Monday, December 28, 2009

Describing our inner experience...

Hoffman writes an article describing the work of Russell T. Hurlburt, who tries to record the mental life of individuals by fitting them with a beeper that randomly prompts them to record whatever is in their awareness several times a day. The resulting mental freeze-frames are remarkably diverse. His research indicates:
...that there are a lot of people who don’t ever naturally form images, and then there are other people who form very florid, high-fidelity, Technicolor, moving images,...Some people have inner lives dominated by speech, body sensations or emotions, and yet others by “unsymbolized thinking” that can take the form of wordless questions.
Their is the point that:
...after-the-fact interviews should be treated with caution: one cannot assume the subjects will be honest, or that they are not twisting their answers to conform with their own biases, or telling the experimenter what they think he wants to hear, or simply filling in details they forgot.
Stephen Kosslyn, a professor of psychology at Harvard notes:
The experience sampling work is a reasonable first step, but only that; the claims need to be followed up and backed up by objective studies.

It may be that turning introspection into a science is as impractical as “trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks,” as William James wrote in 1890.

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