Introspection in psychology: what it is and types

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Introspection in psychology: what it is and types

Introspection is a act of self-awareness which involves thinking and analyzing your own thoughts and behaviors, being one of the defining characteristics of the human being. We are naturally curious about ourselves. We repeat our own experiences and actions in the hope of understanding who and how we are, but the term is also used to refer to an experimental technique that consists of analyzing one's thoughts and feelings in a structured and rigorous. Therefore, when we speak of introspection, we may be talking about the informal process of reflecting on oneself or the formal method employed in experimental research in psychology makes many years. In this Psychology-Online article, we will talk about the introspection in psychology: what it is and the types that can be distinguished.

The first meaning of introspection is the one most people are probably most familiar with. It is about the process that involves examine informally our own feelings and thoughts internal When we reflect on our thoughts, emotions, and memories and examine what they mean, we are introspection.

The second meaning would be a research technique developed by Wilhelm Wundt, also known as experimental self-observation. This technique consisted of training people in the most systematic and objective way possible to analyze the content of their own thoughts.

Introspection has been the most used word to describe Wundt's method throughout the history of psychology. The choice of that term has not greatly helped what Wundt intended, which was to develop a rigidly controlled experimental procedure.

Introspection in psychology: what it is and types - Definition of introspection in psychology

Broadly speaking, Wundt's method was as follows. In the first place, a series of observers were trained with high demands and then presented with a set of controlled sensory events. Subsequently, they were asked to describe their mental experiences in relation to those events presented. Wundt considered that it was necessary for observers to maintain high levels of attention to the stimulus and control of the situation during the sessions. Furthermore, these observations were also repeated a specified number of times.

What was the purpose of these observations?

Wundt believed that there were two key components that make up the content of the human mind: sensations and feelings. To understand the mind, Wundt thought that researchers needed to do more than simply identify the structure or elements of the mind, But something fundamental to be able to go further, was to observe the processes and activities that take place as people experience the world that surrounds.

Wundt focused on making the introspection process as structured and accurate as possible. In many cases, respondents were asked to simply answer "yes" or "no." In some cases, observers gave their answers by pressing a telegraph key. The goal was to make introspection as scientific as possible.

A student of Wundt also used this technique, but was accused of misrepresenting some of Wundt's original ideas. Wundt understood conscious experience as a whole, while Titchener (student) focused on dividing mental experiences into individual components.

Although Wundt's experimental techniques promoted making psychology a more scientific discipline, the introspection method has a number of limitations.

The use of introspection as an experimental technique was highly criticized, especially in Titchener's method. Schools such as functionalism and behaviorism considered that introspection it had no scientific reliability or objectivity.

Other criticisms are:

  • Different observers often provide significantly different responses to the same stimuli.
  • The technique cannot be used with children.
  • It has great limitations: complex topics such as learning, personality, mental disorders and development are difficult or even impossible to study with this technique.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

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