Re: Introspection: The Science of Experience

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Tue Oct 31 1995 - 21:21:29 GMT

> From: "DONNA CRUMLEY" <>
> Date: Mon, 30 Oct 1995 11:31:03 GMT
> > 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.
> I'll call as soon as possible for a copy,it sounds like interesting
> reading.

Ten copies are available at the short-term loan desk of the library.
Let's discuss Friday week (this one is too close) so everyone gets
a chancce to read them.

Although they are on paper rather than the net, please still send
questions and comments to the discussion list (but don't bother
quoting, of course!)...

sh> Studying what subjects report under different experimental conditions
sh> (e.g., whether or not they see a very faint light) is not the method of
sh> introspection. It is behavioural analysis. The outcome of a light
sh> detection experiment would not be about the experience of light, it
sh> would be about the subject's ability detect the light. As we shall see,
sh> when we consider things like masking and blindsight, the detection
sh> could occur without any experience at all.
> Here we seem to be back to square one again. On Friday we began to
> discuss behaviour, which started to make sense to me. But as you
> pointed out, Stevan, when we concentrate on behaviour we are forgetting
> about the thing which psychology is supposed to study, ie, experience.
> As you said above some things can occour without any experiance at
> all; does this therefore mean that psychologists aren't interested in
> this type of human reaction?

Well, the point we reached was that what seemed to make psychology
different from other subjects was private experience, but we have
not yet settled on whether that can be studied, or how. What emerged
from our discussions of Lubinsky & Thompson, I think, was not only that
that was not the way to study experience, but it wasn't even the way to
study language.

I will talk a little more about why behaviourists chose to turn to
behaviour: It was a reaction against introspectionism. Private
experiences are not publicly observable, so study the closest thing that
is: behaviour. (Does that sound right?)

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