Describing Inner Experience?
Proponent Meets Skeptic
Russell T. Hurlburt
The MIT Press
Anticipated Summer 2007
Do not quote without permission of the authors.
Eric can be said to be at a triple disadvantage in this situation: First, he’s “playing in Russ’s court” for the first time, while Russ has been performing interviews for decades. Second, the sampling interviews took place with Russ and Melanie together in Russ’ office and Eric participating by speakerphone from his office hundreds of miles away. Third, it was Russ who recruited Melanie, and therefore he had a (small) prior relationship with her.
Apart from informing Melanie of the anticipated presence of a philosopher interested in exploring the method, the setup was standard DES procedure (for details, see Hurlburt and Heavey, 2006, and Hurlburt, 1990, 1993): She had been given a beeper, set to go off at random intervals anywhere from one minute to one hour, and she had been given a notebook to jot down whatever might be helpful to her after each beep. She was to wear the beeper in her natural, everyday environments for several hours at her convenience, collecting approximately 6-8 “samples” within the 24 hours before a scheduled interview with us. She was to respond to the beep by trying to “freeze” and remember whatever experience was ongoing at the last undisturbed moment before the beep began – whatever was “before the footlights of consciousness” – whether that was one thing or many things or nothing. She was not to worry about whether the experience was typical or about its causes. Nor was she to go beyond what she could report accurately: She was told that “I don’t know” was always a respected answer. If she was not able or willing to interrupt her activity to immediately note her experience, she was asked to skip the sample entirely.
In several respects, these interviews diverged from DES procedure. Most notable, of course, was the presence of Eric, who was not trained in DES interviewing principles and was explicitly invited to question Melanie in whatever manner he saw fit. Furthermore, as the reader will see, Russ and Eric engaged in theoretical conversations about the reported experience and about Melanie’s trustworthiness as a subject, right in front of Melanie, and Melanie was permitted to participate in these conversations. This would never happen in standard DES. There was, of course, a substantial risk that such conversations would have an impact on Melanie, biasing or otherwise altering her reports (see, e.g., Box 5.11 in Ch. 5 [regarding imagery] and p. *** [regarding the timing of the beep]). Despite this risk, we thought it best, rather than debating after the fact about a more standardly collected DES-style report, to try to hash out our differences with Melanie present and available to amplify her reports in response to our queries and disagreements and to contribute her own sense of her experience.
We interviewed Melanie a total of six times, discussing six separate sampling days over the course of several weeks, concluding when we decided that we had reached a point of diminishing returns. The interviews were recorded and transcribed word-for-word. For ease of reading we have removed vocalized pauses and, in some places, eased awkward locutions, repetitions, and brief digressions. Where we’ve cut longer portions of the dialogue, a specific note is included in the text. Except where explicitly noted, the issues raised in the boxes were not discussed in Melanie’s presence. The entire transcript and original audio files are available on the Web at ****.
Russ [after briefly introducing Eric and Melanie to each other]: There aren’t any particular rules about this exercise except to get to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Melanie’s inner experience.
Russ: And as long as we think that’s an interesting deal, we’ll do it. And as soon as we decide it’s not an interesting deal, then we won’t do it anymore.
Eric: That sounds good.
Russ: I don’t care how we proceed in this regard. [to Eric] If you want to be the primary interviewer, that is totally all right with me. If you’d prefer me to be the primary interviewer, that’s okay with me as well. And, if you want, we can just pass it back and forth as seems sort of natural… I’ve usually found it makes sense for somebody to be the primary ball carrier just because that’s easier, but…
Eric: Right. Why don’t I let you do that, because you’ve had so much experience with this. I may just jump in from time to time.
Russ: I’ve told Melanie that we may very well get into conversations along the side that we wouldn’t normally do in a typical sampling situation. She would probably be interested in those conversations. She just graduated from college with a dual major in psychology and philosophy...
Eric: Oh, wow! Okay, great.
Russ: …so she may be able to contribute to the conversations we’re having. She was saying just before you called that…
Eric: [laughs] Right.
Russ: So, Melanie, is there anything else we should be talking about other than that sort of mechanical difficulty?
Melanie: No, aside from that everything went pretty well.
Russ: Okay. So then I’m ready to go to beep number one. And these beeps are from yesterday. Is that right?
Melanie: Yes. They’re from yesterday evening from about to
Melanie: Number one requires a little bit of background, so this may take a couple of minutes. I had just received this huge box in the mail, about as big as I was. It was a chair from my university, one of those heritage chairs that you get. I had unwrapped it and everything, and there were protective plastic coverings over the back of the chair and the handles and all four legs. So I’m standing in the living room and I had it tipped back on its two hind legs, and it was leaning against the couch in my home. I was removing the plastic covering from the front two legs when I looked up and there was a white manila envelope taped to the bottom of the chair. There were some papers in it, so I pulled out the papers and was looking at them. It was a family tree that you can fill out that goes back to my great-grandparents and then to my great-grandchildren, so I could document who I pass this chair on to. And right at the moment of the beep I was kind of thinking in my head how funny it was that I had just received this chair fifteen minutes ago and all of a sudden here was this paper I was supposed to fill out about who was going to inherit it.
Russ: And by “right at the moment of the beep” do you mean like right at the very beginning of the beep? Or…
Melanie: No, right before. And then right as the beep started I was aware of the fact that I was smiling. So right before the beep I had this thought in my mind, but I didn’t really know what the rest of my body was doing. But then the beep went off, and then I was aware of what I was sitting and doing.
Russ: Okay. So the moment that we’re interested in is that last undisturbed moment before the beep came. So if the beep starts here and we can wind the experiential clock back a microsecond or something, that’s the moment we are talking about. So at that moment are you thinking about how strange it is? Or…
Melanie: Just how amusing it is that I’d just gotten this chair, and here I needed to plan out who was going to inherit it.
Russ: Okay. And this thinking, how
does it proceed? [See
Melanie: Well, it’s not aloud, it’s
in my head, so I’m silent. And it’s a voice going through my head that isn’t my
own voice. I’m not hearing my own voice. It’s my inner thought voice, so it’s
the one I recognize and hear all of the time whenever I’m thinking. But it is
different from the voice with which I speak. [See
Melanie: And at the same time as that was going on, I was aware of this kind of glow inside my head that kind of says, “That was a funny aspect of the thought or a humorous aspect of the thought.” So I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was smiling, but I was aware of the fact that I found that thought humorous. If that makes sense.
Russ: Okay. Well, I think it makes sense, but I’m not exactly sure that I understand it totally yet. So you’re hearing something, which is a voice that’s familiar to you but is not your voice. Is that what you’re saying?
Melanie: Mm hm.
Russ: And does this voice have vocal characteristics, like I’ve got sort of a deep voice, and…?
Melanie: It’s… the only way I can compare it is to my own voice. It’s a little smoother; I’m a little more modulated.
Russ: You’re more modulated?
Melanie: No. The voice inside my head is.
Russ: And by more modulated you mean more up and down, and more…
Russ: … and more dynamic?
Melanie: Yes, exactly!
Melanie: And I’d say it also has a lower pitch than my normal voice does.
Eric: Is it a female voice?
Melanie: Yes it is.
Eric: Does it have your regional dialect? It wouldn’t have a southern accent or something?
Melanie: No, it’s mine. Well, it has the same dialect that I do.
Eric: So what makes you think it’s not… Why don’t you say it’s just your voice but smoother and more modulated?
Melanie: I suppose it could be. But at the same time, if it were my voice but smoother and more modulated, then it’s not my voice anymore. I’m not sure.
Eric: Could you speak like that if you wanted to?
Melanie: No. I know I couldn’t. I’ve tried.
Russ: The question of whether this is your voice or not in some absolute sense is probably unanswerable because it requires definitions that go beyond our ability. But whether it seems to be your voice or not, that is something that I think is answerable. So the question is, does this voice seem to you to be your voice?
Melanie: [emphatically] No.
Russ: So it seems like it’s a voice that is quite similar to your voice but is not your voice. Experientially it’s a different thing from saying, [affects a southern drawl] “Well, I’m going to try and talk with a southern accent, and I can talk with a southern accent if I want to”…
Melanie: Right. I almost feel as though if I could take a tape recorder and record that voice and record my own, you’d be able to hear the difference between them.
Russ: Okay. And the differences are enough that it doesn’t seem like your voice trying to talk…
Melanie: …in a different manner. Mm hm.
Russ: Okay. So this voice is like a voice that is being heard rather than a voice that is being spoken? Is that correct?
Russ: So this is a different experience from your talking out loud?
Russ: This is more like you’ve recorded this and now you’re playing it back. Experientially I mean.
Melanie: Right. Mm hm.
Russ: There’s no recording part…
Melanie: No [laughs].
Russ: … but it seems like this is
coming towards you like a recording would come?
Russ: Okay. And at the moment of
the beep, what exactly was this voice saying?
Melanie: It was saying… it was towards the end of the thought about the chair, thinking about who was to inherit it. It was right at the end of that phrase.
Russ: And can you tell me exactly what that phrase is?
Melanie: Well, the phrase was that I was thinking how funny it was that I just received this chair and here I was thinking of who was to inherit. What was going on right at the moment of the beep was, “who was to inherit.”
Russ: And right now you’re saying that in the past tense: “how funny it was.” Was the thought originally in the past tense?
Melanie: No, it was originally in the present.
Russ: So at the moment of the beep
this voice was saying, quote, “How funny it is…” [See
Melanie: Mm hm.
Russ: “… that I just got the chair, I just received the chair…”
Melanie: “Just received.”
Russ: “… and…”
Melanie: “… and now I have to plan who is to inherit.”
Russ: And the beep comes at the end of that…
Melanie: Mm hm.
Russ: … somewhere in the “who is to inherit” portion?
Russ: Okay. And does that voice… where is that voice? Is that in your head, or outside your head, or in the front of your head?
Melanie: It’s in my head. If I have to give a specific location, I’d say it’s somewhere here, right between my temples.
Russ: You don’t have to give a location if it doesn’t make sense to give a location.
Melanie: Mm hm. No, it was there.
Russ: Okay. And then you said that there was something like a glow about this.
