Difference Between Knowing and Understanding

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Knowing and Understanding

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There are different ways in which we can perceive things. One such instance can be seen in using the two terms, ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’. Understanding is impossible without knowledge. However, possessing knowledge does not always imply understanding of a larger story, which is the true purpose of gaining information. Knowing generally means taking in information, reading about it, grasping different kinds of ideas from various sources, etc. Information gathering can be termed as knowing. However, understanding, on the other hand, is quite different from knowing. It is having that knowledge and being able to think about the application of that knowledge. It is more of a conceptual piece that takes into account various things. It is a more complex concept than simply knowing certain things, such as how knowledge conceptualizes in different situations, with different people, in different settings, in different environments, and so on. It is hence seen that there exists a thin line between knowing and understanding when looked at from the psychological perspective, and hence we need to know these minute differences while learning about the two terms.

Knowing vs. Understanding

The key difference between knowing and understanding is that knowledge can be defined as competence along with the skill that is obtained by an individual either through his personal experiences or through reading different articles and books. Knowledge contains different facts and data about different topics about which an individual is certain. It entails the retelling or recollection of basic data and information from the past. On the other hand, understanding, on the other hand, is related to the psychological functions and processes related to the human brain. It is something associated with individuals, circumstances, objects, or any ideas that require the person to think and apply that concept to a particular situation. Understanding is more deeply associated with the mental abilities and performance of the brain and psychology. For instance, we know that exercise is good for physical as well as mental health. That is our knowledge of the particular subject since we have read it somewhere or maybe we know it through our experiences. But, understanding the different benefits that exercise provides, or the different types of exercise for different body organs, requires some time to deal with.

Differences Between Knowing and Understanding in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison Knowing Understanding
Meaning Knowing means skill acquisition. It means taking in information, reading about it, grasping different kinds of ideas from different sources and so on. It implies mastery of a skill. On the other hand, understanding is a mental process related to the brain. It is more of a conceptual piece that takes into account various things.
Depth It is cosmetic. It is deeper than knowledge because it requires more time to process the information and understand them.
Psychological relation Knowing something is related to the mind. Understanding, on the other hand, is related to the brain and its functions.
Relation Knowing is static referring to judicious facts. Understanding is an active process which describes the ability to analyse and place those facts in the wider world.
Point of growth Knowing is the endpoint of growth. Understanding is the starting point to growth.
Awareness Knowing is the awareness that something is the situation or the case. Whereas, understanding is the awareness of why or how is the situation or the case.
Nature Knowing is momentary. Understanding is permanent.

What is Knowing?

Knowing is being completely conscious of any data, occurrence, act, or someone acting. Observation, cognition, interaction, affiliation, and thinking are all involved in attaining knowledge. It may also refer to the capacity to apply a certain object or topic to a specific goal. The mind processes all material, and to comprehend it is to be comfortable with it. The information is subsequently sent to the brain by the mind.

Knowing something is just like knowing the wind. It can not be just gathered, controlled, or held. It generally relates to facts or things that can be observed or seen. For instance: students may know what protons and neutrons are after they study them in their science class. They may also be able to identify them when asked to do so. But they’ll generally be unable to state their purpose in an atom. They may be familiar with the terms, but they may be unaware of their application or value in various atoms, or they may be unaware of the explanation for it. It is therefore a shallow approach to gaining information in which the user may not actively engage their brains to absorb and interpret the information they have obtained. This is knowledge or knowing that only deals with surface meanings and not deeper meanings.

Some Specific Ways of Knowing

There are various ways of knowing. The most important ones are as follows:

  1. People can acquire knowledge or can learn about a particular thing or object with the help of language. Hence, language is one way of knowing about all kinds of stuff.
  2. Through logical reasoning, it is also possible to know various things. Reasoning gives an individual the freedom or the right to choose from a variety of information available around us. Thus, logical reasoning also contributes to the development of our knowledge or helps us know anything better and in a more rational way.
  3. Faith is yet another way of knowing. This is because, without faith or belief, there would not be any meaningful cognitive content. Gaining knowledge about certain objects or things is of utmost importance.
  4. Intuition is another cognitive way of knowing a particular thing. This is because intuition, or the concept of instinct, is necessary for guessing a particular thing right. Without instinct, no human being can attain knowledge. It is already present in the cognitive areas of the human being. Thus, with just a little effort in our innate capabilities, we can increase our chances of acquiring knowledge about different subjects.
  5. Through mental representation, it has become very easy for human beings to imagine all kinds of stuff. While reading about a particular description in any book, it is ideal that we kind of imagine the description in the back of our minds. Imagination helps in improving the already present knowledge within us and also makes things easier to perceive.
  6. Memory is another way of improving the skills of knowing things. If we can recall from past learning or experiences, then we should be sure of attaining the height of knowing things. Because memory leads us to the past and the occurrences that happened in bygone days, remembering them or being able to recall them in the present day helps in building our knowledge capacities.
  7. Observation is another way of attaining the required knowledge from any source. If we keenly observe any person or thing, we will surely learn a lot more about them than any other.

