Introspection

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Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. [1] In psychology, the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with external observation.

Thought mental activity involving an individuals subjective consciousness

Thought encompasses an "aim-oriented flow of ideas and associations that can lead to a reality-oriented conclusion". Although thinking is an activity of an existential value for humans, there is no consensus as to how it is defined or understood.

Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of warmth" and of sentience in general. In Latin, sentire meant to feel, hear or smell. In psychology, the word is usually reserved for the conscious subjective experience of emotion. Phenomenology and heterophenomenology are philosophical approaches that provide some basis for knowledge of feelings. Many schools of psychotherapy depend on the therapist achieving some kind of understanding of the client's feelings, for which methodologies exist.

Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.

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Introspection generally provides a privileged access to one's own mental states, [2] not mediated by other sources of knowledge, so that individual experience of the mind is unique. Introspection can determine any number of mental states including: sensory, bodily, cognitive, emotional and so forth. [3]

Introspection has been a subject of philosophical discussion for thousands of years. The philosopher Plato asked, "…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?" [4] [5] While introspection is applicable to many facets of philosophical thought it is perhaps best known for its role in epistemology; in this context introspection is often compared with perception, reason, memory, and testimony as a source of knowledge. [6]

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. The so-called Neoplatonism of philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry influenced Saint Augustine and thus Christianity. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Perception organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment

Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.

In psychology

Wundt

It has often been claimed that Wilhelm Wundt, the father of modern psychology, was the first to adopt introspection to experimental psychology [1] though the methodological idea had been presented long before, as by 18th century German philosopher-psychologists such as Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten or Johann Nicolaus Tetens. [7] Also, Wundt's views on introspection must be approached with great care. [8] Wundt was influenced by notable physiologists, such as Gustav Fechner, who used a kind of controlled introspection as a means to study human sensory organs. Building upon the pre-existing use of introspection in physiology, Wundt believed the method of introspection was the ability to observe an experience, not just the logical reflection or speculations which some others interpreted his meaning to be. [9] Wundt imposed exacting control over the use of introspection in his experimental laboratory at the University of Leipzig, [1] making it possible for other scientists to replicate his experiments elsewhere, a development that proved essential to the development of psychology as a modern, peer-reviewed scientific discipline. Such exact purism was typical of Wundt and he instructed all introspection observations be performed under these same instructions "1) the Observer must, if possible, be in a position to determine beforehand the entrance of the process to be observed. 2) the introspectionist must, as far as possible, grasp the phenomenon in a state of strained attention and follow its course. 3) Every observation must, in order to make certain, be capable of being repeated several times under the same conditions and 4) the conditions under which the phenomenon appears must be found out by the variation of the attendant circumstances and when this was done the various coherent experiments must be varied according to a plan partly by eliminating certain stimuli and partly by grading their strength and quality". [10]

Wilhelm Wundt German physician, physiologist, philosopher and professor

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was a German physician, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. Wundt, who noted psychology as a science apart from philosophy and biology, was the first person ever to call himself a psychologist. He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology". In 1879, Wundt founded the first formal laboratory for psychological research at the University of Leipzig. This marked psychology as an independent field of study. By creating this laboratory he was able to establish psychology as a separate science from other disciplines. He also formed the first academic journal for psychological research, Philosophische Studien, set up to publish the Institute's research.

Experimental psychology refers to work done by those who apply experimental methods to psychological study and the processes that underlie it. Experimental psychologists employ human participants and animal subjects to study a great many topics, including sensation & perception, memory, cognition, learning, motivation, emotion; developmental processes, social psychology, and the neural substrates of all of these.

Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten was a German philosopher. He was a brother to theologian Siegmund Jakob Baumgarten (1706–1757).