Eric: A little more on the voice before we get to the glow, actually. It takes a certain amount of time to say something like, “How funny it is that I’ve just received this chair and I have to plan who is to inherit it.” It takes a few seconds. Would you say that the voice was roughly the pace of the speaking voice, so that it took several seconds? Or was it going faster or slower? Or was it all kind of compressed into an instant?
Melanie: It was compressed. I wouldn’t say it was compressed into an instant – it was a little bit longer. But it was significantly faster than it would normally take to say a sentence like that out loud.
Eric: [speaking rapidly] So would it be like someone who was a fast talker getting it out really fast like that? Or was it something that seemed a little different from how speech could be paced?
guess I’d have to say it was something a little different because when it was
in my head it didn’t feel compressed. It didn’t feel rushed or jammed into a
really small time like it sometimes does when someone speaks quickly. [See
Eric: Mm hm.
Russ: So the experience of it is that it’s going at a normal rate. But you think that actually if we put a stopwatch on it, it would have been faster.
Russ: Okay. And what makes you think it would have been faster? If the experience is that it was going at a normal rate?
Melanie: Because there was a sense
of speed to it. Not of rushedness and not of compression, but … I don’t know. The
best way I can think to describe it is it felt like it was racing through my
head in a way. [See
Russ: More, Eric?
Eric: No, I think that’s alright. Let’s go to the glow.
Russ: Okay. So there was something you said that was a “glow.” I didn’t quite understand what you meant by that.
Melanie: I couldn’t feel myself smiling. I wasn’t aware of myself smiling, but after the beep I was, you know, “Oh! I’m smiling right now.” But when that thought was going through my head there was this kind of rosy yellow glow in my head just as those words were going through that kind of reflected the humor I felt in that sentence.
Russ: Now when you say “rosy,” “yellow,” and “glow,” do you mean that there was something rosy-yellow – some experience of rosy yellow? Or do you mean that as sort of a metaphor?
Melanie: I think a bit of both. There was color involved. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was pale color – it wasn’t vibrant and rich and bright – but there was a hint of color, almost like wrapped up with the words.
Russ: And where was this color, if that question makes sense?
Melanie: All over. It was in my head, but it felt more all over as opposed to the distinct location of where the words were.
Russ: And is this color like a wash of color, or….
Russ: So it’s not like there’s not some specific place where there’s a rosy yellow color?
Melanie: No, it’s all over.
Russ: And is this a uniform color, like rosy yellow all over, or is it rosy here and yellow there?
Melanie: It’s uniform.
Russ. Okay. And is this rosy yellow like a light that creates rosy yellow luminance? Or is it rosy yellow like a picture has…?
Melanie: I’d say it’s a luminance.
Russ: So there’s some kind of illumination…
Russ: … that seems like it’s rosy yellow colored in your experience…
Melanie: Yes, exactly.
Russ: … in a visual way. And I’m gathering that you think or know or something – and I’m trying to clarify this – that this rosy yellowness is associated with the humorous aspect of it?
Melanie: It was a feeling that was very familiar to me, or I guess, the sight, you could say, of this color that is really familiar to me and is one that I commonly associate with laughing at a joke or something that involves humor.
Russ: So the experience of this rosy yellow is not unusual – it’s part of Melanie being Melanie. When something funny happens she turns rosy yellow inside.
Melanie: Yes. [laughs] Exactly.
Eric: I don’t know whether you can answer this or not, whether you remember well enough, but how would it interact with your visual experience? Would it seem as though this paper… I assume the paper you’re looking at is probably white.
Melanie: It was parchment colored.
Eric: Ah. So would it have discolored the paper visually in some way, or…?
Melanie: No. It wasn’t as though I saw through my eyes at all. It felt very much in my head as opposed to something that was out in front of me.
Eric: So when you say it was all over, it’s not kind of like all over your visual field, or something like that …
Melanie: I wasn’t wrapped up in this color, no. I mean it was like it was all over my brain or thought field, if that helps.
Russ: If you’d been here when she said it was all over, she held both hands up in the vicinity of her head near her temples, rocking them back and forth as if she was trying to say “all over inside my head”.
Eric. [laughs] Um hm.
Melanie: But there wasn’t any outward manifestation of it.
Eric: So when you look at something, when you look out at the world, there’s only a certain range of degrees of arc that you can see, right? You can see forward, say, 120 degrees of arc, maybe a bit more. You can’t really see anything too high up or too low down or too much to the side or behind you. So is that where the glow is? In that kind of non-visual area, then, which would include your head, say? Or is that not the way to think about it?
Russ: Let me ask a
different question if I can, here, because that’s the kind of question that I
wouldn’t ask. I wouldn’t ask that question because it has, too close to the
surface for my taste, the intrusion of reality. If I were interested in that
question I would ask it sort of like this: When you say this rosiness is inside
your head and sort of throughout your head, do you mean you’re looking sort of
forward at it, or up at it, or down at it, or backwards at it, or all of the
above, or…? [See
Melanie: Neither. It’s just mainly… I’m trying to think of the best way to describe it. It feels like, in my head, I guess you could say, is this other world and I’m just looking straight at it. I can see – it’s a 360-degree vision. I can see above me, below me, behind me, in front of me, through the sides. It’s all over.
Russ: So the 120-degree rule doesn’t apply in this…?
Melanie: No. It’s not like the visual field. It’s almost like looking from beneath, and looking up – and being able to see everything – kind of like in a planetarium.
Russ: So it seems more above you than below you, is that right, the rosy yellow?
Melanie: No, because it seems all around me. It’s really like a 360-degree view – I can just see it everywhere.
Russ: So it’s 360 in three dimensions. It’s 360 in front and in back and 360 above and below?
Melanie: Yes. [See
[Here we have
excised a brief discussion of the issue discussed in
Russ: So is there anything else going on at this particular moment? You’re seeing the white parchmenty paper…
Melanie: Mm hm.
Russ: And does that seem to be in your awareness, or is it….
Melanie: No it’s not. I’m not aware of how my body is positioned or of what I’m holding. It’s very much just in my head.
Russ: You you’re paying much more attention to your thought process here, about “isn’t it strange…?” “isn’t it funny?” You’re obviously seeing the parchment, because that’s what started this process, but it’s not in your awareness.
Melanie: Yes, exactly.
Russ: Okay. Have you got further questions about that, Eric?
Eric: Right. Yeah. I don’t know how fruitful it is to push on that, so…
Russ: She looks pretty confident, if you were here watching her.
Eric: Right. Well, there is a debate about whether there are things you experience that are peripheral. So some people think that when you’re visually attending to something but there’s, say, a jackhammer in the background, you may not be paying any attention to the jackhammer, but the jackhammer is part of your experience anyway. Or if you’re sitting in a chair, in the periphery of your experience there’s some kind of a feeling of the chair on your back and on your bottom. So, do you have a sense for this beep whether there were these sorts of peripheral, marginal experiences? Or was it pretty much the things that you were focusing on that you have reported so far, and that’s it?
Melanie: I think it primarily was just that I was focusing on what I’ve already said.
Eric: Mm hm.
Melanie: It wasn’t until after the beep that I became much more aware of the fact that, Oh I am sitting with the my legs tucked underneath me, and I have this smile on my face, and I am holding this piece of paper. That didn’t come until after the beep kind of compelled me to examine what I’m doing.
[Here we have
excised a brief discussion of the “periphery of experience.” See
Russ: So, anything else in this beep other than that?
Melanie: I think that was it.
Melanie: Okay. I was walking kind of aimlessly between the kitchen and the dining room waiting for the shower to stop running and my boyfriend to get out so I could finish making dinner. The beep caught me just as I was going in from the hallway that comes from the living room into the kitchen. Right before the beep happened, I was thinking – and it was a kind of inner speech thought – of how you can think you’re really busy and doing something and you can block time out of your day to do something but there’s still little empty spaces of time that happen even while you think you’re really busy.
Russ: And when you say that’s
“right before the beep,” do you mean that that’s actually before the
beep or is that at the moment of the beep as I’ve defined it (the last
undisturbed moment before the beep)? [See
Melanie: It’s at the moment of the beep.
Russ: Okay. That again is sort of a long phrase: “you can think you’re really busy” and…
Melanie: “You can think you’re really busy but even during those busy times there are periods of empty time.”
Russ: And where does the beep come?
Melanie: Again, right toward the end, about “empty time.”
Russ: And is that an exact quote, do you think?
Russ: Okay. And this, you said, was more like speaking, as distinct from the last one, which was more like hearing. Is that right?
Russ: And is this more like in your voice as opposed to….
Melanie: Yeah. It was much more myself saying it.
Russ: And when you say it’s “much more myself saying it,” do you mean it was myself saying it?
Melanie: Not quite. It was more of a hybrid between the voice I was hearing in the last one and my own voice. It was again in that kind of accelerated manner as the last one was, where it wasn’t compressed and didn’t feel rushed, but I think had anybody been timing that thought going through my mind it would have gone significantly faster than had it been actually spoken.
Russ: Okay. And the speaking portion of it: Is the sensation exactly like you are speaking? Or is it somehow different from when you’re speaking out loud?
Melanie: Well it’s different because my mouth’s not moving. But I’d say I hear it in the same way. For instance, that thought was more located between my ears and in a way down my throat like where your vocal cords are than the earlier one was. But it was different in that I couldn’t feel my throat working, and there was no vibration going around in my skull, and I couldn’t feel my mouth moving.
Russ: Right. And when you’re talking out loud do you generally feel those things?
Russ: Sort of explicitly? So when we’re talking right now you’re sort of aware of the vibrations…
Melanie: Um hm. Yes.
Russ: … and that is true whenever you talk out loud? That you’re aware of the….
Melanie: Not always, but often. Quite often.
Russ: So let me make sure I understand this. So while you’re talking about whatever it is that you’re talking about, there is a part of your awareness that is paying attention to the kinesthetics and the vibromechanics or whatever it is.
Melanie: Yes. But not always. Usually if I get very wrapped up in what I’m saying or really excited about something or if I feel really, really comfortable with the person I’m talking to and almost let myself go a little bit and feel a little bit free in speaking with someone, then I’m not as aware of it. But the times when I’m a little bit tenser and a little more careful about what I say, then I tend to notice the way I talk as well. The way my vocal cords work and the way my voice sounds in my own ears.
Russ: And when you say you notice this, there are other things going on too, your lungs are pumping and whatever… are you aware of that?
Melanie: No, I’m not as aware of that. I’m not aware of that at all.
