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A-ha Moment, Gut Instinct, Insight, Knowledge, Intuition: Epistemology in Psychology

Uploaded 1/10/2024, approx. 40 minute read

Today we are going to discuss insight, intuition, gut instincts, aha moments, epiphanies and other delicacies.

You know the aha moment, like when you watch one of my videos and you say, aha, this guy is a narcissist.

This in clinical terms, and aha experiment.

But where is it coming from?

How did this realization crystallize and materialize suddenly out of nowhere, apparently, in your mind?

And what's the difference between motivation and knowledge?

How are we motivated to learn?

And once we are motivated, what kinds of learning processes are at our disposal?

This is a topic of today's video.

And it is much more interesting than the boring introduction.

Let me reassure you.

Aha moments, gut instincts, insight, knowledge, intuition, aha experience and aha experience is the emotional reaction that typically occurs at the moment of sudden insight into some problem or some puzzling issue.

Aha moments or aha experiences are usually preceded by a period of pondering, contemplating, analyzing, thinking.

Even if this process is largely unconscious, it goes on in the mind and it leads directly to the aha experience or aha moment.

But it's important to understand the aha experience is not cognitive.

It's emotional.

It's very interesting to realize this.

It's actually, actually the emotional reaction to clarity of mind.

It is the experience that one would have when one realizes, for example, how to fix something, how to master something, how to resolve some difficulty, or when one gains a new perspective, a new point of view about anything, a political event, a good friend who turns out to be fake, your wife, I don't know, whenever you gain a new perspective, new point of view, you usually experience an aha experience.

Now, in psychotherapy, the therapist tries to lead the patient towards aha moments.

Aha moments are the culmination of the therapy.

It's the point at which the patient becomes self-aware or a point at which the patient acquires a synoptic view, is able or she is able suddenly to connect what until then appear to be disparate, unrelated.

So this is called the synoptic view.

Similarly, an aha moment has to do with perceiving your life, events in your life, your environment, all around you, interactions you've had in a new light.

But it's not an incremental or gradual new light.

It's not like more of the same.

It's a subversive new light, totally new, new light.

There's a novelty element in there.

And so there's also a feeling of risk.

It's a bit disorienting.

You don't know for a minute there, you're not sure about the foundations of your universe.

Everything looks a bit shaky and fuzzy.

So insight into motives, cognitions, effects, behaviors, social interactions, other people, events, past, present, the future.

All these lead to a momentary, momentary dissociation.

Now it's a very bizarre kind of dissociation because cognitively there is a leap.

It's a kind of leap of faith, like in religion.

That's why it's called epiphany.

So there's a leap of faith.

You transition from point A to point C without having gone through point B. There's nothing in the middle.

You're here, suddenly you're there.

This is of course a great definition of dissociation.

There's a memory gap.

And your emotional reaction to this is on the one hand exhilarating.

You're exhilarated.

And on the other hand, a bit unsettled, a bit ill it is, discomforted.

So we can generalize and say that aha moments, insights in general, epiphanies in the old language of religion, they are ego-distonic.

They create ego-distony and they require a reduction of anxiety.

They generate anxiety.

And so they lead to behaviors that ameliorate or mitigate or reduce anxiety, including by the way obsessive compulsive behaviors, but not only.

Reframing for example, is another type of mental mechanism or mental exercise intended to reduce the anxiety incumbent upon insight or epiphany or an aha experience.

Prior to the 18th century, prior to the 17th century, this was called epiphany.

Epiphany was a sudden perception of the essential nature of oneself, of other people, of reality, and of course of God.

And epiphany on the way to Damascus.

Now we tend to confuse all these.

We confuse insight with intuition, intuition with knowledge.

This is a God-awful confusion and especially of course as usual online.


So some, here are a few pointers, a few points you need to always remember.

Number one, some people like narcissists, psychopaths, borderlines, paranoists, schizotypals are incapable to connect cause with effect emotionally.

Of course these people are capable of connecting cause and effect cognitively.

As I said in another video, some of them are scientists, some of them are judges, some of them are lawyers.

