A psychologist’s map of consciousness studies

Velmans, Max. 2000. A psychologist’s map of consciousness studies. In: Max Velmans, ed. Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness: New Methodologies and Maps. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 333-358. ISBN 9789027251336 [Book Section]

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This overview of Consciousness Studies examines the conditions that one has to satisfy to establish a scientific investigation of phenomenal consciousness. Written from the perspective experimental psychology, it follows a two-pronged approach in which traditional third-person methods for investigating the brain and physical world are complementary to first-person methods for investigating subjective experience allowing the possibility of finding “bridging laws” that relate such first- and third-person data to each other. Mindful of the relative sophistication of third-person methods the chapter focuses on the problems of developing similarly sophisticated first-person methods. The problems are of three kinds: (1) Epistemological problems: How can one obtain public, objective knowledge about private, subjective experiences? (2) Methodological problems: Given that one cannot attach measuring instruments directly up to experiences, what psychological “instruments” and procedures are appropriate to their study? (3) The relation of the observer to the observed: The more closely coupled an observer is with an observed, the greater the potential influence of the act of observation on the nature of the observed (“observer effects”). Given this, how can one develop introspective and phenomenological methods where the observer is the observed? The chapter argues that the epistemological problems are more apparent than real, although this requires one to construe what is private versus public, and what is subjective or intersubjective versus what is objective in a slightly different way—with some enabling consequences for a science of consciousness. Methodological problems are real, but not fundamentally different to the problems traditionally faced in experimental psychological investigations of mental phenomena. The close-coupling of observer with the observed in first-person investigations can also be a problem, producing “observer effects” that are more acute than in most third-person investigations. The chapter suggests that one can either try to minimise such effects or to harness them, depending on the purpose of the investigation.

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25 Apr 2019 09:19

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25 Apr 2019 09:21



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