LATERAL and VERTICAL THINKING: Differences, Characteristics and Examples

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Lateral and vertical thinking: differences, characteristics and examples

Until today, it has been promoted from teaching to elaborate the formulations of our thinking around the axis of vertical thinking, also known as logical thinking. Vertical thinking is linear thinking that follows an already defined trajectory, using already existing ideas or knowledge, such as For example, when we want to solve a mathematical problem, we use the established formulas, following the steps required to solve the problem. exercise.

However, Edward de Bono in 1967, introduced the concept of lateral thinking, in order to introduce the mental processes of creativity, ingenuity and creativity. insight in the elaboration of our thoughts, to be able to observe how reality looks from different angles and to be able to restructure and change ideas already learned.

In this article in Psychology-Online, we are going to help you understand the need and usefulness of using the lateral and vertical thinking: differences, characteristics and examples from each of them.

You may also like: Edward de Bono and lateral thinking


  1. Characteristics of vertical thinking
  2. Lateral thinking characteristics
  3. 6 differences between vertical and lateral thinking
  4. Example of vertical and lateral thinking

Characteristics of vertical thinking.

What is vertical thinking? Vertical or logical thinking is the type of thinking that emphasizes the logical sequential chaining and correct ideas, that is, for their correct operation it is very important the steps that are followed to reach the correct solution, so that the direction of thought is clearly defined, giving a glimpse of a solution. In addition, they start from ideas or previous knowledge that have already been validated, solutions that have already proven themselves.

This way of structuring our thoughts is very useful in certain fields, such as in math and science. For example, when trying to solve a mathematical problem, a certain sequence must be followed, the alteration of the steps produces an alteration of the correct solution. If we try to solve a simple mathematical operation like 25 + 4/2, the result differs if we alternate the steps.

Characteristics of lateral thinking.

What is lateral thinking? Edward de Bono introduced lateral thinking or divergent. This thought arises from the idea of introduce insight, creativity and ingenuity in the elaboration of our thoughts, because following fixed models of concepts, as in logical thinking, limits the creation of new ideas. This does not exclude the usefulness of vertical thinking, since the two are complementary and necessary.

This thinking model values ​​the idea that creativity is a factor of change and progress, seeking to restructure the models already established in order to develop new models, seeking that the outdated ideas established for a long time in our society, are freed from their restrictive approach, allowing So changes in attitudes and approaches to concepts that until today were unchangeable.

In short, lateral thinking seeks to create new approaches and in its process, no matter what steps to follow, it can skip from one to the other or if the underlying ideas may include wrong answers, explore all the possibilities possible. So it does not follow a direction, it seeks to create one of its own.

An example of a riddle of lateral thinking easy would be the following:

"There are months of the year that have 31 days, others only 30. How many have 28 days? "

Let's think about the answer, before reading the solution!

If what you have thought is one, thinking about the month of February, the answer is incorrect. This answer is typical of vertical thinking, which we tend to use with logical argumentation. However, every month of the year has 28 days. This response is typical of lateral thinking, which contemplates all the existing possibilities and associations, thus promoting our ingenuity. Here you can see others lateral or divergent thinking exercises, examples and puzzles.

6 differences between vertical and lateral thinking.

Here are the top six differences between vertical and lateral thinking.

  1. The importance of the process to follow. In lateral thinking, what matters is the effectiveness of the conclusion, regardless of whether the paths followed to reach this conclusion are the correct ones, since it contemplates them everyone. Instead, vertical thinking to reach the correct solution, the most important thing is how the ideas are chained to reach that conclusion.
  2. The objective of the process. Consequently to the previous difference, vertical thinking seeks to reach a solution through a single direction already defined previously. In contrast, lateral thinking does not seek to follow a direction to reach a solution, it moves to develop a new direction, it seeks a restructuring of ideas, change.
  3. Respect for established steps. The correct functioning of vertical thinking implies a sequencing of ideas, the steps must be followed already established to reach the correct solution and skipping steps alters the answer, each step is dependent on the previous. Lateral thinking can skip steps, make jumps, no matter the sequence of these. So, the validity of the solution does not depend on whether the path has been correct, importance is given to the creation of the new conclusion.
  4. Relationship with other topics. In vertical thinking, approaches that do not seem to be related to the topic being worked on are not taken into account; in lateral thinking, all the issues are shuffled. options, although these may seem alien to the context in which you are working, since the lower the relationship with the already established idea, the more possibilities there are to establish new ones. concepts.
  5. The mission. Vertical thinking is governed by evidence, while lateral thinking seeks to find the approaches that are less obvious.
  6. The solution. The goal of vertical thinking is to reach a solution, always having a minimal solution. On the other hand, lateral thinking does not always guarantee that a solution can be found, but it does increase the chance of finding a better solution.

In summary, we could say that the two thoughts are opposite models of functioning. However, neither is more effective than the other, the two are necessary in different fields of application and even complementary on many occasions.

Example of vertical and lateral thinking.

The lateral and vertical thinking can complement each other. An example of vertical and lateral thinking could be the following: let's imagine that we are riding a furniture, for this we would use vertical thinking, following the steps indicated in the instructions. However, imagine that suddenly we see that we are almost finishing it and we have assembled it wrong, we have lost some parts or some parts have broken. Faced with this, we would use lateral thinking, trying to find an alternative to finish the montage, for For example, cutting a piece that does not fit in one place for lack of another or looking at home for a piece that can replace the lost.

Besides vertical and lateral thinking, there are other types of thinking according to psychology.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Lateral and vertical thinking: differences, characteristics and examples, we recommend that you enter our category of Cognitive psychology.


  • Allueva, P. (2002). Development of creativity: design and evaluation of an intervention program. Magazine Persona 5, 67-81.
  • Allueva, P. (2004). Development of creative thinking in the university environment. YEARBOOK OF PHILOSOPHY, PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY, 7, 117-130.
  • De Bono, E. (1986). Lateral thinking. Creativity manual. Buenos Aires: Paidòs Ibérica.
  • Sánchez, L. The inflection between vertical thinking and lateral thinking.
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