They know the connection between event A and it's inevitable or probable outcome, consequence.

They realize all this crime and punishment, experiment and result.

They know this cognitively, but they have no emotional resonance because generally these people have no emotional resonance period.

For example, the narcissist and the psychopath, they have a cold empathy, which is a combination of cognitive empathy and reflexive empathy, but they don't have emotional empathy.

They realize the facts about other people, but they don't react to these facts emotionally.

Similarly, they realize causes and effects.

They even know that cause A leads always or most of the time to consequence B, but they don't resonate emotionally with this information.

So in Freud's terms, they lack insight.

Now here's the irony.

These people who suffer from causal chain disorders, inability to establish chains of causation from cause to effect emotionally, these people while lacking in insight are usually very rich in intuition.

That's why cold empathy is very effective.

It's the equivalent of an X-ray, a mental X-ray.

They scan you and they immediately spot all your vulnerabilities, all your the hot button topics and so on and so forth.

The chinks in your armor, they know how to penetrate, how to invade you, how to entrain you, how to captivate you, how to bond with you, traumatically.

So all this is because in people who are emotionally unable to process chains of causes and effects, there is a compensatory emphasis on intuition.

They compensate with intuition for their inability to emotionally connect causes and effects.

And so they are very rich on intuition.

The problem with intuition, of course, is that half the time, and by the way, that's the number, half the time intuition is wrong.

So very often psychopaths and narcissists are wrong about other people, about the environment, about circumstances, about situations.

And in this sense, they resemble people with autism spectrum disorder.


One thing that always amaze me is the fact that no one bothered to apply the best of my knowledge, no one bothered to apply the child developmental model, the model of childhood development, to the acquisition of knowledge, to epistemology.

Epistemology is the field of study, especially in philosophy, that deals with knowledge.

How do we acquire knowledge?

How does knowledge emerge inside us?

Does it come from the outside?

Is it the outcome of experience or something else?

Are we born with templates of knowledge?

And so on.

All this is connected to epistemology.

No one bothered to implement the very powerful model of psychodynamic child development, or psychoanalytic even child development, to epistemology.

And I want to try to do it here for the first time, to my knowledge.

The model is divided in four parts.

There are four stages to this model.

Internalization, interjection, identification, and incorporation.

Whenever the child comes across another person, it could be initially mother, then its father, maybe grandmothers, then role models, like teachers, then peers, and so on and so forth.

Whenever the child comes across another human being, the child reacts and cycles through these four stages.

The first stage is internalization.

The child reproduces external relationships, external interactions, as intra-psychic processes.

The child creates internal psychological processes that mimic, resemble, and reflect the child's interactions with others out there, external objects.

The same applies to knowledge.

Whenever we come across a piece of knowledge, however neutral, by the way, it doesn't have to be emotional.

It doesn't have to provoke in us some massive dramatic reaction.

Any piece of knowledge, any piece of knowledge, it's raining now, or it is Wednesday.

Whenever we come across such a piece of knowledge, we immediately create an internal complement, an internal process that reflects the way we have come across this bit of information.

The next stage is interjection, the generation or creation of an internal object to represent the external object that the child is interacting with.

And this is, of course, how we go about processing information, data, knowledge.

We create internal objects that represent the information, represent the data, represent the knowledge that we have just acquired.

Moreover, every new piece of knowledge forces us, causes us, sometimes coerces us, to rearrange all the previous internal objects in order to generate a theory, a hypothesis, or a narrative that would accommodate all of them without contradiction, without internal or external inconsistency.

The next phase is identification.

When the child identifies with the external object, the first external object, or meaningful external object is, of course, mother.

She is the primary object, the primary caregiver.

The child identifies with her, and later on the child learns to apply the same process of identification to everyone else in his life, of our life.

So identification is intended to create self-deception.

I am the object.

Therefore, I can never lose the object.

Identification is intended to allay, to ameliorate, to mitigate expected, catastrophized, anticipated object loss.

Similarly, identification is a mechanism that children use in order to reduce anxiety provoked by conflict and hostility with an external object.

