Description and Characteristics of Symbolic Thought - Deepstash
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Symbolic thinking is what allows humans to talk about past events, as well as to hypothesize about what may happen in the future. In other words, it allows you to get out of a current situation in order to evoke another reality , be it past or future.

This type of thinking allows you to go beyond what your senses are capturing in the present moment through memories and hypotheses.


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What's symbolic thought?

What's symbolic thought?

One could define symbolic thinking as the ability to think about the present situation. In other words, it’s a type of thinking that allows you to visualize the reality of a given environment , according to personal experiences.


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Piaget’s preoperative thinking

Symbolic thinking is part of preoperative thinking. This is a broader concept that would go through three stages during its development.

  • Symbolic thinking.
  • Egocentrism (the child can’t dissociate from their own point of view).
  • Pre-conceptual prelogical thinking.


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Series of manifestations occur in the development of the child that makes this process possible during the stage of formation and consolidation of symbolic thinking. These are:

  • Deferred imitation.
  • Symbolic play.
  • A verbal evocation of non-present events.
  • Drawings.

Symbolic thought becomes latent and gradually consolidates through all of these manifestations.


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This is one of the main manifestations of symbolic thought, as it’s based on symbolization. What does this mean? It means the verbal keys you describe reality with aren’t what they point to but rather their translation into abstract terms.

In other words, people use language to represent reality through symbols, words in this case, and the same occurs with symbolic thought.


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The symbolic game

According to Piaget, symbolic play appears around the age of two, which is when the child has a sense of the permanent object. That is, they understand that an object still exists even if it isn’t in their field of vision. The reality is humans never stop playing, and doing so almost always involves learning.


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Drawing and painting

Drawing and painting

You shape what you want to evoke through symbols . Thus, drawing is the ability to use signifiers to refer to meanings due to symbolic thinking.

In a certain way, both drawing and painting allow humans to represent something from outside but also the ideas inside their minds. As you can see, this is what symbolization is all about.


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“Evil doesn’t actually exist. It’s just an abstract concept we use to describe shitty behavior. It’s an idea, a concept, a thought, not a thing.”



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