Titchener

Edward Titchener was an early pioneer in experimental psychology and student of Wilhelm Wundt. [1] After earning his doctorate under the tutelage of Wundt at the University of Leipzig, he made his way to Cornell University where he established his own laboratory and research. [1] When Titchener arrived at Cornell in 1894, psychology was still a fledgling discipline, especially in the United States, and Titchener was a key figure in bringing Wundt's ideas to America. However, Titchener misrepresented some of Wundt's ideas to the American psychological establishment, especially in his account of introspection which, Titchener taught, only served a purpose in the qualitative analysis of consciousness into its various parts, [1] while Wundt saw it as a means to quantitatively measure the whole of conscious experience. [1] Titchener was exclusively interested in the individual components that comprise conscious experience, while Wundt, seeing little purpose in the analysis of individual components, focused on synthesis of these components. Ultimately Titchener's ideas would form the basis of the short-lived psychological theory of structuralism. [1]

Edward B. Titchener American psychologist

Edward Bradford Titchener was an English psychologist who studied under Wilhelm Wundt for several years. Titchener is best known for creating his version of psychology that described the structure of the mind: structuralism. He created the largest doctoral program in the United States after becoming a professor at Cornell University, and his first graduate student, Margaret Floy Washburn, became the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology (1894).

Biography
Cornell University private university in Ithaca (New York, US)

Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Qualitative research scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data

Qualitative research is a scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data. This type of research "refers to the meanings, concepts definitions, characteristics, metaphors, symbols, and description of things" and not to their "counts or measures. This research answers how and when a certain phenomenon occurs." Qualitative research approaches are employed across many academic disciplines, focusing particularly on the human elements of the social and natural sciences; in less academic contexts, areas of application include qualitative market research, business, service demonstrations by non-profits, and journalism.

Historical misconceptions

American historiography of introspection, according to some authors, [11] [12] is dominated by three misconceptions. In particular, historians of psychology tend to argue 1) that introspection once was the dominant method of psychological inquiry, 2) that behaviorism, and in particular John B. Watson, is responsible for discrediting introspection as a valid method, and 3) that scientific psychology completely abandoned introspection as a result of those critiques. [11] Yet, introspection has not been the dominant method. It is believed to be so because Edward Titchener's student Edwin G. Boring, in his influential historical accounts of experimental psychology privileged Titchener's views while giving little credit to original sources. [11] Introspection has been critiqued by many other psychologists, including Wilhelm Wundt, and Knight Dunlap who in his article "The Case Against Introspection", presents an argument against self-observation that is not primarily rooted in behaviorist epistemology. Introspection is still widely used in psychology, but under different names, such as self-report surveys, interviews and fMRIs. [12] It is not the method but rather its name that has been dropped from the dominant psychological vocabulary.

Historiography is the study of the methods of historians in developing history as an academic discipline, and by extension is any body of historical work on a particular subject. The historiography of a specific topic covers how historians have studied that topic using particular sources, techniques, and theoretical approaches. Scholars discuss historiography by topic—such as the historiography of the United Kingdom, that of Canada, the British Empire, early Islam, and China—and different approaches and genres, such as political history and social history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, with the development of academic history, there developed a body of historiographic literature. The extent to which historians are influenced by their own groups and loyalties—such as to their nation state—remains a debated question.

John B. Watson American psychologist

John Broadus Watson was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it, which was given at Columbia University in 1913. Through his behaviorist approach, Watson conducted research on animal behavior, child rearing, and advertising. In addition, he conducted the controversial "Little Albert" experiment and the Kerplunk experiment. Watson popularized the use of the scientific theory with behaviorism. He was also editor of Psychological Review from 1910 to 1915. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Watson as the 17th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Knight Dunlap was an American psychologist and a past president of the American Psychological Association.

Recent developments

Partly as a result of Titchener's misrepresentation, the use of introspection diminished after his death and the subsequent decline of structuralism. [1] Later psychological movements, such as functionalism and behaviorism, rejected introspection for its lack of scientific reliability among other factors. [1] Functionalism originally arose in direct opposition to structuralism, opposing its narrow focus on the elements of consciousness [1] and emphasising the purpose of consciousness and other psychological behavior. Behaviorism's objection to introspection focused much more on its unreliability and subjectivity which conflicted with behaviorism's focus on measurable behavior. [1] [13]

The more recently established cognitive psychology movement has to some extent accepted introspection's usefulness in the study of psychological phenomena, though generally only in experiments pertaining to internal thought conducted under experimental conditions. For example, in the "think aloud protocol", investigators cue participants to speak their thoughts aloud in order to study an active thought process without forcing an individual to comment on the process itself. [14]

