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The belief in the existence of awareness or consciousness among humans is ancient. Thought itself is one way to define our existence: "cogito, ergo, sum", which means - "I think - means I exist" - concluded Descartes when he asked for one basic starting point to look at the world through.

The laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), who founded the first psychological research laboratory in Heidelberg, where he used introspection as a research method. Wundt's research laboratory, one of the fathers of psychology
The laboratory of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), who founded the first psychological research laboratory in Heidelberg, where he used introspection as a research method. Wundt's research laboratory, one of the fathers of psychology

Introspection - what is it and why is it important? part 1

The belief in the existence of awareness or consciousness among humans is ancient. Thought itself is one way to define our existence: "cogito, ergo, sum", which means - "I think - means I exist" - concluded Descartes when he asked for one basic starting point to look at the world through.

For Descartes' view - first of all - let's assume that I think - and from here we will build my philosophical theory further. René Descartes - Image from Wikipedia

The thought is the basis then. When the science of psychology, which deals with people and their thoughts, was founded, this was one of the first things it dealt with. One can define introspection (observation, examination) as self-observation on the stream of consciousness, feelings, desires and needs.

One of the fathers of psychology, William James, referred to introspection as follows:

"We can rely on introspection from the beginning, from the beginning and always. There is no need to even define introspection - the meaning of looking inward into our soul and reporting what we discover there is clear... All people agree that they feel how they themselves think, and that they manage to notice and feel when they themselves are thinking, in an internal process, in front of all the other external objects in the world ... I refer to this belief as the most basic and true assumption of all the beliefs in the science of psychology..." (my free translation).

With the beginning of the foundation of psychological laboratories in the 19th century, they used the tool of introspection as a scientific tool, and experimenters were trained and trained in reporting their inner thoughts. On the one hand, there was not even a clear consensus on the way introspection should be conducted as a scientific tool. On the other hand, it was clear that this is the essence of psychology, to study the inner experiences that are affected by the outer experiences.

There were those who suggested treating introspection as a "photograph" of the mind, and thus it would be a real scientific tool. But from the very beginning it was clear that this tool is exposed to many influences from the environment, and there is a dependence on personal abilities and also looking back, on what would have influenced the process itself. For example - a description of a thought that lasted a second and a half can take 20 whole minutes, which causes a change in reality and perspective.

Do you tend to look inward into your stream of thoughts? How do you do it? How does it make you feel?

And is it acceptable as a scientific tool?

Introspection was used, and perhaps is used today, despite scientific reservations about it, as a tool that has many uses and many ways of looking almost as many currents in psychological-cognitive research. I find this term - introspection - as something that can be encountered from a variety of directions. In the "strict" scientific research (please say the last word with a heavy yikes look) there is really no room for introspection on the one hand, but on the other hand, when we rely in the laboratory on the reports of subjects, in any form, are we not making use of introspection?

At the other end, you can hear terms like "introspection" among those who are perhaps the furthest from science - in yoga classes, and in spiritual workshops. There, too, they make use of turning the gaze inward for different needs - relaxation, learning and listening. In the "spiritual" places (please imagine at this point the ringing of bells and incense) it is not called by the scientific name and science is not an interesting tool at all (perhaps even an obstacle), but the observation is the same observation.

Apparently, where there is awareness, there is a soul, and there is a thinking person who uses it - there will be, and it should be, introspection.

Next time - why introspection "went out of fashion" in psychology, and what people think about it today

based on

Boring, EG A history of introspection Psychological Bulletin (1953) Vol. 50

What happened to introspection over the years? - part 2

In the previous part I discussed the concept of "introspection" - the internal observation of the stream of awareness, as a research and treatment tool in psychology. Historically, the concept was used, among other things, by the first psychologists who defined themselves as scientists, and tried to study the human soul using scientific tools that they tried to parallel or borrow from worlds such as chemistry and physics. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, introspection was presented to the public as the scientific tool of psychologists, as

