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AprilR
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17 Sep 2019, 1:04 pm

So i've been thinking about this subject a lot. Apparently people with autism have trouble with abstract thinking and i'm probably one of them. If i can't apply a concept to a real situation i have trouble understanding it. (i understood this while studying law). I usually understand a subject when someone gives and example. I've been researching ways to improve my abstract thinking and i came across some weird advice:

Apparently math is a kind of abstract thinking so people who are good at math are supposed to be good abstract thinkers? I really doubt this since i was always good at math and automatically understood it. It's just a system of formulas for me. And i've heard a lot of autistic people are mathematical geniuses.

Another thing that bugged me was that: abstract thinkers tend to see the bigger picture and question the meaning of life (what that website said)
I've always been a curious type of person who questioned the meaning of everything and kind of philosophical. I have no problem understanding philosophical concepts either?? (now i'm questioning my abstract thinking skills..)
What's everyone's experience about this? Were you good at school in subjects such as math, literature and philosophy? Do you think you have good abstract thinking and do you know of a way to improve it??



Trogluddite
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17 Sep 2019, 2:00 pm

I think a lot of people confuse "abstract thinking" (systematising things) with "heuristics" (approximate "rules of thumb" for when the rules are fuzzy, like the way that the unwritten social rules are.)

Given that a high systematising quotient is sometimes used as an indicator of autism, it's not surprising that many autistic people are pretty good at abstract thinking. The stereotype of all autistics being whizzes with computers would be another example - like maths, the rules of programming are very concrete and specific, and I can hold the overall structure of 100s of lines of code in my head no problem.

The problem I have is when rules have lots of grey areas and can't be expressed precisely in language. My lack of social awareness also means that I don't always know which social "rules" to use in a particular situation - they seem to change depending who's in the room, what someone said five minutes ago, etc. The problem isn't that these rules are "abstract", the problem is that they're not "concrete" - they seem to be constantly twisting and turning as the situation changes in ways that I can't perceive.


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AprilR
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17 Sep 2019, 2:19 pm

^ I get what you mean. I became pretty good at being social since i'm good at imitating people though there are still times when i am clueless.
But what i meant was more like a learning disability thing. Like imagination problems and problems with understanding non material concepts, ideas. I have a really hard time understanding finance for example.



jimmy m
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17 Sep 2019, 3:14 pm

I excel at both concrete and abstract thinking. It is not an either/or skill. Abstract thinking comes quite naturally to me.

In Referencing an article on the Internet Abstract Thinking

The Relationship between Abstract Thinking and Mental Health

Some mental health conditions can negatively impact an individual’s ability to think abstractly. For example, schizophrenia has been found to impair abstract thinking ability in those it affects. Some other conditions that may impair abstract thinking include:

* Autism
* Learning disabilities
* Dementia
* Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Some research has connected the ability to think abstractly with a stronger sense of self-control. This means that when people were given a reason to do or not to do something, it was easier for them to adhere to that rule than if they were simply told how to follow the rule.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found an interesting link between power and abstract thought. A person’s conception of how much power they have may more strongly influence their behavior than the actual amount of power they have. Because of this, researchers posited that an increased capacity for abstract thought would increase an individual’s sense of personal power, creating a positive feedback loop in which their beliefs influence their behavior, and their behavior shapes their personal outcomes.

Improving Abstract Thinking

In many cases, it is possible to improve your abstract reasoning skills. Working on your abstract reasoning skills may help you improve your ability to solve problems, understand and communicate complex ideas, and enjoy creative pursuits.

One way to exercise your abstract reasoning skills is to practice solving puzzles, optical illusions, and other “brain teasers.” These thinking exercises allow individuals to practice viewing information from different perspectives and angles. As they may help open a person’s mind to different possibilities through the problem-solving process, puzzles can be an engaging way for both young people and adults to get better at abstract thinking.

Strengthening improvisation skills may also help increase an individual’s creativity and abstract thinking skills. Tasks that require the person to rely mostly on their imagination may help strengthen their ability to think abstractly over time.



firemonkey
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17 Sep 2019, 6:21 pm

I've been told I'm a concrete thinker. That may be an indirect way of saying "You're thick" .


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starcats
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17 Sep 2019, 6:41 pm

I think people confuse abstract thinking with abstract learning. As far as I can tell, many autistic people excel at abstract thinking. We think visually, or can follow patterns and problem solve in new and creative ways. It's because our minds are so wild and crazy inside that to take in any information from the outside, it needs to be presented concretely and in context. Concrete learning, abstract thinking.