To delve into the term “reflection” from the point of view of Psychology, it would be of interest to first look at the meaning of the word in the field of Physics : “return to the medium of wave propagation material particles that affect the boundary surfaces of that one. ” Dictionary of synonyms and antonyms (1995). Barcelona: Editorial Océano p. 735.)

At first glance there seems to be no link between the concept of “reflection” in Physics and the notion of “reflection” in Psychology. However, it would be necessary to reflect (worth the redundancy), in this regard. In this regard, we want to give some indications in the following sections of this text.

The use of this term in various fields

The word “reflection” in everyday language is synonymous with thinking, reasoning, speculating, pondering, judging, discussing, examining, deepening, analyzing, talking to oneself, meditating , etc., and vice versa (for example, “talking to oneself” is synonymous with “reflection”) Meanwhile, “thoughtful” is synonymous with reflective, self-absorbed, absorbed, abstracted, introspective, contemplative, and so on.

Note that if you compare the concept of “reflection” in Physics and that of “reflection” in general (with its synonyms), there is a common denominator .

And what is that common denominator? Well, it happens that in both cases there is a back and forth movement … while the phenomenon occurs, whether it is waves that return and return or ideas that come and go (reflective ideas).

The surface on which ideas are reflected is the very consciousness that produces them . For this reason, “reflecting” implies a rebound process; but also of feedback of ideas and, at this point, the physical notion of “reflection” distances itself from the fundamental question dealt with here.

Human reflection has qualitative elements of a cognitive nature , in a complex arborescent fabric. But it has to do with that pendulum notion of going back and forth: a certain feedback is necessary, an exchange, it is not a one-sided thing.

When an idea is imposed, then there is no reflection. That is one of the keys to understanding this concept. And it is worth saying that it is one of the premises from which reflection in psychology is studied .

Reflection as a mental activity

This same article is a reflective construct on “reflection.” What is reflecting? It seems then that it is a mental activity that has the purpose of thinking and weighing about something, something or one or more issues.

Reflective thinking

Going a little higher in this reflection on “reflection,” reflecting “and its derivatives, Piaget’s ideas are precise and adequate. It must be borne in mind that this psychologist took great pains to see the reflective process from childhood, which is why he understands it as something continuous and developing.

For the psychologist, reflective processes in humans appear around seven or eight years of age, when children think before undertaking any action, taking place the difficult behavior of reflection. It is worth highlighting a new component: the “behavior of reflection”.

Moreover , for Piaget , “reflection is nothing more than an internal deliberation, that is, a discussion carried out with oneself just as it could be carried out with several real or external interlocutors or opponents.” (Piaget, Jean (1991). Six Psychology Studies , Barcelona: Editorial Labor, p. 57).

Reflection understood as a social behavior

Consequently, “reflection” is a social behavior of discussion, even if it belongs to the interior sphere (in the same way that thought implies an interior language and, therefore, internalized).

Correspondingly, many times the discussion takes precedence with that ordinary norm that the subjects always end up applying the behaviors acquired according to the other subjects, “or that the socialized discussion is nothing more than an externalized reflection.” (Ibid, p.57). To be strict, human behavior is at the same time social and individual, so it is difficult to find an order in what has been stated above.

The reflective capacity in the adult mind reaches the level of “formal thought”, of a “hypothetical-deductive” character.

This is how reflective thinking capable of deducing the conclusions that must be drawn from mere hypotheses, whose validity, that of the conclusions, is independent of their authenticity. In these terms, thinking is the free activity of spontaneous “reflection”.

From the above, another condition follows. The idea that reflection is something spontaneous. It is that thought that appears before things. Unlike analysis, which is more determined to a goal, reflection is what the mind emanates from something.

Not surprisingly, many times people say: “something happened to me that made me reflect.” That is, something that works as a trigger for the reflection to appear. Therefore, in psychology it is often evaluated as that spontaneous thought.

Reflection is essential

That said, “reflection” is by its very nature a human quality . Along with language, it is the rational construct necessary (but not indispensable) to inhabit the world individually and socially.

