Exploring the Diversity Within Us

August 29, 2013
Written by Marlene Caroselli in
Common Ties That Bind
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illustration: traits of the "left brain" and "right brain"
How does Guilford's research apply to diversity issues? Quite simply, if we are to respect those who are different from us -- no matter the ways in which they differ -- we need to include thinking styles, along with racial, gender, sexual-orientation, ethnic, and cultural differences. Photo Credit: creativitypost.com

What does hatred sound like? Exploring the diversity within us may provide a clue.

J.P. Guilford might have known.

Psychologist Guilford, via his view of intelligence, was the person who distinguished between convergent and divergent thinking. What's the difference, and what does it have to do with hatred?

Convergent thinking is linear – it focuses on answers to problems that are familiar, problems that have occurred before or in a similar way. One example could be math problems, for example how much is 12 divided by 4? There is only one correct answer and typically, an answer that has been reached numerous times before.

On the other hand, divergent thinking requires answers that may be totally original. Such thinking is creative, diverges from traditional thought and has multiple answers to a given problem, answers that are neither right nor wrong. It takes divergent thinking to determine a question such as: What does hatred sound like?

Guilford is also remembered for identifying 90 different facets of human intelligence, along with 30 behavioral characteristics. Unfortunately, we tend to regard mathematical and writing/reading skills as the hallmarks of academic achievement, such as what the SAT scores are based on.

How does Guilford's research apply to diversity issues? Quite simply, if we are to respect those who are different from us – no matter the ways in which they differ – we need to include thinking styles, along with racial, gender, sexual-orientation, ethnic, and cultural differences. There's diversity within each of us and, unfortunately, many of us are not exploring the many aspects of our own diversity.

This failure to examine the 120 discrete abilities we possess can lead to a failure to appreciate the discrete abilities in other people. Respect for persons and personality was addressed by Einstein, who cautioned: "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

Fortunately, those muscles can be flexed in order to make our personalities even more powerful. Explore your intrapersonal diversity by starting with this divergent prompt: What facets of your personality can be refined in order to make your personality more powerful?

Then maybe you'll recognize hatred the next time you hear it.

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Common Ties That Bind