Introspection (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Oct 10, Wilhelm Wundt offered a foundation for psychology, and many today note him as As you reflect, you start to wonder why situations in your life. Introspection: Introspection, (from Latin introspicere, “to look within”), the process of Consciousness · Reflection · Classical introspection of experimental psychology, especially Wilhelm Wundt, Oswald Külpe, and Edward Bradford Titchener. and in psychophysics, which determines the relations of conscious events. Introspection is the examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings. In psychology, the process of introspection relies exclusively on observation of one's mental state, while in a spiritual context it may refer to the examination of one's soul. Introspection is closely related to human self-reflection and is contrasted with Building upon the pre-existing use.
On self-shaping and self-fulfillment models of introspection, according to which introspective judgments create or embed the very state introspected see Sections 2. Introspection yields judgments or knowledge about one's own current mental processes relatively directly or immediately.
It's difficult to articulate exactly what directness or immediacy involves in the present context, but some examples should make the import of this condition relatively clear. Gathering sensory information about the world and then drawing theoretical conclusions based on that information should not, according to this condition, count as introspective, even if the process meets the three conditions above.
Seeing that a car is twenty feet in front of you and then inferring from that fact about the external world that you are having a visual experience of a certain sort does not, by this condition, count as introspective. However, as we will see in Section 2. Introspection involves some sort of attunement to or detection of a pre-existing mental state or event, where the introspective judgment or knowledge is when all goes well causally but not ontologically dependent on the target mental state.
For example, a process that involved creating the state of mind that one attributes to oneself would not be introspective, according to this condition. Now, what I say may be true, and I may know it to be true, and I may know its truth in some sense directly, by a means by which I could not know the truth of anyone else's mind.
That is, it may meet all the four conditions above and yet we may resist calling such a self-attribution introspective. Introspection is not constant, effortless, and automatic. We are not every minute of the day introspecting. Introspection involves some sort of special reflection on one's own mental life that differs from the ordinary un-self-reflective flow of thought and action.
The mind may monitor itself regularly and constantly without requiring any special act of reflection by the thinker—for example, at a non-conscious level certain parts of the brain or certain functional systems may monitor the goings-on of other parts of the brain and other functional systems, and this monitoring may meet all five conditions above—but this sort of thing is not what philosophers generally have in mind when they talk of introspection.
However, this condition, like the directness and detection conditions, is not universally accepted. For example, philosophers who think that conscious experience requires some sort of introspective monitoring of the mind and who think of conscious experience as a more or less constant feature of our lives may reject the effort condition Armstrong; Lycan No major contemporary philosopher believes that all of mentality is available to be discovered by introspection.
For example, the cognitive processes involved in early visual processing and in the detection of phonemes are generally held to be introspectively impenetrable and nonetheless in some important sense mental Marr ; Fodor Many philosophers also accept the existence of unconscious beliefs or desires, in roughly the Freudian sense, that are not introspectively available e.
The two most commonly cited classes of introspectible mental states are attitudes, such as beliefs, desires, evaluations, and intentions, and conscious experiences, such as emotions, images, and sensory experiences.
Introspection - New World Encyclopedia
These two groups may not be wholly, or even partially, disjoint: It of course does not follow from the fact if it is a fact that some attitudes are introspectible that all attitudes are, or from the fact that some conscious experiences are introspectible that all conscious experiences are.
Some accounts of introspection focus on attitudes e. There is no guarantee that the same mechanism or process is involved in introspecting all the different potential targets. Generically, this article will describe the targets of introspection as mental states, though in some cases it may be more apt to think of the targets as processes rather than states.
Also, in speaking of the targets of introspection as targets, no presupposition is intended of a self-detection view of introspection as opposed to a self-shaping or containment or expressivist view see Section 2 below. The targets are simply the states self-ascribed as a consequence of the introspective process if the process works correctly, or if the introspective process fails, the states that would have been self-ascribed. For ease of exposition, this article will describe the products of the introspective process as judgments, without meaning to beg the question against competing views.
