As you may already know, when someone refers to habitual thinking, they are referring to thought processes that happen without any cognitive intervention, thus, they happen automatically.
So, what is the flipside to automatic thinking? Well, the other side of something which happens automatically is active thinking which takes time and thought, and this is known as executive thinking.
One Is Automated and Easy
The biggest difference between the two types of thinking is that one, habitual thinking, is automated while the other is not. Thus, when you find yourself having to pause and take a moment to think, you can rest assured that this is not habitual thinking, but rather executive thinking, which your brain needs to take a moment to process. In the same way, if you are wracking your brain to try and think of something, this struggle automatically indicates that you are thinking of something executively instead of habitually.
Speed Of Thought
This is a bit of a given, but of course, when something is happening automatically, it will happen much quicker than if you need to sit and think about it a minute. This is why executive thinking can sometimes make your brain strain for a second before answering, while habitual thinking will happen almost immediately without another thought. If you ever find yourself acting on impulses without stopping to think, this is you acting on habitual thinking rather than critical thinking.
Example of Habitual Thinking
If you’re straining your mind to think of examples of habitual thinking, then this is definitely not habitual thinking. Examples of habitual thinking are those things you do without thinking about them, such as getting dressed, driving to work, or eating a meal with a fork and spoon. Habitual thinking can also be used to describe the assumptions you make about someone based on their body language which you may not even notice that you are in fact noticing.
Example of Executive Thinking
Executive thinking takes activation, processing, and memory to accomplish. The best examples of executive thinking are the thought processes you employ in order to solve a math problem, give someone directions to your favorite restaurant, or deciding which brand of a new product you are going to put into your cart.
How They Are Used In Our World
You may be reading this wondering just why executive and habitual thinking apply to you. Well, whether or not you care about the two types of thinking, there are plenty of companies out there that do. In fact, most companies strive to create customers who habitually think of buying their product.
Why would they do this? Well, they know if you are habitually trained to buy something, that you will continue to buy it no matter what happens.
And it’s not just advertisements, a number of social media platforms, most notably Instagram, work to appeal to the habitual side of your brain. That way you will continue to scroll while you are on their platform and see more of their ads. Not only that, but you’ll also keep coming back for more simply out of habit.
Overall, if you are trying to make big changes in your life, it may be time to look at your two thought processes. Are you spending more time thinking habitually or executively? Is that how you want it to be?
Remember that the first step to correcting any problem in your life is to acknowledge there is a problem, and only you can evaluate what thought processes you spend the most time in. If you find that you are spending a large amount of time on habitual thinking and that it is negative habitual thinking, it might be time to make a change in your life for the better.