They identify with the external object that causes the anxiety, causes the conflict, causes the hostility, generates the enmity.

They identify with this object, and then they become one with this object.

At that point, of course, the conflict abates, and the anxiety is much reduced.

Similarly, when we come across a new bit of information, we identify with it.

We appropriate it.

The new information becomes part of us.

This new knowledge is us.

From that moment, the moment you acquire new data, these data are you.

We're going to present this information or knowledge of data in the future as if it is emanated from you, as if you were the source.

And I'm not talking about plagiarism by certain YouTube personalities.

No, not in this case, at least.

I'm talking about the normal process of acquiring and then assimilating and integrating knowledge, information, data.

The last stage is incorporation, where the child perceives the internalized, identified, introjected object as somehow separate from itself.

So while the three previous phases, or at least two of the three previous phases, push the child to merge with the object, to fuse with the object, to form the equivalent of symbiosis with the object, become one and the same in order to reduce conflict, reduce anxiety, and so on and so forth.

The last stage restores reality testing.

That point, the child realizes that the object that it had identified with, the object that it had introjected, the object that it had incorporated, I'm sorry, internalized.

This object is not him.

The child now, in the grip and the throes of reality testing, acknowledges the externality and separateness of the external object.

And this is known strangely as incorporation because the foreign object, the external object, is assimilated but still retains its separateness and externality.

And this is, of course, what happens to knowledge.

At first, we kind of consume it.

We internalize it.

We introject it.

We identify with it.

But then we wake up, kind of wake up.

And we realize that there is us and there's the knowledge and we are not one and the same.

I think this model applies perfectly to epistemological processes.

I keep talking about intuition and insight and this and that.

I think it's time to disambiguate and to define.

Insight is a clear and sudden discernment, sudden realization about something.

It could be a solution to a problem.

It could be some trait or characteristic of yourself that you were unaware of.

It could be putting two and two together about someone else and realizing something.

But it has to be sudden.

It has to be discernible.

It has to be a kind of illumination or enlightenment.

And it has to be obscure, not obvious, not obvious so that it sheds a new light on dark corners that you've never visited before.

In this sense, insight is very reminiscent of dreaming.

It's a kind of dream state.

The difference between insight and dreaming is that in dreams we use the language of symbols.

Symbols stand in for external situations, other people, daily experiences and so on.

So insight is a cognitive emotional process that uses language.

So it's a linguistic artifact, uses language and not symbols.

The language is not symbolic but is concrete.

If we put all these elements together, it's easy to prove that insight is an autistic process.

It involves concrete thinking and concrete speech and it involves a bit of detachment from reality.

It's a bit of a dreamlike state, involves dissociation and so on and so forth.

Therefore it's extremely reminiscent of most autistic processes in high functioning auctists.

So insight usually comes after a long period of time.

It's very rare to acquire insight suddenly on the fly with nothing to proceed it.

That's intuition.

That's exactly the difference between intuition and insight.

Intuition erupts on the scene without any antecedence or precedence, anything leading to it, anything that preceded it, it's just there, suddenly there, suddenly you know.

Insight is the culmination, the apotheosis, the epitome of a long, long process, hard work, an attempt to somehow resolve something, gain new understanding, reshape a world view and it's a process that has been stuck for a long time.

You keep cycling, you keep ruminating, you keep obsessing about something and then suddenly it resolves itself.

Suddenly and that is very reminiscent of quantum mechanics where we have what we call the collapse of the wave function.

There are multiple probabilities where we are unable to tell in advance which one of them will materialize and become a particle, an elementary particle and then at a given moment when we observe something, when we direct our attention, when we are focused like a laser beam on for example a laboratory experiment, suddenly all these probabilities vanish and the elementary particle appears and this is called the collapse of the wave function and of course this is exactly what's happening with insight but not with intuition.

Intuition is, to carry on the quantum mechanic example, intuition is more like tunneling coupled with entanglement but I will not go there.

