Types of knowledge

Knowledge can be defined as a series of ” stored facts “. All humans are capable of storing facts or information for retrieval at a later date, we do this through cognitive processes such as categorization, memorization, contextual recall, and logical reasoning. There are 14 types of knowledge and below we will detail them one by one followed by a practical example so that you understand them perfectly.

14 types of knowledge

Knowledge after the fact

A posteriori knowledge is the knowledge that we obtain directly from our own personal experiences . A posteriori in Latin means “what comes after.” So when we talk about posterior knowledge, we are talking about knowledge that comes after having had some experiences. It is the result of our own actions. Some types of knowledge are not experiential. The theoretical, abstract and mathematical knowledge , for example, is derived from the abstract or logical reasoning rather than direct observation.


  • In philosophy: philosophers like existentialists and humanists tend to believe that posterior knowledge is superior to theoretical knowledge. They reject the idea of ​​a God or higher power because it cannot be observed in the real world. Others may disagree and argue that they have after-the-fact experiences of God every day of their lives when they see the beautiful world God created for them.
  • In education: many theorists of social constructivism believe that a posteriori knowledge is excellent for learning because it helps students develop neural pathways. Learning by doing, experimenting, and discovering is also popular in 21st century educational approaches such as phenomenon-based learning, problem-posing education, and play-based learning.

A priori knowledge

A priori knowledge is the opposite of a posteriori knowledge. It is the knowledge and facts that exist without the need to experience it . You can reach your conclusions only by reason. An example is: 1 + 1 = 2. You can solve this without getting two separate things and placing them in front of your eyes to count. You use your A Priori knowledge of mathematical principles to solve it!


  • In Philosophy: A Priori means “what comes before” in Latin. It was a term commonly used by philosophers, including Emanuel Kant in Critique of Pure Reason, to reach philosophical conclusions. Many philosophers believe that A priori knowledge is a superior form of knowledge because it is objective and can be derived independently, without context or bias.
  • In Science, Architecture and Engineering: Many great scientific, architectural and engineering feats have been achieved through A Priori knowledge. For example, the engineer may order the construction of a multi-million dollar bridge and can be confident that she will retain the weight of trucks and cars because she has used her prior knowledge of physics to ensure that the bridge will support her weight.

Dispersed or distributed knowledge

Dispersed knowledge is knowledge that no person has the ability to see in its entirety . Knowledge is scattered or spread among many different people. If we want to gather a lot of knowledge to achieve something great, we need to assemble a team of experts in different subjects to contribute their knowledge and achieve our goals.


  • In surgery. Your surgeon may be an expert on hearts, but could not perform the surgery without other specialists and anesthesiologists who have knowledge and perspectives in which the surgeon is not trained.
  • Running a business. When a small business reaches a certain size, the business owner realizes that he cannot possibly do all the tasks himself. They are not experts in accounting, but accounts must be kept. They are not marketing experts, but there are marketing experts out there. So, they hire an accountant and a salesperson. The business flourishes, despite the fact that no one person in the business has all the various skills and knowledge sets necessary to run the business on their own.
  • Google search . The Google search algorithm that decides who will rank # 1 in a Google search is said to be not known or understood by a single person. Many people have contributed over time and know different characteristics of how it works, but no one has all the knowledge about it just in their brain.

Expert or domain knowledge

Domain knowledge is deep knowledge about a particular domain or discipline . We could also call it expert knowledge. A person with domain knowledge is incredibly knowledgeable within their discipline, but may have general knowledge about everything else.


  • University education. After compulsory education ends, many people continue to study at university. When we go to college, we have the opportunity to specialize in a specific domain: perhaps it is Computer Science, Communication Studies, or Teaching. Many of these college degrees are concerned with developing domain-specific knowledge rather than generalized knowledge (with the possible exception of liberal arts degrees).
  • Industrial Revolution. Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing by creating the factory line based on the domain knowledge theory. Instead of getting five people to build five different cars, he got a different group of experts to work on each one. One person was an expert on wheels, another on engines, and another on the body. By developing experience, these people became very efficient in building their part of the car, and the cars were manufactured at a much faster rate.

Empirical knowledge

Empirical knowledge is the knowledge obtained through the senses . It is different from A posteriori knowledge because empirical knowledge must be experienced only through the senses. It cannot be a metaphysical, reflective, dream or other a posteriori experience.

Here’s a quick summary of that distinction:

  • Hindsight : knowledge derived from any experience.
  • Empirical knowledge: knowledge derived from observable experience through the senses.


  • Investigation. Most of the research (both qualitative and quantitative) is empirical. If you read research in a magazine article, it will report something that was observed, such as responses to interviews or responses of research participants to a test.

Encoded Knowledge

Coded knowledge is knowledge that has been recorded in symbolic codes . This makes the knowledge easily retrievable by people who know how (or have tools to help them) decode that knowledge at a later date. We could also call it “stored” knowledge.


  • Written language. We encode knowledge when we write it, and anyone who can read our “code” (that is, anyone who can read in Spanish) can decode it later.
  • Traffic signs. We have also created generalizable codes on our road signs. Red light means “stop”, green light means “go”, and so on.
  • The Rosetta stone. In 1799, archaeologists discovered the Rosetta Stone. It is a stone dating from 196 BC and contains inscriptions written in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Ancient Greek, and Egyptian demotic script. Because all three inscriptions had the same information in different languages, the stone helped scientists decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs. This unlocked access to all other Egyptian texts written in hieroglyphics and allowed us to decode the encoded knowledge of the Egyptians.
  • Digital information. Knowledge can be encoded in binary data that is stored on digital devices such as cloud computers and USB drives. To decode knowledge, computer software is required to convert those binary 1s and 0s into code that we can understand, such as written words, spoken words, or pictures.

Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is knowledge that you have but cannot express . A person with tacit knowledge has generally had that knowledge for so long that they cannot remember how they learned it or why it is true. They are simply aware that it is useful and accurate knowledge that exists in their mind.


  • Practicing knowledge. Many skilled practitioners know how to do things intuitively. A skilled vet knows how to connect with a horse and calm their nerves, but may not be able to explain how they can develop that relationship so quickly. An experienced teacher may be able to publicize a problem situation in a classroom, but cannot really explain to their apprentice teacher how they did it.
  • Digital natives. Digital Natives are children who have grown up around computers their entire lives. They will get a new piece of software and will almost intuitively know how to manipulate it and find hidden features (much faster than their parents!). When asked, the digital native may not be able to tell you why they knew a function was under a certain drop-down menu – to them, it seemed obvious to look there!
  • Emotional intelligence People with high emotional intelligence know how to communicate with people so that they feel welcome and comforted. They know how to network and make friends quickly. However, they may have a hard time explaining how they do it to their friends.

Explicit knowledge

Explicit knowledge is the opposite of tacit knowledge. It is knowledge that can easily be explained to strangers . It is knowledge that we could quickly encode into words and express to others.


  • User guides and manuals. A user guide will walk someone through how to use a product explicitly step by step.
  • Recipes. Similarly, a recipe can explain how to do things one after another.
  • Guided teaching practice. This is a teaching strategy that involves guiding students through a process methodologically. Once the student has explicitly modeled the knowledge, the teacher steps back and lets the student practice applying their new knowledge without support.


Metaknowledge is knowledge about knowledge . Everything we know about knowledge (like how it works, how to classify it, how we lose it, how to get it) is considered metaknowledge. Everything in this article is meta-knowledge – it’s information about knowledge!


  • Taxonomy:  A taxonomy is a model for classifying things. A famous taxonomy of knowledge is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which describes the different depths and levels of knowledge that people have. Another type of knowledge taxonomy is Biggs’s SOLO taxonomy.

Imperative (or procedural) knowledge

Imperative knowledge is “knowing how.” It is the knowledge on how to carry out tasks effectively . This may involve specific steps or a general understanding of the process by which something is accomplished. Some people keep the secrets of their imperative knowledge close to their chest, like when a grandmother passes a family recipe to her granddaughter.


  • Standard operating procedures in business. Most project managers in large companies establish standard operating procedures. These are the procedures that people must follow to achieve business objectives.
  • Secret recipes. KFC’s famous herbs and spices are said to generate their specific ‘unique flavor’ from the processes in which they are cooked. This procedural knowledge is highly classified and is the intellectual property of KFC.

Descriptive (or propositional) knowledge

Also known as propositional knowledge, descriptive knowledge is “knowing that” something is true (rather than “knowing how” to do something). Descriptive knowledge can be learned through memorization and does not require significant practical experience in the field. In contrast, imperative knowledge (“knowing how”) generally requires practical skill in a task.


  • In education. The teaching pedagogies of the twentieth century, such as behaviorism, focused exclusively on descriptive knowledge. Students learned facts through passive learning, without having the opportunity to apply them to the real world.

Situated knowledge

Situated knowledge is knowledge that arises from a specific context, community, or culture . It is a specific knowledge of that situation and difficult to understand from outside that perspective. All of us have situated cultural knowledge. This is the knowledge that we have inherited from our cultures. Others may have different knowledge that has grown up from different cultures and you may find it difficult to understand your knowledge from the perspective of your “stranger.”


  • Cultural anthropology. Anthropologists and sociologists often need to locate themselves within a culture to understand the cultural perspectives and understandings they are observing. As outsiders, they may find situated knowledge, ritual, and activities a bit strange.
  • Education. Lave and Wegner’s situated learning theory advocates that students should learn within the context in which knowledge is applied. For example, someone should hire an apprentice as a baker’s helper to learn how to bake bread, rather than learning it from paper.

Known unknowns

When we have “known unknowns,” we are aware that there is something we do not know or understand . Known unknowns are generally within our grasp because we understand what we need to learn and can search for answers. This is in contrast to the unknown unknowns, which are not even within our own horizon of consciousness and therefore we cannot look for answers.


  • Confusion. When new information is presented to us but causes confusion, we realize that we do not know enough about it. This can lead us to do research to find the answers.
  • Curiosity. When we come across something new, it can make us curious. Then we will investigate because we are aware that we do not know much about it.

Unknown unknowns

The unknown unknowns are pieces of knowledge that we do not have and that we also do not know that we do not have . This is information that may be beyond our comprehension and, indeed, beyond our wildest dreams. It has never crossed our minds that unknown unknowns are a possibility.


  • Theoretical physics. Many theoretical physicists are very open about the concept of unknown unknowns. 200 years ago, the idea of ​​a concept called “gray matter” or “string theory” was simply unknown and unknowable. Scientific knowledge was not advanced enough to even be on his radar. Science educators like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bryan Cox often refer to unknown unknowns as why scientific research is so exciting.
  • Religion. Many religious people can differ to unknown unknowns as things that are in the kingdom of God, not men. The things we don’t know that we don’t know are things that are in God’s hands.

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