Old Problems with New Measures in the Science of Consciousness

Introspective and phenomenological methods are once again being used to support the use of subjective reports, rather than objective behavioural measures, to investigate and measure consciousness. Objective measures are often seen as useful ways of investigating the range of capacities subjects have in responding to phenomena, but are fraught with the interpretive problems of how to link behavioural capacities with consciousness. Instead, gathering subjective reports is seen as a more direct way of assessing the contents of consciousness. This article explores three different ways of gathering subjective reports that have been discussed in recent literature on consciousness, including immediate retrospection (Schwitzgebel [2007]) and two types of introspective training (Overgaard et al. [2004]; Schwitzgebel [2008]). Although not an exhaustive survey of the range of introspective methods now used, the discussion below highlights a range of general methodological problems with introspective methods, many identified up to a century ago. It is argued that none of the methodological problems established in earlier criticisms of the use of subjective reports have been dealt with, yet are still valid criticisms. Given that this is not the first time proponents of introspective, subjective measures of conscious have failed to answer these criticisms, this raises the question of whether the goal of providing a measure of consciousness is a methodological muddle worth pursuing.
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axs019
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Elizabeth Irvine (2013). Measures of Consciousness. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):285-297.

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