The Psych Industry, Pop-Science and abstract thinking

How is the concept of abstract thinking used in “the helping, caring, fixing” industry, which claims to understand and describe THINKING as a human behavior?

Quotes from psych and other sources: (Very far removed from any “coherent” definition: ridiculous, actually.)

Abstract Thinking

“Abstract thinking describes thoughts that are symbolic and conceptual and not concrete or specific. Concrete thinking focuses on the present or here and now specificity (facts and specific objects exist temporarily, but thankfully for NTs, they vanish in a nanosecond) while abstract thinking is based on concepts, principles, and relationships between ideas and objects.”

“For example, a statement derived from concrete thinking would be “There are 3 dogs.” An abstract perspective could be thinking about numbers, different types of dogs, how some animals are pets, or how wolves and dogs are related. Young children are essentially just concrete thinkers – abstract thinking develops with age.” (Or doesn’t)

How about this gem”? 

1. Concrete thinking does not have any depth. It just refers to thinking in the periphery. On the other hand, abstract thinking goes under the surface.
2. Concrete thinking is just regarding the facts. On the other hand abstract thinking goes down below the facts.
3. Abstract thinking may be referred to the figurative description whereas the concrete thinker does not think so.
4. Unlike the concrete thinking, abstract thinking involves some mental process. (Unlike concrete thinking, which originates in the spleen)
5. A person with concrete thinking does not think beyond the facts. They do not have the ability to think beyond a certain limit. (The supernatural delusion that there is a magic “space” behind, above, outside reality, which contains, a priori, all the nonsense that the NT brain is capable of generating) 
6. When compared to concrete thinking, abstract thinking is about understanding the multiple meanings.
7. While abstract thinking is based on ideas, concrete thinking is based on what the person sees as well as the facts.

Following is by an Asperger. Note that concrete vs. abstract doesn’t enter the picture; accurate use of language (and self-knowledge) is stressed, and also visual processing. 

I feel that the whole empathy thing is an example of the danger of NT language. The concept is that autistics do not intuitively know what NTs are thinking and feeling and do not automatically share those thoughts and feelings with NTs. Same thing happens in the opposite direction. But NT language has turned this concept of empathy into the word “empathy” which has become {equivalent to} or more like {made an umbrella for} the word “compassion” and the phrase “caring about people” and the phrase “ability to love”, all of which words or phrases describe different concepts, but all the different concepts subsumed under this one word “empathy”, such that the simple concept of lacking empathy has come to mean also lacking compassion, caring about people, being able to love people. But in reality, each concept is like a different big giant chemical structure, but all these structures are being given the same verbal label by NTs, who see the world in lower resolution than autistics do and therefore habitually apply low-resolution verbal labels to cover all manner of distinct structures, or concepts.

In autistic language, this conflation would be harder to make, because instead of applying this generalized highly abstract verbal label “empathy”, autistics would just say, more explicitly and concretely, “I don’t know, automatically and instantly, what you are thinking and feeling, and I don’t share your thoughts and feelings, because the same stimuli generate different responses in me vs. you, so you’re going to have to explain your perspective for me to have a theoretical understanding of it (the catch here for NTs is that they may not be able to explain their behavior, thinking or “feelings” at all; may not understand their own “state of mind” because they have never thought it through! They have been “taught” all their lives that the “shallow social formulas” that they obey are the only possible and correct reactions.) … and I will explain mine to you afterwards, because guess what, I do want to know your perspective, because I do care about you and therefore want you to feel happy as much of the time as possible, and the first concept I talked about explicitly was what you call ’empathy’ and the second concept that I talked about explicitly was ‘caring about people’.”

From two psychology websites:

Jean Piaget uses the terms “concrete” and “formal” to describe the different types of learning. Concrete thinking involves facts and descriptions about everyday, tangible objects, while abstract (formal operational) thinking involves a mental process. 

Concrete idea Abstract idea
Dense things sink. It will sink if its density is greater than the density of the fluid.
You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Gas exchange takes place between the air in the alveoli and the blood.
Plants get water through their roots. Water diffuses through the cell membrane of the root hair cells.

Would someone please explain to me how the phrases in the “right column” “involve a mental process” (and where does concrete thinking take place, in the feet? In a cabinet? On the moon?) when these are only more detailed descriptions of concrete objects doing concrete things?

These are abstract formulas.


Abstract thinking is the ability to think about objects, principles, and ideas that are not physically present. (Where are they?) It is related to symbolic thinking, which uses the substitution of a symbol for an object or idea. (A dove means peace)

A variety of everyday behaviors constitute abstract thinking. These include:

  • Using metaphors and analogies;
  • Understanding relationships between verbal and non-verbal ideas;
  • Spatial reasoning and mentally manipulating and rotating objects;
  • Complex reasoning, such as using critical thinking, the scientific method, and other approaches to reasoning through problems.