So how does this come about? Why is it that for a day or a week or an hour or a month or a year we've been trying to solve something, we've been trying to gain a new perspective on some situation, we've been trying to decipher and decode another person and we have been failing, we have failed for protracted long periods of time and suddenly we have the perfect answer in all these elements and ingredients and components ready to serve, ready made, why did it take so long? What did we need to go through in order to gain insight?

There are numerous theories about insight, numerous. For example, more recently, I'm not talking about Freud right now who was the first to try to make sense of insight but he didn't have much insight about insight by the way.

But much more lately in the 1990s there were I think two psychologists, one was Robert Sternberg and the other one was Janet Davidson and Sternberg and Davidson proposed a theory and they divided insights into three groups.

The first group was selective encoding insights. These are used to distinguish relevant from irrelevant information. The second type was selective comparison insights. These are used to distinguish what information already stored in your memory, in your long term memory is relevant for the problem that you're tackling or your attempt to understand something.

And the third type of insight is selective combination insight which is used to put together the available information so as to formulate a solution to a given problem.

So a kind of reframing or reconstructing or reinventing or rearranging information so that when you put it together suddenly there's some kind of synergy, an epiphenomenon, an emergent phenomenon.

This emergent phenomenon, this emergence is insight.

So one could tackle, one could consider insight as a mental or psychological emergent phenomenon. Exactly the same way that cognitions emerge from the brain there's a lot of activity that on the face of it is random or crazy multiple unit activities, neurons firing left right center and then suddenly out of all this mayhem and chaos rigorous structured orderly thinking emerges.

Same with insights it seems the same happens with insights. It's kind of you put everything in the mixer and you just let it tumble around and then the pieces fall into place and a new thing emerges.

Insight therefore exactly like intuition is not 100% traceable, cannot be reverse engineered.

While intuition cannot be reverse engineered at all it's very difficult to trace the roots and the processes that have led to intuition although Edgar L and Paul did a great job in some of his detective stories.

But it's impossible to do this, it's a little less impossible to do it with insight because with insight you have the boundary conditions, you have the opening conditions, the definition of the problem for example and then you have the solution.

Problem with insight is that you don't have the middle stages, the middle phases are missing, in intuition everything is missing but in insight the middle stages are missing.

So insight in psychotherapy is when there is awareness of underlying sources of emotional, cognitive, behavioral responses, difficulties in relationships with oneself and so on so there's awareness of all this.

It is the awareness itself that is insightful.

Now insight must possess a cognitive component and an emotional component in order to be effective, in order to have any impact or influence in modifying behaviors, in reducing anxiety, in altering states of mind, in healing and recovery in order to have any kind of insight.

Cognitive alone is not enough. Even if you know everything there is to know about narcissism, hint hint, it won't help you, you will still be a narcissist.

So knowledge, information, data, cognitions are not enough to induce transformation and change and emotional correlate and emotional resonance is needed.

Some emotional reaction to the cognitions, to the knowledge, to the information and these emotions are the ones that generate internal dynamics that lead to a kind of metamorphosis.

And this realization underlies quite a few fields in psychology, the need for emotions.

That's precisely why it's extremely difficult to induce any kind of healing, however partial, any kind of cure when it comes to narcissism, psychopaths and a variety of other people with specific mental health disorders because these people, they are divorced from their own emotions.

Not everyone has emotions, narcissist, psychopaths, everyone has emotions. But these people are divorced from their emotions in a variety of ways.

The narcissist has no access to his positive emotions because he's terrified that if he were to reject the positive emotions, he would have to endure the negative ones as well.

The psychopath probably has a lack of positive emotions altogether.

So these people don't have emotions and because they don't have emotions, they cannot gain true transformative insight.

The insight is perceived as transcendental coming from the outside and in this sense, irrelevant. It's like reading a book, even reading a book, a healthy person reading a book could be transformed. This will never happen with the narcissist and psychoanalytic because there is nothing there. It's a void. Nothing resonates inside them. Nothing induces them or encourages them or incentivizes them to change.

So insight learning is a cognitive form of learning that involves a mental rearrangement or restructuring of elements in a problem to achieve a sudden understanding of the problem, a new way to look at it and arrive at a solution or a resolution or a new comprehension, something new.

