10 key differences between relational thinking and relational reasoning

Our brain encounters billions of objects or precepts on a daily basis. These data come in varying forms such as sound, smell and images (vision). Our sensory systems such as eyes, nose, ears, tongue and touch encode these signals that could either be transmitted to our brains or ignored. It is absolutely impossible to process all the signals our senses come in contact with on a daily basis. All of these signals are known as precepts and a few of these become concepts. Entities or signals that assume the role of concepts are those we can develop a relational identity. Example, you visit a sports store and see running shoes displayed in the far right corner, these are all precepts. When you relate or associate the shoes with running a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon, they now become a concept. It takes relational thinking and reasoning to transform precepts into concepts. But there are differences between relational thinking and reasoning.

Differences between relational thinking and reasoning

1) Lower cost vs higher cost: Spontaneity tends to be attributed to relational thinking. Customers adopt relational thinking and reasoning before making any purchase online or in store. For less expensive items, we are most likely to be relative thinkers. A good example will be seeing an ad on your Facebook feed for a local music concert. The price is cheap or it won’t cost you much. At this point, you create a connection between the ticket and music or dancing. Without waiting to create deeper connections with the event you click on the ad to complete your purchase. On the other hand, if the festival ticket was to cost you much, you’ll apply relational reasoning. With relational reasoning, you’ll link the ticket to music and create richer narratives and correlation to the last time you attended a music festival. You might go ahead to remind yourself of how you felt after your last local music festival and what you’ll have to forego to buy this ticket. These mental narratives you create helps inform your decision to either scroll past the ad or click to buy the ticket.

2) Earlier Vs later concepts: Our senses are bombarded with innumerable precepts only a few of these entities capture our attention. Relational thinking helps convert these precepts to an initial or early form of concepts. Relational thinking helps us draw meaning from these concepts. Relational thinking is useful in linking together these precepts to become a concept. Relational reasoning can then take this earlier formed concepts to an advanced level. An advanced concept will have a deeper meaning.

3) Rudimentary vs refined concepts: Relational thinking should be praised for being instrumental in piecing disparate precepts to form a meaningful concept. Although the concepts formed from relational thinking is believed to be rudimentary  it has the ability to influence human thought or action. A good example will be seeing a sneakers as a precept and then connecting it to basketball to form a concept of basketball trainers. It is rudimentary but is meaningful. When you now create a link between the basketball trainers and when you played basketball in high school, it then creates a more refined meaning.

4) Weaker vs stronger intent: In marketing the user intent is always important. Digital advertising aims at sending the right message to inspire an audience with a strong intent to take action. Humans see about 5000 ads a day. Some of these ads are on video platforms like YouTube or search engines like Google and Bing. There are also social media ads on Facebook and out of home ads on buses and tube platforms. Most ad impressions are precepts, a few are either lower or higher concepts. When a product and an ad resonates with the audience, they create links with their personal experience and are likely to take action or talk about it.

5) Spontaneous Vs intentional: In relational thinking, connections between entities is made in a fleeting and spontaneous manner. It is instinctive, as we have to do less or mind work. You arrive at the train station and the gates are shut. Whilst wondering, you now as we a poster stand stating a two-day strike. That was an instructive and spontaneous connection. You’ve made connected the percept of a locked gate to the notice stand to form a concept of workers protest. You can intentionally dig deeper by recalling a newspaper article you read last night that cited the reason behind the strike.

6) Lower vs higher-forms of cognitive thought and performance: In her article, Patricia Alexander made emphasised that relational reasoning is a higher-order form of cognitive thought and performance. It is, therefore, safe to say relational thinking is a lower-order form of cognition. As we understand cognition focuses on the acquisition of knowledge via senses, reasoning and experience.

7) External vs internal: We create an external link between entities to lead to the formation of concepts. It’s external because It does not necessarily require a personal connection or narrative. The workers riot example provided earlier, clearly illustrates how relational thinking is external and relational reasoning is internal. With relational reasoning, we tend to draw a personal connection or link the entity to  personal experience.

8) Unconscious Vs conscious: We derive meaning from objects or entities we encounter every day in either an unconscious or conscious manner. In relational thinking, we instinctively draw meaning without realising we’ve made a connection between entities. People queuing for coffee, unconsciously we think the shop may be understaffed. But in relational reasoning, we ask someone on the queue if they’ve been in line for long and could be the possible reason for the long queue. As it may be rush hour,a group of tourist, understaffed, broken coffee machine or anything else. There is that conscious effort with relational reasoning.  

9) Effortless vs full of effort: Relational thinking is believed to be effortless in nature. As one tends to create light patterns between entities to form a concept. On the contrary, relational reasoning requires more effort due to the deeper nature of connections required to form
meaningful concepts.

10) Less emotional vs more emotional As we’ve seen earlier, relational thinking is surface and lacks the deep connection than relational reasoning possesses. When we identify patterns between entities with our personal experience or narratives, our emotions are more likely to be triggered.  Advertising campaigns that connect with us emotionally are the ones that bond with our personal story or experience.

It is a thin line that differentiates the intuitive relational thinking from the intentional relational reasoning. Harnessing the power of patterning is quite important and products that trigger our relational reasoning faculty are more likely to succeed.