Not all deserve to be called introspective, but an understanding of introspection requires an appreciation of this diversity of approaches—some for the sake of the contrast they provide to introspection proper and some because it's disputable whether they should be classified as introspective.
These approaches are not exclusive. Surely there is more than one process by means of which we can obtain self-knowledge. Unavoidably, some of the same territory covered here is also covered, rather differently, in the entry on self-knowledge. A simplistic version of this view is that we know both our own minds and the minds of others only by observing outward behavior. On such a view, introspection strictly speaking is impossible, since the first-person condition on introspection condition 2 in Section 1.
There is no distinctive process that generates knowledge of one's own mind only. Twentieth-century behaviorist principles tended to encourage this view, but no prominent treatment of self-knowledge accepts this view in its most extreme and simple form.
Consequently, this approach to self-knowledge is sometimes called the theory theory. We notice how we behave, and then we infer the attitudes evidenced by those behaviors—and we do so even when we actually lack the ascribed attitude. For example, Bem cites classic research in social psychology suggesting that when induced to perform an action for a small reward, people will attribute to themselves a more positive attitude toward that action than when they are induced by a large reward Festinger and Carlsmith ; see also Section 4.
When we notice ourselves doing something with minimal compensation, we infer a positive attitude toward that activity, just as we would if we saw someone else perform the same activity with minimal compensation. Likewise, we might know we like Thai food because we've noticed that we sometimes drive all the way across town to get it; we might know that we're happy because we see or feel ourselves smiling.
Bem argues that social psychology has consistently failed to show that we have any appreciable access to private information that might tell against such externally-driven self-attributions. On Bem's view, if we are better at discerning our own motives and attitudes, it's primarily because we have observed more of our own behavior than of anyone else's.
For example, people queried in a suburban shopping center about why they chose a particular pair of stockings appeared to be ignorant of the influence of position on that choice, including explicitly denying that influence when it was suggested to them. People asked to rate various traits of supposed job applicants were unaware that their judgments of the applicant's flexibility were greatly influenced by having been told that the applicant had spilled coffee during the job interview see also Section 4.
In such cases, Nisbett and his co-investigators found that subjects' descriptions of the causal influences on their own behavior closely mirrored the influences hypothesized by outside observers.
From this finding, they infer that the same mechanism drives the first-person and third-person attributions, a mechanism that that does not involve any special private access to the real causes of one's attitudes and behavior and instead relies heavily on intuitive psychological theories.
Gopnik a, b; Gopnik and Meltzoff deploys developmental psychological evidence to support a parity theory of self-knowledge. She points to evidence that for a wide variety of mental states, including believing, desiring, and pretending, children develop the capacity to ascribe those states to themselves at the same age they develop the capacity to ascribe those states to others.
For example, children do not seem to be able to ascribe to themselves past false beliefs after having been tricked by the experimenter any earlier than they can ascribe false beliefs to other people. This appears to be so even when that false belief is in the very recent past, having only just been revealed to be false. According to Gopnik, this pervasive parallelism shows that we are not given direct introspective access to our beliefs, desires, pretenses, and the like.
Experts engage in all sorts of tacit theorizing that they don't recognize as such—the expert chess player for whom the strength of a move seems simply visually given, the doctor who immediately intuits cancer in a patient.
Since we are all experts at mental state attribution, we don't recognize the layers of theory underwriting the process. Furthermore, though Bem, Nisbett, Wilson, and Gopnik all stress the parallelism between mental state attribution to oneself and others and the inferential and theoretical nature of such attributions, they all also leave some room for a kind of self-awareness different in kind from the awareness one has of others' mental lives.
However, none of these authors develops an account of this apparently more direct self-knowledge. Their theories are consequently incomplete. Regardless of the importance of behavioral evidence and general theories in driving our self-attributions, in light of the considerations that drive Bem, Nisbett, Wilson, Gopnik, and Ryle to these caveats, it is probably impossible to sustain a view on which there is complete parity between first- and third-person mental state attributions.