Russ: Okay. So what you’re aware of is in your neck and the bottom of your chin…
Melanie: Down to the jaw, yes.
Russ. Okay. [See
Melanie: Yes, exactly.
[Here we have excised a brief exchange in which Melanie asserts again that the voice was more spoken than heard.]
Russ: And is there anything else in your awareness at that moment?
Melanie: During this beep I was significantly more aware of where I was and what I was doing. I had just stopped right before coming into the kitchen, and right in front of me I could see the microwave and the stove. And I was aware that I was looking at them.
Russ: So you were seeing in your awareness the microwave and the stove.
Russ: And so this is different from the previous beep?
Russ: In the previous beep your eyes were aimed at the paper but you weren’t actually in your awareness seeing it.
Russ: Here your eyes are aimed at the microwave and the stove and you were seeing them in your awareness as well?
Eric: I think it
might be useful to draw a distinction between being aware of the
microwave and stove visually and being aware that you’re looking at the
microwave and the stove. Does that distinction make sense? And if so, is it
more one or the other of those? [For Eric’s complaints about Russ’s use of the
word “awareness” here and elsewhere, see
Russ: How about this? Awareness of the stove: the attention is aimed at the stove. Awareness of looking at the stove: the attention is aimed at yourself doing the looking?
Melanie: Okay. Then I’d say it’s the former, not the latter.
Russ: You’re seeing the stove.
Russ: There is a
philosophical position out there that says if you have consciousness of the
stove you also have to have consciousness of yourself seeing the stove. [See
Russ: And you’re saying as far as you know that’s not in your awareness.
Russ: [to Eric] Which is the way most my subjects say it is, by the way.
Russ: And so does that exhaust your awareness, the fact of the thinking and the seeing of the stove and the microwave?
Melanie: Yes. After the beep happened I was aware of the fact that I had my hands behind my back and I was just about to step onto a linoleum floor from a carpeted floor. But I wasn’t thinking of any of that at the moment of the beep.
Melanie: My boyfriend and I were having dinner. We were having a discussion about this country house that his family has. Right at the moment of the beep I just finished saying the sentence, “I remember the shed now,” because we were talking about how someone was going to go and add on the second story to the shed that’s on this property. I’d forgotten what he was talking about, and then he reminded me and I said, “Oh, I remember the shed now.” And right as I finished speaking the beep came.
Russ: So you’re saying, “Oh, I remember the shed now” aloud?
Russ: And the beep comes near the end of that phrase?
Melanie: No, right at the end of it.
Russ: Right at the end of it.
Russ: “Oh, I
remember the shed now” beep. [See
Russ: And in your awareness is….
Melanie: In my awareness is that I can feel my mouth close. And then also I have a mental image of the structure we’re talking about, of the shed.
Russ: And when you say “I can feel my mouth close,” that’s in your awareness?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: And is that part of the same kind of deal we were talking about a minute ago…
Russ: … with the awareness of the speaking act?
Melanie: Exactly. [See Box 4.14 for comments on Melanie’s awareness of her speaking and Box 4.15 for a discussion of the subject’s notes during DES.]
Russ: So you had been aware of the vocal cords and whatever, but now we’re right at the end and the vibrations have stopped and the mouth is closing. That’s where we are?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Okay. And at the same time you also have an image of the shed.
Melanie: Right, as if you’ve opened the front door and you’re standing just inside. I’ve only seen this building once, and I’m just remembering it from the view I saw that day.
Russ: And in your image, whether or not it’s the same as anything that actually exists on the planet, what do you see in the image?
Melanie: It’s a very
bright day, so it’s pretty dark inside, and there are four walls. [See
Russ: And there are jackets on them or just …
Russ: … in your image?
Melanie. Yes, there’s one jacket. And then there’s directly in front of me – half of it is a wall and the other half is a cutout for a bathroom but the bathroom’s not installed yet, and against the wall there is a bench. And it’s all in light wood, like oak.
Russ: That’s quite a few details. Are you seeing all those details?
Russ: And at the moment of the beep are you seeing all of them sort of equally or are you paying more attention to part of them?
Melanie: It’s all equal. It’s a memory just like when you take a snapshot. It’s a snapshot memory of the first time that I saw the shed, or the inside of it.
Russ: And so when you say it’s a
snapshot do you mean it has a border around it like a snapshot has or…? [See
Melanie: No, but it’s still. There’s nothing moving. It’s a snapshot in that it’s one moment out of time.
Melanie: And I only stood there for a couple of seconds and then someone came up next to me and I walked inside and everything like that. But it’s just that first moment when the door was opened as I was looking inside.
Russ: And so does this seeing then seem like the same kind of seeing that happened back whenever that was, some number of days or weeks ago or…?
Russ: So it’s like you’re looking the same as you had been looking then?
Melanie: Um hm. Exactly.
Russ: And as we’re talking about it now, do you seem to be doing the same thing again?
Melanie: Yeah. The mental image that I have is the exact same as it was last night.
Russ: And is this image clear, like….
Melanie: Yeah, it is.
Russ: As clear, more clear, not quite as clear as it was the first time you saw it?
Melanie: Probably not quite as clear. Just because time has passed and I probably don’t remember it 100% accurately….
Melanie: …although it may be actually accurate. I don’t know. But…
Russ: And here I’m not asking you actually to speculate about whether it’s actually as clear as it was back then, because that would require you to have a veridical memory of the way it was back then, which I don’t think you can do. The question is, does it seem crystal clear? In the same sense…
Russ: ...that it seems crystal clear [interrupts himself]. Well, let me ask you this. When you see things in general, do they seem crystal clear?
Russ: Okay, then. When you were looking at this image at or whenever it was last night, did it seem like you were looking at this shed in a crystal clear way?
Russ: And did the looking seem to be as detailed? Was this a very visually richly detailed thing with posts and windows and benches and the like?
Russ: And so there are three things going on. There’s the speaking aloud; there’s the awareness of the end of the musculature – the mouth closing at the end of the speaking aloud; and there’s the image of the shed.
Melanie: [nods yes].
Russ: Is there anything else in your awareness?
Melanie: No, that’s it.
Eric: So you’re saying that there’s not a kind of center and periphery of the image or anything like that.
Melanie: Nope. In a way you could say that it’s all that I can see. The best way to describe it is going back to what you were saying about the first one with the glow. I’m seeing it as though it’s in that 120 degree visual field. It’s not in my head. I’m seeing it as though I’m looking at it through my own eyes.
Eric: Um hm. Right.
Russ: In reality, you’re looking at one thing at a time. Right now you’re looking at me, and no doubt this TV monitor is in your peripheral vision. And you could see it when you’re actually looking at me….
Melanie: But not hyper-concentrating on it.
Russ: Right. And at the moment of the beep, as far as this image is concerned, are you looking at a piece of the image, like the bench, or the window, or the pole…?
Melanie: No, I’m just seeing the whole thing.
Russ: You’re seeing
the whole thing?
Eric: So in a sense the image might be clearer, are you saying, than when you see something and you’re kind of focused on one thing that maybe is clear and something to the side is not as clear? I’m not sure if that is your visual experience but it sounded like it was when you just responded to Russ a little bit ago.
Melanie: Well, it’s difficult to answer because I admit in the mental image that I had there are things in my very periphery that I probably don’t see. But on the whole I’m not staring at one thing, so nothing…. And even when I do, in everyday life, when I’m looking directly at someone, the things around it, in okay, let’s say at least 100 degrees are pretty much clear, and I can see what they are and where they are and the color and everything like that. So it’s vision like that.
Eric: Um hm. [See Box 4.18 for a discussion of the experience of vision.]
Russ: So when you’re thinking about this image now, it looked at least a minute ago like you’re recreating the image again. Is that true?
Russ: So there’s the post and the lights and the whatever, and when we’re talking about this, does it seem or not seem that your attention is going within this image now to the window and now to the bench and now to the post…
Melanie: No. I’m just seeing the whole thing.
Eric: What’s the level of resolution? Can you see the nails – I don’t know if it has nails – or the fineness of the grain, or that kind of stuff?
Melanie: No, I can’t. First of all it’s dark. I can see more than just the outline of the objects in the room but beyond that I couldn’t tell you the grain of the wood, or, you know, where one board stops and the next begins.
Eric: Although is that just because the image is dark, or is it because there’s some kind of unspecificity in it or …?
Russ: Let me interrupt that line of questioning and ask the kind of question that I would prefer to ask in this kind of situation. [To Melanie] You said there was a post with some hooks on it.
Melanie: There were a couple hooks on the wall.
Russ: And there was one coat hanging on the wall?
Melanie: It was a jacket.
Russ: What does that jacket look like?
Melanie: It was like a windbreaker that you just casually toss upon a hook and it’s just kind of hanging there drooping a little.
Russ: And what color is it? Does it have a color?
Melanie: It doesn’t have a color different than the rest of the room. It’s all pretty much the same dark bluey gray.
Russ: Okay. And does this windbreaker have a hood or sleeves or what…?
Melanie: I couldn’t tell you that… it has sleeves because they’re a little bit longer than the coat.
Russ: So you can see the sleeves.
Melanie: Yes, one longer than the other.
Russ: Which one?
Melanie: The one closest to me, the left hand one.
[Here we have
excised a brief discussion between Russ and Eric about the importance of going
detail by detail rather than jumping immediately to a more general question. See
Eric: So could you tell how the coat was wrinkled? Was it a little rumpled, or was it really straight…?
Melanie: It was a little rumpled, just because it’s hanging over a hook, so it’s falling in a particular manner.
Eric: And could you see the particular direction of the rumples in it? Could you count them?
