Introspection is the self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thought
"Thought" generally refers to any mental or intellectual activity involving an individual's subjective consciousness. It can refer either to the act of thinking or the resulting ideas or arrangements of ideas. Similar concepts include cognition, sentience, consciousness, and imagination...

s, desires
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

 and sensations. It is a conscious and purposive process relying on thinking, reasoning, and examining one's own thoughts, feeling
Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences, other than the physical sensation of touch, such as "a feeling of...

s, and, in more spiritual cases, one's soul
A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

. It can also be called contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

of one's self
Self (psychology)
The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive and affective representation of one's identity or the subject of experience. The earliest formulation of the self in modern psychology derived from the distinction between the self as I, the subjective knower, and the self as Me, the...

, and is contrasted with extrospection, the observation of things external to one's self. Introspection may be used synonymously with and in a similar way to human self-reflection
Human self-reflection
Human self-reflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence. The earliest historical records demonstrate the great interest which humanity has had in itself...

. It is used greatly as a spiritual examination.

Introspection is like the activity described by Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 when he asked, "…why should we not calmly and patiently review our own thoughts, and thoroughly examine and see what these appearances in us really are?"

As a method in science

Behaviorists claimed that introspection was unreliable and that the subject matter of scientific psychology should be strictly operationalized in an objective and measurable way. This then led psychology to focus on measurable behavior rather than consciousness or sensation. Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology
Cognitive psychology is a subdiscipline of psychology exploring internal mental processes.It is the study of how people perceive, remember, think, speak, and solve problems.Cognitive psychology differs from previous psychological approaches in two key ways....

 accepts the use of the scientific method, but often rejects introspection as a valid method of investigation for this reason, especially concerning the causes of behavior and choice. Herbert Simon
Herbert Simon
Herbert Alexander Simon was an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, and psychologist, and professor—most notably at Carnegie Mellon University—whose research ranged across the fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, computer science, public administration, economics,...

 and Allen Newell
Allen Newell
Allen Newell was a researcher in computer science and cognitive psychology at the RAND corporation and at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, Tepper School of Business, and Department of Psychology...

 identified the 'think aloud protocol
Think aloud protocol
Think-aloud protocol is a method used to gather data in usability testing in product design and development, in psychology and a range of social sciences...

', in which investigators view a subject engaged in a task, and who speaks his thoughts aloud, thus allowing study of his thought process without forcing the subject to comment on his thinking.

On the other hand, introspection can be considered a valid tool for the development of scientific hypotheses and theoretical models, in particular in cognitive science
Cognitive science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works. It includes research on how information is processed , represented, and transformed in behaviour, nervous system or machine...

s and engineering. In practice, functional (goal-oriented
The concept of goal orientation was developed to describe variability in dispositional or situational goal preferences that an individual implicitly sets for him/herself in achievement situations. GOs assist in providing a motivational framework for how individuals perceive, interpret, and judge...

) computational modeling and computer simulation design of meta-reasoning and metacognition
Metacognition is defined as "cognition about cognition", or "knowing about knowing." It can take many forms; it includes knowledge about when and how to use particular strategies for learning or for problem solving...

 are closely connected with the introspective experiences of researchers and engineers.

Introspection was used by German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt was a German physician, psychologist, physiologist, philosopher, and professor, known today as one of the founding figures of modern psychology. He is widely regarded as the "father of experimental psychology"...

 in the experimental psychology
Experimental psychology
Experimental psychology is a methodological approach, rather than a subject, and encompasses varied fields within psychology. Experimental psychologists have traditionally conducted research, published articles, and taught classes on neuroscience, developmental psychology, sensation, perception,...

 laboratory he had founded in Leipzig in 1879. Wundt believed that by using introspection in his experiments he would gather information into how the subjects' minds were working, thus he wanted to examine the mind into its basic elements. Wundt did not invent this way of looking into an individual's mind through their experience
Experience as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event....

s; rather, it can date to Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

. Wundt's distinctive contribution was to take this method into the experimental arena and thus into the newly formed field of psychology.

Inaccessible mental processes and confabulation

Psychological research on cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

 and attribution
Attribution (psychology)
Attribution is a concept in social psychology referring to how individuals explain causes of behavior and events. Attribution theory is an umbrella term for various theories that attempt to explain these processes. Fritz Heider first proposed a theory of attribution The Psychology of Interpersonal...

 has asked people to report on their mental processes, for instance to say why they made a particular choice or how they arrived at a judgment. In some situations, these reports are clearly confabulated
Confabulation is the process in which a memory is remembered falsely. Confabulations are indicative of a complicated and intricate process that can be led astray at any given point during encoding, storage, or recall of a memory. Two distinct types of confabulation are often distinguished...

. For example, people justify choices they have not in fact made. Such results undermine the idea that those verbal reports are based on direct introspective access to mental content. Instead, judgements about one's own mind seem to be inference
Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true. The conclusion drawn is also called an idiomatic. The laws of valid inference are studied in the field of logic.Human inference Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions...

s from overt behavior, similar to judgements made about another person. However, it is hard to assess whether these results only apply to unusual experimental situations, or if they reveal something about everyday introspection. The theory of the adaptive unconscious
Adaptive unconscious
The adaptive unconscious is a set of mental processes influencing judgment and decision making, in a way that is inaccessible to introspective awareness...

 suggests that a very large proportion of mental processes, even "high-level" processes like goal-setting and decision-making, are inaccessible to introspection.