There must be some sort of introspective, or at least uniquely first-person, process. Any mental state that can only be known by cognitive processes identical to the processes by which we know about the same sorts of states in other people is a state to which we have no distinctively introspective access.
States for which parity is often asserted include personality traits, unconscious motives, early perceptual processes, and the bases of our decisions see Section 4.
We learn about these states in ourselves, perhaps, in much the same way we learn about such states in other people. Carruthers ; see also Section 4. But what does it mean to say that introspection is like perception? As Shoemaker a, b, c points out, in a number of respects introspection is plausibly unlike perception. For example, introspection does not involve a dedicated organ like the eye or ear though as Armstrong notes, neither does bodily proprioception. The visual experience of redness has a distinctive sensory quality or phenomenology that would be difficult or impossible to convey to a blind person; analogously for the olfactory experience of smelling a banana, the auditory experience of hearing a pipe organ, the experience of touching something painfully hot.
To be analogous to sensory experience in this respect, introspection would have to generate an analogously distinctive phenomenology—some quasi-sensory phenomenology in addition to, say, the visual phenomenology of seeing red that is the phenomenology of the introspective appearance of the visual phenomenology of seeing red.
This would seem to require two layers of appearance in introspectively attended sensory perception: See Bayne and Montague, eds. Contemporary proponents of quasi-perceptual models of introspection concede the existence of such disanalogies e. One aspect of the detection condition deserves special emphasis here: Self-detection accounts of self-knowledge seem to put introspection epistemically on a par with sense perception. To many philosophers, this has seemed a deficiency in these accounts.
Other accounts of self-knowledge to be discussed later in Section 2. Armstrong also appears to hold that the quasi-perceptual introspective process proceeds at a fairly low level cognitively—quick and simple, typically without much interference by or influence from other cognitive or sensory processes.
Since Armstrong allows that inferences are often non-conscious, based on sensory or other cues that the inferring person cannot herself discern, his claim that the introspective process is non-inferential is a substantial commitment to the simplicity of the process.
He contrasts this reflexive self-monitoring with more sophisticated acts of deliberate introspection which he thinks are also possible Lycan endorses a similar view, though unlike Armstrong, Lycan characterizes introspection as involving attentional mechanisms, thus presumably treating introspection as more demanding of cognitive resources though still perhaps nearly constant.
Nichols and Stich also propose an analogous but somewhat more complicated mechanism they leave the details unspecified that takes percepts as its input and produces beliefs about those percepts as its output.
Nichols and Stich emphasize that this Monitoring Mechanism does not operate in isolation, but often co-operates or competes with a second means of acquiring self-knowledge, which involves deploying theories along the lines suggested by Gopnik see Section 2.
That is, they present, on the one hand, cases which they interpret as cases showing a breakdown in the Monitoring Mechanism, while the capacity for theoretical inference about the mind remains intact and, on the other hand, cases in which the capacity for theoretical inference about the mind is impaired but the Monitoring Mechanism continues to function normally, suggesting that theoretical inference and self-monitoring are distinct and separable processes.
Conversely, Nichols and Stich argue that schizophrenic people remain excellent theorizers about mental states but monitor their own mental states very poorly—for example, when they fail to recognize certain actions as their own and struggle to report, or deny the existence of, ongoing thoughts. But functional role is a matter of what is apt to cause a particular mental state and what that mental state is apt to cause see the entry on functionalismand Goldman argues that a simple mechanism could not discern such dispositional and relational facts though Nichols and Stich might be able to avoid this concern by describing introspection as involving not just one but rather a cluster of similar mechanisms: Goldman also argues that the Nichols and Stich account leaves unclear how we can discern the strength or intensity of our beliefs, desires, and other propositional attitudes.