And insight learning was first described by Wolfgang Köhler in the 1920s. But insight learning is not the same as insight. Narcissists and psychopaths could engage in insight learning, but they never gain insight. It has no impact on them, no effect.

And that leads me to the beginning of this lecture.

When I told you that it's not enough to know that cause A leads to effect B, that event C results in consequence D, it's not enough. You need to truly believe it. You need to be emotionally invested in this sequence, in this chain of causation, chain of being. You need to react emotionally to the anticipated consequences, for example, by developing a fear reaction, which is absent in psychopathy or by becoming anxious.

But if you don't truly emotionally believe because belief is emotional, if you don't truly believe that in your particular case, misbehaving would lead to punishment, then you would misbehave. Even if you know cognitively, even if you have all the information in the world that your particular brand, your particular type of misbehavior always leads to severe punishment, you would still misbehave.

You would still, I don't know, commit a crime because you don't really believe in this.

It's a bit like people who don't really believe in God, but they follow the strictures and edicts and doctrines of religion.

So in the case of narcissists and psychopaths, insight learning is possible, but not insight therapy. Psychotherapy, insight based psychotherapies, depth, like depth psychoanalysis, similar. These therapies are based on the theory that a client's problems cannot be resolved if the client doesn't gain self-understanding, if the client doesn't become aware of the origins of the problems.

And in psychoanalysis, in psychodynamic psychotherapies and so on and so forth, there's a lot of work done on rendering the client self-aware, self-conscious, self-analytical.

However, there is a wall here, the wall of emotionality. If you are not, if you are not privy to your own emotions, if you don't know how to manipulate or experience your emotions, nothing will happen. With all the self-awareness in the world, with all the self-consciousness, with all the dedication and the commitment to change your behaviors on a regular basis or permanent basis, nothing will happen in the long term because your emotions are not there. The emotions are the gatekeepers of personal development, core identity, emotions and memories. They are crucial in maintaining a sense of who you are, your sense of self, and a kind of internal cathexis, internal emotional investment and internal commitment in guaranteeing the best favorable outcomes in your life by not harming yourself and not harming others at the same time because harming others always has bad consequences, period. It's utilitarian, there's no morality here, but narcissists and psychopaths are incapable of any of this, any of this because they are not driven by emotions, they're driven by algorithms, optimizing algorithms, goal-oriented algorithms. This is robotic, this is machine-like. When you interact with other people and you're a machine, your outcomes are likely to be unfavorable, not optimal, suboptimal performance. Your performance is not going to be up to scratch because people are driven by emotions, not by cognitions, and if you're incapable of doing emotions, then you're doomed, you will never be self efficacious. Even if for a period of time you get rich, you get lucky, you get famous, you get elected to office, you get, I don't know what, you don't. You're doomed because ultimately you don't read people correctly and you don't read people correctly because you are incapable of insight.

Now I told you that people who are incapable of insight compensate with excess intuition. They come to rely on their intuition, they believe that they have the most perfect common sense and that their gut instincts are never wrong and they substitute rational, structured decision-making, they get rid of it, and instead they act on their gut feelings.

Why did you do what you, why did you choose this course of action?

Because I felt like it, I felt it was the right thing to do.

So they sound as if they are hyper emotional but actually they're not. This has nothing to do with emotions, this is intuition, intuition is an immediate perception, not a result of conscious reasoning, reflection, analysis, gathering information, reasoning, which is the only way to obtain favorable self efficacious outcomes.

Narcissists and psychopaths dispense with all this, Bipolars, others, they dispense with all this.

They say I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard, I don't need anything. I'm intuitive, my intuition and it's almost quasi-mystical, it's like a mystical experience. It's misidentified with instincts, with emotions, where intuition is not an emotion, is not an instinct. And it leads down a path which is very bad.

There are minimal sense impressions, intuition rejects sensor, rejects input from the via the senses. There's minimum consideration of conscious forces, epistemic forces for example, knowledge, an emphasis on the unconscious. The unconscious would lead you and would never lead you astray, the unconscious knows best.