Even when their introspections are uninformative, people still give confident descriptions of their mental processes, being "unaware of their unawareness". This phenomenon has been termed the introspection illusion and has been used to explain some cognitive bias
Cognitive bias
A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations. Implicit in the concept of a "pattern of deviation" is a standard of comparison; this may be the judgment of people outside those particular situations, or may be a set of independently verifiable...

es and belief in some paranormal
Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure...

 phenomena. When making judgements about themselves, subjects treat their own introspections as reliable, whereas they judge other people based on their behavior. This can lead to illusions of superiority
Illusory superiority
Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of...

. For example, people generally see themselves as less conformist
Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people.Conformity may also refer to:*Conformity: A Tale, a novel by Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna...

 than others, and this seems to be because they do not introspect any urge to conform. Another reliable finding is that people generally see themselves as less biased than everyone else
Bias blind spot
The bias blind spot is the cognitive bias of failing to compensate for one's own cognitive biases. The term was created by Emily Pronin, a social psychologist from Princeton University's Department of Psychology, with colleagues Daniel Lin and Lee Ross...

, because they are not likely to introspect any biased thought processes. These introspections are misleading, however, because biases work sub-consciously
Unconscious mind
The unconscious mind is a term coined by the 18th century German romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling and later introduced into English by the poet and essayist Samuel Taylor Coleridge...

One experiment tried to give their subjects access to others' introspections. They made audio recordings of subjects who had been told to say whatever came into their heads as they answered a question about their own bias. Although subjects persuaded themselves they were unlikely to be biased, their introspective reports did not sway the assessments of observers. When subjects were explicitly told to avoid relying on introspection, their assessments of their own bias became more realistic.

Eastern spirituality

In Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East over several centuries of religious antiquity. The term is generally used in Western Christianity to...

, some of the concepts critical to addressing the needs of man such as sober introspection, called nepsis
Nepsis is an important idea in Orthodox Christian mystical theology. Nepsis is a state of watchfulness or sobriety that forms one dimension of the state of contemplative prayer...

, are specific to watchfulness of the human heart and address the conflicts of the human nous
Nous , also called intellect or intelligence, is a philosophical term for the faculty of the human mind which is described in classical philosophy as necessary for understanding what is true or real, very close in meaning to intuition...

, heart or mind. Also noetic understanding can not be circumvented nor satisfied by rationalizing or discursive thought (i.e. systemization).

In fiction

Introspections (also referred to as internal dialogue, interior monologue, self-talk) is the fiction-writing mode
Mode (literature)
In literature, a mode is an employed method or approach, identifiable within a written work. As descriptive terms, form and genre are often used inaccurately instead of mode; for example, the pastoral mode is often mistakenly identified as a genre...

 used to convey a character's thoughts. As explained by Renni Browne and Dave King, "One of the great gifts of literature is that it allows for the expression of unexpressed thoughts…" .

According to Nancy Kress, a character's thoughts can greatly enhance a story: deepening characterization, increasing tension, and widening the scope of a story . As outlined by Jack M. Bickham, thought plays a critical role in both scene and sequel
A sequel is a narrative, documental, or other work of literature, film, theatre, or music that continues the story of or expands upon issues presented in some previous work...


See also

  • Introversion
  • Phenomenology
  • Phenomenology (psychology)
    Phenomenology (psychology)
    Phenomenology is an approach to psychological subject matter that has its roots in the philosophical work of Edmund Husserl. Early phenomenologists such as Husserl, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty conducted their own psychological investigations in the early 20th century...

  • Psychonautics
    Psychonautics refers both to a methodology for describing and explaining the subjective effects of altered states of consciousness, including those induced by mind altering substances, and to a research paradigm in which the researcher voluntarily immerses him/herself into an altered...

  • Psychophysics
    Psychophysics quantitatively investigates the relationship between physical stimuli and the sensations and perceptions they effect. Psychophysics has been described as "the scientific study of the relation between stimulus and sensation" or, more completely, as "the analysis of perceptual...

  • Rumination (psychology)
    Rumination (psychology)
    Rumination is a way of responding to distress that involves repetitively focusing on the symptoms of distress, and on its possible causes and consequences. Rumination is more common in people who are pessimistic, neurotic, and who have negative attributional styles. The tendency to ruminate is a...

  • Self-awareness
    Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals...

  • Self-consciousness
    Self-consciousness is an acute sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being; although some writers use both terms interchangeably or synonymously...

  • Style (fiction)
    Style (fiction)
    In fiction, style is the manner in which the author tells the story. Along with plot, character, theme, and setting, style is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.-Fiction-writing modes:...

  • Mode (literature)
    Mode (literature)
    In literature, a mode is an employed method or approach, identifiable within a written work. As descriptive terms, form and genre are often used inaccurately instead of mode; for example, the pastoral mode is often mistakenly identified as a genre...

  • Conceptual proliferation
    Conceptual Proliferation
    In Buddhism, conceptual proliferation refers to conceptualization of the world through the use of ever-expanding language and concepts. The translation of papañca as conceptual proliferation was first made by Katukurunde Nanananda Thera in his research monograph Concept and Reality.[2] It is a...

External links

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