As I mentioned in the previous post, these first scientists wanted to create a scientific tool, such as measuring years on a chemical test tube, or measuring and calculating the movement of masses in chemistry. But they also understood that when they come to measure the abstract object called the soul (and as a side note - it should be noted that some of them did not even believe in the existence of the soul, or did not want to refer to it) there is no single scientific way. Likewise, there was no single method for reporting the introspection - introspection - neither with Wendt, nor in the laboratory of his student-successor, Titchener (1867-1927, Edward B. Titchener). And so while the first psychologists thought that we would find a practical scientific tool with which to study the mind and consciousness, those who came after them in the field of psychology did not believe that it was possible to study the mind in this way. New currents in research such as behaviorism (the study of behavior) and gestalt (which referred to the perception of the whole) took center stage, and the use of observing the stream of consciousness gradually waned.

Another place where reporting on the stream of thoughts and consciousness took place was the treatment room. The approach in which the patient lies on the couch and reports on the sequence of his thoughts or associations can be reminiscent of introspection, although in a very different way and different from the one that was used as a scientific tool. Can such a report penetrate the layers of the unconscious, the subconscious? Not sure... even a psychologist's answer will depend on the therapeutic approach in which that psychologist works.

And so I myself am still not sure whether to also call the process of self-examination, reporting and conversation that takes place in the therapeutic space by the same name. Freud himself tried to make a distinction between introspection and self-reporting and self-analysis of thought, and therefore minor. In any case, conscious observation of the inner experience is indeed a process that happens in psychological therapy, in its various streams, and therefore the conceptual connection is the same.

But if we go back to discussing scientific research, for the last century, introspection has been almost assigned as a tool of inquiry. The discussions on the way to use it, or on its very existence and internal processes, as much as it deserves to be investigated in the world of science, have made it almost confiscated. Still, what do you do when you study humans, perhaps the most complex beings in nature that we know? We must ask them what they think and what they thought.

One way was to use "self-report" and not call the child by name. In other words, researchers are considered to have asked the subjects a series of questions, "What did you think, how did you feel?" etc., and refrained from referring in any way to the concept of introspection. They simply used other words and for them - also different and more considered scientific methods. Especially when they instructed the subjects how to act and based on which scales to answer.

Other ways were to examine the behavior or performance in empirical tests, with norms and standards, of various types. Thus, it is possible to check what the subject perceived or felt, without relying on a general, oral report, which is considered questionable. Still, it was necessary to convey questionnaires and measuring instruments usually by verbal means - orally or in writing. Even when the research is done with tools that would be considered "proper scientific" today, such as magnetic imaging, brain stimulation, electrical activity measurement, etc. - we end up relying on the personal report of what the subject, or participant, thought. In many cases, the cooperation of the subjects is important, because we ask them to watch the screen or listen to the sound, and hope that they do not wander in their thoughts to fateful questions such as what they will eat for dinner or the content of the last conversation with their mother.

Apparently the solution to the question of scientific research and self-reporting is - as in many cases - a compromise. A combination of self-reporting of the thoughts and reflections of the participants, together with an examination of their behavior in a certain context, discussion of what a person did or thought, using our personal experience and scientific tools such as measurements of blood pressure, electrical conductivity of the skin or imaging means, can lead us on the right path . This is how we can combine introspection - the psychological research tool of the 19th century, with the research tool of the 21st, 22nd century and years to come...

Good luck!

based on

Locke EA It's Time We Brought Introspection Out of the Closet (2009) Perspectives on Psychological Science

Boring, EG A history of introspection Psychological Bulletin (1953) Vol. 50

16 תגובות

  1. Point (1):
    Self-reporting cannot be considered science "by definition" as you said, but the question is whether it is a problem of the self-reporting or a problem of the definition you use.
    Science is designed to discover truths about the world and in fact it is all based to one degree or another on self-reports.
    When a chemist mixes two substances and reports that a "red flame" came out, he is actually reporting that his brain received a sensation that he saw a red flame.

    The question is, therefore, not whether the report is self-inflicted (because it always is), but whether the experiment (introspective as it may be) is rare - that is, it can be performed by others while obtaining a similar result.

    In fact, I see that you wrote something similar yourself in the second section of the same comment, so what exactly do you want?

