From the Introduction: Our aim is to show that, irrespective of its alleged theoretical “impossibility”, introspection is a living reality. We will focus on one of the currently available methods that we ourselves practice: the elicitation interview method.
Context: Current theories of art, particularly those developed from a neuroscientific perspective, fail to take adequate account of the role, methods or motivations of the artist. The problem is that the lack of the artist’s voice in interdisciplinary theoretical research undermines the basis of current theoretical models. Problem: How can artists purposefully engage with contemporary consciousness studies? The aim of the research was to develop new methodologies appropriate for cross-disciplinary research and to establish what value, if any, neuroaesthetic or phenomenological theories of art could hold for contemporary arts practice. Method: My approach to the topic was to explore the application of neuroaesthetic and phenomenological theory through practice-based research in contemporary art. Results: The paper maps out a proposed avenue of research, and some initial findings, rather than the results of an inquiry. Implications: This paper will be of interest to those who work in philosophy of art and visual perception and those who are exploring empirically-based research methodologies in philosophy. Insights will be beneficial to arts practitioners, philosophers and scientists researching aesthetic experience. Constructivist content: The paper explores Noë’s sensorimotor theory of perception and the extended temporal relation between visual elements of an artwork as its forms are created in consciousness.
This study explores Grade Seven students’ experiences of doubt and certainty in mathematics. During nine months of (bi-monthly) sessions, students engaged with several mathematical prompts; their interactions with each other and with the teacher-researcher were video-taped, transcribed, and coded for learners’ evolving perceptions of what was (a) sufficient to define certainty (including what was experienced as intuitive or counter-intuitive and ways such certainty was interrupted), (b) relevant to the tasks (including understandings that initially dwelled on the periphery of awareness), and (c) mathematically connected. The study is conceptualized within an enactivist view of cognition that emphasizes autonomous, co-emergent, and embodied knowing. It became clear that doubt and certainty emerge from a broader, holistic, understanding that is largely beneath ordinary awareness. An important aspect of the study was to bring more of this understanding to awareness. Here, Francisco Varela’s notion of researcher as empathic coach and Eugene Gendlin’s notions of “felt sense” and “implicit intricacy” assumed importance. By attending to the holistic sense that points to implicit understanding, it was possible to broaden the scope of what was deemed relevant in selected contexts. It was found that previously subconscious understandings nonetheless influenced learning. Once named (even broadly), implicit understanding co-evolved with language in developing mathematical understanding. By attending to external indicators of felt meaning, learners interacted with each others’ implicit understanding, thereby bringing it closer to consciousness and into conversation. Prematurely insisting on clarity and logic precluded awareness of the implicit. Relevance: It introduces Varela’s notion of the “empathic second person coach” as an approach to studying the lived experiences of mathematics learners.
Upshot: Is lived experience always the experience of a self? The central thesis of Dan Zahavi’s book is that there is a “minimal” or “core” self, according to which a quality of “self-givenness” is a constitutive feature of experience. The adoption of a dynamic phenomenological perspective leads us to call this thesis into question.
The well-known experiments of Nisbett and Wilson lead to the conclusion that we have no introspective access to our decision-making processes. Johansson et al. have recently developed an original protocol consisting of manipulating covertly the relationship between the subjects’ intended choice and the outcome they were presented with: in 79.6% of cases, they do not detect the manipulation and provide an explanation of the choice they did not make, confirming the findings of Nisbett and Wilson. We have reproduced this protocol, while introducing for some choices expert guidance to the description of this choice. The subjects who were assisted detected the manipulation in 80% of cases. Our experiment confirms Nisbett and Wilson’s findings that we are usually unaware of our decision processes, but goes further by showing that we can access them through specific mental acts. Relevance: This article shows the possibility and reliability of disciplined first-person descriptions.
Context: Despite the fact that pain and body awareness are by definition subjective experiences, most studies assessing these phenomena and the relationship between them have done so from a “third-person” perspective, meaning that they have used methods whose aim is to try to objectify the phenomena under study. Problem: This article assesses the question of what is the impact of a widespread chronic pain condition in the bodily experience of persons suffering from fibromyalgia. Method: I used an interview methodology stemming from a phenomenological approach called the “elicitation interview.” Results: The results indicate that the intensification of fibromyalgia pain does in fact affect different aspects of body awareness: in particular, experienced body size, weight and localization, as well as the experience of owning one’s own body. In addition, these disruptions in patient’s body awareness have as a result, a modification of the experience of pain, leading to the apparently paradoxical experience of being in pain while not feeling it. Implications: The elicitation interview approach made it possible to gather and analyze descriptions of the bodily experience of persons suffering from fibromyalgia. This approach allowed the consideration of the hypothesis that the disruption of implicit knowledge of the topography of patients’ bodies prevents them from referring to the pain sensation in terms of its localization and intensity, transforming the sensation in a way that is experienced as paradoxical. Further studies should be conducted that focus on the interplay between attention, pain and body perception. Constructivist content: The study presented in this article is framed within the perspective that the study of conscious phenomena should consider a first-person perspective, which is in line with constructivist approaches.
How can pain science objectively know pain experience when it is subjective and private? Viewed as a puzzle about pain research methods, I make the pragmatic point that pain science has for decades used established objective methods to generate powerful data about the subjective dimensions of pain experience. However, as important as these methods are for our understanding of pain, they alone cannot describe subjective pain under the fluctuating conditions of everyday life, especially chronic pain, or provide a research strategy to model pain-brain relationships. I propose that an integrative research line I label “Subjective-Neuroscience of Pain” can address this research challenge and silence the puzzle via three main research activities: (1) using “subjective research methods,” such as the Experiential-Phenomenological Method, describe subjective pain experiences, especially chronic pain experiences; (2) using relevant objective neuroscientific procedures (e.g., neurofeedback), relate subjective pain descriptions to brain activity; and (3) develop an online repository and archive for the storage and sharing of subjective pain data and pain-brain data. The confluence of these activities within “Subjective-Neuroscience of Pain” may uniquely contribute to the understanding of pain. Relevance: This publication discusses first-person or experiential research methods in the scientific study of pain.