase. I think of it as follows:

    Human thought characterized by expansion in multiple directions, rather than in one direction, and based on the concept that there are multiple starting points from which one can apply logic to a problem.

    Non-linear thinking is less constrictive – letting the creative side of you run rampant because of its inherent lack of structure. It’s kind of like letting a puppy run wild on a walk up a mountain – anything of interest will be thoroughly investigated (and perhaps peed on) before jumping to the next, possibly non-related subject! It’s very much like brainstorming – allowing thought to flow, unhindered, in attempts to arrive upon something special in the process.

    Non-linear thought increases possible outcomes by not being so certain about the starting point for any logic process. Non-linear thinkers tend to jump forward, and from side to side through the steps of a project, in an effort to see the big picture and tackle those areas where they have the most interest. Where non-linear thinking falters is in finally carrying out the required action, because as a thought process it often encourages a user to agonize incessantly over where to start (that agreed upon truth, from which logic can be applied and action can be taken).
    A new form of digital presentation created by the folks at Prezi.com is a great example of non-linear and linear thinking in action. Why? Because rather than a linear slide show, it’s ultimately a picture, into which you can zoom in and out, infinitely. It allows you to present a product, concept, or argument in a logically by moving from location to location what is essentially group of images, but at any point you can zoom out and suddenly, “See the big picture” takes on a whole new meaning – Check it out!

    In Conclusion

    Again, as in my introduction, I stress the importance of both processes.
    And what I mean by this is maybe it’s important to have both types of thinkers on a team. Use non-linear thought to reexamine starting points and increase the possibility of finding the best option, and use linear thinkers and their efficient logic-based reasoning, once a starting point has been established, to get the job done in a timely manner. Whatever mixture of these two processes you prefer, take responsibility for your choices and learn from your mistakes, and I’ll bet on your success.

    ~Cecil “Chuck” McCumber

    What is the difference between linear and non-linear thinking?

  2. #2
    Custom user Neverna's Avatar
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    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures.
    Yes, I've witnessed this in my expat days.

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    Often, people who go on about logic, don't really understand it, or its limitations. They are misusing the term to try and capture a notion of superior subjective judgement (e.g.: "common sense"). You can construct a logically valid argument that is complete and utter bollocks. This is why logic is but one of the modules you would study in a philosophy degree - you need to cover epistemology and ontology/metaphysics and axiology (i.e.: ethics & aesthetics) as well to balance it all out. Logic doesn't mean anything without understanding what "meaning" means. Even digital circuits need a context.

    Linear v Non-Linear is perhaps
    also known as Vertical v Lateral thinking.
    Which is analytical v emotional
    maybe neurodiverse v neurotypical

    you need both... otherwise you are missing out on the benefits of both ways of thinking
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQVmkDUkZT4

    we are all figments of our own imagination.

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    ^ Redded. You are a fcuking nutcase.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Correct. It's why there can't be a universal IQ test unless it only involves maths, and even then, the questions may have more than one correct answer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo
    Linear v Non-Linear is perhaps
    also known as Vertical v Lateral thinking.
    Which is analytical v emotional
    maybe neurodiverse v neurotypical
    No. Not the same things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bsnub View Post
    ^ Redded my pants. I are a fcuking nutcase.
    how will i make it through the day...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo
    Linear v Non-Linear is perhaps
    also known as Vertical v Lateral thinking.
    Which is analytical v emotional
    maybe neurodiverse v neurotypical
    No. Not the same things.
    Which bit?
    Says who?
    etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Correct. It's why there can't be a universal IQ test unless it only involves maths, and even then, the questions may have more than one correct answer.
    That's not really true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo
    Linear v Non-Linear is perhaps
    also known as Vertical v Lateral thinking.
    Which is analytical v emotional
    maybe neurodiverse v neurotypical
    No. Not the same things.
    Which bit?
    Says who?
    etc...
    You have said, following your list, that neurodiverse is the same as linear thinking. Not true at all. Not even slightly.

    (a = b = c, thus a = c).

    Says me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Quite so, Nev.
    Yet, still, there are the romantic notions that such theories, analysis, and studies belong to narrow positions - examining most everything by blind absolutes and standards.....through their fixed nonvariable convention, naturally.

    The very basic essence of one thing never being the same twice is quite relevant to cyclical and linear mechanics. The purposed and manipulated ideals of fabricated comparatives and superlatives become a mantra of sorts, becoming a bane of confusing contradiction and illusion.

    Particular/selected human populations are not instructed nor conditioned with such core instincts, where principle abstracts are difficult to "logically" comprehend and usually appear as fanciful whimsy - yet, entrench in their very narrow room of reality.