Melanie: Probably not… no. I wouldn’t say it’s that sharp.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: I could
tell the difference in the sleeves because they hang below the coat, and it’s
something I could just see instantly. But no, I probably couldn’t count them. [See
In lieu of the full transcript of the discussion of this sample, here is a description of this experience as Melanie conveyed it in the interview:
Melanie and her
boyfriend had just put in a videotaped movie, and, as always, had started at
the very beginning so they could see all of the previews. The tape had begun
with a several-minute-long picture of the MGM logo with the lion frozen in mid-snarl
and the words ‘Ars Gratia Artists’. At the moment of the beep, the boyfriend
was saying to Melanie, “Didn’t the lion used to [beep] roar?” Melanie
was hearing and comprehending what he was saying, and at the same time was
paying attention to the green color of the screen. The color had been gradually
changing, and was now green. She was paying particular attention to the
greenness because it happened to be the same shade of green as the MGM Grand
After we finished discussing Beep 1.4, we discussed a number of issues such as the extent of Russ’s and Eric’s skepticism; the “refrigerator light phenomenon” as a source of skepticism about Melanie’s claims about her visual experience and her imagery in Beep 1.3 (see Boxes 4.18, 4.20, and 5.4); the desirability of finding performance differences between people who report different levels of detail in their imagery experiences (see Ch. 10.1); and suspicions about Melanie’s accurately timing the beep, given that it seems to catch her at the end of thoughts (see Box 4.13).
Melanie seemed relatively unbothered by Eric’s skepticism about her reports, saying she did not take it personally. Since Melanie participated in these discussions, they may have affected her later reports.
The full transcript is available at ****.
The Second Sampling Day
Melanie: I was reading. It’s a book
set on the
Russ: And when you say you “had an image in your head,” what exactly does that mean?
Melanie: Just a picture. I mean an imagined picture of what the scene kind of looks like.
Russ: And does it seem like you’re
just looking at it? Or does it seem like you’ve got a postcard of
Melanie: It’s not a postcard in that it seems confined to one little space and there’s something else surrounding it. It’s more like being in an IMAX film in your head where it’s a little bit more surrounding you and it’s all you can see.
Russ: And does it seem like a clear picture of Kefalonia?
Melanie: Reasonably, yes.
Russ: And by “reasonably” do you mean not so clear as if you were in Kefalonia? Or sort of the same way, or…?
Melanie: Not as clear, because I was making it up. But reasonably clear.
Russ: Okay. And what exactly do you see?
Melanie: There’s a dirt road that’s kind of going diagonally across the space.
Russ: And by diagonally, judging from what your hands are doing, sort of from close left to far right?
Melanie: And there’s a hedge of greenish shrubbery lining the far side of the road with a couple of olive trees sticking up out of them, that have that kind of olive green leaf. And then on the road is this woman dressed in kind of traditional Greek clothing, with a long dark skirt and kerchief around the head and a white kind of peasant blouse.
Russ: And you say “on the road,” like walking on the road? Driving on the road?
Melanie: Just standing on the road.
Russ: Looking which way?
Melanie: Looking not at me but more
toward my right… [See
Melanie: … and a British soldier standing next to her. They’re standing reasonably close, just a couple of feet apart.
Russ: And by “standing next to her” do you mean shoulder to shoulder? Face to face?
Melanie: Not quite face to face, but turned towards one another as though in a conversation. And the soldier is wearing fatigues, olive green and tan color. And she’s kind of speaking. It’s more of a frozen picture, but she’s speaking, kind of gesturing a little bit with her hands. And he’s just standing there listening.
Russ: And when you say a “frozen picture” and yet “gesturing with her hands”….
Melanie: Well, she has her hands out as though in a gesture, like when you speak and you talk with your hands a little bit, but it’s frozen in one.
Russ: Okay. So like a snapshot has been taken…
Russ: … or a frame has been taken out of a video?
Russ: And was it originally a moving video, which at the moment of the beep is frozen? Or are you just sort of creating a still picture?
Melanie: Just creating a still picture. [See
Russ: Okay. And as far as you recall at this particular moment, does this picture seem like it adequately reflects what was in the story? You’re reading about this kind of scene, I gather?
Melanie: Yeah. There’s probably more going on in the book than just in this picture. Like I think there were a couple of additional characters, but they weren’t in the mental picture that I had.
Russ: And has the book described these hedges, and a few olive trees, and the road going left to right diagonally or…?
Russ: Those are details that you…
Melanie: Made up.
Russ: … constructed that are consonant with the book but not necessarily identical….
Russ: Okay. You’re reading, actively reading?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: And is anything in your awareness other than this picture? So my question is: Does the content of the reading just seem like it’s coming in and being reflected in the picture? Or are you saying the words to yourself and somehow…?
Melanie: There’s nothing else aside from the picture. It almost feels like what I’m reading is being directly translated into a movie going on inside my head.
Russ: Okay. And is there an emotional reaction or sensations or anything? Or just the picture?
Melanie: Not at this beep. There is another one when I’m reading and there is emotion [see Beep 2.2], but here it’s just….
Russ: At this moment you’re reading and making a picture and paying attention to the picture, I gather.
Melanie: Yes, and just watching, yeah.
Russ: So you’re not really even paying attention to the book. You’re obviously looking at the book, and your eyes... there’s a retinal image of the words…
Russ: … but you’re not really paying attention to that. You’re paying attention to the picture. Is that correct?
Melanie: Yes. [See
Russ: Okay. Eric, you want to…?
Eric: Were you pausing in your reading at this time, to just reflect on the scene and create this image? Or were you just going along reading without pausing, and the image was coming on?
Melanie: No, just going along reading. No pauses. Until the beeper went off, and then I stopped and turned off the beeper. But at the moment of the beep my eyes were just going down the page.
Eric: Right. And were you recreating that image now when you were just reporting it?
Melanie: Yes. [See
Eric: So, I’m not sure… um… it’s probably not standard DES methodology….
Russ: Feel free to be as skeptical as you like.
Eric: Well, just out of curiosity, if you can recreate that image now…
Melanie: Um hm.
Eric: … when you’re focusing, say, on the soldier…
Eric: … are the things that you’re not
focusing on simultaneously clear? Or is it that when you move your focus around
from one part of the image to the other, the thing at the focus of your
attention comes in some way more clearly into your experience or something?
Melanie: I’m not really sure how to answer that. I think the best way to describe it is, it’s almost as though I am looking at a postcard with this scene on it.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: And I’m just staring at it. I mean, when I think of looking at the soldier, for instance, there aren’t any more details that are coming up. It’s more like having that image blown up…
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: … a little bit. But it’s not like I can suddenly see whether or not he’s wearing a wedding band, or how his feet are positioned, or something like that.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: It’s not more added detail.
Eric: So you can’t see how his feet are positioned?
Eric: Um… so maybe this is a totally crazy question, and you can just tell me that it’s crazy if you want. [Melanie laughs] But how can you be visually imagining some legs without imagining some particular way in which they’re positioned?
Melanie: [apologetically] I guess you could say that that wasn’t part of the image that I was really concentrating on.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: I know that he’s standing. I couldn’t tell you what directions his feet are pointed in.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: It’s almost like that that’s below a level that I’m looking at.
Eric: So if the image were, say, like a postcard picture, you could have just looked at the feet and said, “Oh, well….”
Eric: It’s not like they were occluded by a bush or something?
Eric: So in that respect, at least, there is an aspect of it that is sketchier than a picture. That it’s somehow able to leave a detail like how the feet are positioned unspecified, despite the fact that it’s visual in some way.
Eric: Well, it’s not that you kind of, when you focus on something, you add specification to it?
Melanie: No, not at all. I could, but that’s not what I’m doing.
Russ: So there is, of course, the philosophical
question about whether it’s possible to have an image of a triangle that is at
once scalene and isosceles, or whatever, however that argument has been made.
Russ: And there are those who say it can’t be done. But this is an example of how it can be done. And I find this kind of thing in my work all the time, where people will have indeterminate images. This is not a particularly good example of it…
Russ: … but she could in a similar way have had a picture of a triangle as part of this, where the particular angles in the triangle were not specified even though the triangleness of the image was specified.
Eric: Right. Yeah, I’m inclined to agree with that. One of the reasons that I tend to be nervous about people reporting a huge level of detail in their images is that I wonder whether there’s some kind of implicit commitment to a picture-like theory of what images are like. And since pictures can’t be underspecified in this way, then the assumption is that images can’t be either. And then they create the detail and report it as having been there all along – something like that.
Russ: Right. But it seems like Melanie is not doing that.
Eric: Or at least not doing that to an extreme degree.
Russ: And this by the way is the kind of an image report that I would credit. It’s hard for me to imagine that Melanie was not having an image at the moment of the beep, and that that image was being created sort of on the fly as she was reading, making her style of reading much different from yours, Eric. She watches images while she reads, and you create inner speech while you read.
[Here we have excised a discussion
of the phenomenology of reading in general (see
Eric: I guess it occurred to me that one potential source of skepticism about the level of detail in Melanie’s image, maybe not about whether she was having an image at all, is this: There is some research in imagery [e.g., Kosslyn, 1980] that suggests that it takes a certain amount of time to construct a complicated image. And if you’re reading very fast, then if that research is correct, it’s unlikely that you’re getting one very detailed, complicated image after another in that one second at a time, every second. Now it could be that you have a very detailed image that you build up over the course of say 15 seconds. Or it could be that you have a series of sketchy images that replace each other faster than that.
Russ: My impression is that most people who image as they read update the image as they go along – so they have one stable, enduring image that is being modified.
[We continued this conversation,
discussing issues presented in
Melanie: Okay, I was reading again. In this part of the book it was the arrival of the German invasion of the island. The line I was reading had to do with the arrival of a formation of Stukas – German planes. And so I had an image in my head, a really simple image, the kind that you get if you watch those World War II movies or footage from back then, of a line of military planes against a blue sky background with a couple of white clouds. It was a very close image of one of the planes, of only the top, the beginning portion of one of the planes, and then another one behind that, and another one behind that.
Russ: So this is two separate images?
Melanie: It’s one image.
Russ: It’s one image. So you’re looking like you’ve got a camera mounted on the wing of one of these airplanes…
Russ: … and you’re looking down on the formation? Okay. And is this camera… this artificial camera that we’re talking about, on the left wing or the right wing?
Melanie: It’s more like it’s on one of the planes that you can’t see, because where the camera is it’s looking across….
Russ: So looking across a space…
Melanie: Yes. And seeing a bunch of other planes.
Russ: … and seeing the left side of the plane or the right of the plane?
Melanie: Seeing the left side.
Russ: And what does the plane in your image look like? Do you know what a Stuka is?
Melanie: I have no idea, so yeah, I kind of put in F-18s instead [laughs], because I make them up, so….
Russ: So this is a jet plane that you’re seeing!
Melanie: Yeah, they’re jet planes with a tapered nose and that kind of gray, dark gray steel with a…
Russ: This guy was ahead of his time! [laughs]
Melanie: [laughs] … with
the little windows. I can’t see pilots or anything like that, just the outline.
