Saturday, December 26, 2009

self-observation, self-remembering..,

NYTimes | Psychologists have many ways to get inside our heads: they can give us questionnaires, track our eyes, time how long we take to respond to cues and measure the blood flow to our brains. But how close can these methods get to the texture of our inner lives?

Russell T. Hurlburt, a psychologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has spent decades refining another way to study the mind. Dr. Hurlburt, a former aeronautical engineer, took up the study of psychology while playing trumpet at military funerals during the Vietnam War. Frustrated by the lack of attention to everyday experiences in the field of psychology, he arrived at the university in 1976 with an unconventional plan to investigate the mental lives of his subjects: ask them for descriptions.

In “Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic” (M.I.T. Press, 2007), Dr. Hurlburt, 64, presents the case of Melanie, a young woman who was fitted with a beeper that randomly prompted her to record everything in her awareness several times a day. In later interviews, she reconstructed these moments, often under rigorous cross-examination.

The resulting mental freeze-frames are remarkably diverse.