Thinking and Intelligence in Psychological Science

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In psychological science, based on the doctrine of the activity nature of the human psyche, thinking and intellect occupy an essential place. Recently, thinking has begun to be understood as a particular type of cognitive activity. By introducing the category of activity into the psychology of thinking, the opposition between theoretical and practical intellect and between the subject and object of cognition was overcome. This opened up for research a new connection between activity and thinking and between different kinds of thinking themselves. With the introduction of the concepts of thinking and intellect into psychology, it has become possible to solve questions about the genesis of thinking and its formation and development in children due to goal-oriented learning. Thinking in the theory of activity has come to be understood as a lifetime ability to solve various tasks and appropriately transform reality to uncover its sides hidden from direct observation. The idea of thought and intellect contributed to solving many practical problems associated with children’s learning and mental development. Various approaches to learning and development were based on it.

Thinking theories can be divided into two large groups. The first group consists of views based on the hypothesis that humans have natural intellectual abilities that do not change under life experience. The second group consists of those based on the idea that human intellectual abilities are mainly formed and developed in life. According to which the intellect is defined as a set of internal structures that provide perception and processing of information to obtain new knowledge, concepts constitute the first group of thinking theories. It is believed that the relevant intellectual structures exist in humans from birth in a potentially ready-made form, gradually manifesting themselves as the body matures. This idea of a priori existing intellectual abilities – predispositions – is characteristic of many works in the field of thinking carried out in the German school of psychology. It is most clearly represented in the Gestalt theory of thinking. The ability to form and transform structures, to see them in actual reality, is the basis of intellect.

In modern psychology, the influence of ideas from the theories discussed can be seen in the concept of schema. It has long been noted that thinking, if it is not related to some specific, externally determined task, is internally subject to a certain logic. This logic, to which thought with no external support, follows a scheme. The scheme is supposed to be born at the level of inner speech. It guides the unfolding of thought, giving it internal consistency, coherence, and logicality. A thought without a pattern is usually called autistic thought, and we have already reviewed its characteristics. A scheme is not something determined once and for all. It has its history of development due to the assimilation of logic, the means of thought control. If a particular scheme is used often without notable changes, it turns into a mechanical thinking skill into a mental operation.

Other intelligence concepts involve recognizing the innateness nature of mental abilities and the possibility and necessity of their lifelong development. They explain thinking based on the influence of the external environment, the idea of the internal development of the subject, or the interaction of both. Peculiar concepts of thinking are presented in many directions of psychological research. For example, or is engaged in empirical subjective psychology, which is associative in nature and introspective in its primary method. References to the concept of thinking are in Gestalt psychology, which differs from the previous one by recognizing the dominance of the integrity of mental processes over the composition of these elements, including in thinking. They also exist in behaviorism, whose proponents tried to replace the thinking process as a subjective phenomenon with behavior. Finally, the concept of thinking is examined in psychoanalysis, which subordinated it and all other processes to motivation.

Active psychological research on thinking has been conducted since the 17th century (Robertson, 2020). At that time, and during the following rather long period in the history of psychology, the thinking was identified with logic. Conceptual, theoretical thinking, sometimes called logical thinking, was viewed as the only kind of thinking that could be studied. The ability to think itself was considered innate and thinking was generally considered outside development. Intellectual abilities at that time included contemplation (the analog of abstract thinking), logical reasoning, and reflection. Moreover, contemplation was understood as an ability to operate with images, logical reasoning as an ability to reason and make deductions, and reflection as an ability to engage in self-analysis. In turn, generalization, analysis, synthesis, comparison, and classification were considered thinking operations. In all of its manifestations, thinking in associative empirical psychology was reduced to associations, the links between traces of the past and impressions derived from present experiences.

The activity of thinking, its creative character, was the main problem that this theory could not solve. Its proponents, therefore, had no choice but to declare mental creativity to be a priori, independent of associations with the innate capacities of the mind. In behaviorism, thinking was viewed as forming complex connections between stimuli and reactions and forming practical abilities and skills related to problem-solving. In Gestalt psychology, it was understood as an intuitive discernment of the desired solution by discovering the necessary connection or structure for it. Thanks to behaviorism, practical thinking entered the sphere of psychological research. Gestalt theory began to pay special attention to moments of intuition and creativity in thinking. Psychoanalysis also has specific achievements in solving problems of the psychology of thinking. These are connected to attracting attention to unconscious forms of thinking and the study of the dependence of thinking on human motives and needs. Protective mechanisms, which also began to be studied explicitly for the first time in psychoanalysis, can be considered peculiar forms of thinking in humans.

In everyday life, the concepts of thinking and intelligence are applicable since many of them highlight methods of thinking. For example, the method of analyzing a problem or synthesizing details. In order to make a decision, they will first mentally break down the situation into parts, details to understand the relationship. The individual parts of the problem are combined into a whole to see the whole picture. These techniques are used by people in everyday life, both consciously and unconsciously. In addition, thinking concepts can help a person understand his or her type of thinking and inherent behavioral reactions. For example, rational and irrational thinking are distinguished. People with developed rational thinking rely on facts, logic, and clear reasoning. Every step, they think carefully, analyzing and comparing the available data. On the other hand, irrational thinking is based on impulsive decision-making, formed on emotions, self-perception, and feelings. By orienting oneself in his type of thinking, one can make life easier by comfortably constructing one’s reactions to the circumstances that arise.

To deepen one’s knowledge on the concept of thinking and intelligence in psychology, one can turn to various videos. Most of them are freely available on the Internet. Many videos can also be found on a particular video hosting site YouTube, where independent authors post their clips on various topics. One of the most exciting and informative videos on thinking and intelligence in psychology I find a video, “Openstax Psychology-Ch7-Thinking and Intelligence,” by an author named Hatala Testing. It discusses this topic from the scientific side, introducing exciting concepts and theories (Testing, 2017). The video is built on the discussion and interpretation of the Openstax Psychology textbook. The author of the video herself is a doctor of psychology and a professor of psychology at Truman State University. The tape is a complete lesson on thinking and intelligence and discusses understanding language and speech in this context.

To summarize, the concept of thinking and intelligence is essential for psychology. By studying it, scientists have opened up many new areas of research. Theories regarding thinking can be divided into two main groups – those that consider this phenomenon innate and those that consider it acquired. The topic of thinking is dealt with by different branches of psychology, including behaviorism, empirical subjective psychology, and Gestalt psychology. Each of them provides a different perspective to the concept of thinking. In everyday life, thinking theories can determine one’s type of thinking and build a comfortable line of behavior. To deepen knowledge of this topic, one can watch various video tutorials, such as “Openstax Psychology-Ch7-Thinking and Intelligence” by Hatala Testing. This video discusses the concepts of psychology and intelligence and their relationship to human speech.


Robertson, S. I. (2020). Human thinking: The basics. Routledge. Web.

Testing, H. (2017). Openstax Psychology-Ch7-Thinking and Intelligence [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Thinking and Intelligence in Psychological Science." January 25, 2023.