The 16 types of knowledge and their characteristics

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Types of knowledge and their characteristics

"Knowledge" is a term that has different meanings depending on the context, but has something to do with the concepts of meaning, information, education, communication, representation, learning and mental stimulation.

Knowledge, in effect, takes different forms, and it would be reductive to identify it in a single definition: in this Psychology-Online article we will discover together what are the 16 types of knowledge that exist and their characteristics, with the description, examples and a concept map.

You may also like: Empirical knowledge: what it is, characteristics, types and examples


  1. Direct knowledge
  2. Competency knowledge
  3. Propositional knowledge
  4. Explicit knowledge
  5. Tacit knowledge
  6. Built-in knowledge
  7. Theoretical knowledge
  8. Empirical knowledge
  9. Scientific knowledge
  10. Practical knowledge
  11. Formal knowledge
  12. Philosophical knowledge
  13. Religious knowledge
  14. Intuitive insight
  15. Logical knowledge
  16. Mathematical knowledge

Direct knowledge.

We are faced with direct knowledge when a cognitive subject knows someone or something:

requires to have been or be in direct contact with someone or something. It is a fairly frequent type of knowledge: we have personal and direct experience of the people and objects of the world, of our thoughts and our sensations, of so that we can have direct knowledge of our friends, our home, our city, our loves, our pains, our beliefs, our wishes...

Competency knowledge.

Also called skill knowledge, implies having a certain capacity or competence. It is about knowing how to do certain things, such as speaking Spanish, riding a bicycle, playing the violin, etc. It can be both an "automatic" know-how, as in the case of knowing how to breathe, as well as an acquired knowledge, as in the case of knowing how to play basketball.

Propositional knowledge.

It is specified in knowing that a proposition is true. Her radio is very wide, just think about the knowledge that we think we have. For example, I might feel like I know that: the anaconda is a buoy, the downstairs bar is open until two at night, in front of me is the computer screen, Lucia is my friend, etc. Having a propositional knowledge, but it does not necessarily imply having a competency knowledge: we can, for example, know all the propositions related to skiing technique because we learned them from a manual and, nevertheless, we do not know how to ski.

Explicit knowledge.

It is that form of knowledge that in some way can be represented, or better, that can be transferred from one individual to another through a physical medium, such as a book or a movie, or directly through a conversation or a lesson. A documentary, a manual, a course, an encyclopedia... are all containers of explicit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge.

It is the form of knowledge that is most appropriate to us, that is, what we know, although sometimes we are not able to explain it. Not all tacit knowledge is indeed explicit, and when it is, it is not clear that it can be fully so. The "know to do" something is tacit knowledge, as well as that particular form of knowledge we call "intuition." And it is nothing more than the ability to unconsciously use your own experience to solve even very complex problems in a seemingly magical and inexplicable way. Most of the knowledge of an individual or a group of individuals is tacit and cannot be fully or partially explicit. In a knowledge system, therefore, human beings are not simple users, but an integral part of the system.

Built-in knowledge.

It is that form of knowledge that, although explicit, is not immediately reusable, but in turn requires knowledge to be extracted. For example, a process is born from the formalization of an experience, but even being aware of what the steps are to execute it, it can be ignored why they should be executed that way. Only those who have a certain experience can understand why that process was defined that way. An object can have the knowledge incorporated in the ergonomics of the design, or in the realization of its functionalities.

Theoretical knowledge.

Theoretical knowledge is based on a interpretation of reality from references taken by others, or in direct experience, and depends on the communication that one has with the environment. Examples of this type of knowledge are found in scientific research, in philosophical knowledge, and in religious beliefs.

Empirical knowledge.

Empirical knowledge mainly depends on experience: it can only be achieved by getting in touch with the world and actively participating in it. Build a framework of basic rules that help to better understand how it works, and an example of empirical knowledge is knowledge linked to perceptions such as spatial and abstract.

Scientific knowledge.

Scientific knowledge is perhaps the most recognized, for the use of repetition of experiments, and is distinguished from the other categories because it is about verifiable and objective information. He also maintains a rational perspective and draws universal conclusions.

Practical knowledge.

Practical knowledge is obtained by carrying out actions that help to model a behavior; in other words, it depends entirely on the performance of technical exercises. Examples of this type are political and ethical knowledge.

Formal knowledge.

The main characteristic of formal knowledge is that it consists of information from a specific content: it is material or specialized information on a specific topic. An example is the discovery of various drugs and vaccines.

Philosophical knowledge.

Philosophical knowledge is based on the formulation of ideas and conclusions that try to explain the human being and his environment. Reflective, deductive and, above all, critical methods are used. It could be said that it is a type of knowledge that is not content with obtaining only data; its objective is to demonstrate the existence of the same data. An example is Platonic thought, which affirms the existence of two opposite worlds: that of ideas and that of sensible.

Religious knowledge.

Religious knowledge is that which refers to the beliefs and values of a company or a person. Use the information normally obtained transmitting it by tradition, as the origin of the human being through the history of Adam and Eve.

Intuitive knowledge.

Intuitive knowledge depends on perception, because in this way it can be obtained instant information about the environment. It is possible to generate different reactions to the same stimulus, factors such as feelings and personal needs intervene. Therefore, in this case the reason does not prevail. An example is the explanation of how fire burns when it comes into contact with the cells of the body. In this article we talk about the intuition.

Logical knowledge.

Logical knowledge tries to understand ideas according to how they work, but also how they relate to each other. The human reasoning process it consists of a complex scheme of connections, and this is how everyday problems are solved, because ideas are compared and classified. An example of this are the experiments that are carried out to solve everyday problems, such as the verification that water can wet or deteriorate certain materials.

Mathematical knowledge.

Mathematical knowledge has a rational and consistent character, in turn, is linked to the perception of the environment. This knowledge creates a thought that shows exact representations of a reality, based on numerical values ​​and therefore is complex. An example is the Pythagorean Theorem, which deals with the relationships of the sides of a triangle.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Types of knowledge and their characteristics, we recommend that you enter our category of Cognitive psychology.


  • Antonella (2020). Concetto, tipi, esempi e caratteristiche. Recovered from:
  • Vassallo, N. (2003). Teoria della conoscenza. Bari: Editori Laterza.
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