Convergent thinking is a term coined by Joy Paul Guilford as the opposite of divergent thinking. It generally means the ability to give the “correct” answer to standard questions that do not require significant creativity, for instance in most tasks in school and on standardized multiple-choice tests for intelligence.
Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem. It is oriented toward deriving the single best, or most often correct answer to a question. Convergent thinking emphasizes speed, accuracy, and logic and focuses on recognizing the familiar, reapplying techniques, and accumulating stored information. It is most effective in situations where an answer readily exists and simply needs to be either recalled or worked out through decision making strategies. A critical aspect of convergent thinking is that it leads to a single best answer, leaving no room for ambiguity. In this view, answers are either right or wrong. The solution that is derived at the end of the convergent thinking process is the best possible answer the majority of the time.
Differences Between Convergent and Divergent Thinking
How does convergent thinking differ from divergent thinking? Divergent thinking is the process of creating many unique solutions in order to solve a problem. The process of convergent thinking is systematic and logical, unlike divergent thinking, which is spontaneous and free-flowing. When using convergent thinking, we apply logical steps in order to determine what is the single best solution.
Whenever we use divergent thinking, we search for options instead of just choosing among predetermined options. Convergent thinking relies heavily on logic and less on creativity, while divergent thinking emphasizes creativity. Divergent thinking works best in problems that are open ended and allow for creativity.
Convergent thinking works best in situations where a single best correct answer exists and it is possible to discover the answer through analyzing available stored information. For example, if someone asked you what 2 + 2 is, you know there is only one solution that works and that you can use your understanding of addition and numbers to find the best answer, which is 4.