Special Section: On Looking Inward: Revisiting the Role of Introspection in Neuroscientific and Psychiatric Research

Johan A. Den Boer, A. a.t.Simone Reinders, Gerrit Glas

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Much of mainstream psychology and psychiatry has come under the umbrella of cognitive neuroscience and attempts to provide mechanistic accounts of mental processes. On the other hand, therapeutically oriented branches of psychiatry are concerned with giving accounts at a personal, experiential level of explanation. Relating introspective evidence (first-person perspective) to objective (third-person perspective) evidence is a key challenge for psychology and psychiatry and will be of significance for the unification of the two approaches. In this paper we show that in current neuroscientific experiments different forms of introspective evidence are used. Guided introspection inplies a conscious response to an ongoing stimulus. In unguided introspection, subjects are invited to report freely about ‘what it is like’ to be a subject undergoing an experiment. In neurophenomenology, a method is offered to guide reflexive examination of ongoing subjective experience. Some neurophenomenologists presuppose that it is possible to derive phenomenological ‘invariants’ from the analysis of phenomenal experience. We conclude that contemporary neuroscience allows subjective report to be part of its methodology, but that the added value and specificity of the neurophenomenological training remain to be established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-403
Number of pages24
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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