Cognitive processes can proceed either as automatic or as a controlled conscious. Automatic thinking is the tendency to automatically and unconsciously process information, decide what to do, remember previous events, and make predictions. Deliberate thinking is focused on solving a problem in a way that leads to an optimal solution. In addition, automatic thinking can be defined as a person’s thoughts and actions that happen without conscious control; automatic thinking means individuals are not in charge of their opinions. Deliberate thinking people have conscious control over their thoughts and actions.
The differentiation between automatic and deliberate thinking is thought content. In automatic thinking, the person will tend to assess the pros and cons of a situation that would help make a decision and not work against it. In deliberate thinking, people think before making a choice or decision. Understanding the difference between automatic and deliberate thinking helps individuals determine whether their thoughts on specific issues or circumstances are involuntary or intentional.
There are different elements used to differentiate automatic thinking from deliberate thinking. Some of these elements include awareness, whereby the act of awareness is seen as a step to deliberate thinking and clarity in thought that allows the person to think what they want to think. For example, when an individual is bothered by a problem, they consciously think about it and figure out why the problem is there. In automatic thinking, the person does not think about it and attempts to resolve the problem without thinking about it. The next element is controlled. Automatic thoughts have no element of control since there is no deliberate control, whereas, in deliberate thinking, there is control. For instance, automatic thinking occurs when one has to use deduction skills to identify important details faster, meaning they do not have any control over what they are doing and do not waste time contemplating pronouncements. In deliberate thinking, people control their thoughts, whereby they can decide if they want to think about a particular matter or not. For example, a person who wants to buy a car but does not have enough money to purchase it, the buyer will have doubts about that matter; they can think of ways to buy a car through a loan or opt for another item.
People rely on automatic or deliberate thinking differently because both types have pros and cons. For example, automatic thinking allows individuals to decide quickly and act faster, but on the other hand, it has a disadvantage because a problem might not be fixed if people do not think about it. Deliberate thinking also has advantages and disadvantages. It prevents people from being distracted and allows avoiding negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and moodiness. Some disadvantages of deliberate thinking include that it may cause one to worry about insignificant matters and waste time overthinking or engaging in unproductive behavior such as stress eating or drinking too much coffee.
To summarize, automatic thinking is the tendency to process information, decide what to do, remember previous events, and make predictions. Deliberate thinking makes individuals focus on a problem in a way that leads to an optimal solution. Automatic thinking is critical in people’s daily life because it is seen as a fast-thinking process that does not require much control. At the same time, deliberate thinking has nothing to do with how fast the person thinks or how much control they have over their thoughts.