How We Think

This might be one of the more obscure posts I’ve written, but hopefully you’ll bare with me.

After 36 years of living on this planet I’ve had a bit of an epiphany about my thought processes and how the fact that humans process information differently makes a big difference in our communications. This is probably nothing that psychologists and other smart people haven’t figured out already, so pardon me for being late to the party.

I’m one of those people who thinks, for lack of a better word, logically. I’m no Vulcan, but I’m more of an a-b-c thinker. I tend to place things in categories and think through matters in sort of a progression. When I was practicing for the GRE I regularly scored perfect or near-perfect scores on the logic portion of the exam, and then on the actual test I scored either a 790 or a perfect 800. I say this not to brag or to say that “HA HA I’m smarter than you,” but to show that my brain works on that sort of wavelength. Other people think in more of a circular pattern, abstracting to a greater level than I am capable of. There are probably other categories, and no one (or few people) belong to any one category, but there is a dramatic difference in how our brains process information. Again, no particular way is superior, it’s all just different.

This certainly influences our given professions, and why some of us are more mathematically inclined while others might excel at engineering, and others still at poetry and art.

I also think this influences our reading habits, or at least it certainly influences mine. I recently re-read The Great Gatbsy for the first time since high school. I certainly enjoyed it and do think it is an excellent book; however, to me it does not belong to the pantheon of greatest books ever. This is of course a subjective value judgment, but what influences my impression of the book is how my brain works and what stimulates it. Gatsby is all about the style and the prose. The plot is naturally important, but what seems to draw people to it is Fitzgerald’s quasi-poetic style. He paints a beautiful picture with lots of subtext. That’s great, but I’d rather read Dostoevsky. It’s not that Dostoevsky’s prose style is bland – far from it – but his novels move in a much more a-b-c direction. Sure there’s subtext and all the qualities of great fiction, but he works on a different level than Fitzgerald, and it’s a style that is more appealing to me.

This works similarly for non-fiction. I admire Chesterton but much prefer C.S. Lewis. The latter’s writing style is much more straightforward. It perhaps lacks the art of Chesterton’s prose, but as a reader Lewis leaves a greater impression. I feel the same way about Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They are both incredible theologians, but the latter is more accessible, and I think it’s because he writes in that a-b-c logical style, whereas the former tended to be a little more abstract. Yet I’m sure there are others who feel quite the opposite, and that’s fine.

I’m genuinely curious if anyone else has thoughts to share on, well, thinking.


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