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ANS52(3-4)128-133 - ACTIVITAS NERVOSA SUPERIOR Activitas...

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Activitas Nervosa Superior 2010; 52 :3-4,128-133 128 T HE N ECESSITY FOR D EVELOPING S KILL AT M IND -P ROCESS O BSERVATION , AND A S UGGESTED M ETHODOLOGY Copthorne Macdonald* Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, C1A 8C5 Canada Received September 7, 2010; accepted September 14, 2010 Abstract Ever since introspectionism was abandoned early in this century, the scientific community has shown little interest in training people to observe the functioning of their own minds with greater than ordinary clarity. Thus, despite advanced academic training and much knowledge about physical phenomena and processes, few consciousness theorists or expe- rimentalists have any special expertise at closely observing mental artifacts and processes. Without observational clarity about the mental, how is that web of physical/mental correlations going to be mapped? Key words: Attention; Consciousness; Mind; Observation INTRODUCTION Unfortunately, we humans are not naturally skilled at observing mind content and process. Our natural ten- dency is to get lost in the mental drama that accompa- nies our life. We tend to identify with the informational content of our minds in much the same way that we identify with the informational content of an engrossing movie. Consequently, much of the time we are "lost in the show." We have developed neither the detachment required for scientifically sound observation of mind contents and functions, nor the requisite observational skills. THE NEED FOR ACCURATE MENTAL DATA Increasingly, situations arise where knowledge from one discipline alone is not enough to extend the fron- tiers of understanding and creative capability. In order to do creative work in the field of medical technology, for example, the biomedical engineer must have both physician-type knowledge and engineer-type knowledge in one brain/mind. I am suggesting that a similar neces- sity exists in the field of consciousness studies. Whether their primary discipline is philosophy, neurology, psy- chology, or cognitive science, those theoreticians and researchers who complement academically grounded expertise with highly developed mind-watching skills have an advantage. They bring two pools of relevant data to their explanation-creating, theory-building activ- ities. This, I suggest, gives them a significant advantage in their efforts to arrive at accurate, insightful explana- tions of what is going on. MIND-WATCHING METHODOLOGIES Introspectionism's legacy Experimental introspectionism was the psychologist's tool of choice in the late 19th Century. The experiments themselves tended to be limited in scope. Each was de- signed to explore some limited aspect of subjective ex- perience, and the inner observation was often correlated with some objective factor such as time or the intensity of a sensation. In his Principles of Psychology, William James (1950, p. 191) acknowledged that "introspection is difficult and fallible," but went on to say that "the difficulty is simply that of all observation of whatever kind." Titchener (1908, p.180) put it this way: "There is
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