Characterizing “shallow thinker” versus “deep thinker”?

All of us have heard these expressions:

He has a shallow understanding of the subject” or “He is a shallow thinker


He has a deep understanding of the subject” or “He is a deep thinker

But what does it mean when someone says: “He has a shallow understanding of the subject” or “He is a shallow thinker

And what does it mean when someone says: “He has a deep understanding of the subject” or “He is a deep thinker

How does one determine if an understanding is shallow or deep? How does one determine if an individual is a shallow or deep thinker?

There is a negative connotation to the former. Being labeled as having a “shallow understanding” or a “shallow thinker” is not something to be desired. So it would be useful to know what these expressions mean.

I will now try to characterize shallow versus deep understanding and thinking.

1. Understanding the interconnectedness: few (if any) things live in isolation. Press here and it affects things over there, and they in turn affect things down there, and so forth. A shallow thinker does not fully realize the impact of a decision or action on other things. A shallow thinker just looks at first-order effects (i.e. “press here and it affects things over there”; that’s as far as the shallow thinker goes, he doesn’t continue with how “the things over there in turn affect things down there, and so forth”). Conversely, a deep thinker looks at the whole chain of impacts.

2. Read a book once and you have a shallow understanding. Read a book multiple times, take notes, summarize each key concept … now you have a deep understanding.

3. Many things have general characteristics. For example, Democrats are in general pro-life and the Republicans are in general pro-choice. Making a decision or judgment based on generalities is shallow thinking. Making a decision or judgment based on specifics is deep thinking. For example, judging a politician based on the party he belongs to is shallow thinking; judging based on his specific viewpoints is deep thinking.

How else would you characterize shallow versus deep understanding/thinking? I invite your (deep) thinking on this subject.

8 Responses to “Characterizing “shallow thinker” versus “deep thinker”?”

  1. Katie J. Says:

    I completely agree with #3. I tell people a similar thing all the time. It is crazy how both sides of the media and where people grow up completely control how people think.

    I say the definition of a ‘shallow thinker’ is one who can not think for themselves or form an opinion without considering both sides of a situation.

  2. wanda Says:

    deeper thinker, thinks of all the consequences, shallow thinker thinks day by day and never sees the future.

  3. Vu Says:

    I think shallow thinker tends to judge more on what they see and understand at the moment and continues right away with that knowledge in persuit of their interests, while deep thinker uses the their knowledge in the moment to analyze possibilty and decide what else he needs to look for in oder to make a more complete decision on what he is to do.

  4. karan kohlu Says:

    a deep thinker follows the leading thought all the way to its consequences. s/he doesn’t stop where there is resistance of the intellect. s/he continues till the very far of future ramifications have been mapped. and that is what differentiates him/her from other shallow minds.

  5. James Says:

    Deep thinker believes there’s more than meets the eyes. Shallow thinker believes what you see is what it is.

  6. Lynn Taylor Says:

    Shallow thinkers are incapable , or to lazy, to look at all sides of an issue or to explore the “middle ground” or possible compromises. They are often led willingly by ideology or other opinions. Amazingly, they usually strongly believe they are right.

  7. Manoj Says:

    A shallow thinker solves one problem with one solution. A deep thinker solves multiple problems with a single solution – Manoj

  8. Kalani Lopez Says:

    There are moments when I think to myself, How shallow my thoughts are. Then there are times when I get a feeling that there has to be more to it then that or the kind of feeling that gets me to roll my eyes at the thought. The phrase “Keep it simple” is a very useful tool I apply when in conversation or activity. I apply an analytical view whenever I feel it is appropriate. Realistically, there is simplicity that comes when thinking shallow and how I feel determines whether or not such thoughts would warrant “shallow” or“deep” thinking. What I am saying is that I believe someone who thinks shallow thinks more on a line of keeping it simple and so they act and speak accordingly. Whereas someone who is a deep thinker is able to take a simple idea and turn it into a more meaningful expression. I also believe that we can all benefit with the right balance between the two.
    However, in this moment, this is just my own personal view as a result of thinking too much. 🙂

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