    Thought processes and hypothesis are culturally driven and certainly nothing universal about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Correct. It's why there can't be a universal IQ test unless it only involves maths, and even then, the questions may have more than one correct answer.
    That's not really true.
    Which bit?
    Says who?
    etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Particular/selected human populations are not instructed nor conditioned with such core instincts, where principle abstracts are difficult to "logically" comprehend and usually appear as fanciful whimsy - yet, entrench in their very narrow room of reality.
    Have either of you ever actually studied logic at uni? It's study is closely related to math and has nothing to do with what either of you is talking about.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbert View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Particular/selected human populations are not instructed nor conditioned with such core instincts, where principle abstracts are difficult to "logically" comprehend and usually appear as fanciful whimsy - yet, entrench in their very narrow room of reality.
    Have either of you ever actually studied logic at uni? It's study is closely related to math and has nothing to do with what either of you is talking about.
    To be fair, I know what Nev is talking about and it's right. There is logic (or lack thereof) in language, and it's not mathematical....or only very tenuously or convolutedly it can be.
    But I agree that maths is logic. I think for this discussion, though, pure mathematical logic should be put aside.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbert View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Particular/selected human populations are not instructed nor conditioned with such core instincts, where principle abstracts are difficult to "logically" comprehend and usually appear as fanciful whimsy - yet, entrench in their very narrow room of reality.
    Have either of you ever actually studied logic at uni? It's study is closely related to math and has nothing to do with what either of you is talking about.

    And what of naturally occurring spiritual reasoning?
    Mechanical and mathematical? I think not.


    You, and others, are typical of invented culturally-ladened conditioning.
    As in: haven't a clue.

    Remember one's cultural diffusion and origins.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Remember one's cultural diffusion and origins.
    Name a culture where 2+2 does not equal 4.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    And what of naturally occurring spiritual reasoning?
    That's not logic, and often is sophistry.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Mechanical and mathematical? I think not.
    Correct. See above.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna View Post
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Correct. It's why there can't be a universal IQ test unless it only involves maths, and even then, the questions may have more than one correct answer.
    That's not really true.
    Which bit?
    Says who?
    etc...
    Which bit, ok...
    1. "there can't be a universal IQ test unless it only involves maths"
    That won't work for people with dyscalculia; moreover, if you want to have a "universal" test, then that sounds like you have to test many forms of intelligence and have a holistic evaluation of each. In a typical test, they separate verbal and non-verbal, and you have things that test spatial awareness and short-term memory, visual association, there's a list... if you want to search for it.
    Obviously blind people's intelligence isn't determined by their disability either.
    IQ tests 'do not reflect intelligence' - Telegraph
    2. "unless it only involves maths, and even then, the questions may have more than one correct answer"
    Well, maths tends not to work like that, and if it does then the question isn't really a maths question (and possibly not a well posed one).
    Admittedly, mine is limited to this paradigm:

    Your turn...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Humbert View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Neverna
    Also, we do not all have the same backgrounds or cultural upbringing so "logic" is all fine and dandy but what we logically deduce is liable to be very different depending on our upbringings and differing cultures and the premises they leave us with.
    Quote Originally Posted by thaimeme
    Particular/selected human populations are not instructed nor conditioned with such core instincts, where principle abstracts are difficult to "logically" comprehend and usually appear as fanciful whimsy - yet, entrench in their very narrow room of reality.
    Have either of you ever actually studied logic at uni? It's study is closely related to math and has nothing to do with what either of you is talking about.
    Did you read the OP article? It appears not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Maanaam View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainNemo
    Linear v Non-Linear is perhaps
    also known as Vertical v Lateral thinking.
    Which is analytical v emotional
    maybe neurodiverse v neurotypical
    No. Not the same things.
    Which bit?
    Says who?
    etc...
    You have said, following your list, that neurodiverse is the same as linear thinking. Not true at all. Not even slightly.

    (a = b = c, thus a = c).

    Says me.
    I suitably hedged it with "perhaps" and "maybe".

    Neurodiverse is a category, so you are correct to that extent; I think i was thinking of the literal/rigid aspect of ASD; but the lateral is probably another feature, but this is more because of the tendency to start from first principles and work towards a solution in an unpredictable way because of the lack of inculcation of social norms and the difficulties with context and abstraction - lack of making assumptions about what things mean or that their meaning is consistent.
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/...thinking-study

    Linear or Vertical thinking is what engineers and nerds tend to do, surely?
    inflexible thinking without the free flow of emotional associations of lateral thinking.
    These are misused terms in human language; much like the word "logic".
    I'm dyslexic and did engineering, I think I started non-linear, and learnt how to be linear.

    Lateral thinking? I like this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Po_(lateral_thinking)
    I guess it's what you need to be successful in creative industries like advertising.


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    I'm lost, spiritually culturally mentally. He speaks in tongues and talks in circles. I'll be chasing my tail all day over this thread. .7854×diameter squared. Can't we talk about pie or something simple.

    Snubbers I'm loosing it too.

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    Step 10. "beat the heavy cream until it mounds into firm peaks."
    Thai coconut cream pie
    better now?

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    Thanks, I'm off the ledge now.

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