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Time, Experience, and Descriptive Experience Sampling

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Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) rightly encourages concrete, experience-near description of specific psychological states. But it needs to be further connected and opened up, both to the search for converging methods and objective corroborating evidence for the reports of subjective experience, and to more temporally-extended sequences in experience. I criticize DES for deliberately eradicating the dynamics of conscious experience by providing only a flash snapshot of 'the last undisturbed moment before the beep'. This restriction rules out certain significant experiential phenomena, and renders the kind of 'personal truth' revealed strangely thin, by neglecting the fact that we are creatures whose present experience is often animated in many distinctive ways by our past. I query the dis-tinction between recalling and reconstructing, and re-examine parts of two reports discussed by Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel. These exam-ples reveal rich cross-temporal interactions that should encourage us to explore, in ways DES officially rules out, how kinaesthetic memory and autobiographical memory respectively animate present experi-ence. A slightly extended experience-sampling practice could take a central place among other methods for investigating experience.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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