Symbolic Thought

Symbolic thought is a cognitive process in which individuals use symbols or mental representations to represent and manipulate abstract concepts, ideas, or objects. It allows humans to reason, communicate, and problem-solve in a highly abstract and flexible manner.


Symbols are arbitrary representations that can be used to substitute or convey meaning. They can be visual, auditory, or even conceptual, such as words, gestures, numbers, or signs. Symbols are used to represent abstract or concrete entities that may not be present in the immediate environment.


Symbolic thought involves the ability to mentally abstract and generalize concepts or ideas, which enables individuals to understand and recognize commonalities across different situations or objects. This allows for the formation of categories, relationships, and the ability to think in terms of symbols instead of solely relying on concrete sensory experiences.


Symbolic thought relies on the capacity to mentally represent objects, ideas, or events even when they are not physically present. These mental representations can be manipulated, combined, and transformed to simulate possible scenarios or solve complex problems.

Flexible and Imaginative Thinking

Symbolic thought fosters flexible and imaginative thinking, as individuals can manipulate and explore various combinations and possibilities through symbolic representations. This cognitive skill is fundamental for creativity, hypothetical reasoning, planning, and imagining alternative perspectives.

Language and Communication

Symbolic thought and language are intricately connected. Language consists of a set of symbols that are used to represent and convey meaning. Through the use of language, individuals can communicate complex ideas, thoughts, and experiences, further enhancing their ability to engage in symbolic thinking.