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The Focus Vector Model


Explanations > Preferences > The Focus Vector Model

Horizontal focus | Vertical focus | The Focus Vector Model | So what?


In which direction do people focus their attention when thinking? If you can understand this, you can help shape their thinking.

Horizontal focus

The horizontal focus comes from the self vs. others preference, where we focus more on ourselves or others.


Focusing in, we pay attention first to ourselves and our inner lives. We may spend more time thinking here, perhaps as an introvert. This does not make us bad -- it is just where we spend more time and where we are most comfortable.

Focusing in can be a retreat from an uncomfortable outer world as much as an interest in the inner world.


Focusing out, we pay attention first to other people, finding interest in their experiences, plans and problems. There is a tradition that focusing out is selflessly 'good'. We are, however, more complex than this and we can be seen as good when we focus first inwards and bad when we focus on others for personal gain. Outward focus can also be given to the non-human world, for example in the attention by scientists to nature.

Focusing out can be getting away from discomfort with oneself as much as interest in the outer world.

Vertical focus

Vertical focus is about whether we go first into detail or big picture.


Focusing down, we go into detail, seeking individual elements rather than thinking more broadly. From the elements we find, we may then build upwards to a bigger picture.


Focusing up, we look at the big picture, the whole item. When we understand this, we may later dig down into further detail.

The Focus Vector Model

Putting these focus dimensions together, we get a focus vector model, where 'vector' indicates direction of movement.


Focus matrix

Horizontal focus
In Out

Vertical focus


Self (me)

Society (they)

Issues (my)

Other person (you)


In-Up: Self (me)

When we focus mostly in and up, we consider our whole self, who we are, our purpose and meaning in life. We seek to make good choices for ourselves. This need not be exclusive, though it is most fundamental, as we may also consider other people, at least seeking to do no harm to them. But whatever we choose must be congruent with our selves (for example we would not do anything that contradicts our personal values).

For example when discussing climate change, we might consider how it may affect our lives and what we should personally do about it.

In-Down: Issues (my)

When we focus mostly in and down, we dig into our inner person, focusing issues that face us now and the emotions that are grabbing us. This is the most reactive vector and can drag us all over the place. It can also cause inner conflict where addressing issues contradicts our self- or social image.

For example when discussing climate change, we might worry how it affects us now and the problems it will cause us.

Out-Down: Other person (you)

When we focus mostly out and down, we pay attention to the person in front of us right now, their issues and concerns. While we may also consider our own desires, we will put these second to the desires of the other person.

For example when discussing climate change, we will wonder how it affects the other person and how the climate will affect them.

Out-Up: Society (they)

When we focus out and up, we consider first the needs of the greater society and world at large. In this, we often are thinking longer term and about systemic issues rather than shorter-term individual issues.

For example when discussing climate change, we will think about how whole societies are affected by it and the macro-economic effects that will need to be considered.

So what?

Use this model to help understand how others think and where they go first in their thinking. You can then go there with them, initially agreeing and supporting, then carefully shifting them to your desired direction.

See also

Attraction vs. Avoidance Preference, Extraversion vs. Introversion, Self vs. Others preference

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