And this is of course nonsense. Intuitionism is a belief that knowledge is obtained primarily by means of intuition.

And so there's a tendency of people to prefer to think and to reason and to remember by processing inexact memory representations rather than by working logically from exact representations.

And we have something called the fuzzy trace theory which was proposed by psychologist Charles Brainard and Valeriy Rainer. Brainard and Rainer, R-E-Y-N-A. And it's known as the fuzzy trace theory.

The fuzzy trace theory is a very interesting theory because it combines insights which deal with the issue of intuition versus reasoning actually. The theory proposes that information is encoded on a continuum. There's a continuum of information starting with precise literal memory representations. These are called verbatim traces and all the way to gist-like imprecise representations and these are known as fuzzy traces.

With verbatim traces, less easily accessed. Generally verbatim traces require more effort to use and they are more susceptible to interference and forgetting than fuzzy traces.

The theory proposes that developmental differences in many aspects of cognition can be attributed to age differences in encoding and to differences in sensitivity to what is called output interference, disruption in the recall of learned material during which the act or process ofis not even sometimes fully conscious and definitely cannot be reduced to any logical chain of reasoning, any syllogism.

And narcissists and psychopaths are actually intuitionists. They are not reasonable people, as you all know.


Okay, so this is like a general background.

I may dedicate a whole video to fuzzy trace theory. It's fascinating.


But back to intuition.

So these people say I don't need to learn, I don't need to reason, I don't need to gather information, I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard. My intuition is god-like and it's never wrong. I can rely only 100%. This is called intuitive judgment. A decision reached on the basis of subjective feelings that cannot be easily articulated is not even sometimes fully conscious and definitely cannot be reduced to any logical chain of reasoning, any syllogism. And narcissists and psychopaths are actually intuitionists. They are not reasonable people, as you all know.


Okay, so this is like a general background.


I may dedicate a whole video to fuzzy trace theory. It's fascinating.


But back to intuition.

So these people say I don't need to learn, I don't need to reason, I don't need to gather information, I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard. My intuition is god-like and it's never wrong. I can rely only 100%. This is called intuitive judgment. A decision reached on the basis of subjective feelings that cannot be easily articulated is not even sometimes fully conscious and definitely cannot be reduced to any logical chain of reasoning, any syllogism. And narcissists and psychopaths are actually intuitionists. They are not reasonable people, as you all know.


Okay, so this is like a general background.


I may dedicate a whole video to fuzzy trace theory. It's fascinating.


But back to intuition.

So these people say I don't need to learn, I don't need to reason, I don't need to gather information, I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard. My intuition is god-like and it's never wrong. I can rely only 100%. This is called intuitive judgment. A decision reached on the basis of subjective feelings that cannot be easily articulated is not even sometimes fully conscious and definitely cannot be reduced to any logical chain of reasoning, any syllogism. And narcissists and psychopaths are actually intuitionists. They are not reasonable people, as you all know.


Okay, so this is like a general background.


I may dedicate a whole video to fuzzy trace theory. It's fascinating.


But back to intuition.

So these people say I don't need to learn, I don't need to reason, I don't need to gather information, I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard. My intuition is god-like and it's never wrong. I can rely only 100%. This is called intuitive judgment. A decision reached on the basis of subjective feelings that cannot be easily articulated is not even sometimes fully conscious and definitely cannot be reduced to any logical chain of reasoning, any syllogism. And narcissists and psychopaths are actually intuitionists. They are not reasonable people, as you all know.


Okay, so this is like a general background.


I may dedicate a whole video to fuzzy trace theory. It's fascinating.


But back to intuition.

So these people say I don't need to learn, I don't need to reason, I don't need to gather information, I don't need to study, I don't need to work hard. My intuition is god-like and it's never wrong. I can rely only 100%. This is called intuitive judgment. A decision reached on the basis of subjective feelings that cannot be easily articulated is primarily reflected in motivation.

These kind of people are motivated to engage in cognitive activity. And very often, they are driven to engage in cognitive activity that exceeds their actual ability to engage in cognitive activity.