Russ: Okay. And in what way is this experience the
same or different from the experience of the previous beep? In both cases
you’re reading and watching an image, which on the surface would seem to be
sort of the same…. [See
Melanie: They’re both the same in that they’re both, again, still pictures. It’s not like a movie going through my head. It’s just a still picture. And then I would say that this picture was created much faster than the other one, because when the beep occurred, it was right at the beginning of a new chapter, of a new paragraph. So a huge scene change kind of just happened. Whereas in the one before, it was in the middle of a chapter and you had time, like you said earlier, to build up a scene.
Russ: Okay. And at the moment of the beep, do you have an awareness of this fastness? Or is this sort of a metadescription, given that we’ve stopped and….
Melanie: Metadescription. But I am aware of the sketchiness of it. Almost like… there’s a feeling of… I’m ready to fill in other details. I don’t know.
Eric: So what you’re saying is in accord with – and you don’t have to be at all in accord with what I was suggesting – so….
Melanie: Oh no, I really agreed with what you said before, because it feels very much like what I do.
Eric: Right, so it may take a certain amount of time
to create a very detailed scene. So she seems to be saying that this scene is
very sketchy, and that would make sense given that she had just started reading
that paragraph. [See
Melanie: Although… I mean I don’t know if this agrees with what you said or not, but at the same time I don’t know how I could have filled in any other detail.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: It was just a very simple shot, almost, just to use….
Eric: So what about details like insignia on the sides of planes or shadows or those kinds of things?
Melanie: You couldn’t. From the viewpoint you couldn’t see any of that. It was just straight across. For instance, you couldn’t see downwards, so you couldn’t see shadows over land or sea. And then the plane that’s right in front of you, it’s very close in front of you, and you’re just seeing a very tiny part of it, so you can’t really see any insignia on it. Maybe the planes further in the distance, but I don’t remember any insignia on them in that image.
Eric: Um hm. Is it that you remember them as not
having insignia, or is it that you don’t remember whether they had insignia, or
that you positively remember that there was no fact about whether they had
insignia or not?
Melanie: I positively remember that there is no fact that they had insignia one way or the other, so I hadn’t filled any in.
Eric: Okay, so that’s the kind of thing when you said it was sketchy…
[Here we have excised a brief discussion of
childhood imagery and scientific ignorance of the phenomena of reading. See
Russ: So anything else about number 2?
Melanie: Yeah. I had a definite feeling of both sadness and dread. I’ve read the book several times before, so I knew what was going to happen; but just knowing that this invasion was going to happen, just a real feeling of sadness.
Russ: And is this sadness and dread two different feelings? Or is that the same….
Melanie: It was kind of merged into one – that’s the best way I can think of to describe it.
Russ: So you’re using two words to describe basically one feeling.
Melanie: Yeah, one emotion.
Russ: Okay, and this emotion is…. What does it feel like other than sadness and dread? Can you be more specific than that?
Melanie: Yeah, it’s like a pressing on the lower….
Russ: And you’ve got your hand sort of on your chest. Is that where the pressing seems to be?
Melanie: Um hm, yeah.
Russ: And is it clearly there? Or does it seem like sort of all over with a center there? Or…?
Melanie: I would say probably all over with a definite center feeling right at that spot.
Russ: Okay. And when you indicate that spot, you have your hands sort of outstretched covering whatever… six or eight inches.
Russ: So we’re not talking about a small….
Melanie: It’s not like a knot, but it’s a more diffuse area.
Russ: Okay. And this pressure, is this pressure going from the front backwards or from the inside out or the outside in or from all over inwards?
Melanie: I’d say outside in.
Russ: So there’s as much pressure on the back as well? Or does it seem like it’s on the….
Melanie: No, it’s coming from… it’s top to bottom
kind of feeling but so it’s outside here…. [See
Russ: So the pressure is coming at you from the front?
Russ: As opposed to surrounding you in pressure.
Melanie: Yeah, it’s not like a
vise. It’s more like a steady beat, I don’t know, almost as if you wanted to
give someone CPR, that kind of pressing on someone’s chest. [See
Russ: And is that pressing going sort of perpendicular to your body, pressing right in like you were doing CPR?
Melanie: Yes. Um hm.
Russ: Okay. And hard pressure? Soft pressure? A little pressure?
Melanie: Enough so you could feel it and it’s vaguely uncomfortable, but not painful or super intense.
Russ: And how do you know that this pressure is sadness/dread as opposed to something else?
Melanie: I think I just recognize it.
Russ: You just know.
Russ: Your witness.
Eric: [laughs] Was there some other aspect to the emotional experience, besides the pressure?
Melanie: That was it.
Eric: That was it. So there wasn’t any kind of feeling in your head, or….
Melanie: No. It felt kind of general, kind of through my body, but very specific also in that one place.
Eric: So let’s say that you were a subject in CPR training – I know this is dangerous and you wouldn’t really do this [Melanie laughs] – but if someone were exerting pressure on your chest…
Eric: … in the way that you describe, would you be able to tell the difference between that and having the emotion?
Melanie: Oh, absolutely. Well, first of all they would be in two different places, because the sadness isn’t really located near my heart. It’s more near my sternum.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: And, yeah, there is some emotional quantity to it. It’s not just the feeling of the pressure but… or maybe… no, that’s not true. It is just the feeling of the pressure, but it’s the pressure in a certain way that I just recognize instantaneously as being that combination of sadness and dread.
Eric: Um hm. So really it is just exhausted by the pressure. But the pressure is a kind of unique thing that couldn’t have been caused by the outside environment.
Eric: But if you were somehow to construct an arrangement in the outside environment that would give you that…
Melanie: That would most closely mirror that feeling?
Eric: …then that would be exactly the same experience as having the feeling?
Melanie: Yes. [See
Russ: I’m not buying the answer to that question. My objection is that the question is too leading, I think.
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: Let me see whether I can rephrase it. So, judging from what you just said, if we could make the same kind of pressure, then that would come out to be [the experience of] sadness/dread.
Russ: [To Melanie] Is that what you’re saying?
Melanie: No. It’s the closest approximation I can get to describing it.
Eric: Oh, that’s interesting. I had thought I’d heard you saying the opposite.
[Here we’ve excised a brief discussion of whether Eric “badgered” Melanie into saying what she did.]
Russ: Yeah. I thought… I didn’t think she was any longer in touch with the experience when she was answering your question. I didn’t think she was trying to describe the experience any more. She was trying to answer your question.
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: And part of that comes from the experience of a lot of people talking about emotion. Her way of talking about emotion here was quite typical of many people. Not everybody, by any means, but of people who say about emotion, “Well I was having a pretty specific feeling, like somewhere between sadness and dread, and it had something to do, I guess, with my body. I’m not 100% sure, but it seemed like more or less in my chest, more in my chest than other places.”
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: But I just don’t think that she meant, or that others mean in that situation, that the feeling in her chest exhausts the whole deal. I think, you know, there is a literature that says that quadriplegics can have emotion even though they cannot experience bodily aspects.
Russ: But maybe their experience is different – perhaps we ought to sample with some quadriplegics.
Russ: But what I am sure of is that for most people who are reporting the way Melanie just reported, the experience of emotion is beyond just what she is able to put into words about the bodily expression of it.
Eric: Right, yeah. You know, the James-Lange theory
of emotion, I think, if I understand it correctly, is that emotion is a kind of
sensation of your own bodily state. [See
Russ: Yeah, but I don’t think it’s true.
Eric: Yeah. I’m not inclined to buy that either. But it would have been interesting to me had Melanie avowed that [the James-Lange view]. But I guess you’re saying that’s not your experience, Melanie. Right?
Melanie: No. What I thought you were saying was that that was the closest approximation I could get to that feeling. That is what it is. But there’s something missing in that.
Russ: People have a hard time describing how they experience emotion. Most people. Some people can tell you exactly.
Eric: So there’s something else. But it’s hard to say, hard to articulate in any way what that something else is.
[The text from here to the end of this sample is transposed from a follow-up discussion we had while talking about Beep 2.3.]
Russ: I’m not getting the impression, though, that there was something separate from the experience in her chest that led her to believe that this was sadness/dread. I didn’t hear her saying that she was aware of something other than the pressure in her chest. Which she now seems like she’s convincingly shaking her head to the negative about. I think she’s agreeing with me that she was not aware of…
Melanie: There was no other feeling.
Russ: … anything specific other than what was going on in her chest, and yet what was going on in her chest doesn’t seem to be enough to say that this is sadness/dread.
Eric: Um hm. So, okay, it’s not that there is something additional, it’s just that there’s this one thing, and the best you can do…
Melanie: … is describe it.
Eric: … is describe it that way. Okay.
In lieu of the full transcript of the discussion of this sample, here is a description of this experience as Melanie conveyed it in the interview:
Melanie was standing in the bathroom and looking around, trying to make up a shopping list in her head. At the moment of the beep she had a mental image of a white pad of paper (the same writing tablet that she uses to write shopping lists) and of her hand writing the word “conditioner.” Her hand in the image was in motion, and she could see the letters coming out from the tip of the pen. At the precise moment of the beep, the letter “d” (the fourth letter in “conditioner”) was coming out.
At the same time, Melanie was saying in her inner voice “con-di-tion-er,” slowly, in sync with the word as she was writing it in the image.
Also at the same time, she was aware that her toes were cold. This was a noticing or sensory awareness of the coldness that was present in her awareness at the last undisturbed moment before the beep. It did not seem to involve an explicit thought process.
The full transcript is available on the website.
Melanie: During this little time period I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom. I kind of was letting my mind wander, because it’s such a banal thing that I do every day. I was aware of being slightly bent over the sink and aware of the kind of rhythmic motion of my hand, you know, brushing up and down and side to side. I was also aware of the kind of cold and gooiness of the toothpaste.
Russ: And is that it, in your awareness?
Russ: And when you say you’re aware of being bent over, so you’re sort of….
Melanie: Like hunched over a little bit. I mainly could feel it in my spine, because it’s not a super comfortable position to be in.
Russ: So this is like a bodily awareness or a kinesthetic awareness, something like that?
Russ: And at the same time you’re aware of the brushing motion?
