The way they thought was different during the Scientific Revolution, or Early Modern Period, ie 16th and 17th centuries. They looked for connections like why the sunflower follows the sun, or the tides follow the moon or the planets orbit the sun. The era ends with Newton's law of gravitation and Kepler's explanation of the tides. Lawrence M. Principe points this out in his book The Scientific Revolution: A very short introduction from 2011. He devotes a whole chapter on this topic in his brief history.
The majority of researchers, or natural philosophers, were Christians and they operated closer to the supernatural and metaphysics. There was more of a 'why' and not so much only 'how' in their work. I have suggested that we should fuse science and religion to enter the materialistic domain and search for the unknown, thus asking why and how. The majority of people need faith according to Psychology of Religion. Perhaps they could do with the unknown rather than the supernatural? Is this to propose returning to old ways rather than breaking new ground? How important was the supernatural connection for the operation of the natural philosopher? Can it be totally replaced with that of the unknown?
The specialization that has taken place in science over the years has been very successful. But it has made people lose the overview or the holistic aspect of science. Philosophers say that philosophy is disappearing because they cannot keep track of what is going on in science. Cognitive science has started to give answers to old philosophical questions and philosophy into history of philosophy. One way of alleviating the lack of overview is that researchers switch careers and do philosophy in the end of their time to work up an overview over a larger field. The time in a researcher's career is most creative early on anyhow.
Today it is possible to monitor people's thoughts and to steer thoughts. Would it be possible to invent new ways of thinking that could improve reasoning? One way of reasoning might be good at one point in time but inefficient in another. Or is the undisturbed natural way of thinking the best. How homogenous is it? It will of course be possible to investigate how successful scientists and philosophers think to get ideas on how to optimize thinking and perhaps to get more people thinking better.
People did probably think in a way that was new during the Scientific Revolution and that was different from how they thought in China. Is there a new way of thinking that would lead us towards a second Scientific Revolution?