So this creates frustration. This gap, this discrepancy between the addictive or compulsive need to deal with cognitions, to process cognitions, to immerse oneself in a sea of cognitions, ocean of cognition, and the lack of ability to do so, this creates a lot of frustration.

And one of the compensatory mechanisms for this discrepancy for this gap and the frustration that it yields, one of the compensatory mechanisms is narcissism.

When the actual ability or capacity is lower than the wish, than the need, than the addiction, one way to address the imbalance is to exaggerate the capacity, which is exactly what narcissists do.

Another solution is known as aggression. Dolered in 1939 came up with the frustration-aggression hypothesis. He said that frustration often translates to aggression.

So that's another.

And we see this in psychopathy. We are beginning to see that in both psychopathy and narcissism, there is a problem with the capacity for insight.

While the cognitive side is relatively developed, the emotional side is thwarted, impoverished, shriveling, and this creates a gap.

And then to compensate for that, the narcissism psychopath emphasize intuition and claim to have superior cognition. They say, I don't need emotions. I don't need insights. I have intuition and I have a genius mind.

But of course, in the vast majority of cases, these claims are untrue and they lead frustration, which leads, which results in grandiosity as a compensatory mechanism, a cognitive distortion, and/or aggression in the case of psychopaths, to some extent borderlines.

So individuals high in the need for cognition tend to develop attitudes or take action based on thoughtful evaluations of information, multiple sources of information.

So if you want to learn more about this, the need for cognition, you should read work by Cacioppo, C-A-C-I-O-P-E, sorry, O, and Richard Petty, P-E-T-T-Y.

The need for cognition underlies several epistemic processes. Epistemic is, the adjective epistemic means related to knowledge. Epistemology, as I told you, is a science of knowledge. How do we know? What do we do with knowledge? How do we arrange it, process it and so on?

So epistemic has anything to do with knowledge. There is an epistemic drive created by the desire for knowledge. And it's considered widely to be a fundamental drive.

We need to know things. If you don't know things, you get eaten by a tiger or you end up listening to some Vaknis videos, which is much worse than being eaten by a tiger.

So epistemic drive is fundamental. It is actually perhaps the first drive in a child, maybe equivalent to food, hunger, thirst, comfort. I don't know. There's no proof of that. I'm speculating. But I think the need to know is as great, as strong and as defining as the need to be seen. It's a survival thing, survival strategy.

So epistemic value is the extent to which the theories with which we create the models, the cognitive processes, our sense of perception, our memories, even our identity.

To what extent are these capable of providing accurate knowledge? You see, when we are exposed to the world as newborns, we first go through a phase of symbiosis and then we begin to realize the externality of the world. And we gradually develop an internal working model and a theory of mind, a theory about other people, what makes other people tick.

And these are theories. They start as hypotheses and then the more information, more data accumulate, the more resilient and rigid they become.

And then they become models and theories.

But to what extent are these models and theories useful? To what extent is this knowledge accurate? Even more philosophically, does knowledge need to be accurate in order to be self efficacious? Do we need to have precise knowledge in order to garner engender, generate favorable outcomes acting on the environment and acting in the environment, we wish to maximize benefits, maximize favorable outcomes. Do we need precise, accurate knowledge for this? Or would any kind of knowledge do?

And is there such a thing as counterfactual knowledge, knowledge that contradicts facts? For example, is a conspiracy theory a form of knowledge? Because if it is, then it is self efficacious.

And indeed, ask people like Alex Jones and others, they made a fortune out of conspiracy theories. So their knowledge was not accurate. And that is the understatement of the century.

But it was self efficacious. So the epistemic value of our models, theories, cognitive processes, perceptions, memories, knowledge, epistemic value is not necessarily dependent on truth value. We are creatures of made of dreams, we're made of dreams, we're creatures of fantasy.

We often act within paracosm and virtual realities that we create in our minds and include other people. So the knowledge we possess doesn't have to be scientifically verifiable or falsifiable. Our models do not have to succumb or obey the scientific method. They just have to work.

