Volume 6 · Number 2 · Pages 254–269

< Previous Paper · Next Paper >

Re-Viewing from Within: A Commentary on First- and Second-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness

Tom Froese, Cassandra Gould & Adam Barrett

Download the full text in
PDF (341 kB)

Abstract

Context: There is a growing recognition in consciousness science of the need for rigorous methods for obtaining accurate and detailed phenomenological reports of lived experience, i.e., descriptions of experience provided by the subject living them in the “first-person.” Problem: At the moment although introspection and debriefing interviews are sometimes used to guide the design of scientific studies of the mind, explicit description and evaluation of these methods and their results rarely appear in formal scientific discourse. Method: The recent publication of an edited book of papers dedicated to the exploration of first-and second-person methods, Ten Years of Viewing from Within: The Legacy of Francisco Varela, serves as a starting point for a discussion of how these methods could be integrated into the growing discipline of consciousness science. We complement a brief review of the book with a critical analysis of the major pilot studies in Varela’s neurophenomenology, a research program that was explicitly devised to integrate disciplined experiential methods with the latest advances in neuroscience. Results: The book is a valuable resource for those who are interested in impressive recent advances in first- and second-person methods, as applied to the phenomenology of lived experience. However, our review of the neurophenomenology literature concludes that there is as yet no convincing example of these specialized techniques being used in combination with standard behavioral and neuroscientific approaches in consciousness science to produce results that could not have also been achieved by simpler methods of introspective reporting. Implications: The end of behaviorism and the acceptance of verbal reports of conscious experience have already enabled the beginning of a science of consciousness. It can only be of benefit if new first- and second-person methods become well-known across disciplines. Constructivist content: Constructivism has long been interested in the role of the observer in the constitution of our sense of reality, so these developments in the science of consciousness may open new avenues of constructivist research. More specifically, one of the ways in which the insights from first- and second-person methods are being validated is by recursively applying the methods to themselves; a practical application of an epistemological move that will be familiar to constructivists from the second-order cybernetics tradition.

Key words: lived experience, neurophenomenology, Francisco Varela, observer, introspection, cognitive science

Citation

Froese T., Gould C. & Barrett A. (2011) Re-Viewing from Within: A Commentary on First- and Second-Person Methods in the Science of Consciousness. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 254–269. Available at http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/6/2/254.froese

Export article citation data: Plain Text · BibTex · EndNote · Reference Manager (RIS)

References

Anastasi J. S., Rhodes M. G. & Burns M. C. (2000) Distinguishing between memory illusions and actual memories using phenomenological measurements and explicit warnings. The American Journal of Psychology 113(1): 1–26. << Google Scholar

Andreas C. & Andreas T. (2009) Aligning perceptual positions. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 217–231. << Google Scholar

Baars B. J. (2005) Global workspace theory of consciousness: toward a cognitive neuroscience of human experience? Progress in Brain Research 150: 45–54 << Google Scholar

Bitbol M. (2002) Science as if situation mattered. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1: 181–224. << Google Scholar

Block N. (2007) Consciousness, accessibility, and the mesh between psychology and neuroscience. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30(5/6): 481–548 << Google Scholar

Christoff K., Gordon A. M., Smallwood J., Smith R. & Schooler J. W. (2009) Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributions to mind wandering. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106(21): 8719–24. << Google Scholar

Dennett D. C. (2003) Who’s on first? Heterophenomenology explained. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10(9–10): 19–30. << Google Scholar

Depraz N. (2009) The “failing” of meaning. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 90–117. << Google Scholar

Depraz N., Varela F. J. & Vermersch P. (2003) On becoming aware: A pragmatics of experiencing. John Benjamins Publishing, Amsterdam. << Google Scholar

Dijksterhuis A., Bos M. W., Nordgren L. F. & van Baaren R. B. (2006) On making the right choice: the deliberation-without-attention effect. Science 311(5763): 1005–7. << Google Scholar

Froese T. & Spiers A. (2007) Toward a Phenomenological Pragmatics of Enactive Perception. Enactive/07: Proc. of the 4th Int. Conf. on Enactive Interfaces, Association ACROE, Grenoble, France, pp. 105–108. << Google Scholar

Froese T., Gould C. & Seth A. K. (2011) Objective measures for validating and calibrating first- and second-person methods in the science of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies, forthcoming. << Google Scholar

Gallagher S. & Sørensen J. (2006) Experimenting with phenomenology. Consciousness and Cognition 15: 119–134. << Google Scholar

Gallagher S. & Zahavi D. (2008) The phenomenological mind: An introduction to philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Routledge, London << Google Scholar

Gallagher S. (2003) Phenomenology and experimental design. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10(9–10): 85–99. << Google Scholar

Gendlin E. (2009) What first & third person processes really are. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 332–363. << Google Scholar

