The Differences Between Convergent and Divergent Thinking

There are clear differences between children with convergent and divergent thinking. Would you like to know what they are?
The Differences Between Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Last update: 13 January, 2021

When facing a problem or a difficult situation, according to the American psychologist Joy Paul Guilford, you can either choose to use logical reasoning or creative thinking. Would you like to know more about this subject? We’ll explain the differences between convergent and divergent thinking below.

Each child has their own particular thinking style that defines their personal characteristics. However, it’s important to promote both types of reasoning in our children. This will then encourage a well-rounded development.

“Children should be taught how to think, not what to think about.”

– Margaret Mead –

The differences between convergent and divergent thinking

Psychologist Joy Paul Guilford was the first to talk about convergent and divergent thinking, and establish clear differences between them. Below, we’ll explain what these two types of thinking consist of.

Convergent thinking

Convergent, or vertical, thinking is a type of logical, rational, analytical, and selective thinking. It focuses on finding the right solution to a problem or situation, using conventional and predetermined procedures.

In other words, it’s about memorizing and reproducing certain previously acquired knowledge.

The Differences Between Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Thus, children who usually use convergent thinking have the following characteristics:

  • Having a closed mentality
  • Being prudent
  • Being mentally rigid
  • Seeing only one solution to problems
  • Being conformist
  • Being submissive and docile
  • Having conventional ideas
  • Establishing routines
  • Being structured, organized and tidy
  • Being rigorous

“Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

– Albert Einstein –

Divergent thinking

Divergent, or lateral, thinking implies originality, fluidity and flexibility. It’s inherently linked to creativity. In this type of thinking, the person looks for different solutions, or alternative answers to the same situation or problem, discarding the less suitable ones.

To do this, the person needs to take into account all their previous knowledge and have the ability to relate and compare it all.

Children who tend to use divergent thinking are characterized by:

  • Having a lot of fantasy and imagination
  • Having an adventurous spirit
  • Being mentally flexible
  • Establishing unusual and innovative relationships
  • Looking for different solutions to problems
  • Being independent
  • Being non-conformist
  • Experiencing and expressing pleasure in new things and uniqueness
  • Being original
  • Being disordered and disorganized
  • Asking lots of questions and having a critical attitude
  • Being attracted by complexity, by challenges

“Creativity is about knowing how to make connections with different colored wires.”

– Toni Segarra –

The Differences Between Convergent and Divergent Thinking

What kind of thinking do schools encourage?

Schools should work on both types of thinking. Unfortunately, however, educational systems generally choose to stimulate children’s convergent thinking, and look for them to carry out the tasks and exercises in a specific way.

Teachers often expect children to use a specific resolution procedure that they’ve been taught in order to arrive at a correct answer.

In this way, children simply repeat the content and knowledge that they’ve learned in a mechanical and memorized way, leaving aside their imagination and creativity. In other words, in the classroom, teachers don’t usually value, encourage or stimulate divergent thinking.

This needs to change! This type of thinking is essential in order to face life successfully on a daily basis.

In fact, in everyday life, we’ll continually come across many problems or situations that don’t have just one solution, and we have to have a wide variety of skills to deal with them.

Because of this, schools should make sure they’re encouraging both convergent and divergent thinking. They should set activities accordingly, in order to facilitate the development of qualities and talents related to both academic and daily life.

“In times of crisis, only imagination is more important than knowledge.”

– Albert Einstein –

It might interest you...
The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking
You are MomRead it in You are Mom
The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking

To evaluate creativity, different aspects must be taken into account. Today, we'll talk about the Torrance test of creative thinking.

 



  • Castillo-Sanjuán, D. (2016). Enseñar a pensar. El ajedrez como método para el desarrollo de las habilidades del pensamiento en Educación Primaria (Trabajo de Fin de Grado). Universidad de Zaragoza, España.