30 December 2011


"Do you think like a polymath?  Here's a quick test ~ Are you more of a rational or an experiential/intuitive thinker?  If you cringed as you read the question and thought to yourself 'I love constantly shifting between both modes of thought', then you're on the polymath path.

"According to psychologist Seymour Epstein's cognitive-experiential self-theory, humans have two parallel but interacting modes of information processing.  The rational system is analytic, logical, abstract, and requires justification by logic and evidence.  In contrast, the experiential system is holistic, affective, concrete, experienced passively, processes information automatically, and is self-evidently valid (experience alone is enough for belief) .... According to the theory, neither mode of thought is absolutely more important, and neither mode is intelligence.  Instead, the key to intelligence is the ability to switch flexibly between modes of thought depending on the task at hand."

Dr. Barry Scott Kaufman's essay How Renaissance People Think goes on to list specific advantages and disadvantages for each mode of thought, and to demonstrate how integrating them heightens creativity and enhances social relationships.  He concludes thus ~ "Those who are open to experiencing both analytical thought and experiential thought and are flexible enough to switch between the two .... have the greatest chances of not only changing the world for the better, but also forming deep, empathic connections with others .... So, want to be a Renaissance person?  First step, start thinking like one."

A cautionary note ~ the rational/intuitive dichotomy should not be confused with left brain/right brain thinking.  The latter concept has been discredited.  We perform both modes of thought on both sides of our brain.

On a slightly different train of thought ("All aboard for the Southwest Zephyr!"), check out How to Ace a Google Interview.  The Internet giant relies not only on standard job interview questions, but also on puzzles and riddles which test an applicant's lateral thinking and ability to deal with ambiguity. Their brain teasers require you to not only examine clues within the question, but also to examine your own assumptions about the question.  Click on the link to be walked through several sample questions, and to learn why "the best answers to many questions begin with 'It depends'."

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