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The distinction between guessing and thinking as cognitive processes

February 15, 2024

This article explores the distinction between guessing and thinking as cognitive processes. Guessing involves making quick decisions or forming opinions without substantial evidence, relying on intuition. On the other hand, thinking is a deliberate and evidence-based process that aims for accuracy through careful consideration. The article discusses the disparities in decision-making basis, evidence, reasoning, speed, accuracy, informed decision-making, and engagement of cognitive processes. It emphasizes the significance of thoughtful analysis over guesswork, particularly in engineering and innovation endeavors. The article advocates for embracing thinking processes and utilizing tools like PRIZ Guru for efficient problem-solving and idea generation.

Guessing vs thinking | PRIZ Guru

Guessing involves making quick decisions or forming opinions without substantial evidence, often relying on intuition. It is a faster but less informed process. On the other hand, thinking is a deliberate, conscious effort that involves gathering and analyzing information, logical reasoning, and developing a more comprehensive understanding of the situation. It aims for accuracy through careful consideration.

Now, let’s examine each process separately.

What is guessing?

The process of guessing is always circular in nature

Guessing process | PRIZ Guru

Guessing is a common approach in which we try different strategies to find the best solution. We explore various possibilities in the hope of finding the initial solution that appears to be optimal. However, its actual effectiveness remains uncertain.

What is thinking?

As evident, there’s a recurring loop of decisions, consuming time and resources. Let’s explore an alternative approach.

Thinking is mainly a linear process

Thinking process | PRIZ Guru

Opting for thoughtful consideration is the superior method. We prioritize thinking before acting, rather than blindly trying different approaches. We meticulously evaluate what needs to be done and plan accordingly. By doing so, the loop is limited to the process of building. Those involved in the thinking and planning phase can then efficiently move on to other tasks. This approach is not only more cost-effective but also more efficient.

Guessing vs Thinking

Guessing and thinking are cognitive processes, but they involve different mental activities and levels of deliberation. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between guessing and thinking:

  • Basis of Decision:
    • Guessing: Involves making a decision or forming an opinion without substantial evidence or careful consideration. Guessing often relies on intuition or a quick, spontaneous response.
    • Thinking: Involves a more deliberate and conscious process of considering information, weighing options, and analyzing evidence before making a decision or forming an opinion.
  • Evidence and Reasoning:
    • Guessing: Typically lacks a strong foundation of evidence or reasoning. Guesses may be based on intuition, instincts, or minimal information.
    • Thinking: Involves gathering and evaluating relevant information, considering different perspectives, and using logical reasoning to arrive at a well-thought-out conclusion.
  • Speed:
    • Guessing: This tends to be a faster process as it often involves quick, instinctive responses without extensive analysis.
    • Thinking: This can be a slower process as it requires more careful consideration, analysis of information, and contemplation before arriving at a conclusion.
  • Accuracy:
    • Guessing: This may be accurate at times, especially in situations where intuition or instincts align with the correct answer. However, in most cases, guesses are not inaccurate.
    • Thinking: Generally aims for greater accuracy by relying on a thorough examination of evidence, logical reasoning, and a more comprehensive understanding of the situation.
  • Informed Decision-Making:
    • Guessing: Often involves making decisions without a deep understanding of the subject matter or situation.
    • Thinking: Focuses on informed decision-making, taking into account a broader range of information and perspectives to arrive at a well-considered conclusion.
  • Engagement of Cognitive Processes:
    • Guessing: This may involve minimal engagement of higher cognitive functions, relying more on automatic responses.
    • Thinking: Engages higher cognitive functions such as analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking, requiring conscious effort and mental energy.

Bottom line, guessing is a more spontaneous and less calculated process, often relying on intuition or quick judgments, while thinking involves a more deliberate and conscious effort to analyze information, consider options, and make decisions based on evidence and reasoning.


Avoid relying on guesswork to address your engineering challenges and innovation endeavors. Guessing can squander time and resources without leading to successful outcomes. Instead, embrace thoughtful analysis as a direct and efficient path to success. Engage in the creative thinking process, utilizing various creative thinking tools. PRIZ Guru offers a comprehensive ecosystem that provides full-stack services, including software for problem definition, root cause analysis, functional modeling, and idea generation.

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