Introspection: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Melissa Doman

Melissa has a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology and has taught undergraduate level psychology and lifestyle wellness community courses.

The phrase 'I need to think about that' describes a process called introspection. A famous term in psychology - introspection is when someone pays attention to their own thoughts/beliefs to understand themselves better. Introspection is unique to you and no two forms of introspection are alike.


Introspection is when you think about your emotions, motivations, thoughts, and behaviors. It's also a great way to develop a higher awareness of not only yourself and how you tick, but also how you perceive the world around you. Everyone is introspective in day-to-day life without even realizing it.

How It's Done

Introspection is frequently used in the counseling process. During counseling, clients are encouraged by their therapists to examine their own beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to find out who they are and how or why they are reacting to what they're going through. Introspection can benefit people that do it on a regular basis who 'check-in' with themselves on how they feel about something.

Introspection can be done in a variety of ways. You have freedom of choice. Whether it's going to talk therapy, journaling, or just thinking by yourself - do whatever works best for you. The process can change and grow for you as time goes on - that's the beauty of it! Has something really big ever happened in your life that shocked you, created a major change, or left you speechless? Well, if it has, you were most likely introspective after it happened. After these events, you probably asked yourself questions like, 'Why did I react that way?' or 'Why am I so bothered by this?' By asking yourself these questions, you're in the introspection process and trying to sort things out for yourself.


Introspection has been present in history all the way back to ancient Greek philosophy, eastern Buddhist practices, and different forms of spirituality for centuries. Schultz & Schultz (2011) noted that introspection finally made its way into modern western psychology through philosophers and psychologists around the 18th century, such as German philosopher/psychologist William Wundt (also known as the Father of Psychology) and British psychologist Edward Titchener (one of the brightest original minds of experimental psychology).

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