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Analyzing and Synthesizing Thinking Styles

Lately, I’ve been thinking about two thinking styles, which we could call analyzing and synthesizing. Analyzers think “cleverly” and make interpretive leaps without additional context, excelling at “pure” problem solving, while synthesizers absorb large amounts of information and combine it in novel ways.

Analyzing and synthesizing map to fluid and crystallized intelligence. However, fluid and crystallized intelligence are generally defined as measurable quantities that make up an individual’s general intelligence, while I’m using analyzing and synthesizing to describe inclinations.

Most people are somewhere in the middle of the gradient between the two types. I, however, am very strongly synthesizing. Although I’m certainly capable of analytic thought, I tend to avoid operating in that mode and, when I do, I’m usually outclassed by pure analyzers; analytic thought is not my comparative advantage. On the other hand, more than one person has asked me how I “know so much random stuff.” Of course, I’ve also known folks on the other end of the gradient, who are capable of genius feats of problem solving, but couldn’t care less about learning new techniques and concepts.

Both thinking styles often talk past each other. Analyzers will run rings around synthesizers when debating or problem solving, leaving the poor synthesizer feeling far behind in the conversation. On the other hand, synthesizers live in a world rich with allusion and will generally be confused that analyzers don’t immediately connect every thought with half a dozen other thoughts.

Are these real, as in, psychologically valid? I’m not sure, but I’ve found them useful concepts.



  1. You should read The Whippet if you are not already!