If you’re at a loud party and someone says your name from across the room, you will usually turn. There are things that your mind pays attention to, and things it doesn’t pay attention to. And this is different for different people. So if you “wanna be talkin’ to me,” for each particular person, it can help to know how that person thinks best.

Lila mentioned in her comments here that different people have different ways of remember things. For example, she said, for best retention, some people need to see a list of items while others need to hear them. True that, double true.

I was thinking, “What are the different dimensions along which people learn and think differently?” When you search for “learning styles,” the two main topics that you’ll find are Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic and MBTI, but there are so many others. Today, we check out some of the dimensions along which people think differently!


* Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic
You may have heard this when you were in college: some people absorb information best when it is seen (visual), heard (auditory), or touched/sensed/experienced (kinesthetic). The typical examples are the equation that is written on the board, the equation that is repeatedly spoken in the classroom, and the lab experiment that you perform. Here and here are summaries of the three different styles. Here is a quick assessment you can take to determine your style among the three.

* Myers-Briggs dimensions
I was surprised that there is a lot written about teaching to the four different dimensions of the MBTI type. I was introduced to the MBTI in a business context, and so I’ve never thought of it as a thinking styles assessment, but more as an overall personality assessment – especially for the business context. However there are some sites out there that particularly discuss the learning styles of the MBTI: here and here.


* Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Gardner maintains that people think or do not think along seven different intelligences. So if you figure out that you do or do not like to think musically, for example, then you can implement that preference that into how you learn. Wouldn’t it be great to make it easier or more comfortable to think and to learn?
1) Liguistic (enjoying playing with words) intelligence or not
2) Logical-mathematical (enjoying pattern games, enjoying chess) intelligence or not
3) Spatial (enjoying planning routes in new cities, enjoying jigsaw puzzles) intelligence or not
4) Musical (enjoying humming, singing, having strong musical tastes) intelligence or not
5) Body-kinesthetic (enjoying moving, sports, dance, imitation) intelligence or not
6) Interpersonal (enjoying being street-smart and sensing the feelings of others) intelligence or not
7) Intrapersonal (enjoying pursuing own interests, being unique, and self-starting) intelligence or not

* Optimistic vs. Pessimistic Optimistic: Some people learn best when they aim towards a positive future. (Or simply when they are in a good mood: Barbara Fredrickson‘s broaden-and-build theory supports this: Fredrickson writes research that shows that positive emotions put people into a more broad-minded mental state and able to think more productively). Pessimistic: some people learn best when they are cautiously pessimistic and in a disciplined mode. There is a lot of information about these two thinking styles (or explanatory styles) in both Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman and The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte.

* Intuitive vs. Analytical, Big Picture vs. Detailed View. There is a cognitive styles discussion researched by John Wilkes that I have a very large interest in. It descrobes four different cognitive styles and then describes how having a particular cognitive style influences your actions and reactions. I’ll write more about this later.


* Black-and-White vs. Color
* Seeing vs. Reading vs. Writing
* Left vs. Right (Clockwise vs. Clounterclockwise)
* Earlier vs. Later (First vs. Last, Morning vs. Evening)
* Few Breaks vs. Frequent Breaks (some people like to study or work on a project for several consecutive hours without interruption in order to focus, and others like to move between projects because they get the most done when in those first minutes when they’re fresh to the project.)
* With Music vs. Without
* With Distractions (such as phone, email for breaks) vs. Without Distractions
* Top to Bottom (Big Picture to Small Details) or Bottom to Top (Small Details to Big Picture)

Q: What are other thinking styles that you can imagine?


There are some distinctions that I’m not making in this post that I think would be interesting to make:
1) What are different thinking styles, learning styles, and remembering styles? (Because they may not all be the same).
2) What do I mean by “best” thinking style (or learning or memory style)? Is “best” the one that is most natural and easiest for the person to fall into or the one that makes the person most productive? Could easiest-to-do and most-productive be different for a person?


  1. Lila
    Posted Tuesday July 25, 2006 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Not on topic, but that rap thing with your “True that” link is so funny. I’ve never heard about that before. I don’t even have flash on my work computer (ugh, and can’t download it b/c I don’t have administrator capabilities) but I could listen to it and it made me laugh out loud.

  2. Lila
    Posted Tuesday July 25, 2006 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Hey, here’s an article that just appeared about learning. FYI.

  3. Posted Tuesday July 25, 2006 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Super interesting link, Lila! This talks mainly about the disadvantages of multi-tasking. Here’s the Psychology Matters website which has a special section just on the results from psychology studies that show how unproductive multitasking really is. Thanks for this great link: this is a new study that shows similar things, and what’s most interesting about this study is that it involves brain imagining – so it’s not just psychology conclusions, but additionally neuropsychology conclusions. I’m always very interested when studied from related fields reinforce each other’s findings.

    And, Lila, the “true that, double true” SNL video completely cracks me up!

  4. Posted Thursday July 27, 2006 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    From Sharon’s great blog, I found a link to this post the Eide neurolearning blog: Teaching for How We Remember

    Yes! It mentions one category of thinking that of course I should have mentioned! People remember best when there is an emotional reaction attached to the memory as it’s forming. So this is a thinking style that most people have – prefering to think in the context of positive emotions. Also, from the Eide blog, here is a fun expression I hadn’t heard before, “The neurons that fire together, wire together” from their post on The Brain of the Blogger. So, when you learn something in an emotional state of happiness, then you continue to remember it often in that state.

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  1. By senia.com » SUMMARY: JULY, 2006 (One Month - Thanks, Guys!) on Monday November 20, 2006 at 2:30 pm

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