The sixth article in a series written by LTC Tree Advisor, Joe Houston, M.Ed., LPC, CRC Categorical thinking is the tendency to see the “general” rather than the “specific.” Rather than considering the details of a situation, these types of thinkers only get a superficial, general view. They solve a problem by summing up the situation with a simplistic generality, such as viewing the cause of America’s current unemployment problem as being caused by illegal immigration. While that may be a part of the problem, and should be considered in any programmatic solution to solve the problem, the categorical thinker is unlikely to consider any other cause, thus any solution he would propose would be incomplete. This type of thinking can be especially financially harmful when it comes to planning for needing long term care.

A categorical thinker may say we’ll my parent did not need long term care so I won’t either. The person if just looking at the problem at one angel. Modern medicine is keeping people alive longer from conditions that may of caused your parent to die much faster in the past. A categorical thinker, when looking to solve a problem, has the tendency to re-work the problem the way it has been handled in the past. That’s okay if that method works, but as we all know the old ways sometimes are not enough these days. His solution is apt to lack originality and inventiveness, with the solutions being vague rather than specific.  Using that type of planning when tackling the Long Term Care risk can be devastating because if it is not planned for well before care is needed, one will be declined because once a person has health issues they become uninsurable.

Such people don’t make good scientists because they have fewer analytical skills, which help break problems down into its component pieces. They are very conformity minded. The opposite of a categorical thinker is the abstract thinker. These folks are good at analyzing data and putting the pieces together to make a whole. If the “whole” is not correct, they have no trouble in tearing it apart and starting over. Categorical thinkers don’t start over—they dig in their heels. Once they’ve got the problem solved in their minds, that’s it. Don’t confuse them with any new facts. Categorical thinking is thought to arise out of childhood training by the parents and other authority figures. The child is rewarded for achieving the “right” answers, as defined by parents, church, school and other authorities. Interestingly enough, they are punished for trying out non-traditional ways of thinking.

Some researchers believe that religious institutions and the public American school system are the main purveyors of this type of training, in that they promote getting the right ideology and right answers, rather than teaching the child to think for himself and developing his own answers. Probably the most blatant example of this whole indoctrination process in today’s world is the Muslim terrorist’s teaching their young people that America is the cause of all their problems.

An uncomfortable thing to consider is that research has shown that the majority of Americans are categorical thinkers as a result of their training. Usually the more education one has the less apt she is to be a categorical thinker. I believe this is because this is because education tends to broaden and diversify the mind, enabling the person to see many solutions to a problem as opposed to only one.

In some ways categorical thinking might be viewed as not being a defense mechanism. Some of my professional colleagues were of this opinion. But I maintain it is, because it is a global, involuntary way of thinking that serves to help the individual to maintain her self- image and is used to cope with threatening events. An example would be our current health care debacle being considered in Congress. Many politicians and citizens think that the solution has to come from the Federal government, while a more abstract thinker would want to consider any other solutions as well.

Anyone that is considering the purchase of long term care insurance definitely needs to put on her abstract-thinking hat—categorical thinking will not do in this situation. She needs to analyze her age, health, family history, lifestyle, needs , amount of coverage desired, costs, family help and resources, the proper insurance company, etc. Our representatives can help you with this process. We promise to assist you with the proper abstract thinking when you are reviewing your long term care insurance options.  If you would like to learn more try our other Long Term Care blogs found here.