Beginning of original thinking: Reflective thinking

Creating mental models in imagination through visualization.

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series The Knowledge Workflow

In the Personal Knowledge Flow, Understanding is followed by reflective thinking. Why think? What to think? then, How to? Learning is a cognitive process. Cognition is the process of “judging” through perceiving.

Perceiving and judging as the same process, as an interlaced mental event. It is having perception, having multiple (more than one) perception and building ‘one’ complete understanding from it, by choosing fitting perceptions and eliminating unfitting ones. Doing it iteratively, and constructing an imaginative model of the concept you understood from the ground up (using atomic understanding). This process is called “mental visualization”, which I refer to as “reflective thinking”.

For students who learning from books, it is not the process of creating the mental model of what’s written in the textbook. But, here we try to re-create the mental model which was in the mind of the author. Book and text are just medium for knowledge transfer, not the knowledge itself. The true knowledge transfer should be from one mind to another.

It is impossible to tell whether your visualization is as same as the author’s or the truth. But we try to move as close as possible to the true understanding in every iteration of perception and imagination.

Making Whole from Parts

In reflecting, we add more and more blocks to the mental model (visualizing) iteratively and making sure, it true as a “whole” as it is true as “parts” (atomic blocks). The addition or merging of any new perception in an iteration should always preserve the whole truth of the system. This is where we depend on past knowledge and understandings. As long as you’re good with your basic understandings (atomic understandings), reflective thinking is a less stressful process.

It is a pleasant thinking process. What do you feel when reading a story or novel or any fictional books. As you read, you build a imaginary world inside your mind, you add more objects and alter your imagined model of world as more descriptions are parsed in your reading. Every word, every description of a scene counts to build a imaginary scene in your mind. Here, it happens all at one time, reading and imagination happens parallelly, ephemerally.

In the case of non-fiction books, you have to stop between a few lines to take a time to think about it before building an imaginary form of it. The reading and imagination here will not happen parallelly. Only reading and understanding happens at the same time. Reflective thinking happens between each stop while you’re reading. You might have to read a few lines again to make sure you’re building the right mental model in your visualization. May be again and again, in some cases from starting. This is why most people get more understanding when they read the books the second time. (This happens to a lot of people while watching a movie, they see new things that they haven’t in the first time watching).

When the content in books isn’t enough to build your mental model of a concept, we tend to search, seek additional information for additional understanding to aid your reflective thinking and also to make sure the things you understood is true, and close to what is given in the source.

Resonation & Reflection

Resonating is different from reflecting. Resonating is something that stuck in your mind, which is hard to get rid of, and you want to know/think more about it. Reflective thinking is a positive, active process, involves focus, mental power to direct your mind to work in a certain way.

Box it, build with it.

Reflective thinking is a more streamlined process of thinking. Thinking with boundaries. Boxed thinking. You have set to things to learn, you know the scope, you know general outline. Within that, you’re building a sophisticated mental model of the concept you understood. The model is more or less alive, working, animated model within your imagination world. Remember, you’re not inventing anything new here, you’re just re-creating. So, do not bring your out of box thinking here, unless it is to find a suitable analogy or example to associate your new concept with.

Now we have a box of pieces. The pieces here are your “atomic blocks”, your fundamental understandings and core concepts involved. All you have to do with your imagination (reflective thinking) is to build a whole concept with the pieces inside the box. Not to reinvent, but to recreate. Join, integrate, mix and match, manipulate, realign, do whatever you want to do with those pieces. Just make sure, all the pieces are fundamentally true (meaningful) and so does the built mental model.


It is hard to say that your mental model is right. There’s always the trap of illusion of understanding. But if you are sincere in your “Reflective Thinking”, (assuming that you can do it with your mental capacity) you can always say whether your understanding is right or not both during the progress and at the end. Every iteration refines your understanding and verifies the correctness by itself. Some part of your mind will always tell approximately how much you’re right, but it does not necessarily have to be true. The accuracy of your verification depends on your self-assessment ability, past knowledge and your self-belief.

As long as you find your mental model is unsatisfactory, you will go another iteration of processing details and merging them to your existing mental model to make it true within your imagination.

But, self-verification, validation isn’t enough. Then how to verify? Comprehending… (in the next article in this series, subscribe to Alvistor Museletter for updates and more insider insights).

In this series of The Knowledge WorkflowPrevious: << Building blocks of true Knowledge: Atomic understandingNext: Purpose of Trigger points in PKM (No, NOT keywords) >>

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