Divergent Thinking: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Divergent vs.…
  • 1:20 Examples of Convergent…
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison are both famous divergent thinkers? Learn about divergent thinking, how it differs from convergent thinking, and more.

Divergent Thinking vs. Convergent Thinking

Divergent thinking, also referred to as lateral thinking, is the process of creating multiple, unique ideas or solutions related to a problem that you are trying to solve. Divergent thinking is similar to brainstorming in that it involves coming up with many different ideas to solve a single problem. Many tests that are used to measure creativity, such as the alternative uses test and incomplete figure test, have been found to measure divergent thinking.

How does divergent thinking differ from convergent thinking? The process of divergent thinking is spontaneous and free-flowing, unlike convergent thinking, which is more systematic. The process of convergent thinking involves applying logical steps in order to come up with the single best solution to a problem. Unlike convergent thinking, there is no single best correct answer in divergent thinking.

When you use divergent thinking, you are looking for options instead of just choosing among the ones that are already available. Divergent thinking works best for open-ended problems and involves creativity. Convergent thinking is not dependent upon creativity. Convergent thinking is useful in situations when there is a single best correct answer and the answer can be discovered through analyzing available stored information. Multiple-choice questions on school exams are examples of convergent thinking.

Examples of Convergent and Divergent Thinking

Suppose that you worked 48 miles away from your house and needed to save money. You talk to your friends and find out that 12 of your coworkers save $60 each month by carpooling. You also found that ten of your coworkers traded in their vehicles for a hybrid so that they get better fuel mileage.

If you were using convergent thinking, you might determine that the only options that you have to save money are to carpool or trade in your vehicle. Since carpooling is much cheaper and less of a hassle than trading in your car, you decide to carpool.

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