Abstract concepts are ideas and things that don’t exist in physical space. They are contrasted to concrete concepts, which are physical things. The defining feature of an abstract concept is that it cannot be identified through your senses.
Just because they’re not tangible, it doesn’t mean abstract concepts are not real. No one would doubt that things like love, happiness, altruism, wisdom, and foolishness don’t exist.
According to cognitive psychology, children develop abstract concepts during the preoperational stage of development, which begins at about 2 years of age. By about 7 years of age, they have developed sufficient grasp of abstract concepts like time and volume. From 11 years of age and onwards, complex abstract concepts related to morality and social theories begin to develop.
Abstract Concepts Examples
Love is a profound emotional connection and affection towards someone or something. It can manifest in various forms, such as romantic, platonic, or familial bonds.
Justice refers to the concept of fairness, righteousness, and the equitable distribution of law and order. It seeks to ensure that individuals receive what they deserve, whether it’s reward or punishment.
See Also: Types of Justice
Freedom is the state of being free from external control or oppression, allowing individuals to act, speak, or think without hindrance. It can refer to personal, societal, or political liberties.
Truth is the state or quality of being in accordance with fact or reality. It stands in contrast to falsehood and represents what is genuinely the case.
Heroism is the quality of showing great courage, bravery, or determination, often in the face of danger or adversity. Heroes are often celebrated for their selfless actions that benefit others.
Beauty is the quality that provides pleasure to the senses or the mind through attributes like harmony, balance, and aesthetic appeal. It’s a subjective concept, varying across cultures and individuals.
Time is the indefinite and continuous progression of existence, events, and moments from the past, through the present, and into the future. It serves as a measure for durations, intervals, and sequences.
Knowledge is the understanding, awareness, or familiarity gained through experience or education. It encompasses facts, information, skills, and principles understood by an individual or community.
Power is the capacity or ability to influence the behavior of others or the course of events. It can be derived from physical strength, social influence, knowledge, or authority.
Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. It’s the ability to think and act using insight, understanding, and common sense.
See Also: Wisdom Examples
Courage is the mental or moral strength to face and overcome fear, danger, or adversity. It’s the willingness to confront pain, risk, or uncertainty.
Honor is the quality of having high moral standards, integrity, and respect for oneself and others. It’s often associated with upholding one’s principles and reputation.
Morality refers to the differentiation between right and wrong, guiding behavior based on principles and values. It’s often influenced by cultural, societal, or personal beliefs.
Faith is a strong belief or trust in someone or something, often without empirical evidence. It’s commonly associated with religious beliefs, but can also refer to confidence in concepts or individuals.
Hope is the expectation and desire for a particular outcome or event to happen. It provides optimism and motivation in the face of uncertainty or difficulty.
Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. It’s foundational for relationships and interactions, often built over time and can be fragile.
Loyalty is a strong feeling of allegiance, support, or devotion to someone or something. It’s often based on shared experiences, beliefs, or affiliations.
See Also: Loyalty Examples
Destiny is the belief that events in one’s life are predetermined or fated to occur. It suggests a greater power or order guiding one’s path.
Sorrow is a deep feeling of sadness, distress, or grief, often resulting from loss, disappointment, or hardship. It’s an emotional response to adversity or suffering.
Peace is the state of tranquility, calmness, and absence of conflict or war. It can refer to internal serenity or external harmony between groups or nations.
Abstract Theoretical Concepts
1. Cognitive Dissonance (Psychology)
Proposed by Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance theory suggests that individuals experience discomfort when they hold contradictory beliefs or attitudes, especially when their behavior doesn’t align with these beliefs. To reduce this discomfort, individuals might change their beliefs, attitudes, or perceptions of their actions.
2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Psychology)
Developed by Abraham Maslow, this theory posits that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, starting from basic physiological needs to self-actualization. As basic needs are met, individuals move up the hierarchy, seeking to satisfy more complex and abstract desires.
See Also: Guide to Maslow’s Hierarchy
3. Attachment Theory (Psychology)
Proposed by John Bowlby, attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans, especially between a child and a caregiver. It suggests that early experiences with caregivers shape an individual’s attachment style, which in turn affects their interpersonal relationships throughout life.
4. Labeling Theory (Sociology)
This theory posits that self-identity and behavior of individuals can be influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. Being labeled in a particular way, especially in terms of deviance, can influence a person’s self-perception and behavior, either pushing them towards or away from such behavior.
5. Social Constructivism (Sociology)
This sociological theory suggests that many of the categories and identities we recognize, such as race, gender, and nationality, are constructed through societal norms, power dynamics, and structures rather than being inherent, immutable properties. These constructs are seen as products of human choice rather than as objective truths.
See Also: Examples of Social Constructs
Abstract Moral Concepts
Honesty means telling the truth. It upholds trust in relationships. Being honest demonstrates reliability and authenticity.
Respect involves valuing others and their rights. It means treating people as you’d want to be treated. Showing respect fosters understanding and harmony.
Integrity is about being consistent in actions and principles. It means doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Upholding integrity builds character and trustworthiness.
See Also: Examples of Integrity
Kindness is showing care and consideration to others. It’s about being compassionate and helpful. Acts of kindness can make a profound difference in someone’s day or life.
Responsibility means being accountable for one’s actions. It’s about accepting the consequences of what we do. Being responsible demonstrates maturity and dependability.
List of Abstract Concepts
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]