Goldman's positive account starts with the idea that introspection is a quasi-perceptual process that involves attention: Individual attended mental states are then classified into broad categories similarly, in visual perception we can classify seen objects into broad categories. Specific contents, especially of attitudes like belief, are too manifold, Goldman suggests, for pre-existing classificational categories to exist for each one.
Visual representations, he suggests, have a different format or mental code than beliefs, and therefore cognitive work will be necessary to translate the fine-grained detail of visual experience into mental contents that can be believed introspectively. Hillalso offers a multi-process self-detection account of introspection.
Like Goldman, Hill sees attention in some broad, non-sensory sense as central to introspection, though he also allows for introspective awareness without attention— Hill emphasizes dissimilarities between introspection and perception, while retaining a broadly self-detection account.
Why Introspection Is Crucial For All?
Hill argues that introspection is a process that produces judgments about, rather than perceptual awareness of, the target states, and suggests that the processes that generate these judgments vary considerably, depending on the target state, and are often complex. Central to Hill's account is an emphasis on the capacity of introspective attention to transform—especially to amplify and enrich, even to create—the target experience.
Like Hill, Prinz argues that introspection must involve multiple mechanisms, depending both on the target states e. The latter type of knowledge, Prinz argues, is much more detailed and finely structured than the former but cannot be expressed or retained over time. Prinz also follows Hill in emphasizing that introspection often intensifies or otherwise modifies the target experience.
There are several ways to generate judgments, or at least statements, about one's own current mental life—self-ascriptions, let's call them—that are reliably true though they do not involve the detection of a pre-existing state. Consider the following four types of case: I judge that I am making a judgment about my own mental life.
Such self-ascriptions are automatically self-fulfilling. Their existence conditions are a subset of their truth conditions. Self-ascriptions that prompt self-shaping: I declare that I have a mental image of a pink elephant. At the same time I make this declaration, I deliberately cause myself to form the mental image of a pink elephant. A man uninitiated in romantic love declares to a prospective lover that he is the kind of person who sends flowers to his lovers.
At the same time he says this, he successfully resolves to be the kind of person who sends flowers to his lovers. The self-ascription either precipitates a change or buttresses what already exists in such a way as to make the self-ascription accurate. In these cases, unlike the cases described in Asome change or self-maintenance is necessary to render the self-ascription true, beyond the self-ascriptional event itself.
Accurate self-ascription through self-expression: Self-expressions of this sort are assumed here to flow naturally from the states expressed in roughly the same way that facial expressions and non-self-attributive verbal expressions flow naturally from those same states—that is, without being preceded by any attempt to detect the state self-ascribed. Self-ascriptions derived from judgments about the outside world: From the non-self-attributive fact that Stanford is south of Berkeley I derive the self-attributive conclusion that I believe that Stanford is south of Berkeley.
From the non-self-attributive fact that it would be good to go to home now, I derive the self-attributive judgment that I want to go home now. These derivations may be inferences, but if so, such inferences require no specific premises about ongoing mental states. The following accounts of self-knowledge all take advantage of one or more of these facts about self-ascription. Because these ways of obtaining self-knowledge all violate the detection condition on introspection condition 5 in Section 1.
Contemporary self-fulfillment accounts tend to exploit the idea of containment. In a essay, Burge writes: When one knows one is thinking that p, one is not taking one's thought or thinking that p merely as an object. One is thinking that p in the very event of thinking knowledgeably that one is thinking it. It is thought and thought about in the same mental act. Heil ; Gertler; Heil and Gertler describe such thoughts as introspective while Burge appears not to think of self-knowledge so structured as introspective: In judging that I am thinking of a banana, I thereby necessarily think of a banana: The self-attributive judgment contains, as a part, the very thought self-ascribed, and thus cannot be false.
Shoemaker speculates that the relevant containment relation holds not between the contents or concepts employed in the target state and in the self-ascriptive state but rather between their neural realizations in the brain. One might think of mental processes as transpiring in fairly narrow regions of the brain their core realizationand yet, Shoemaker suggests, it's not as though we could simply carve off those regions from all others and still have the mental state in question.