Already in the 18th century authors had criticized the use of introspection, both for knowing one's own mind and as a method for psychology. David Hume pointed out that introspecting a mental state tends to alter the very state itself; a German author, Christian Gottfried Schütz, noted that introspection is often described as mere "inner sensation", but actually requires also attention, that introspection does not get at unconscious mental states, and that it cannot be used naively - one needs to know what to look for. Immanuel Kant added that, if they are understood too narrowly, introspective experiments are impossible. Introspection delivers, at best, hints about what goes on in the mind; it does not suffice to justify knowledge claims about the mind. [15] Similarly, the idea continued to be discussed between John Stuart Mill and Auguste Comte. Recent psychological research on cognition and attribution has asked people to report on their mental processes, for instance to say why they made a particular choice or how they arrived at a judgment. In some situations, these reports are clearly confabulated. [16] For example, people justify choices they have not in fact made. [17] Such results undermine the idea that those verbal reports are based on direct introspective access to mental content. Instead, judgements about one's own mind seem to be inferences from overt behavior, similar to judgements made about another person. [16] However, it is hard to assess whether these results only apply to unusual experimental situations, or if they reveal something about everyday introspection. [18] The theory of the adaptive unconscious suggests that a very large proportion of mental processes, even "high-level" processes like goal-setting and decision-making, are inaccessible to introspection. [19] Indeed, it is questionable how confident researchers can be in their own introspections.

One of the central implications of dissociations between consciousness and meta-consciousness is that individuals, presumably including researchers, can misrepresent their experiences to themselves. Jack and Roepstorff assert, '...there is also a sense in which subjects simply cannot be wrong about their own experiential states.' Presumably they arrived at this conclusion by drawing on the seemingly self-evident quality of their own introspections, and assumed that it must equally apply to others. However, when we consider research on the topic, this conclusion seems less self-evident. If, for example, extensive introspection can cause people to make decisions that they later regret, then one very reasonable possibility is that the introspection caused them to 'lose touch with their feelings'. In short, empirical studies suggest that people can fail to appraise adequately (i.e. are wrong about) their own experiential states.

Another question in regards to the veracious accountability of introspection is if researchers lack the confidence in their own introspections and those of their participants, then how can it gain legitimacy? Three strategies are accountable: identifying behaviors that establish credibility, finding common ground that enables mutual understanding, and developing a trust that allows one to know when to give the benefit of the doubt. That is to say, that words are only meaningful if validated by one's actions; When people report strategies, feelings or beliefs, their behaviors must correspond with these statements if they are to be believed. [20]

Even when their introspections are uninformative, people still give confident descriptions of their mental processes, being "unaware of their unawareness". [21] This phenomenon has been termed the introspection illusion and has been used to explain some cognitive biases [22] and belief in some paranormal phenomena. [23] When making judgements about themselves, subjects treat their own introspections as reliable, whereas they judge other people based on their behavior. [24] This can lead to illusions of superiority. For example, people generally see themselves as less conformist than others, and this seems to be because they do not introspect any urge to conform. [25] Another reliable finding is that people generally see themselves as less biased than everyone else, because they are not likely to introspect any biased thought processes. [24] These introspections are misleading, however, because biases work sub-consciously.

One experiment tried to give their subjects access to others' introspections. They made audio recordings of subjects who had been told to say whatever came into their heads as they answered a question about their own bias. [24] Although subjects persuaded themselves they were unlikely to be biased, their introspective reports did not sway the assessments of observers. When subjects were explicitly told to avoid relying on introspection, their assessments of their own bias became more realistic. [24]

In religion

Christianity

In Eastern Christianity some concepts addressing human needs, such as sober introspection (nepsis ), require watchfulness of the human heart and the conflicts of the human nous , heart or mind. Noetic understanding can not be achieved by rational or discursive thought (i.e. systemization).[ citation needed ]

Jainism

Jains practise pratikraman (Sanskrit "introspection"), a process of repentance of wrongdoings during their daily life, and remind themselves to refrain from doing so again. Devout Jains often do Pratikraman at least twice a day.[ citation needed ]

Hinduism

Introspection is encouraged in schools such as Advaita Vedanta; in order for one to know their own true nature, they need to reflect and introspect on their true nature -- which is what meditation is. Especially, Swami Chinmayananda emphasised the role of introspection in five stages, outlined in his book "Self Unfoldment."

