Time, Experience, and Descriptive Experience Sampling

Journal of Consciousness Studies 18 (1):118 - 129 (2011)
This rich book, the best I’ve read in consciousness studies, offers more at each encounter. It was a brilliant idea to evaluate Hurlburt’s Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) method through concrete sceptical enquiry by Schwitzgebel, whose role as open-minded but hard-nosed interlocutor makes the debate an intriguing, even gripping read. The radically different views about introspective reports held by the two authors (hereafter Russ and Eric, following the book’s informality) are put to the test in the concrete context of ‘an examination, in unprecedented detail, of random moments of one person’s experience’ (p. 11).1 In addition to the ongoing central pursuit of the general question ‘Can we believe people’s reports about their inner experience?’, a raft of more specific issues (from the speed of an ‘inner voice’, through theories of emotion, to the indeterminacy of images) are addressed as they arise in the sampling interviews. The book’s excellent organization, using in-text boxes linked by detailed crossreferencing into indexed threads, reinforces the thrilling sense that our access to the inner life of one person, ‘Melanie’, is bringing real progress on a number of fronts at once. Eric’s robust scepticism remains, but is tempered somewhat by being forced to confront the real constraints and opportunities of gathering information from a live subject. By the end of the project, he accepts that Russ’s ‘beep-andinterview methods’ deserve a central role in introspective science (p
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    Inez Myin-Germeys & Erik Myin (2004). Getting Real About Experience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):801-802.
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