This article will help you to differentiate between convergent thinking and divergent thinking.
In recent years, Guilford on the basis of extensive research has made a distinction between convergent thinking and divergent thinking. According to Guilford, traditional intelligence generally deals with day-do-day problem-solving activities, mainly involving convergent thinking which involves the direction of all thought process in one single direction.
Convergent thinking proceeds on the assumption that there is one single best solution to any problem, and also that the solution can be arrived at on the basis of the existing knowledge or a little extension of the same. In a way it is ‘confirmative’ to the existing knowledge and human principles of logic.
Convergent thinking looks for gradual emergence of a solution and proceeds on the assumption that the knowledge, ideas, principles and directions of thinking already known are to a large extent correct. Such thinking is often described as linear. Convergent thinking is mostly rational.
Divergent thinking on the other hand proceeds differently. While a divergent thinker starts from existing knowledge, the thought processes proceed in different directions, and are not limited or bound by existing knowledge. On the other hand, the divergent thinker questions and doubts the adequacy of existing knowledge.
The divergent thinker has an open mind. He is not controlled by the belief that there is “one best solution” to any problem or “the correct answer” to any question. In the process of looking for an answer to certain questions, the divergent thinker actually raises questions before proceeding to search for an answer. Thus many creative thinkers, started raising questions and doubting the wisdom of existing knowledge.
While “convergent thinking” proceeds mainly along known and proximate principles of association, divergent thinking follows channels of remote association. While the former is to a larger extent concrete, the latter is more abstract. According to Guilford, creative thinking involves more of divergent thinking.
The reader may rightly ask the question that if creative thinking is not innate or inherited as claimed by some, then why is it that we have not had many more creative personalities? The answer to this question is that in all our societies and even in our educational practices, we have laid emphasis on convergent thinking (if at all there is any emphasis on thinking) and not on divergent thinking.
The educational system and practices should encourage divergent thinking and allow the reader to explore, and find the answers themselves. Our examinations mostly test memory and to some extent thinking. Such practices naturally kill creative thinking or at least make people afraid of being creative. Our system makes people afraid of failure and creative thinking cannot flourish in an atmosphere where people are afraid of failure.
It is encouraging to note that people are beginning to examine these issues more seriously. Besides this, creativity also depends on the development of die right type of attitudes, values and also a high degree of motivation. Environmental support, particularly at home is very crucial.
Further, ability to face failures, tolerate stressful situations, and looking for long-term goals rather than short-term goals are some of the psychological attributes associated with creativity. Thus creativity development involves training in creative or divergent thinking, emotional development, motivational development and in short, development of the individual’s total personality.