Phenomenology (psychology)

Phenomenology (psychology)

In psychology, phenomenology is used to refer to subjective experiences or their study. The experiencing subject can be considered to be the person or self. Subjective experiences are those that are in principle not directly observable by any external observer. One aspect of this of great philosophical interest is qualia, whose archetypical exemplar is "redness". "Is my experience of redness the same as yours?" "How would we know?" Subjective experiences are not merely perceptual. They can include any emotional, cognitive, or conative experience reaching the consciousness of the subjectFact|date=September 2007.

Difficulties in considering subjective phenomena

The now-scorned philosophical psychology prevalent before the end of the nineteenth century relied heavily on introspection. The speculations concerning the mind based on those observations were criticized by the pioneering advocates of a more scientific approach to psychology, such as William James and the behaviorists Edward Thorndike, Clark Hull, John B. Watson, and B. F. Skinner.

Philosophers have long confronted the problem of "qualia". Few philosophers believe that it is possible to be sure that one person's experience of the "redness" of an object is the same as another person's, even if both persons had effectively identical genetic and experiential histories.Fact|date=October 2007 In principle, the same difficulty arises in feelings (the subjective experience of emotion), in the experience of effort, and even in the "meaning" of concepts.Fact|date=October 2007

Psychotherapy and the phenomenology of emotion

Carl Rogers' person-centered psychotherapy theory is based directly on the "phenomenal field" personality theory of Combs and Snygg (1949) [Rogers, Carl R. (1951) "Client-Centered Therapy". Boston: Houghton Mifflin.] . That theory in turn was grounded in phenomenological thinking. [ [] Boeree, C. George, Donald Snygg and Arthur Combs in "Personality Theory" retrieved Oct. 7, 2007] . Rogers attempts to put a therapist in closer contact with a person by listening to the person's report of their recent subjective experiences, especially emotions of which the person is not fully aware. For example, in relationships the problem at hand is often not based around what actually happened, but instead is based around the perceptions and feelings of each individual in the relationship. The phenomenal field focuses on "how one feels right now".

Dennett's Heterophenomenology

Daniel Dennett has developed a phenomenological philosophical approach which he calls heterophenomenology. It provides a philosophical basis for a scientific psychology of subjective experience [Dennett, Daniel C., "Consciousness Explained". Boston, Little, Brown & Co., chs. 3 & 4] .

Other approaches

The psychotherapeutic and scientific approaches to the phenomenology of subjective conscious experience do not seem to exhaust the possibilities. In some realms of psychotherapy and self-help different phenomenological approaches continue.Fact|date=October 2007



* Combs, Arthur W. and Snygg, Donald (1949), "Individual Behavior: A New Frame of Reference for Psychology". New York, Harper & Brothers.

Further reading

See also

*Stream of consciousness (psychology)
*Association of Ideas
*Ideology, Prejudice

External links

* [ Snygg, Donald (1941) The Need For A Phenomenological System of Psychology "Psychol. Rev." 48,404-424.]

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