Russ: And does that seem like a sort of separate awareness? You’ve got the bent-over awareness and you’ve got the….
Melanie: Yeah, they seemed very localized. Like the feeling in my back feels in my back, and the up and down motion I can feel in my mouth and with my hand and my arm, because I’m holding the toothbrush and moving it.
Russ: And the cold and gooiness?
Melanie: Another feeling that is very located, just in my mouth and everything.
Russ: And nothing else is going on at this
Russ: Okay. The first day you were sampling, you said that when you were speaking you had the sensation of your mouth coming closed at the end of a sentence.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Is this the same kind of deal, or a different kind of deal?
Russ: In what way?
Melanie: I’m not so much feeling my teeth or my tongue or my lips or anything like that. It’s much less specific, I guess.
Russ: Which is much less specific?
Melanie: This, brushing my teeth.
Melanie: Because it just kind of feels all over. It doesn’t feel like a deliberate movement. I’m not sure if that makes any sense.
Russ: And if I asked the same question about the bent-overedness portion of it and the hand movement portion of it, would you say the same thing?
Russ: These are different kinds of phenomena from the….
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Okay, then I’m turning it over to you, Eric.
Eric: You started by saying your mind was wandering.
Melanie: Yeah. Well, I mean, that was the best way to say my mind was kind of empty [laughs].
Eric: Oh, okay, so that was… you were just…
Melanie: Pretty much absorbed in what I was doing.
Eric: … pretty much absorbed in that. Because you could think, “your mind was wandering” could mean…
Melanie: Yeah, jumping to different subjects.
Eric: … thinking about, you know, what you were going to do today or something like that, but that’s not….
Russ: Which, as an aside, is why I think content analysis is usually a waste of time. You know, the sort of mindless content analysis that people do when they try to count words like “mind wandering.”
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: It’s not what people say, it’s what they mean
[Eric laughs]. And I don’t mean that at all in jest. I mean that as a straightforward
way the world is. You’ve got to pay attention to what Melanie was saying here.
She said her mind was wandering, and she was not actually referring to her mind
and she wasn’t referring to its wandering [Melanie laughs]. But other than that,
she was trying to convey something, which was that she was paying attention to
sensory awarenesses. [See
Russ: And you know it’s sort of a high art to figure out what people mean – you’ve got to ride along with them pretty carefully. It’s hard for me to imagine a computer that could do it. It’s a complicated deal. When she said her mind was wandering, she really meant something like “my mind had wandered away” [Melanie laughs].
Eric: So let’s see. Again I guess I am going to diverge from the general DES method, but….
Russ: That’s fine.
Eric: Is your sense, Melanie, that if you’re just kind of attending to what you’re doing when you’re brushing your teeth as you normally do, and you’re not thinking about other stuff, you’re not distracted or planning the day or something like that, that your experience is primarily sensory like this? Or was this especially, “Oh how interesting – this stuff is so gooey!”
Melanie: Of course, this is only one sample, but the best I can say is that I think this was primarily a singular case…
Melanie: … because normally if, I don’t know, if I’m
not distinctly thinking about anything I’m not aware of how my legs are crossed
or whether or not I’m sitting or lying down, or anything like that. So I was
actually quite surprised when the beep caught me doing this because I didn’t
really think that I did this. [See
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: Let me… I’m betting against her answer to that question having been accurate, which is why your question is not a standard question of the kind I would ask…
Russ: … and the reason that I don’t ask that kind of question is that I try not to ask the kinds of questions that I don’t believe the answers to. But the reason that I don’t believe the answer here is that she’s two for four today on sensory awarenesses, the coldness on the bottom of her feet in the previous beep and the toothpaste here. It’s a small sample, of course. But I think she just doesn’t remember things like the coldness on the bottom of her feet or the gooiness of the toothpaste.
Eric: It seems to me that we should also bear in mind the possibility (I’m not saying that this is the case) that when the beep goes off you think, “Okay, what was my experience? Was I having experiences of the bathroom? Oh, the bathroom floor is cold, my feet are cold. I guess I was experiencing that at the time” – letting your knowledge of your environment feed back into your impressions of what your experience was at the time of the beep.
Melanie: I’m not defending myself by any means. But I tried specifically to really focus on the moment of the beep and not what came afterwards, because of the discussion last time about how the beep would usually catch me towards the end of a thought. And I wanted to work on trying to hone that, and so I was trying to do that as best I could.
Eric: Right. I guess the concern I have is not so much directly temporal. You could be trying to reconstruct what’s going on at the moment of the beep, or immediately prior to the beep, and not confusing it in any way with what’s going on now, but noticing what’s going on now and then deliberately thinking, “Okay, was this going on a moment before?” And then because it’s going on now and because you know certain things about your environment, you might infer that it was going on the moment before as well.
Russ: Well, I don’t think Melanie can confidently say she doesn’t do any of that. I think she just did confidently say she tried not to do that.
Eric: Right. And again, you know, I’m not saying that I have any specific reason to worry about that in this particular case. How do we partial out how much is due to a kind of reconstruction?
Russ: Right, but I think we can worry about that for every single sample: The beep came and she was reading. Well, she must have been having an image; here it is. The beep came when you were reading; well, you must have been talking to yourself in inner speech; here’s what you were saying. What I think is that if you’re careful, you don’t get as far down that road as people are afraid that you might.
Eric: I’m not sure you can know how far down that road you’re getting, though.
Russ: Well, I don’t think there is an answer to that except that if all these things are made up at the end, you would think any subject’s reports, from one beep to the next, would be a lot more similar to each other than they turn out to be.
Eric: Um hm. Well, I guess if the person is surprised by her own experience, that would at least suggest against the idea that she was constructing something to match her expectations.
Russ: Right. And here Melanie was slightly embarrassed to be reporting that all she was doing was paying attention to her back hunched and her gooey toothpaste or whatever. As you say, you’d wonder why somebody who was not reporting what was actually happening would report something that’s mildly embarrassing. It’s hard for me to believe that Melanie wasn’t in some way paying attention to the gooiness of the toothpaste.
Eric: Yeah, it still feels like an open possibility to me.
Russ: And does it make a difference for you about Melanie’s toothpaste or your, for example, inner speech while reading? Shouldn’t you be equally skeptical that you had inner speech while reading as you were that Melanie was paying attention to the gooey toothpaste?
Eric: Well, just as a matter of what it’s like to
believe, you do kind of have to believe yourself in a way. But in principle I’m
pretty skeptical about my own reports as well. [See also
Russ: Why is that?
Eric: Partly because I think that there really is a special problem when you’re talking about your experience in light of your knowledge of your immediate environment. You know that there’s toothpaste in your mouth, right? So it’s awfully hard, I think, to separate that knowledge from the experience when you’re trying to figure out what your experience is.
Russ and Melanie: Yeah.
Eric: It seems likely that there’s a lot of reconstruction in the memory of experience. It’s hard to know whether your environmental knowledge is being used legitimately in the reconstruction or illegitimately. Whereas with an image that’s happening while you’re reading, because it’s something that’s not in the environment, it may be easier to keep your environmental knowledge out of it.
Russ: Yeah, I’m not totally convinced of that. At this particular beep she was aware that her back was slightly bent over, and she was aware of the rhythmic motion of her hand, and she was aware of the gooiness in her mouth, and seemed sort of equally aware of all of those things. She wasn’t saying that she was aware that her left foot was at 37 degrees from her right foot, or that her right leg was slightly bent, or that her left hip was leaning up against the sink edge, or any of the other myriad of things which were legitimate candidates, it seems, in the way that you just described them as being facts of her environment.
Russ: For some reason she selected these particular three facts of her environment.
Eric: Right. It could be that those are the most salient facts of her environment.
The Third Sampling Day
A technical malfunction destroyed the videotape of our interview on this day. A brief description of each sample is reconstructed from our written notes.
Melanie’s boyfriend was asking a question about insurance letters. Melanie’s focus was not on what he was saying but on trying to remember the word “periodontist.” She was thinking “peri-, peri-,” to herself, with the sense that this was the beginning of the word she was searching for. She described her experience as involving knowing that she knew the word and “waiting for the word to come.” Although she initially said that she heard “peri-” in her own voice, she later felt unsure whether the word fragment was actually experienced auditorially or whether it was instead “slightly visual.”
Melanie was walking to her car. She described herself as being dimly aware, at the moment of the beep, that she was walking toward the car. She said she had an indistinct visual experience of the car, sensing, roughly, its big black shape but not such details as its brake lights. At the center of her experience was a feeling of “fogginess” and worry. She described the feeling of fogginess as involving being unable to think with her accustomed speed and as feeling “out of synch.” In addition, Melanie said that, at the moment of the beep, she was in the act of observing this fogginess. Her worry was felt as being behind the eyes, involving a heaviness around the brow line, although she thought her experience of worry was not exhausted by those bodily feelings [see Boxes 5.14 and 5.15].