How Does Abstract Reasoning Develop?
Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget argued that children develop abstract reasoning skills as part of their last stage of development, known as the formal operational stage. This stage occurs between the ages of 11 and 16. (Really? Or is this over-generalization?) Yes… However, the beginnings of abstract reasoning may be present earlier, and gifted children frequently develop abstract reasoning at an earlier age. Some psychologists have argued that the development of abstract reasoning is not a natural developmental stage. Rather, it is the product of culture, experience, and teaching.

Children’s stories frequently operate on two levels of reasoning: abstract and concrete. The concrete story, for example, might tell of a princess who married Prince Charming, while the abstract version of the story tells of the importance of virtue and working hard. (Is this really abstract thinking, or delivery of a “hidden” socio-cultural message?) While young children are often incapable of complex abstract reasoning, they frequently recognize the underlying lessons of these stories, indicating some degree of abstract reasoning skills. (Abstract reasoning leads to “getting the social message…”)

Abstract Reasoning and Intelligence
Abstract reasoning is a component of most intelligence tests. Skills such as mental object rotation, mathematics, higher-level language usage, and the application of concepts to particulars all require abstract reasoning skills. Learning disabilities can inhibit the development of abstract reasoning skills. People with severe intellectual disabilities may never develop abstract reasoning skills, and may take abstract concepts such as metaphors and analogies literally.

WOW! Here we have the CONFLATION of “abstract reasoning” (undefined) with intelligence (also undefined), which is limited to a “grab bag of skills” – from the visual manipulation of objects (is visual-spatial mental activity the same as abstract thinking, or is it sensory thinking? ) to maths (much of which is follow-the-rules grunt-work) to “high level language usage” (language use based on social judgement as dictated by the Top o’ the Pyramid folks). 

From a teacher resource center:


Abstract thinking is a level of thinking (thinking is a pyramid built of a hierarchy of types of thinking) about things that is removed from the facts of the “here and now” (facts only exist in the present? Bizarre!), and from specific examples of the things or concepts being thought about. Abstract thinkers are able to reflect on events and ideas, and on attributes and relationships separate from the objects that have those attributes or share those relationships. Thus, for example, a concrete thinker can think about this particular dog; a more abstract thinker can think about dogs in general. A concrete thinker can think about this dog on this rug; a more abstract thinker can think about spatial relations, like “on” (and a concrete thinker can’t use a preposition such as “on”? This is bizarre.) 


A concrete thinker can see that this ball is big; a more abstract thinker can think about size in general. A concrete thinker can count three cookies; a more abstract thinker can think about numbers. A concrete thinker can recognize that John likes Betty; a more abstract thinker can reflect on emotions, like affection. (So abstract thinking requires an activity called reflection? Definition?)

Another example of concrete thinking in young children is a two or three year old who thinks that as long as he stays out of his bedroom, it will not be bed time. In this case, the abstract concept of time (bedtime) is understood in terms of the more concrete concept of place (bedroom). The abstract idea of bedtime comes to mean the concrete idea of being in my bedroom.

Wow! I’ve noticed something very strange.  

In myriad examples of “supposed abstractions”, the mistake is made of confusing  “non-time dependent” abstractions, like the mass, density, volume formulas above, with the crazy notion that abstractions do not occur, and are not applicable, in the present, which tolerates the very temporary existence of “facts”. This is utterly “NT” bizarre; NTs fear facts. I suppose banishing them from the past and future makes facts less scary? Wait a second, and they will magically “go away”… 

Another example that applies to two or three year olds is the following. One of the favorite Dr. Seuss books is Green Eggs and Ham, which ends with the narrator changing his mind from rejecting green eggs and ham under any circumstances to trying them and actually liking them. At a concrete level of understanding, the story is about a stubborn person changing his mind. At a more abstract level of understanding, it is about people in general being capable of modifying their thoughts and desires even when they are convinced that they cannot or do not want to do so. This more abstract level of understanding can be appreciated by two and three year old children only if the higher level of meaning comes out of a discussion of the book with a more mature adult. At older ages and higher levels of thinking, this same process of more mature thinkers facilitating higher levels of abstraction in less mature thinkers characterizes the process of teaching abstract thinking. For example, this is how great philosophers, like Socrates and Plato, taught their pupils how to think abstractly.


So abstract thinking is “a higher level of thinking” (there goes most of applied science and engineering; most skills; most technology; most human creativity – making art, music and performing dance, and innovation of any “concrete object” of value into the “trash bin” of low-level thinking).

It is suspicious that “abstract thinking” is represented as providing a higher level of meaning; in this context, higher level of meaning = “the social message of obedience” and abstract = hidden or deceptive.

Be a good girl or boy: Eat your eggs and ham, even if they are covered in green mold that will poison you.

I’ve given myself a headache, again…







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s