    Animals have consciousness.
    Anyone who observes animal behavior is aware of this.
    Defining consciousness is a complicated matter, but there are behaviors that clearly require it on one level or another.
    There are animals that have been shown not only to be conscious but also to be self-aware.
    For example monkeys and dolphins recognize themselves in the mirror.
    People sometimes confuse self-awareness with the ability to recognize oneself in the mirror, and in my eyes this is a colossal confusion.
    Obviously, self-recognition in the mirror requires self-awareness, but self-awareness can also exist without self-recognition in the mirror (or are there those who claim that the blind have no self-awareness?).

    A. Ben Ner:
    Every animal that draws conclusions from the facts is at one level or another a "scientist".
    Organized science is simply an extension of the process of drawing conclusions (characteristics of humans mainly, but animals also use it) from the particular to the general (hence the essentiality of language) and from an intuitive way of acting to a conscious way of acting.
    Your dog does not, therefore, deal with what we call science (which is organized science) but it clearly uses the methods of drawing conclusions that science has adopted.

    Among them:
    I really think that language is an important component of "man's freedom" and see what I wrote here:

    However, I would not define language as the only thing that characterizes him (although all the other characteristics that a person has would not be possible without language)
    In my opinion - the ability to introspect which is not trivial (that is - is not something along the lines of "stepping into a fire causes me pain") also characterizes a person, as does the practice of organized science.
    Regarding the practice of organized science - it is clear that it requires language.
    This is, of course, also true for introspection when you want to use it within the framework of science within the framework of science, but what is interesting is the question of whether non-trivial introspection is at all possible without language.
    In my opinion the answer is "no" because like many other complex thoughts it requires the use of symbols.

    In general - the conscious thinking - that is - thinking that results from the decision to think is probably a characteristic of the person, and it also requires language because it is difficult to decide to think when you do not have a conscious representation of the very concept of "thought".

  2. The only thing humans have that animals don't is a (much) more complex language.
    Both Wasabi the cat and me, his "owner" have everything else - to a very similar extent.

    It is language that allows us to build abstract models of the world and from them draw conclusions or plan a series of actions. Animals lack this ability and therefore their ability to plan and draw conclusions may appear as a "lack of consciousness" as A. thinks. Ben Nar in response 3.

    What exactly is this consciousness that humans have and animals do not?

    The word consciousness or awareness is not defined like the word electron and will never be a direction and a different skill is required in order to know them - an introspective/philosophical skill that is clearly not scientific (and even anti-scientific).
    This makes the whole discussion of whether or not animals have consciousness a bit pointless and unnecessary because we don't even know how to prove that another human being (besides us) has consciousness, which is a subjective and unprovable personal experience (see body and soul by Y. Leibovitz).

    In short, the human is allowed from the animal only in language. This is the only essential difference and it is indeed essential.
    This means that all our abilities derived from language do not exist in animals, but abilities that are not based on language also exist in dogs and cats (less so in dogs - they are quite stupid).
    Consciousness (whatever it is) is unlikely to be a product of language (after all you don't need language to feel conscious) and so it can be assumed that it exists in animals to the same extent that it exists in us.
    Empirical observation of cat wasabi reinforces this hypothesis.

  3. Point and point, you are both wrong.

    Awareness and consciousness are derivatives of the same one. And secondly, the 'cell' has no consciousness.

    What exactly is "complex behavior with emotions"?
    And if you think there are humans without consciousness, then you are probably one of them.

  4. You are confusing the function of consciousness (being aware of things) and complex behavior with emotions.
    The popular belief in the public that all humans have consciousness in my eyes is also questionable.

  5. Ghost
    I did not mean self-awareness but consciousness, which is some kind of perception of the environment, even if very limited.
    Regarding the example you gave, even if the person is not conscious/conscious there is still consciousness at the level of the cells because they continue to eat

  6. A. Ben Ner
    First of all it is good that your dog does not need any permission to breathe fresh air. 🙂
    When a person is engaged in an act of thinking, he also draws conclusions from it. When he thought of the sentence "I think means I exist" he probably noticed that it was actually he who thinks things, and from there he concluded that he exists.
    In other words:
    Man began to be self-aware when he realized for the first time that he is the one who actually thinks the thoughts, and not the thoughts that are 'implanted in his mind'.
    From such an insight, the path to the insight that 'I exist' is short, as you can guess.
    That is, a person can only be aware of himself if he is a thinking person. A person who thinks less is less self-aware.