Melanie, Russ, and Eric extensively discussed varieties of emotional self-awareness. Eric suggested a threefold distinction between (1) what Russ calls a “feeling fact of body,” which involves the bodily arousal and activity normally associated with an emotion (e.g., heart racing, furrowed brow, elevated galvanic skin response) without any corresponding emotional experience (if such a thing exists); (2) emotional states that are phenomenally conscious, part of one’s stream of experience, but that are unaccompanied by special self-conscious attention to the emotion as it is going on; and (3) phenomenally conscious emotional states that are self-consciously apprehended as such; that is, emotions not only experienced but accompanied somehow by the conscious thought or recognition that one is having the emotion. Here are examples. (1) Feeling fact of body: Your heart races and you make a certain facial expression appropriate to anger, without any corresponding conscious experience of anger or of your heart’s racing, or of your facial expression. (2) Un-self-conscious anger: You feel angry in your normal way (with or without bodily arousal), without particularly attending to the fact that you’re angry. (3) Self-conscious anger: You feel angry, and simultaneously you are consciously thinking to yourself (in inner speech or in some other way), something like “Boy, I’m angry!”
in the course of the discussion with Melanie at the moment of the beep and
partly in subsequent discussions between themselves, Russ and Eric further
refined this threefold distinction; some of these refinements appear in the
accompanying boxes. [See
Melanie was surely influenced by
our theoretical discussion. In the course of it, she asserted that at the
moment of the beep she had an acute self-conscious awareness of the fact that
she was feeling foggy and a lower-level but still to some extent self-conscious
awareness of the fact that she was worried. She evokes the threefold
distinction in later discussions as well, for example near the end of the
discussion of Beep 5.1. [See
Melanie was in her car, shifting
from reverse to drive. Looking at the dashboard, she saw the word “brake” lit
up and she realized the parking brake was still on. At the moment of the beep
she was feeling exasperated at herself, hearing, in her own voice, the phrase,
“Why can’t I….” The beep occurred right after the “I,” and Melanie had the
sense that the sentence, had it not been interrupted, would have concluded with
a phrase something like “remember about the parking brake.” She felt that even
at the moment of the beep, before the sentence had been completed in her
thoughts, she had the general sense of its entire meaning. She distinctly felt
that the voice was heard, rather than actively spoken (in contrast to Beep
3.1), almost as if it were a recording playing back in her mind – a fact she
found surprising about this experience. She also felt that this episode of
inner hearing was distinctly located in her head, moving from the region near
her right ear toward the region near her left ear. Melanie said that the
emotion of exasperation was also present at the moment of the beep but that she
had no, or very little, self-conscious awareness of it as exasperation,
although she felt uncertainty about this last point and about the issues
involved in the self-awareness of emotion. [See
The Fourth Sampling Day
Melanie: Okay. I was having a conversation with my boyfriend over dinner regarding extreme sports, and kind of sports in general. I’m a really big scuba diver – it’s one of my main hobbies and I absolutely adore doing it. And right before the beep went off, my boyfriend was saying something about how there are some sports that you can play in a rough and difficult way, but they don’t wind up being life threatening, while there are other sports that you can play or do in a life-threatening manner. And so right at the moment of the beep, I was thinking about the comparison… well, just the notion of scuba diving and the possibility of its being life threatening. And what I was feeling was just this intense yearning and desire to go diving, because I miss it and I love it so much, as well as this feeling of being in the water, you know, where you’re kind of bobbing at the top or surface of the lake or the ocean or something like that and you can feel the wave pick you up and drop you down, pick you up and drop you down.
Russ: So is that like two different sensations, there’s the yearning to go and….
Melanie: One’s very emotional, and one’s more physical.
Russ: Okay. And is one of these more central to your experience or awareness or whatever it is we want to call that? Or are they sort of equal? Or….
Melanie: They’re pretty much equal.
Russ: Okay, then let’s start with one of them, and when we get done with that we’ll move to the other one. So the emotional part. What…
Melanie: Just this desire to go, like this craving to go diving.
Russ: And what’s that like?
Melanie: I feel it pretty much all over. It’s really difficult to describe, because it doesn’t feel like there’s a location. It’s just this incredible want, just to have the experience of going diving and going through the motions. I guess I can’t pinpoint it to a location.
Russ: And is this a bodily thing – can you pinpoint it to your body? Or is it outside your body as well? Or in your head as well? Or…?
Melanie: It’s in my head as well.
Russ: And in the room as well? Or…?
Melanie: No. It seems located just… it’s in me, but it doesn’t feel localized in a particular place. Like when I was worrying [Beep 3.2] I said I could feel it especially behind my eyes and around my brow. This isn’t like that. This is all-encompassing.
Russ: Okay. And when you say it’s in your head as well as in your body, is it in your head in the same way as it is in the rest of your body? Or are you meaning to say that there was some more cognitive or mental or whatever aspect to it that’s in your head?
Probably more cognitive, I would think, because I knew what it was that I was
Russ: Okay. Then the feeling part, the bodily part, it’s all over in your body, and it’s hard to describe – I’m totally in agreement with that. But can we be somewhat more descriptive? Is it like pressure, pain, heat feeling? A twisting, turning…?
Melanie: I guess
twisting is actually pretty good. It kind of feels like just my entire body is
being really twisted, in a way, kind of tense, with this craving. [See
Russ: And when I said, and you bought into “twisting” as the alternative, and you sort of twisted with your hands, is this like one twist, like somebody has grabbed your ankles and turned you one way and grabbed your shoulders and turned the other…
Russ: … as opposed to a whole series of little twists?
Melanie: Yeah, it’s not like the feeling, you know, when your esophagus is clumping down or anything like that, but it’s just one general twist in your entire body.
Russ: And when we’re talking about “one general twist of your entire body,” is that like a metaphor? Or does it actually feel sort of like your body is being twisted physically?
Melanie: Probably more of a metaphor to explain the kind of tension that I feel.
Russ: So there’s a tension, and to say that your body is tense, that would not be metaphorical…
Russ: … you’re actually experiencing a tension in your body.
Melanie: Yes, definitely.
Russ: But that tension is not… it doesn’t feel twisty in the sense that your feet are going to the right and your shoulders are going to the left, or clockwise and counterclockwise…
Melanie: No. But there’s that kind of feeling all wrapped up about something and tense about something is there.
Russ: Okay. And
is there any other way to describe the tension? From the inside out or from the
outside in or…? [See
Melanie: Yes. Inside out, in a way, almost feels like trying to… like there’s something inside me trying to reach out for something.
Russ: And you’re aiming forward with your hand…
Melanie: Yes. It would be out, away from my body. And it would be in a forwards direction, not backwards, not out to the side. It felt very forward.
Russ: So like your body is going forward.
Russ: And you’re indicating it from your chest, sort of, but…
Melanie: It was more all over, you know, even like my knees and my toes and everything like that.
Russ: Okay. So like your whole body is trying to go forward. It feels like going forward.
Melanie: Yeah, reaching out.
Russ: And is that a metaphorical thing like the twisting thing, or is that more….
Melanie: No. That’s more it.
Russ: So this is more descriptive of what the sensation actually feels like…
Russ: … and the twisting is more…
Melanie: A metaphor.
Russ: … a way of trying to describe the degree of tension, or something like that.
Russ: Eric, do you want to ask more about that, or shall I press on to the other half of it?
Eric: [laughs] Boy, it’s so hard to know what to make of all this. It’s such a funny description. I’m not saying that, I mean…
Russ: What’s funny about it? And we’re not taking it personally or critically or whatever, but what is it about it that you find hard or funny or whatever?
Eric: I guess my inclination is to read it as pretty metaphorical, even what Melanie is saying is less metaphorical. Umm. Like your toes reaching forward, and…
Russ: And if you take the whole thing as metaphorical, what do you make of Melanie’s seemingly confident distinction between twisting as being metaphorical and reaching forward as being not metaphorical?
Eric: You know,
I’m not sure what to make of it. I don’t know. [See
[Here we have
excised a discussion of people’s loose language in describing experience. See
Russ: Okay. But Melanie is saying it’s like her body is reaching forwards. And that is a description of the sensations in her body, not a metaphor. A metaphor could use exactly the same words. She could say, “It’s like my whole body is reaching forward” where that really means is “I want something and I want it bad, and I’m trying to convey to you that I want it bad and I’m using these words that don’t have anything to do with the experience. It’s like my whole body wants it.”
Russ: But that I think is what she’s not trying to say here. What she is trying to say is that there’s something about her body that leads her to say in as descriptive a way as she can say, “my body is reaching forward.”
Russ: She’s assented to all of that.
Eric: [laughs] Yeah. How much of this did you note at the time that you were making notes after the beep, Melanie? And how much of this is stuff – phrases or words – that you’re only generating now?
most of it I’m probably generating now. [See
Eric: And are you generating it, do you think, on the basis of a sharp memory of the emotional experience? Or are you kind of recreating the emotional experience now and then kind of observing it now as you’re reporting? How would you describe that process?
Melanie: Remembering the way it feels like. Because the way I took my notes was to engage my memory to think about the experience…
Eric: Uh huh.
Melanie: … and I guess the way I’m trying to do that is to put myself… to remember the exact situation and exactly how it felt.
Eric: Right, although it’s interesting that you… that there’s an incomplete sentence there, which is “you put yourself….” You might say that there are two ways of remembering. One is a kind of abstract remembering that doesn’t involve imaginatively putting yourself back in the situation you were previously in, and the other involves kind of putting yourself in the situation in imagination, and then kind of provoking some of the old reactions. Like I remember at one point when we were talking about an image, you said something like that you were reconstructing the image as you spoke to us about it [see Beep 2.1; Box 5.4].
Melanie: Um hm.
Eric: That’s a kind of way of remembering by actually doing something now that you know to be similar to what happened in the past, and then reporting on what’s going on now.
Melanie: That’s not what I’m doing now.
Eric: That’s not what you’re doing in this case.
Melanie: Unh uh [no].
[Here Eric and
Russ discuss “reconstruction” and the extent to which Russ is pressuring
Melanie. Some of this discussion has been condensed into
Eric: [After agreeing that Russ is remarkably open about different alternative descriptions of experience] But there’s one type of answer that you haven’t particularly laid space for, and that I haven’t heard Melanie say. I don’t know if she said it at all, or certainly not very much. That answer is, “I can’t remember it to that level of detail.” If you’re not reporting on a reconstruction of the experience, and especially if you took only pretty sketchy notes at the time, you’d think that there would be a level of detail you wouldn’t get. You wouldn’t be able to remember all the details exactly right. So then an accurate report would involve recognizing that you didn’t remember one thing or another, and an inaccurate report might involve filling in some aspect of the experience that you don’t actually accurately remember.
Russ: Yeah. [to Melanie] Would you feel comfortable in saying, “I don’t remember?”
Melanie: Yes. In fact I think I have.
Russ: I think
you have too, actually. [See
Melanie: Especially on the second day when I had a lot of mental images [Beeps 2.1 and 2.2]. I remember there were a couple times, and I think it was mainly you, Eric, who were asking the questions, when I several times said I wasn’t sure, or I didn’t know. Oh! For example, when I had that scene in that book in my head, when there were people standing on a road talking, and one of the characters was dressed in an army uniform…
Melanie: … but I couldn’t tell you what shoes he was wearing.
Melanie: And I remember saying I didn’t remember or I didn’t see that.
Eric: Right. But
there’s a difference between those two. And maybe you did say you don’t
remember for some things – I don’t want to say you didn’t [laughs] say it ever.