And in some environments, for example, religion is better, much better, much more self efficacious to possess knowledge which is inaccurate and false.


Epistemic value is also the attribute of any theory or process that is considered to be a sign of the theory's ability to convey knowledge. Theories are like vehicles or containers, they pass on knowledge.

So for example, falsifiability, the criterion of falsifiability, every theory should produce predictions. And these predictions can be falsified. So not proven, but falsified. Never mind how many, how many predictions are proven, it still doesn't prove that the theory is right or truthful. But when you falsify one of the predictions, you know the theory is wrong.

So the critical thing is falsifiability, empirical grounding to reflect all the cumulative experiences that we have. These are important epistemic values in science, not in religion, not in daily life, not in a relationship of narcissistic abuse. This is important to understand.

Epistemic value depends crucially on context, on environment, on other people, on circumstances, consistency, clarity. These are epistemic values when it comes to memory and identity, but not necessarily in science.

So this is epistemic value and this leads to epistemology.

The epistemology, as I told you, is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature, origin and limitations of knowledge, justification of truth claims. And it started long ago with René Descartes.

And ever since the 17th century, in Descartes' work, this is the main thing. You know the famous sentence, "Cogito ebusum," "I think therefore I am." Think.

This is epistemos, this is an epistemic statement.

In psychology, the interest in epistemology is twofold. First of all, we study behavior of human beings. So we have interest in processes of knowledge acquisition and learning. Learning is very, very emphasized.

Starting in 1985 with the work of Baddeley and Hitch, social learning theory, learning is a fundamental pillar of modern developmental theories.

And we cannot understand learning if we don't grasp or define or somehow tackle the issue of knowledge. We cannot do this without epistemology.

Second, as a science or pseudoscience, whatever way we want to look at it, psychology has an interest in the justification of its own claims for knowledge. So when a psychologist makes some claim and pretends, in the vast majority of cases, it's a pretension, by the way, that this is knowledge, he has to justify it epistemologically. He has to explain how did he come across this knowledge? What in his own thinking could have biased him or prejudiced him, etc., etc.

So this is also a reason to be interested in epistemology. And to this day, there are quite a few psychologists who study knowledge and knowledge acquisition and limitations and processing and so on. They are epistemologies within psychology and they focus on the scientific method and the justification of scientifically derived claims of knowledge within psychology, which is a hopeless enterprise. Psychology is not a science, will never ever be a science because of its raw material human beings. And therefore, any claim to the contrary is pseudoscientific.

But still, there's quite a large body of psychologists who pretend otherwise. And today, when you study psychology in universities and so on, the emphasis is on neurobiology or statistics, as if psychology was some kind of branch of medicine. It's nonsensical, utterly nonsensical.

But this is the case.

So the guiding epistemology of psychology is empiricism. In other words, experimentation, knowledge derived from experience.

And this is in contrast to previous schools of psychology, such as psychoanalysis, Jean Piaget's developmental psychology, humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers, and so on.

So all these schools emphasize rationalism, observing and learning the human soul, not populations, not statistics, not neurobiology, but simply often one on one so that you delve deeper.

And in this sense, psychology is indistinguishable from literature. And so this is the situation nowadays with psychology.

And I think it helps us obstructs the proper learning analysis and study of knowledge, insight, intuition, and similar phenomenon.

When you pretend to be a scientist, some things are off the table. There's no serious study of intuition, for example.

However, all these tools are therapeutic. One can use the practice of therapy, intuition, and insight, and knowledge of a variety of diverse types, including counterfactual knowledge, one can use them in order to induce some kind of change, or even healing.

Gut instincts are crucial, aha moments. They all lead to some kind of disruption of the equilibrium.

Therapy is about enhancing anxiety, increasing anxiety, because it rocks the boat, it unsettles the homeostatic equilibrium that the patient is in. It kind of shakes the patient into a new state, a new state of mind.

And in this process of increasing anxiety, we need to afford the patient, provide the client with tools to cope with anxiety, anxiolytic tools, the two strongest among which are intuition and insight.

And if we deny them or ignore them, what good is psychology at all?


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