  7. Shumi
    Your assertion that everything I eat must have awareness, and awareness is needed to feel thirst/hunger, is problematic. Take for example a person lying in a hospital unconscious, consuming energy through veins.
    A person in such a state is not aware of his condition, but his body (under the influence of the brain) is aware that it needs energy.
    On the other hand, there are quite a few people who have reported that they were aware of themselves while they were in a state of unconsciousness. But the last claim is not based on facts but on evidence, and at the moment there is no way
    To confirm the claim that a person can be aware of himself even while he is unconscious.

    Therefore, today it would still be correct to say that a person does not need awareness to feel thirsty or hungry, and if a person does not need it then surely the need for energy developed before self-awareness developed.

  8. It seems to me that everything I eat must have a consciousness, even if very basic (and I also mean cockroaches, bacteria and plants) because:
    1. He should have some sense of hunger/thirst
    2. He needs to develop spatial orientation in order to obtain food

  9. When my dog ​​goes for a walk in the neighborhood unaccompanied and without permission, when she comes back, she tries
    to demonize and demonize herself and is anxiously waiting to see my reaction towards her.
    Isn't this an expression of self-awareness?
    At the same time, it must be recognized that self-awareness can be at different levels, and that it is possible
    Develop and cultivate (and therefore even cultivate) self-awareness.
    I would summarize the issue briefly as follows: In my opinion, many animals have self-awareness
    However, it is possible that only (part of) the human race has the awareness of self-awareness and this is because
    the language. Probably only the language of (part of..) human beings can describe... and discuss... self-awareness
    Since it is an abstract concept.

  10. point,
    Animals obviously have consciousness
    And you are also an animal, only with a more developed consciousness

  11. Anyone who lives near animals (and I don't just mean a dog or cat or fish in an aquarium) knows that animals have both awareness and consciousness. But there are people who have decided that man is superior, and in the name of superiority they perform experiments on animals. And just to remind you, not long ago Hitler also decided that he was a superior man, while the Jews were equivalent to rats. If you don't believe it, you can look at the article: Dr. Mangala...

  12. A. Ben Ner:

    I'm not clear to whom the questions are directed (whether to the author of the article or to others), and I'm not clear why you think your dog is a scientist. But, from what I know about animals I can tell you that a lot of research proves
    that animals use different tactics in order to achieve something.
    (If it is a predator that hunts its prey and chooses one tactic over the other, or a monkey that chooses its food in one way and not another, and all kinds of others)
    These tactics must be the result of a thought process. Hence, other animals (that is, other than humans) also have thoughts.
    It may very well be that other animals are not aware of their thoughts or themselves, but at least there is evidence of the existence of 'thought' in them.
    A non-human animal does not need to know human language to think.
    I'm sure a dog won't use human language to find out where other dogs from his pack are.
    What you can see, is that dogs use the language of dogs (grunts, howls, etc.) to communicate with other dogs. All of this, of course, indicates an active mode of operation of their brains, that is, it indicates that the dogs are thinking (even if they are not aware of this state).

  13. Does my dog ​​have thoughts?
    Can my dog ​​in her thoughts plan a series of actions before she actually performs them?
    Does my dog ​​in her thoughts draw conclusions from her successes and failures?
    Does my dog ​​have self-awareness?
    Is my dog ​​a scientist?

  14. The matter is simple.
    1) Self-reporting cannot be considered science, by definition. (Science is an experiment that everyone is free to do, and no one can think the thoughts of the other).
    2) There is no need to distance feelings or thoughts that are not so distinct to consciousness, in relation to a visual image. Describing what I see ("I see a glass") is a self-report, the photons hit the eyes, pass through the mind and reach consciousness...

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