Theoretical Foundations of the Psychology of the Possible



This article analyzes the field of science that studies the entire spectrum of phenomena in the psychology of the possible. Why only today did we start talking about a new field of psychology, the psychology of the possible? Its novelty lies in the new emphasis on the possible as unexpected, incredible, and improbable. In the psychology of the possible, at one pole of the understanding of psychologists is the adaptive possible, based on past experience, and on the opposite is the possible as a preadaptive phenomenon (understanding of events that are not causally related to the ontogenesis of the subject). The connecting link between these poles is the idea of the sought-for in human thinking, the prediction of the initially unknown when solving the problem. In the psychological analysis of personality, on the left pole of the “conscious — unconscious” continuum, there are alternative possible selves conscious of the subject and therefore enumerable, on the right — personality as an existential mystery. The theoretical and methodological foundations of the psychology of the possible were analyzed in detail — the philosophy of the possible M. N. Epstein, the historical and evolutionary concept of preadaptation to uncertainty by A. G. Asmolov with colleagues, scientific ideas about the uncertainty of the human world. The concept of possible thinking, which analyzes different options and alternatives of the possible, is disclosed and substantiated in detail. At the end of the report three large groups of phenomena in the psychology of the possible are analyzed: the phenomena traditionally studied in psychology that relate to the possible (affordances, anticipation, and others), the phenomena of the sought-for, and the understanding of the possible as a preadaptive phenomenon that characterizes unstable situations, the occurrence of which cannot be predicted.

General Information

Keywords: possible, forecasting, desired, emerging, impossible, unthinkable

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology of Psychology

Article type: scientific article


Received: 02.02.2022


For citation: Znakov V.V. Theoretical Foundations of the Psychology of the Possible. Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University. Psychology, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 122–131. DOI: 10.21638/spbu16.2022.202. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


Modern psychology: theory, education, practice

Information About the Authors

V. V. Znakov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor, Senior Researcher, Development Laboratory, Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:



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