Genoud C. (2009) On the cultivation of presence in Buddhist meditation. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 117–129. << Google Scholar

Hayward J. W. & Varela F. J. (1992) Gentle bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the sciences of the mind. Shambhala Publications, Boston. << Google Scholar

Heavey C. L. & Hurlburt R. T. (2008) The phenomena of inner experience. Consciousness and Cognition 17: 798–810. << Google Scholar

Hendricks M. (2009) Experiencing level. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 129–156. << Google Scholar

Hurlburt R. T. & Akhter S. A. (2006) The Descriptive Experience Sampling method. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 5(3–4): 271–301. << Google Scholar

Hurlburt R. T. & Heavey C. L. (2002) Interobserver reliability of Descriptive Experience Sampling. Cognitive Therapy and Research 26(1): 135–142. << Google Scholar

Hurlburt R. T. (2009) Iteratively apprehending pristine experience. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 156–189. << Google Scholar

Hurlburt R. T., Heavy C. L. & Bensaheb A. (2009) Sensory awareness. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 231–252. << Google Scholar

Jack A. I. & Roepstorff A. (2003) Why trust the subject? Journal of Consciousness Studies 10(9): v-xx. << Google Scholar

Kouider S., de Gardelle V., Sackur J. & Dupoux E. (2010) How rich is consciousness? The partial awareness hypothesis. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14(7): 301–307. << Google Scholar

Lamme V. (2010) How neuroscience will change our view on consciousness. Cognitive Neuroscience 1(3): 204–240. << Google Scholar

Le Van Quyen M., Soss J., Navarro V., Robertson R., Chavez M., Baulac M. et al. (2005) Preictal state identification by synchronization changes in long-term intracranial EEG recordings. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology 116: 559–568. << Google Scholar

Locke E. A. (2009) It’s time we brought introspection out of the closet. Perspectives on Psychological Science 4(1): 24–25. << Google Scholar

Loftus E. & Pickrell J. (1995) The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals 25(12): 720–725. << Google Scholar

Lutz A. & Thompson E. (2003) Neurophenomenology: Integrating subjective experience and brain dynamics in the neuroscience of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 10(9–10): 31–52. << Google Scholar

Lutz A. (2002) Toward a neurophenomenology as an account of generative passages: a first empirical case study. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 1(2): 133–167. << Google Scholar

Lutz A., Lachaux J-P., Martinerie J. & Varela F. J. (2002) Guiding the study of brain dynamics by using first-person data: Synchrony patterns correlate with ongoing conscious states during a simple visual task. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99(3): 1586–91. << Google Scholar

Marti S., Sackur J., Sigman M. & Dehaene S. (2010) Mapping introspection’s blind spot: Reconstruction of dual-task phenomenology using quantified introspection. Cogntion 115: 303–313. << Google Scholar

Mathison J. & Tosey P. (2009) Exploring moments of knowing. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 189–217. << Google Scholar

Maurel M. (2009) The explicitation interview. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 58–90. << Google Scholar

Mormann F., Andrzejak R. G., Kreuz T., Rieke C., David P., Elger C. E. & Lehnertz K. (2003) Automated detection of a preseizure state based on a decrease in synchronization in intracranial electroencephalogram recordings from epilepsy patients. Physical review E: Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics, 67(2 Pt 1), 021912. << Google Scholar

Mormann F., Kreuz T., Andrzejak R. G., David P., Lehnertz K & Elger C. E. (2003) Epileptic seizures are preceded by a decrease in synchronization. Epilepsy Research 53(3): 173–85. << Google Scholar

Nagel T. (1974) What is it like to be a bat? Philosophical Review 83(4): 435–450. << Google Scholar

Overgaard M., Koivisto M., Sørensen T. A., Vangkilde S. & Revonsuo A. (2006) The electrophysiology of introspection. Consciousness and Cognition 15: 662–672. << Google Scholar

Overgaard M., Rote J., Mouridsen K. & Ramsøy T. Z. (2006) Is conscious perception gradual or dichotomous? A comparison of report methodologies during a visual task. Consciousness and Cognition 15: 700–708. << Google Scholar

Overgaard M., Timmermans B., Sandberg K. & Cleeremans A. (2010) Optimizing subjective measures of consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 19: 682–684 << Google Scholar

Parnas J., Møller P., Kircher T., Thalbitzer J., Jansson L., Handest P. & Zahavi D. (2005) EASE: Examination of Anomalous Self-Experience. Psychopathology 38: 236–258. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C (ed) (2009) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C. & Bitbol M. (2009) The validity of first-person descriptions as authenticity and coherence. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 363–404. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C. (2006) Describing one’s subjective experience in the second person: An interview method for the science of consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 5(3–4): 229–269. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C. (2009) Editorial Introduction. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 7–19. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C., Bitbol M., Nissou J.-M., Pachoud M., Curalluci H., Cermolace M. & Vion-Dury J. (2009) Listening from within. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 252–285. << Google Scholar

