On a remarkably thin base of evidence – largely the spectral analysis of points of light – astronomers possess, or appear to possess, an abundance of knowledge about the structure and history of the universe. We likewise know more than might even have been imagined a few centuries ago about the nature of physical matter, about the mechanisms of life, about the ancient past. Enormous theoretical and methodological ingenuity has been required to obtain such knowledge; it does not invite easy (...) discovery by the untutored. It may seem odd, then, that we have so little scientific knowledge of what lies closest at hand, apparently ripe for easy discovery, and of greatest importance for our quality of life: our own conscious experience – our sensory experiences and pains, for example, our inner speech and imagery, our felt emotion. Scientists know quite a bit about human visual capacities and the brain processes involved in vision, much less about the subjective experience of seeing; a fair bit about the physiology of emotion, almost nothing about its phenomenology. Philosophers began in earnest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to describe and classify our patterns of conscious experience. John Locke, for instance, divided experienced “ideas” into those that arise from sensation and those that arise from reflection, and he began to classify them into. (shrink)
You live your entire waking life immersed in your inner experiences – private phenomena created by you, just for you, your own way. Despite their intimacy and ubiquity, you probably do not know the characteristics of your own inner phenomena; neither does psychology or consciousness science. Investigating Pristine Inner Experience explores how to apprehend inner experience in high fidelity. This book will transform your view of your own inner experience, awaken you to experiential differences between people and thereby reframe your (...) thinking about psychology and consciousness science, which banned the study of inner experience for most of a century and yet continued to recognize its fundamental importance. The author, a pioneer in using beepers to explore inner experience, draws on his 35 years of studies to provide fascinating and provocative views of everyday inner experience and experience in bulimia, adolescence, the elderly, schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, virtuosity and more. (shrink)
This study provides a survey of phenomena that present themselves during moments of naturally occurring inner experience. In our previous studies using Descriptive Experience Sampling we have discovered five frequently occurring phenomena—inner speech, inner seeing, unsymbolized thinking, feelings, and sensory awareness. Here we quantify the relative frequency of these phenomena. We used DES to describe 10 randomly identified moments of inner experience from each of 30 participants selected from a stratified sample of college students. We found that each of the (...) five phenomena occurred in approximately one quarter of sampled moments, that the frequency of these phenomena varied widely across individuals, that there were no significant gender differences in the relative frequencies of these phenomena, and that higher frequencies of inner speech were associated with lower levels of psychological distress. (shrink)
Unsymbolized thinking—the experience of an explicit, differentiated thought that does not include the experience of words, images, or any other symbols—is a frequently occurring yet little known phenomenon. Unsymbolized thinking is a distinct phenomenon, not merely, for example, an incompletely formed inner speech or a vague image, and is one of the five most common features of inner experience . Despite its high frequency, many people, including many professional students of consciousness, believe that such an experience is impossible. However, because (...) the existence of unsymbolized thinking indicates that much experienced thinking takes place without any experience of words or other symbols, acknowledging the existence of unsymbolized thinking may have substantial theoretical import. (shrink)
Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) is a method for exploring inner experience. DES subjects carry a random beeper in natural environments; when the beep sounds, they capture their inner experience, jot down notes about it, and report it to an investigator in a subsequent expositional interview. DES is a fundamentally idiographic method, describing faithfully the pristine inner experiences of persons. Subsequently, DES can be used in a nomothetic way to describe the characteristics of groups of people who share some common characteristic. (...) This paper describes DES and compares it to Petitmengin’s [Phenomenol Cogn Sci, this issue] second-person interview method. (shrink)
Pristine experience is inner experience that is directly ongoing before it is disturbed by any attempt at apprehension; we live our lives immersed in our pristine experiences. I argue that an iterative method -- one that successively approximates the desired result -- facilitates the faithful apprehension of pristine experience. There are four main aspects of an iterative method: the refreshment by new experience; the improvement of the observations; the multiple perspectives on experience; and the open- beginningedness of the process. Because (...) an iterative exploration of experience is open-beginninged, first interviews occupy a unique position in an iterative method. I comment on the transcript of a first interview, showing why and how an iterative procedure is desirable, if not necessary. (shrink)
Sensory awareness -- the direct focus on some specific sensory aspect of the body or outer or inner environment -- is a frequently occurring yet rarely recognized phenomenon of inner experience. It is a distinct, complete phenomenon; it is not merely, for example, an aspect of a perception. Sensory awareness is one of the five most common forms of inner experience, according to our results . Despite its high frequency, many people do not notice its appearance nor recognize its theoretical (...) import. We describe sensory awareness and distinguish it from other aspects of experience. We give examples and discuss how it appears when moments of inner experience are examined carefully. We note that there are large individual differences in the observed frequency of sensory awareness and consider its relationship to mental health and other aspects of psychological functioning. (shrink)
After using descriptive experience sampling to study randomly selected moments of inner experience, we make observations about feelings, including blended and multiple feelings. We observe that inner experience usually does not contain feelings. Sometimes, however, feelings are directly present. When feelings are present, most commonly they are unitary. Sometimes people experience separate emotions as a single experience, which we call a blended feeling. Occasionally people have multiple distinct feelings present simultaneously. These distinct multiple feelings can be of opposite valence, with (...) one pleasant and the other unpleasant. We provide examples that inform theories of emotions and discuss the important role observational methodology plays in the effort to understand inner experience including feelings. (shrink)
I take the opportunity that Froese, Gould, and Seth provide to clarify further , 2011) some aspects of Descriptive Experience Sampling by distinguishing DES from the Explicitation Interview method ; and to comment on Froese and colleagues' suggestion of the Double Blind Interview as a way of evaluating DES, EI, and other methods.
Carruthers views unsymbolized thinking as and, therefore, as a potential threat to his mindreading-is-prior position. I argue that unsymbolized thinking may involve (non-symbolic) sensory aspects; it is therefore not purely propositional, and therefore poses no threat to mindreading-is-prior. Furthermore, Descriptive Experience Sampling lends empirical support to the view that access to our own propositional attitudes is interpretative, not introspective.
This paper has two goals. First, it illustrates how presuppositions present themselves. Second, it amplifies the comment that Russ made 1 about Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons: that their own presuppositions would likely stand toxically in the way of their discovering the important features of agency.
Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) attempts to apprehend in high fidelity pristine inner experience (the naturally-occurring, directly-apprehended phenomena that fill our waking lives, including inner speaking, visual imagery, sensory awarenesses, etc.). Previous DES investigations had shown individual differences in the frequency of inner speaking ranging from nearly zero to nearly 100% of the time. In early 2020, the Internet was ablaze with comments expressing astonishment that constant internal monologue was not universal. We invited Lena, a university student who believed she had (...) constant internal monologue, to participate in a DES analog of a pre-registered study: We would announce, on the Internet, that we would conduct a fully transparent DES investigation and roll out videos of the DES interviews (and annotated transcripts) as they occurred in (almost) real-time, something like “reality TV about inner experience,” so that spectators could examine for themselves our characterizations of Lena and how we arrived at them. We describe here the procedure and its findings: Lena did _not_ have frequent internal monologue (contrary to her expectations); she _did_ have frequent visual imagery (to her surprise); and we speculated about the frequent presence of two simultaneous “centers of gravity” of her experience. The entire procedure is available for inspection. (shrink)