In fiction

Introspection (also referred to as Rufus dialogue, interior monologue, self-talk) is the fiction-writing mode used to convey a character's thoughts. As explained by Renni Browne and Dave King, "One of the great gifts of literature is that it allows for the expression of unexpressed thoughts…" [26]

According to Nancy Kress, a character's thoughts can greatly enhance a story: deepening characterization, increasing tension, and widening the scope of a story. [27] As outlined by Jack M. Bickham, thought plays a critical role in both scene and sequel. [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental processes such as "attention, language use, memory, perception, problem solving, creativity, and thinking". Much of the work derived from cognitive psychology has been integrated into various other modern disciplines such as Cognitive Science and of psychological study, including educational psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, linguistics, and economics.

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. When confronted with facts that contradict beliefs, ideals, and values, people will try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.

Psychology is an academic and applied discipline involving the scientific study of human mental functions and behavior. Occasionally, in addition or opposition to employing the scientific method, it also relies on symbolic interpretation and critical analysis, although these traditions have tended to be less pronounced than in other social sciences, such as sociology. Psychologists study phenomena such as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Some, especially depth psychologists, also study the unconscious mind.

Margaret Floy Washburn American psychologist and scholar

Margaret Floy Washburn, leading American psychologist in the early 20th century, was best known for her experimental work in animal behavior and motor theory development. She was the first woman to be granted a PhD in psychology (1894), and the second woman, after Mary Whiton Calkins, to serve as an APA President (1921). A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Washburn as the 88th most cited psychologist of the 20th century, tied with John Garcia, James J. Gibson, David Rumelhart, Louis Leon Thurstone, and Robert S. Woodworth.

Behaviorism is a systematic approach to understanding the behavior of humans and other animals. It assumes that all behaviors are either reflexes produced by a response to certain stimuli in the environment, or a consequence of that individual's history, including especially reinforcement and punishment, together with the individual's current motivational state and controlling stimuli. Although behaviorists generally accept the important role of inheritance in determining behavior, they focus primarily on environmental factors.

The bias blind spot is the cognitive bias of recognizing the impact of biases on the judgment of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one's own judgment. The term was created by Emily Pronin, a social psychologist from Princeton University's Department of Psychology, with colleagues Daniel Lin and Lee Ross. The bias blind spot is named after the visual blind spot. Most people appear to exhibit the bias blind spot. In a sample of more than 600 residents of the United States, more than 85% believed they were less biased than the average American. Only one participant believed that he or she was more biased than the average American. People do vary with regard to the extent to which they exhibit the bias blind spot. It appears to be a stable individual difference that is measurable.

Theoretical psychology is concerned with theoretical and philosophical aspects of psychology. It is an interdisciplinary field with a wide scope of study. It focuses on combining and incorporating existing and developing theories of psychology non-experimentally. Theoretical psychology originated from the philosophy of science, with logic and rationality at the base of each new idea. It existed before empirical or experimental psychology. Theoretical psychology is an interdisciplinary field involving psychologists specializing in a wide variety of psychological branches. There have been a few prominent pioneers of theoretical psychology such as Wilhelm Wundt, William James, Sigmund Freud, and John B. Watson. There has also been a number of notable contributors which include Jerome Kagan, Alan E. Kazdin, Robert Sternberg, Kenneth J. Gergen, and Ulric Neisser. These contributors often publish in a variety of journals including the most prominent for theoretical psychology, the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. Many other organizations are beginning to recognize theoretical psychology as a formal subdivision of psychology.

Today, psychology is defined as "the scientific study of behavior and mental processes." Philosophical interest in the human mind and behavior dates back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Persia, Greece, China, and India.

Mathematical psychology is an approach to psychological research that is based on mathematical modeling of perceptual, thought, cognitive and motor processes, and on the establishment of law-like rules that relate quantifiable stimulus characteristics with quantifiable behavior. The mathematical approach is used with the goal of deriving hypotheses that are more exact and thus yield stricter empirical validations. Quantifiable behavior is in practice often constituted by task performance.

