Book Review: Thinking Styles

Thinking Styles, by Robert J. Sternberg

As someone who has some familiarity with the author’s work [1], it is not surprising that the author fancies himself to be a creative person who is liberal in thinking and loves new ideas.  Or at least he loves what he thinks to be new ideas, and this book is an attempt on the part of the author to find a place for thinking styles that sits on the uncomfortable boundary between issues of personality and issues of ability.  While I do not know how original the author is in thinking of styles and approaches, I think that this uncomfortable boundary space is very productive of creative ideas that appear to fall between the cracks.  A sure way to find a niche for oneself is to find boundaries that exist between fields and approaches and to mine that space for all it’s worth.  The author does that here and correspondingly it works very well.  This is a solid book that is thought provoking in the best ways and that demonstrates at least some of the issues that plague societies and institutions when it comes to what sort of talent they recognize and what sort of people have a hard time finding a good place for themselves because their approaches are not recognized.

Coming in at 140 pages, this book is pretty short as far as works in its field go.  The book is divided into three parts and nine chapters.  The author begins with a preface and then discusses in four chapters the nature of thinking styles (I), with a discussion of what they are and why we need a concept of them (1), a comparison between legislative, executive, and judicial thinking function styles (2), a comparison of monarchic, hierarchic, oligarchic, and anarchic form styles (3), as well as a comparison between global and local level styles, internal and external scope styles, and liberal and conservative leaning styles (4).   After that the author looks at the principles (5) and development (6) of thinking styles (II).  This leads into further discussions about thinking styles as they relate to the school as well as research and theory (III), including a discussion of what we have learned about thinking styles in the classroom (7), a history of the theory and research that has been undertaken on the subject (8), and the author’s preferences for looking at a theory of mental self-government rather than computing (9), after which there are notes and an index.

Appreciating this book requires at least a few things.  For one, it requires an appreciation of brevity, because this is by no means a long book.  Another thing this book has going for it (at least in the eyes of some readers) is that the author spends a great deal of time seeking to provide diagnostic questions to the reader to help them identify where they sit on the various approaches that the author recognizes.  And though this book has a lot to offer those who are fans of the personality theory world in general, the book even manages to have some nuance within its rather small size, discussing the way that people have different styles in different areas of their lives and sometimes different styles at different times of their life.  Indeed, further research along this line could seek to discuss how it is that styles develop in particular areas of life and how it is that they develop and sometimes harden into rigid approaches to dealing with aspects of life and how some people are able to be flexible enough to know which styles are of best use in different areas of life.  There’s a lot to like here, and plenty that one hopes are followed up in future works.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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