Petitmengin C., Navarro V. & Le Van Quyen M. (2007) Anticipating seizure: pre-reflective experience at the center of neuro-phenomenology. Consciousness and Cognition 16(3): 746–64. << Google Scholar

Philippot P. & Segal Z. (2009) Mindfulness based psychological interventions. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 285–307. << Google Scholar

Ramsøy, T. Z. & Overgaard M. (2004) Introspection and subliminal perception. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3: 1–23. << Google Scholar

Rodriguez E., George N., Lachaux J. P., Martinerie J., Renault B. & Varela F. J. (1999) Perception’s shadow: long-distance synchronization of human brain activity. Nature 397(6718): 430–3. << Google Scholar

Roepstorff A. & Jack A. I. (eds.) (2004) Trusting the subject? vol. 2, Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic; also published as a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(7–8). << Google Scholar

Roy J., Petitot J., Pachoud B. & Varela F. J. (1999) Beyond the gap: An introduction to naturalizing phenomenology. In: Petitot J., Varela F. J., Pachoud B. & Roy J.-M. (eds.) Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science. Stanford University Press, Stanford: 1–80. << Google Scholar

Sandberg K., Timmermans B., Overgaard M. & Cleeremans A. (2010) Measuring consciousness: Is one measure better than the other? Consciousness and Cognition, in press. << Google Scholar

Seth A. (2008) Post-decision wagering measures metacognitive content, not sensory consciousness. Consciousness and Cognition 17: 981–983. << Google Scholar

Seth A., Dienes Z., Cleeremans A., Overgaard M. & Pessoa L. (2008) Measuring consciousness: relating behavioural and neurophysiological approaches. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12(8): 314–321. << Google Scholar

Slater M., Spanlang B., Sanchez-Vives M. V. & Blanke O. (2010) First Person Experience of Body Transfer in Virtual Reality. PloS ONE 5(5): 1–9. << Google Scholar

Spaulding S. (2010) Embodied Cognition and Mindreading. Mind & Language 25(1): 119–140. << Google Scholar

Stern D. (2009) Pre-reflexive experience and its passage to reflexive experience. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 307–332. << Google Scholar

Thompson E. (2001) Francisco J. Varela (1946–2001) Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5(8): 368. << Google Scholar

Tononi G. (2008) Consciousness as integrated information: a provisional manifesto. The Biological Bulletin 215(3): 216–42. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. & Shear J. (1999) First-person methodologies: What, why, how? In: Varela F. J. & Shear J. (eds.) (1999a) The view from within: First-person approaches to the study of consciousness. Imprint, Exeter: 1–14. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. & Shear J. (eds.) (1999) The view from within: First-person approaches to the study of consciousness. Imprint Academic, Exeter. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1996) Neurophenomenology: A methodological remedy for the hard problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3(4): 330–349. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1999) Present-time consciousness. In: Varela F. J. & Shear J. (eds.) The view from within: First-person approaches to the study of consciousness. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 111–140. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (1999) The specious present: A neurophenomenology of time consciousness. In: Petitot J., Varela F. J., Pachoud B. & Roy J.-M. Naturalizing phenomenology: Issues in contemporary phenomenology and cognitive science. Stanford University Press, Stanford: 266–317. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J. (ed) (1997) Sleeping, dreaming, and dying: An exploration of consciousness with the Dalai Lama, Wisdom, Boston. << Google Scholar

Varela F. J., Thompson E. & Rosch E. (1991) The embodied mind: cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. << Google Scholar

Varela F., Lachaux J. P., Rodriguez E. & Martinerie J. (2001) The brainweb: Phase synchronization and large-scale integration. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2(4): 229–39. << Google Scholar

Varela F., Maturana H. & Uribe R. (1974) Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5(4): 187–196. << Google Scholar

Vermersch P. (1999) Introspection as practice. In Varela F. J. & Shear J. (eds.) The View from Within: First-Person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 17–42. << Google Scholar

Vermersch P. (2009) Describing the practice of introspection. In: Petitmengin C. (ed) Ten years of viewing from within: The legacy of Francisco Varela. Imprint Academic, Exeter: 20–58. << Google Scholar

Waroquier L., Marchiori D., Klein O. & Cleeremans A. (2010) Is it better to think unconsciously or to trust your first impression? A reassessment of Unconscious Thought Theory. Social Psychological and Personality Science 1(2): 111–118. << Google Scholar

Watzlawick P. (ed.) (1984) The invented reality: How do we know what we believe we know. W. W. Norton & Company, New York. << Google Scholar