It is interesting to see reflection as a social construct . It cannot be denied that societies induce a certain way of thinking in their members. Likewise, it is a way of relating between people . All members of a group tend to think alike.

From the above, it follows the importance of language . It is said that language is a way of expressing the world … but it is also a way of understanding it. The latest trends in 20th century philosophy argue so (such is the case of Foucault or Habermas).

Relationship between language and reflective processes

Written language is the reverse of oral language . Understanding of all reflection comes at the expense of words and their syntax.

Written language, as is the case in this article, is an indispensable instrument for transmitting what previously belonged to the field of inner “reflection” that precedes it.

First it becomes ” talking to oneself ” and then it is written. In this case, a mental eraser is used, because the computer has eliminated the paper erasers.

And that mental draft of language (which is nothing other than the action of reflective thought and silent reflection) is the internal language. Inner language plays the role of a mental eraser not only in writing, but also in oral language.

On inner speech and inner reflection

In this sense, the so-called “internal speech” is intimate reflection . And the most relevant thing is that between externalized and internal reflections there is a constant intermediation; reflective operations constantly pass from one instance to another.

When the internal language is more similar to the external language , it is more related to behavior, being able to configure a form totally similar to it when it intends to become an external language.

For example, the dissertation on a topic that is prepared for a conference. Here we can see a total continuity between the internal and external ” behavior of reflection “, recalling the expression already mentioned.

Understanding reflection as an operation of verbal thought , it can be affirmed that there is a close link between thought and language. In other cases, belonging to non-verbal thought and non-intellectual language, the link is distant and they do not maintain causal relationships.

We thus see another feature of reflection: the need to express oneself. For this he uses a language. The interesting thing about language is that it can condition the same form of reflection. 

What does the above mean? Well, many times it is reflected on having language as a kind of mold . It is a curious situation, although the acceptance of this circumstance has been a bit late: it is an assertion typical of the late twentieth century.

The functions of the reflective process

The proper function of “reflection” is not to contradict, rather it is to anticipate and interpret the experience , although it is not exempt from it.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that thought has two dimensions, “lateral” and “logical “, which define the multi-vector function of the act of thinking. And by extension, both dimensions are consubstantial to the act of reflecting.

In other words, thought – which Piaget calls “reflective” – ​​is the sum of two powerful subjective capacities:

  • First, the ability to reflect laterally , creatively, holistically. That is, a thought that can not only create a reality but change the existing one.
  • Second, there is the ability to reflect in terms of developing a criterion or judgment simultaneous to the conception of ideas, in which the empirical validity of each notion is fundamental.

Reflective thinking is not only of interest to Psychology, it is also of interest to Philosophy, because this is by definition the living activity of thought and reflection on this thought, or doing and talking about it.

Philosophy and the notion of reflection

In ancient times, it was said that Philosophy is the thoughtful effort to achieve happiness. However, philosophy is also concerned with the idea of thinking correctly .

An emblematic case is the notion of syllogism and other modes of thought that were thought of as perfect. This idea to think properly reaches the modern period. With Renato Descartes , it reaches its maximum expression, thus emerging the branch of philosophy known as rationalism.

The idea of ​​” I think, therefore I am ” is a prop in this regard. This is how the idea of ​​reflection has remained a matter of interest. Psychology has not been left behind in this, being one of its fields of study.

In conclusion

It is practically unlikely to live a normal life without talking to yourself , without inner reflection; without weighing the good and the bad for himself or for others. Every adult person and in his full judgment, goes through processes of self-recognition, through reflective mechanisms, which reorient or determine their present and future behaviors.

Talking about the importance of reflection (of reflecting) necessarily leads to its definition as a process of rebounding and feedback of ideas.

It is the self-absorbed confrontation , or with oneself (or) that takes place in the mind. When the details of a situation are weighed, such as the convenience of forming a family, accepting a new job, creating a company, studying for a university degree, professing a religion other than that of the parents, etc.

It cannot be denied that reflective thinking is there to indicate to us, based on our own and others’ experience, which are the most appropriate possibilities.

Fortunately, the human mind is a malleable system. People can always reflectively readjust to new experiences.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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