Let’s not be stubborn…

Black & white thinking

Ever thought about why some people seem so set in their views and opinions? 


We use the term ‘black and white’ to talk about clearly defined and opposing information. It is also used derogatorily to talk about people who won’t or don’t change their mind. 


‘Black and white thinking’ has in the past been associated with autism; many autistic people talk about ‘binary thinking’ instead. ‘Black and white thinking’ is often used by non-autistic people as a short hand term for ‘rigid thinking’. 

Linking binary thinking with rigidity is unfair but probably happens because it is also associated with (autistic) logical style of communicating thoughts and ideas. 


To be able to think flexibly (and not be so ‘darn black and white in our thinking’) requires a broad selection of higher level language skills. The core language skill needed is our ability to make sense of the words in context. Understanding language in context helps us detect ambiguity and ambivalence, we work out inference and appreciate the nuances of what people say. 


Words in context is what we speechies call ‘pragmatics’ and its impact on the person’s understanding and thinking is frequently underestimated. This in turn can affect the person’s emotional well being. 


Let me put this to you: if you struggled to work out what a person means by what they say. If you struggled with how the same cluster of words means different things depending on the situation and who speaks them; we would all more than likely prefer neat and clearly defined information. 


Lack of ambiguity makes us all feel secure and makes the world appear more certain. So when a person looks set in their views; think anxiety, think insecurity and consider that the person may need for predictability rather than it being a matter of rigidity of thinking only.