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Data from Introspective Reports: Upgrading from Common Sense to Science

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Introspective reports are used as sources of information about other minds, in both everyday life and science. Many scientists and philosophers consider this practice unjustified, while others have made the untestable assumption that introspection is a truthful method of private observation. I argue that neither scepticism nor faith concerning introspective reports are warranted. As an alternative, I consider our everyday, commonsensical reliance on each other's introspective reports. When we hear people talk about their minds, we neither refuse to learn from nor blindly accept what they say. Sometimes we accept what we are told, other times we reject it, and still other times we take the report, revise it in light of what we believe, then accept the modified version. Whatever we do, we have (implicit) reasons for it. In developing a sound methodology for the scientific use of introspective reports, we can take our commonsense treatment of introspective reports and make it more explicit and rigorous. We can discover what to infer from introspective reports in a way similar to how we do it every day, but with extra knowledge, methodological care and precision. Sorting out the use of introspective reports as sources of data is going to be a painstaking, piecemeal task, but it promises to enhance our science of the mind and brain.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept of Philosophy, Washington University, Campus Box 1073, One Brookings Dr., St. Louis, MO 63130-4899, USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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