Thus, it is seen that among the many major levels and steps that are followed to gain knowledge about anything, knowing about that particular thing always stands at the forefront. Because it is only after knowing things that comprehension, explanation, understanding, etc., follows. This may be why it is so important for an individual to never stop studying anything just because they know about it.

What is Understanding?

Understanding normally involves having a sense of different things or comprehending them. It is essential to put good knowledge into action and put it to good use. It is something that is psychological too and involves some stern methods. Understanding is a faculty not just of the mind, but of the human brain. It is a more complex structure that is described as a "psychological phenomenon relating to an individual, thing, circumstance, or statement that requires an individual to comprehend and apply the concepts to cope with." Understanding, sometimes known as ‘conceptual frameworks’, involves ideation and correlation too.

To comprehend and observe a piece of information or occurrence, one must continue to engage the brain. As a result, it is a more involved and in-depth procedure than just having to know. It is critical for both learners and teachers equally to have a strong grasp of the nature of the content for subsequent application and hands-on experience.

Understanding also sometimes goes beyond psychological traits. Sometimes there can be a disconnection between our head and heart, which is because our minds are fickle. Researchers have found out that it is not uncommon to hold two contrary opinions at the same time. The mind, due to its fickle nature, can hold disharmony and dissonance in the same space. Without having the two ideas clash, Hence, understanding goes beyond surface knowledge. It’s much deeper and hence does not need to be remembered. It is just known deeply and never forgotten. For instance, students who know about protons and neutrons are also able to identify them as well as identify the role that they play in an atom. For the human brain to understand and process this kind of stuff, it must be presented with a similar amount of knowledge regularly.

Different Levels of Understanding

According to the renowned educationist, Benjamin Bloom, there are six different levels of understanding. They are as follows:

  1. The first and most important thing is knowledge. This is because, to understand, it is necessary to first recall the past or prior knowledge of the subject matter.
  2. Comprehension comes second, just after knowledge. This means explaining as well as grasping the fundamental knowledge of the basic information collected.
  3. Application is followed thereafter, which means the capacity to use and apply what we’ve learned and also add new and unfamiliar circumstances.
  4. The analysis is the fourth stage. This entails dissecting the concept and material to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
  5. Synthesis comes after analysis, which generally refers to putting ideas together that are coherent and can be applied in real-life circumstances.
  6. Evaluation is the last and final level of understanding anything. This means checking its relevance for applicability and understanding.

Differences Between Knowing and Understanding in Points

  • Knowing entails mastering a talent. It entails absorbing knowledge, reading about it, understanding various types of concepts from various sources, and so on. Understanding, on the other hand, is a mental activity tied to the brain. It's more of a conceptual composition that takes into account a variety of factors.
  • Knowing is more transparent, and one may not consciously realize the information they have recently acquired. Understanding, on the other hand, is a more in-depth process in which one must actively observe the knowledge and utilize their brain to comprehend it.
  • Knowing is a static concept that refers to prudent information. Understanding, on the other hand, is an ongoing process that represents the capacity to evaluate and contextualize data.
  • Understanding takes a long time to develop, whereas knowledge may develop quickly. When information is supplied, it is promptly processed in the mind, and the individual will then be aware of the issue.
  • Understanding, on the other hand, is being aware that something is the condition or case. On the other hand, is the consciousness of why or how the situation or circumstance is the way it is.
  • Understanding a fact or piece of knowledge may be life-changing, whereas knowing may not have the same impact.
  • For example, when educators actively participate in trying to make sense of mathematics tasks by employing a range of tactics, attempting to justify alternatives, and drawing connections to previous knowledge and experience, they are constructing on notions they already have managed to master and having to learn to understand rather than simply know.


Thus, it is seen that both the terms knowing and understanding are almost similar and are used interchangeably in today’s society despite the minute differences that exist between the two. "Knowing" and "understanding" are ideas that are connected but not the same. Knowing is a different mental state including the intellectual ability to comprehend: knowing is fixed, pointing to memorizing facts, whereas understanding is proactive, indicating the capability to analyze and contextualize that information to construct a wider context. When information is supplied, it is promptly digested in the mind, and the person is then aware of the issue. To comprehend, the mind must be repeatedly exposed to the very same information. The more knowledge the brain learns about a topic, the better it understands it. Understanding is a more involved and in-depth procedure than truly understanding. However, these are connected and interdependent processes in which one must first learn about a subject and then comprehend it through further information and research.



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"Difference Between Knowing and Understanding." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 23 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-knowing-and-understanding-222>.

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