What is convergent thinking? How does it differ with divergent thinking?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both convergent and divergent thinking are of benefit to the human being. Especially in definitive areas, convergent thinking is very beneficial because it allows the mind to focus upon the single, most accurate answer given certain variables. In standardized tests, for example, convergent thinking is appropriate as it involves logical thinking that can deduce the best choice as an answer; it also involves the ability to apply speed, accuracy and the talent to recognize the familiar. This ability to zero in on the correct answer does not, however, exclude creative thinking. For, convergent thinking is a source of knowledge and ideas which are the foundation of creative thinking.

Convergent thinking is used as a tool in creative problem solving. When an individual is using critical thinking to solve a problem they consciously use standards or probabilities to make judgments. 

Convergent thinking, however, differs from divergent (which means "developing in different ways") thinking in which judgments are delayed as a person searches for various solutions to a problem. So, rather than zeroing in, a person engaged in divergent thinking goes "outside the box" in his/her thinking. This type of thinking is useful in solving problems in which a person feels there are few possibilities for solutions; it taps into a person's creative mind. Such a process as brainstorming is an example of divergent thinking. Many ideas are explored, but they are often discarded, too. Nevertheless, the exercise of freer thought than convergent thinking often allows people to hit upon a solution. Once, a workable idea is discovered from the act of divergent thought, then convergent thinking can solve the way to apply it in a successful manner. For instance, a great inventor often takes prior knowledge and uses convergent thinking to arrive at a practical, logical application for whatever he/she is making. However, when the invention does not quite exhibit the results expected, the inventor will, then, use divergent thinking in order to arrive at a solution to the problem; resuming the convergent thinking will, then, make the ideas practical.