The cognitive revolution was an intellectual movement that began in the 1950s as an interdisciplinary study of the mind and its processes, which became known collectively as cognitive science. The relevant areas of interchange were between the fields of psychology, anthropology, and linguistics using approaches developed within the then-nascent fields of artificial intelligence, computer science, and neuroscience. A key goal of early cognitive psychology was to apply the scientific method to the study of human cognition by designing experiments that used computational models of artificial intelligence to systematically test theories about human mental processes in a controlled laboratory setting.

The adaptive unconscious, first coined by Daniel Wagner in 2002, is described as a series of mental processes that is able to affect judgement and decision making, but is out of reach of the conscious mind. Architecturally, the adaptive unconscious is said to be unreachable because it is buried in an unknown part of the brain. This type of thinking evolved earlier than the conscious mind, enabling the mind to transform information and think in ways that enhance an organism's survival. It can be described as a quick sizing up of the world which interprets information and decides how to act very quickly and outside the conscious view. The adaptive unconscious is active in everyday activities such as learning new material, detecting patterns, and filtering information. It is also characterized by being unconscious, unintentional, uncontrollable, and efficient without requiring cognitive tools. Lacking the need for cognitive tools does not make the adaptive unconscious any less useful than the conscious mind as the adaptive unconscious allows for processes like memory formation, physical balancing, language, learning, and some emotional and personalities processes that includes judgement, decision making, impression formation, evaluations, and goal pursuing. Despite being useful, the series of processes of the adaptive unconscious will not always result in accurate or correct decisions by the organism. The adaptive unconscious is affected by things like emotional reaction, estimations, and experience and is thus inclined to stereotyping and schema which can lead to inaccuracy in decision making. The adaptive conscious does however help decision making to eliminate cognitive biases such as prejudice because of its lack of cognitive tools.

Oswald Külpe was one of the structural psychologists of the late 19th and early 20th century. Külpe, who is lesser known than his German mentor, Wilhelm Wundt, revolutionized experimental psychology at his time. In his obituary, Aloys Fischer wrote that, “undoubtedly Külpe was the second founder of experimental psychology on German soil; for with every change of base he made it a requirement that an experimental laboratory should be provided.”

In psychology, mentalism refers to those branches of study that concentrate on perception and thought processes: for example, mental imagery, consciousness and cognition, as in cognitive psychology. The term mentalism has been used primarily by behaviorists who believe that scientific psychology should focus on the structure of causal relationships to conditioned responses, or on the functions of behavior.

Functional psychology psychological philosophy that considers mental life and behaviour in terms of active adaptation to the persons environment

Functional psychology or functionalism refers to a psychological school of thought that was a direct outgrowth of Darwinian thinking which focuses attention on the utility and purpose of behavior that has been modified over years of human existence. Edward L. Thorndike, best known for his experiments with trial-and-error learning, came to be known as the leader of the loosely defined movement. This movement arose in the U.S. in the late 19th century in direct contrast to Edward Titchener's Structuralism which focused on the contents of consciousness rather than the motives and ideals of human behavior. Functionalism denies the principle of introspection which tends to investigate the inner workings of human thinking rather than understanding the biological processes of the human consciousness.

Introspection illusion Cognitive bias where people think they understand the causes of their own mental states but dont trust others

The introspection illusion is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly think they have direct insight into the origins of their mental states, while treating others' introspections as unreliable. In certain situations, this illusion leads people to make confident but false explanations of their own behaviour or inaccurate predictions of their future mental states.

Structuralism in psychology is a theory of consciousness developed by Wilhelm Wundt and his student Edward Bradford Titchener. This theory was challenged in the 20th century. It is debated who deserves the credit for finding this field of psychology, but it is widely accepted that Wundt created the foundation on which Titchener expanded. Structuralism as a school of psychology seeks to analyze the adult mind in terms of the simplest definable components and then to find how these components fit together to form more complex experiences as well as how they correlate to physical events. To do this, psychologists employ introspection, self-reports of sensations, views, feelings, emotions, etc.

References

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Further reading