The Psychology of Knowledge

On the theories of knowledge and the factors that affect human knowledge.

To understand the philosophy and psychology of knowledge, we must focus on the theories of knowledge and the factors that affect human. When we say “Knowledge is power”, it definitely means that when we are armed with knowledge, we feel the power of the world in us. Knowledge makes us powerful and strong and that is why, it is so important. Some people think money is power. Not true. Say if you leave this planet and go to live on Mars. Your currencies and all the money will be of no use. But if you have enough knowledge on how to survive the planetary conditions on Mars, that will help you to stay alive.

We must first try to understand “what is knowledge?”. There is no general consensus on what knowledge is or how it is acquired. Knowledge is derived from “to know” and knowing can be believing something to be true. But is belief the same as knowledge? Not really. Because you may believe in ghosts or spirits, but do not really know who or what these spirits are. But you know that the earth rotates once in 24 hours because there is scientific evidence. You know that the tree in your garden will bear fruit during certain times of the year so you believe that you will get the fruits during that time. So, what we see here is that all knowledge creates belief, but all belief is not knowledge.

So the next question is obviously “how is Knowledge acquired?” To answer this question, we need to understand the different theories of knowledge.

Theories of Knowledge

Empiricism or Empirical Analysis

Among the most influential theories of knowledge is empiricism or empirical knowledge, Empiricism was developed as a theory to describe scientific or observational knowledge. So empirical knowledge is knowledge gained via observation or by use of the senses. This is the method of scientific inquiry as you use observation or the power of the senses to derive knowledge. Scientific experimentation uses the observational method and the experimental method or analysis is finally based on the senses. What you see, hear, touch, smell or taste helps in gaining knowledge. But is this the ultimate or only knowledge? No, because our senses are limited. So knowledge gained from scientific data could be limited.

Rationalism or Logical Analysis

Another form of knowledge is knowledge gained through rational analysis or logic. Logical analysis is what you do when you reach a logical conclusion from a set of data or principles. For example, when you have symptoms of high temperature, headaches, weakness etc, you come to a logical analysis that you are ill. When you see an overcast sky, black clouds and predictions of rain on the television, you come to a logical analysis that it will rain and you must carry your umbrella or raincoat. We consider certain premises or factors, try to understand their interrelationships and then reach logical conclusions. So, rational analysis is also a method of knowledge because you use facts or factors to know something or derive a conclusion.

Experientialism or Experiential Analysis

Experientialism is experiential knowledge or knowledge derived from experience. The term was first propagated by Lakoff and Johnson in 1980. Experientialism is experiential knowledge, so it is possible to suggest that we actively analyze our experiences to derive knowledge and understanding from these experiences. You know from your experience that an aircraft accelerates its speed on the runway before takeoff, or that soaking in the rain may give you chills. You know from your experience that your dog will greet you excitedly when you reach home but your wife may not be too excited. This is experiential knowledge.. Experiential Knowledge is important in understanding the Psychology of Knowledge as human experiences are at the core of many psychological theories, including psychoanalysis.

Literalism or Literal Analysis

Knowledge is often gained from an obvious source – books. I call this literalism or literal analysis as this may not be related to critical or literary analysis, but a literal analysis of what you have read or understood. Books, papers,internet sources and the written word help us to gain significant knowledge about the world. This is what we can describe as literary or literal analysis and the process of gaining knowledge is literalism. We are either critical of what we read or we accept what we read. Either way, we learn and gain knowledge from all reading sources and this is an important method of acquiring knowledge. When you systematically study the Psychology of Human Knowledge, you must consider how the individual acquired knowledge from books, papers, internet or other sources. The knowledge acquired during adolescent or young adult years is very significant, as this will shape the mind and create or influence thinking. So, when you are studying the mind of a terrorist, try to understand what reading sources may have influenced him. Some people are more influenced by what they read, rather than what they experience or hear. The power of the book or the internet is immense. Reading creates beliefs and there may not be any rational explanation as to why certain people believe in certain things although reading greatly influences thinking.

Innatism or Internal Analysis

This type of knowledge is about inner knowing or happens due to the internal processing of the knowledge already embedded in us. Plato, Greek philosophers, other ancient philosophers and prophets have repeatedly emphasized the knowledge of the soul. Internal analysis is about knowledge that already exists within us or knowledge that we are born with. Call it the Jungian collective unconscious or call it the soul, internal analysis is about gaining access to the knowledge embedded deep within us. So this is the innate knowledge or wisdom and one of the most important types of knowledge that could be considered a priori or not acquired through observation or experience. To understand innate knowledge, psychologists must study wisdom and the soul knowledge of prodigies. Some prodigies are born with a powerful soul or innate knowledge and show their remarkable abilities only a few years after birth. Studying the talents and wisdom of prodigies would provide significant insights on the soul knowledge of human beings. Nurturing this knowledge would be essential to developing talents in children and wisdom in adults.

I will now move on to the factors in knowledge. What are the factors that affect human knowledge? The theories of knowledge show how knowledge is acquired, but the factors help us to identify the mechanisms or processes responsible for human knowledge. Knowledge is about habit, maybe your reading habits or your writing which will help you to develop knowledge, about beliefs and attitudes that you develop in childhood, about your subjective understanding of the world, and is largely associated with your interests and inclinations to know the world in a particular way. If you are a psychologist, trying to understand the process of knowledge in human beings, how would you do it? Start with a questionnaire that will determine the five types of knowledge that are mentioned above. Determine which type of knowledge has strongly affected the subject and draw your conclusions on what type of knowledge analysis would best describe the personality of the individual. It is important to develop a knowledge analysis model in Psychology considering the five theories I have described above.

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