Maybe on several occasions we have thought deeply about a situation or problem that we are not able to find a solution to, usually spending a lot of time trying to find the solution without success, and all of a sudden it came to our mind in a sudden way (sometimes feeling this solution much simpler and simpler than the whole process we were doing). This situation is not uncommon, existing in all of us and even in other animal species.
The phenomenon in question, much more important than it seems at first glance, it’s called insight. And that’s what we’ll be talking about throughout this article.
The concept of insight
The concept of insight is a bit complex on a theoretical level, although in practice we have all experienced at some point a situation in which we have used it. It is seen as a glimpse of that ability or faculty through which we can become aware of a situation, relate the situation we are living in, or think about or understand a solution. This experience or phenomenon is this corresponds to the idea of achieving something, appearing as a sudden understanding experienced as a kind of revelation after trying (in general) to understand or resolve the situation in question.
This understanding suddenly arises, being the product of an unconscious activity that suddenly reaches consciousness and involves the emergence of a solution, the generation of strategies to achieve it or different and new view of the situation and problem compared to the immediately preceding perspective, Get an overview of the situation. The feeling would be similar to suddenly finding a way to connect all the pieces of a puzzle.
Insight presupposes the existence of some cognitive ability, as it requires realizing what we previously knew and what we have accomplished, as well as the ability to generate a mental picture of the situation. It also requires the ability to observe and understand the fundamentals of the situation and the ability to establish partnerships and strategies. It may make you think it’s a human thing, but the truth is that has been observed in other animal species, Being especially known in the case of chimpanzees.
Phases of knowledge
While the insight is designed as the generally sudden experience of being aware of a situationMethodology or way of solving a problem, the truth is that several authors propose the existence of several identifiable phases through which we can see their performance. In this sense, we can distinguish the following elements.
1. Mental block
This first phase refers to a situation or problem to which the person is unable to respond or is unable to identify, be in a blocking situation to overcome it.
2. Restructuring the problem
Process by which one tries to solve the problem, which gives start to the impasse and to the unsuccessful attempts to represent it and to solve it and goes through the modification and works to vary the conception or the interpretation of the situation in order to solve it . Various cognitive skills and resources are used.
3. Gain a deep understanding
This phase is when deep knowledge and understanding of the situation emerges. It is an understanding that appears unconsciously, not being a direct product of the cognitive process followed so far.
The last phase of insight would be the conscious perception of the person understand as something sudden and appearing clearly in consciousness, Feeling this a bit sudden and unexpected. This moment is experienced with surprise because there were no stimuli or elements to predict or directly explain the reason for the advent of this sudden understanding.
5. Learn through insight
One of the contexts in which insight is most evident, and one of the points where it was first identified in other species, is that of learning, especially that needed to solve problems. In this way Wolfgang Köhler described the existence of this ability even in apes through various experiments in which the monkeys had to find the solution to a problem.
Acquiring new repertoires of behavior and knowledge suddenly after reaching a comprehensive understanding of the situation is called insight learning. This phenomenon is extremely adaptive, and is also linked to creativity as it allows us to generate new problem-solving strategies, previously non-existent.
Applied in psychopathology
Talking about insight involves achieving something. And although we usually think of the existence of an overview in small details or when solving a specific and practical problem, this concept is also applicable to other situations or areas.
One of them, particularly relevant, it has to do with mental health. And it’s common for the clinic to talk about the capacity for insight in terms of realizing the state of their mental faculties or their cognitive, behavioral, or emotional state. This aspect is very useful in the treatment of any mental or cerebral disorder or illness, as it allows for self-observation of the existence of difficulties and to identify the need for treatment.
The capacity for insight can be impaired in many situations, not being aware of affected people who have difficulty (to the point that a subject may not realize that he has become blind, or for example in cases of dementia who have problems with memory or other faculties) or symptoms such as restlessness and mood swings, hallucinations or delusions. And we don’t necessarily have to talk about psychopathology, because insight it can be altered by the experience of traumatic situations, Persistent strong emotions or various concerns that prevent us from realizing the existence of problems or self-needs.
In cases where there is a lack, deficit or lack of insight, it is necessary to work on this situational awareness, as allows the existence of mental flexibility and autonomy, And that it is valued for example to show the need for help or a specific treatment (for example, to show that hallucinations or delusions are self-generated contents and not real stimuli, or the need for treat-).
- Seguí, V. (2015). Insight in Psychology. ISEP training.