Re: Introspection: The Science of Experience

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Sat Oct 28 1995 - 13:14:23 GMT

> From: "DONNA CRUMLEY" <>
> Date: Fri, 27 Oct 1995 10:57:23 GMT
> Hi psych thinkers,Donna here i hope i have quoted the messege
> properly this time,practice does (as they say make perfect).

Hi Donna,

Actually, you didn't. Please try sending me direct mail using the two
quote-out options checked on Pegasus. I had to edit your posting to
put it in the right format. Also, you need to delete more. Only quote
what you are commenting on, not more (and not less) so the reader
neither needs to read more than necessary, nor less, to get you point.

> I would like to hear more about the 'false memory' syndrome' i have
> never heard of it before,it seems like an interesting concept.I'm not
> sure if i quite understand it though.Does it suggest that people can
> block out their memories?,and that they can then bring the memories
> back through inward inspection (introspection)?
> How is this done? surely it is impossible to completely block out
> memories simply by willin them to go away.Maybe i have the wrong idea
> about what 'false memory' syndrome is.

The controversy about recovered memories that have been long forgotten
or suppressed is: How do you know they are real? In experiements we can
of course videotape an event and then check your memory against it, but
with long ago events that have no record and few or no witnesses, it is
very hard to know whether or not they are real or accurate.

We do have optional reading material on the reality of repressed
memories. This might be a good time for you all to read it. I have
15 pages -- on paper, alas. So you have to come by and photocopy it.
Each of you should come by this week and duplicate a copy.

> Anyway the introspection approach is a very interesting one,of course
> it is a natural way to approch psychology,but it is also obvious that
> psychologist's can't conduct this as the only means of research
> because it can't be used successfully on other people,noone can
> truely 'get inside another person'.Unless hypnosis can give the
> researcher the same kind of idea.

Hypnosis is another topic we can discuss if the seminar wishes. Bring
it up next Friday. But here are two things you seem not to have gotten
quite straight:

(1) Introspection is NOT a way, total or partial, to test or confirm
the accuracy of recovered memories (or of anything), for the very
reason you mention; and asking experimental subjects to introspect is
not a partial introspective method, because then the experimenter's
data are not the subject's experiences (the experimenter has no access
to those, only the subject does); the data are the subject's reports.
Studying what subjects report under different experimental conditions
(e.g., whether or not they see a very faint light) is not the method of
introspection. It is behavioural analysis. The outcome of a light
detection experiment would not be about the experience of light, it
would be about the subject's ability detect the light. As we shall see,
when we consider things like masking and blindsight, the detection
could occur without any experience at all.

(2) There is controversy about whether hypnosis really alters
experience (takes away pain, recovers memories) or just produces
behavioural compliance -- and here is the point: introspection can
never be the basis for confirming whether it's one or the other. (Think
about it.)

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