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In everyday language, insight means that the properties, connections and relationships of an object area are subjectively recognized with sufficient accuracy , mentally recorded and factually correctly understood . As a conscious result of the combination of perception and reflection , insight is the result of an analytical-synthetic cognitive process. In everyday psychology, insights that are obtained in other ways and then often “in a flash” are ascribed to a special mental faculty, namely “ intuition ”.

Intellectual history

Historically, other explanations for the emergence of insights are known. With indigenous peoples, for example, insights are seen as inward, sometimes visionary advice or hints from ancestors, as "inspiration" of good or sanctified spirits, as advice from helpful gods and as divine "enlightenment" or "revelation", banal but also as a simple "idea." ".


A priori insight can be distinguished from a posteriori knowledge . If one understands insight cognitively as having words, the quote from Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is of interest: "We are beyond what we have words for." This suggests affective involvement as a motive in cognitive processes .

“Insight is more than the knowledge of this or that state of affairs. It always contains a coming back from something in which one was deluded. Insofar, insight always contains a moment of self-knowledge and is a necessary side of what we call experience . Insight is something one comes to. In the end, that too is a determination of human existence itself, to be insightful and insightful. "

- Hans-Georg Gadamer : Truth and Method , Hermeneutik I, Tübingen 1990, p. 362.

Research history


As a psychological technical term, insight refers to the sudden recognition of the solution to a problem or the solution for a practical task, occasionally also the sudden recognition of "shapes" and other related elements of (mostly visual) perception . Colloquially, there is often talk of an “ aha experience ”, a term coined by the German language psychologist and language theorist Karl Bühler (1879–1963).

Insight-solvable problems consist of a single solving step that is difficult to see. Karl Duncker (1903–1940) in particular carried out numerous behavioral experiments. In problem solving, there is a time when you apparently (observably) do nothing. This is the time after recognizing the problem (or failure of the first unsuccessful attempt to solve the problem) until the moment at which one believes that a solution has been found, i.e. had an "aha experience". In this phase, cognitive restructuring processes take place, people may think about something, imagine something or combine perceptual and memory contents, so that an idea or a reorganization of knowledge may arise. In the past, this time was sometimes referred to as " incubation ".

If the gestalt theoretical interpretation is disregarded (see below), problem-solving behavior can generally be described as understandable if the actual implementation of the solution is preceded by a phase of system-internal and mostly experience-free behavior organization based on sensory stimulus processing, the result of which is a solution adapted to the problem-solving situation occurs.

The following are characteristic observable properties and criteria of insightful behavior:

  • the sudden appearance of the solution
  • the closeness of the sequence of actions during the execution of the solution
  • the substitutability of the means in structurally analogous situations
  • the originality of the solution
  • the immediate repeatability of the solution even with the greatest temporal distance

At the same time, these are the characteristics that distinguish this type of behavior from trial-and-error behavior.

Gestalt psychology

As a gestalt psychological term, "insight" was first introduced into thinking psychology by Wolfgang Köhler (1887–1967) , see also the gestalt theoretical term → isomorphy . This is why the German word is often used in English-language specialist literature instead of common terms such as insight , eureka moment or lightbulb moment . One thinks of the comic picture of a light bulb suddenly lighting up. This picture suggests an organizational process in the CNS at the time of gaining insight.

In the context of primary theory , insights are a quasi-automatic process that occurs when early psychological blockages are resolved by a primal experience (i.e. the feeling of “primal pain”).

See also

Web links

Wikiquote: Insight  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Insight  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Insight. In: Georgi Schischkoff (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary. 14th edition. Alfred Kröner, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-520-01321-5 , p. 144.
  2. ^ Friedrich Nietzsche : Götzen-Twilight or How to philosophize with the hammer . 1889 KSA 6.
  3. a b Peter R. Hofstätter (Ed.): Psychology . The Fischer Lexicon. Fischer-Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1972, ISBN 3-436-01159-2 ; (a) to “Friedrich Nietzsche”, p. 275; (b) on “Insight according to Gestalt theory”, pp. 164, 210 f.
  4. ^ Wilhelm Karl Arnold et al. (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Psychologie . Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1996, ISBN 3-86047-508-8 ; Insight as a result of a nervous organizational process see Lex.-Lemma "Insight": Col. 434.