I am coming at this question from the view that the brain is a sort of machine that maintains a structure that is built and modified through experiences. From that structure manifests an individual's model of reality. This model is their explanation, rules, and understanding of how the world works, it helps make inferences forward/backward, it strongly determines their thinking and behavior, etc.

What is a name for this structure? If you could somehow extract it from the brain into a computer then you could predict every thought and action a person would have given a context. Changing the structure would change thinking and behavior.

Some terms I have seen are belief system, worldview, and knowledge base. These don't really seem to fit.

I am looking for a better term. Is there a good fit? Are there any out there in literature?


UPDATE: The assumption I'm coming from is that the brain is a network of data from experience and also contains processes common to everyone. So there are data and processes. Character, ideology, or personal bias seem to both be some subset of data and processes. I'm looking for the word that describes only the data and all of it. The assumption is that within some context the various processes and data result in thinking, behavior, inference, etc. I'm looking for the word describing only the data. Perhaps the mental processes are common to everyone, but the data is what allows the processes to give unique results.

UPDATE 2: Looking at the "worldview" wikipedia page I see the following: "..Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it." This probably works if the data I refer to is equivalent to "framework of ideas and beliefs". Any thoughts?

Update 3: The idea of "sense data" is useful and helps explain what I had in mind. To me it appears sense data is raw data, unanalyzed. Automatic processes in the brain then filter, organize the sense data, create associations to other data, create additional data, etc. Basically, the brain structures the data to make it useful and meaningful.

Essentially, what I'm looking for is a term that refers to sense data that the brain stores and the additional organizational, associative structures and data that make the information useable and meaningful. Basically, its the data and model of reality the individual uses to think and act. Experience is like a constant collection of data and the brain mines it for rules, associations, etc that can help in navigating the world, thinking, acting, surviving. The senses are like sensors on a robot and the brain is like the computer trying to create an internal model of the world it is navigating so that it can survive and make better decisions in future situations. (I imagine the internal model contains the sense data because future experience can give past data different meaning). Is there a word for that model in humans? Or something really close?

4 Answers 4


An ideology is often used. You could also use personal bias.

It refers to the concepts and such that a particular person is "tuned" into. Or the "weights" of his/her personal bias w.r.t. what kinds of things he/she considers as true. So e.g. an immigrant might have an "anti-racist" ideology. A white and physically fit person might have a suprematist bias.

Biologically speaking I would add "neurotransmitter levels" too though. If a person is pissed it doesn't necessarily mean that the person is evil, but he/she has low serotonin.

  • Perhaps that is in the right direction. I added some nuance to in an update. See up top.
    – vergilvsyn
    Jun 13, 2021 at 5:23

The word is character.

"Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it will become your destiny."

-attributed to various people, but original author unknown


Regarding your updated "I'm looking for the word that describes only the data and all of it.", it seems the terminology sense data proposed by representationalists such as Russell is what you are seeking according to reference here:

The theory of sense data is a view in the philosophy of perception, popularly held in the early 20th century by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, C. D. Broad, H. H. Price, A. J. Ayer, and G. E. Moore. Sense data are taken to be mind-dependent objects whose existence and properties are known directly to us in perception. These objects are unanalyzed experiences inside the mind, which appear to subsequent more advanced mental operations exactly as they are.

Bertrand Russell heard the sound of his knuckles rapping his writing table, felt the table's hardness and saw its apparent colour (which he knew 'really' to be the brown of wood) change significantly under shifting lighting conditions.

The idea that our perceptions are based on sense data is supported by a number of arguments. The first is popularly known as the argument from illusion. From a subjective experience of perceiving something, it is theoretically impossible to distinguish perceiving something which exists independently of oneself from an hallucination or mirage.

  • This is helpful. It allows me to better explain what I had in mind. See update 3.
    – vergilvsyn
    Jun 16, 2021 at 4:48


If you search for a "mental structure" (not a physical structure, but a structure in our minds), it is knowledge, essentially a system of interrelated concepts, which determine behavior.

This is why knowledge is a "mental structure":

Knowledge allows modeling the world and acting in consequence, being survival the main drive (in any circumstance, survival is the priority: just choose between going to the cinema or surviving; losing a nail or surviving, etc.). You know that rocks cannot be eaten, so you avoid eating them, damaging your body and ultimately dying. You know that spending time with your children enforces family links, helps them growing their self, which will ultimately help them surviving, etc., so you spend time with them. That is, you use knowledge in order to survive, which allows doing other stuff.

Knowledge is a structure of interrelated concepts/ideas which starts to be developed before being born. Remember they are interrelated. Moreover, a single concept can participate in multiple relationships. Just think in a single concept, like water, and try to see what ideas do you associate with water; for example pool, thirst, sea, boats, etc.

This single example shows how concepts are related: https://www.javatpoint.com/difference-between-inductive-and-deductive-reasoning

There is an interesting tool to represent knowledge as systems and relationships: mind maps: https://learningfundamentals.com.au/resources/

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