Are you aware that your culture defines how you think? No, probably not, it’s not something that we think about very often.

But actually within your own culture you’ve been trained to think in a certain way. So what are the various ways of thinking depending on your culture?

Basically they are two main types. They are usually called deductive and inductive thinking. Again as for everything else about culture, there is a continuum between these two ways of thinking. Of course your culture will train you more into a certain way than the other but it doesn’t mean that you cannot think differently. It will depend a lot on the context and although most of us will have a preference for one style or the other, we will be able to think when necessary using the other type.

So what is deductive thinking? It is when you begin by thinking of ideas abstract concepts and then you will look at how some of them could be applied in real life. This is quite a powerful way of thinking because it allows you to take into account the complexity of the world around you.

This deductive thinking is the main way of thinking in for instance a lot of Europe and also in some Asian cultures. I guess this is where The French culture has got its reputation of being an intellectual one. People like to talk and debate about ideas which is great but with this type of thinking you have to be conscious that your thoughts can take you a long way from the real world.

In contrast, inductive thinking is when you begin with facts, observations and that then you try to categorise make sense of them and induce rules and principles from these observations.

One advantage of this way of thinking is that your rules and principles will for sure be rooted in the real world if I can say. However, the disadvantage of this way of thinking is that what you can see, observe, grasp from the real world is limited. You cannot grasp the whole complexity of it, which means that the rules and principles you will infer from your observations can be in many cases just too simple because they cannot take into account the full complexity around you.

It is very easy to find somebody from the other side of the continuum quite frustrating in their way of thinking. For deductive thinkers, an inductive approach will seem a bit simple and too much focused on applying every ideas, rules and principles. In contrast, for inductive thinkers, deductive ideas and abstraction will seem too detached from the real world, maybe missing the point. Inductive thinkers may not really understand what such abstract concepts can bring.

So what is your way of thinking and how do you deal when you communicate with people who have a different way of thinking about things around themselves?

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