To be the mental state it is, the process must be embedded in a larger causal network involving more of the brain the total realization.
Relationships of containment or overlap between core realization and total realization between the target state and the self-ascriptive judgment might then underwrite introspective accuracy. For example, the total brain-state realization of the state of pain may simply be a subset of the total brain-state realization of the state of believing that one is in pain.
Introspective accuracy might then be explained by the fact that the introspective judgment is not an independently existing state.
One possible difficulty with such accounts is that while it seems plausible to suppose that an introspective thought or judgment might contain another thought or judgment as a part, it's less clear how a self-attributive judgment or belief might contain a piece of conscious experience as a part.
Beliefs, and other belief-like mental states like judgments, one might think, contain concepts, not conscious experiences, as their constituents Fodor ; or, alternatively, one might think that beliefs are functional or dispositional patterns of response to input Dennett ; Schwitzgebelagain rendering it unclear how a piece of phenomenology could be part of belief.
Such concepts are often thought to be obtained by demonstrative attention to our conscious experiences as they are ongoing.
It would seem, at least, that beliefs, concepts, or judgments containing pieces of phenomenology would have to expire once the phenomenology has passed and thus that the introspective judgments could not used in later inferences without recreating the state in question. Chalmers concedes the temporal locality of such phenomenology-containing introspective judgments and consequently their limited use in speech and in making generalizations.
Papineauin contrast, embraces a theory in which the imaginative recreation of phenomenology in thinking about past experience is commonplace. It is difficult to find accounts of self-knowledge that stress the self-shaping technique in its purest, forward-looking, causal form—perhaps because it's clear that self-knowledge must involve considerably more than this Gertler If I describe myself as brave in battle, or as a committed vegetarian—especially if I do so publicly—I create commitments and expectations for myself that help to make those self-ascriptions true.
McGeer compares self-knowledge to the knowledge a driver has, as opposed to a passenger, of where the car is going: The driver, unlike the passenger, can make it the case that the car goes where she says it is going There are also strains in Dennett though Dennett may not have an entirely consistent view on these matters; see Schwitzgebel that suggest either a self-fulfillment or a self-shaping view. Such remarks are consistent with either an anti-realist view of fiction there are no facts about the easy chair or about consciousness; see — or a self-fulfillment or self-shaping realist view Doyle creates facts about Holmes as he thinks or writes about him; we create facts about what it's like to be us in thinking or making claims about our consciousness, as perhaps on 81 and More moderately, in discussing attitudes, Dennett emphasizes how the act of formulating an attitude in language—for example, when ordering a menu item—can involve self-attributing a degree of specification in one's attitudes that was not present before, thereby committing one to, and partially or wholly creating, the specific attitude self-ascribed Here is one possibility: That is, he believed consciousness could be broken down or reduced to its basic elements without sacrificing any of the properties of the whole.
Wundt argued that conscious mental states could be scientifically studied using introspection. He trained psychology students to make observations that were biased by personal interpretation or previous experience, and used the results to develop a theory of conscious thought.
Highly trained assistants would be given a stimulus such as a ticking metronome and would reflect on the experience. They would report what the stimulus made them think and feel.
The same stimulus, physical surroundings and instructions were given to each person. Wundt's method of introspection did not remain a fundamental tool of psychological experimentation past the early 's. His greatest contribution was to show that psychology could be a valid experimental science.
Therefore, one way Wundt contributed to the development of psychology was to do his research in carefully controlled conditions, i. This encouraged other researchers such as the behaviorists to follow the same experimental approach and be more scientific. However, today psychologists e. Skinner argue that introspection was not really scientific even if the methods used to introspect were.
Skinner claims the results of introspection are subjective and cannot be verified because only observable behavior can be objectively measured. Wundt concentrated on three areas of mental functioning; thoughts, images and feelings. These are the basic areas studied today in cognitive psychology.
This means that the study of perceptual processes can be traced back to Wundt.