But there certainly is a difference between saying, “I don’t remember whether I
saw, or had an image of, one particular shoe or another,” and “I remember that
the image did not specify what type of shoe he was wearing.” [See
Russ: Yeah. I think it’s part of my expectation that not remembering is okay, and I think I convey that to people that I work with. And I think, maybe not perfectly, but I think I convey that pretty well. You may have a different view of that, Eric, but I think there’s the implication by the hesitancy of the way I ask questions, if nothing else, that “I don’t remember” is okay.
Eric: Yeah. [But see
Russ: The fact of the matter is, I think Melanie does not remember some things, and fills in the blanks “on the fly” as we talk. I think that’s the way it is. And I don’t believe Melanie can possibly have access to that, because that would require her having a veridical recollection of the scene and comparing the two recollections [Eric laughs], which I think is just not possible. So I think that Melanie is doing the best that she can, and I think that she’s less than perfect, and if she is perfect then she’ll be walking across the fountain on the way out of here. But I doubt that she is.
Eric: [laughs] Right.
Russ: So it’s a matter, I think, of keeping the imperfections at a manageable level, and by “manageable” I mean a minimal level. So I think Melanie, for example, when she says, “My whole body is reaching forward,” well, the fact of the matter is that at that particular moment it probably wasn’t her whole body. Maybe there was a quarter of a square inch on her left hipbone that wasn’t going forwards, or something. And so to say “My whole body was yearning forwards” is an oversimplification of the fact of her experience. But from my point of view, everything we ever say about anything is an oversimplification of the fact, and the object is to have it be a non-substantially-misleading oversimplification of the fact.
Russ: In fact, it would probably be
more accurate for Melanie to say, “My whole body was leaning forward” than it
would be for her to say, “My whole body was leaning forward except for this
square centimeter on my left hip which I wasn’t really noticing at the time”
because that wasn’t what she was doing at the moment. It wasn’t like she was
putting a sheet of graph paper over her body and counting off the square centimeters
that were leaning forward. She was into the scuba thing. [See
we’ve excised a brief discussion of Melanie’s degree of accuracy, the openness
of Russ’s questions compared with those of other investigators (see
Eric: I guess I have some inclination to wonder whether the difference between people who describe their emotions one way or another might be a difference as much in reporting as in the actual experience. I’m not sure how you settle that kind of thing. It would be interesting to see if there were some other kind of measurable difference – a total fantasy, but some kind of physiological measure of what’s going on in the emotion that differs between the people, or if you could do some kind of cognitive test that might reveal a difference.
Eric: What you were talking about
with imagery and reading, for example [see
Right: Right. And I can appreciate that. But I think that the skepticism is justified particularly because psychology has done such a poor job of asking for verbal reports.
Russ: If we had done a better job, then maybe you wouldn’t have to be such a card-carrying skeptic.
Eric: [laughs] Yeah. You know, it’s not a skepticism that I think most people find natural. It’s a skepticism that’s grounded in reading history of psychology and reports about experience, and seeing vast differences that don’t seem to be very plausible and that aren’t backed up well by other kinds of evidence.
Eric: So it’s partly that experience that makes me nervous about reports in general. But that experience has been informed by methodologies that are different than the one that you are using and that have faults that you avoid or seem to be at least partly avoiding.
Russ: So, what I think has happened is that you and I have gone down rather similar roads in our skeptical apprehension of the history of inner experience reporting. The road that I’ve taken is, “I think it might be possible to do it better.”
Eric: [to Melanie] I hope my skepticism isn’t too dispiriting or discouraging or something like that.
Eric: You seem to have skin of Teflon about it, so that’s good.
[humorously] She doesn’t believe a word you’re saying, Eric! [all laugh] [See
Eric: Well, that’s good! So you said something about the emotional experience being through your whole body but also in your head.
Eric: The aspect in your head was more cognitive.
Eric: I’m wondering if you could say a little more about that.
Melanie: Well, there isn’t very much to it. The reason that I say it was more cognitive is that I could recognize the feeling as being that of yearning and of wanting, and that was the cognitive part that was involved.
Eric: Right. And why do you say that the cognitive part was in your head?
Melanie: Because I didn’t think that recognition occurred anywhere else. It wasn’t as though my chest recognized it as wanting. It was my head that recognized it as that.
[Here we have
excised some remarks by Eric on the location of thought in ancient
Russ: Did you mean to say that it’s “in your head” or “in your mind” or “a mental thing”? Or are all those things interchangeable? Or none of the above?
Melanie: Well, there wasn’t any aspect of, “Oh, I heard a voice in my head,” or “I saw words running through my head.” There wasn’t any of that at all. It wasn’t inner speech, or anything like that. But it felt upwards in my body, it felt like it was in my head, or in my mind. I find it difficult to make the distinction there.
Russ: So this recognizing that this is “yearning” seems to be physically located in your head…
Russ: … not…. So you meant to be giving a physical, “headly” description here…
Russ: … as opposed to a metaphysical, “mentally” description.
Melanie: Yeah. I wasn’t reaching for the metaphysical there. That’s where I felt it was located. But there wasn’t anything more to it than that.
Russ: So there was a mental knowing that…
Melanie: Of what I was feeling.
Russ: … that was happening independent of the beep.
Russ: That in
our alternate reality [in which there was an identical Melanie without the
beeper], that Melanie would have known that she was yearning. [See
Russ: And that knowing seemed somehow to take place in your head.
Melanie: Um hm. [Here we have excised a discussion by Russ and Eric of the topics covered in Box 7.12 on whether people think in their heads; Box 4.1 on what “thinking” is; and Box 7.13 on bracketing presuppositions.]
Russ: Okay. So the other half… are we done with the emotional half here, fifty-six minutes into the discussion?
Eric: [laughs] Yeah.
Russ: The other half… I’ve forgotten what it was. It was something….
Melanie: Feeling of bobbing in water.
Russ: Oh, the feeling of bobbing in water. Right! And do you mean to say that your body was… or… What do you mean to say?
Melanie: Well, I wasn’t physically, in actuality, bouncing up and down. But that’s what it kind of felt like. I could imagine the waves picking me up and dropping me off, and picking me up and dropping me down, like that.
Russ: And when you say you “could imagine” that, there’s another subjunctive…
Melanie: It is a subjunctive, because it’s not like I felt the water. I felt the motion, not the actual water [quizzical tone]. I don’t know if that makes sense.
Russ: So, are you saying that in some way your body is imagining itself going up and down and you’re experiencing that up-and-downnessing?
Melanie: Yes. And it’s the motion. It wasn’t a thought about the water or anything like that. And it wasn’t feeling the water kind of, you know, hitting the swimsuit or lapping away or making a noise or anything like that. It was directly the motion of bobbing up and down.
Russ: And is that motion in your body?
Melanie: It felt
more like my upper body, because if you’re bobbing at the surface like a cork
the lower half of your body is under water, so you don’t really feel that. [See
Melanie: So it was mainly just, I don’t know, maybe from about my ribcage up.
Russ: And with your hand you’re gesturing up. Do you mean to say that at the moment of the beep you’re going up? Or are you going up and down, or down…?
Melanie: I couldn’t narrow it down that specifically.
Russ: So there’s something about the upper portion of your body…
Melanie: Yes, that’s feeling an up and down motion.
Russ: … that’s feeling an up and down motion, and it’s impossible to say which of those motions, which phase, is going on at the moment of the beep.
Russ: Okay. And…. [pause] So without trying to be too personal here, when we’re talking about the upper body, your hands are under your breasts. Are you talking about the surface of your body being lifted?
Russ: So it’s not like your whole body going up? It’s like your breasts being…
Melanie: Oh no, no, no. It would be the whole upper body.
Russ: Inside and outside?
Russ: Okay. So your whole torso, your whole upper torso….
Melanie: Is being lifted and then being dropped down.
[Here we have
excised a brief discussion by Russ and Eric of the believability of this report.
In lieu of the full transcript of the discussion of this sample (available on the website), here is a description of this beep as Melanie conveyed it in the interview:
Melanie was reading a book. At the moment of the beep she was reading about one of the characters who steals the joker from decks of cards, and simultaneously was having an image of a playing card with a joker on it. The card brand in her image was Bicycle, and the image was of a joker who was dressed in a Harlequin costume with a jester hat and pointy shoes, a jumpsuit that has the colorful triangles on it, as well as the big bicycle wheel. (The fact that the image did not correspond very well to an actual Bicycle joker was of little importance to Melanie or to us.)
Looking back after the beep, Melanie was aware
of the emotions of concern and resentment ongoing in her body at that time, but
they weren’t experienced by her at the moment of the beep. Russ calls this
phenomenon of emotions that seem to be ongoing as bodily processes (e.g. fists
clenching, face flushing, heart pounding) but which are not in experience at
the moment of the beep “feeling fact of body” [see
The Fifth Sampling Day
Melanie: For the first beep, I was thinking about the fact that I have an appointment at 11:15 this morning, and it’s all the way across town from here. So I was feeling a little bit of anxiety about getting there on time. I also had a mental image in my head of me sitting in my car and driving my car, and being stopped at a red stop light at just a generic intersection. It wasn’t a specific street or anything like that. I was seeing this image as though I was in the driver’s seat looking out the car window. I could see the stoplight and the road stretched out in front of me, and then could see my hands on the steering wheel.
Russ: So the image. Is this just like you were looking, like you were actually in the car?
Melanie: Like I’m in the car. You could see the, you know, the frame of the car where the window stops, and out of the corner of my eye I could see the passenger seat that was empty.
Russ: And do you take that to be just like being in the car, or is it in some way different from being in the car?
Melanie: Just like it.
Russ: So in no discernible way is it different...
Russ: …it might have been different but you didn’t discern it?
Melanie: Right, exactly.
Russ: And you said you saw cars ahead of you, and stop lights and…
Melanie: No, I just saw the… it was like being stopped at an intersection. So I saw the two roads crossed. There was one heading straight out in front of me…
Russ: Like the road that you were on, continuing?
Melanie: Yeah, and then there was the other road running perpendicular to that, perpendicular and straight through the intersection. So I could see kind of buildings (they weren’t specific), buildings on the corners – apartment buildings or high rises, Las Vegas high rises – and the stop light that you get at the…
Russ: So there were buildings on the corner?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: But they weren’t specific
Russ: So you couldn’t say this was the Plaza Suites or that it was…
Melanie: Or it was
Russ: Okay. And is this like a still picture? Or is it like a moving picture? Or are you driving through?
Melanie: Still picture.
Russ: “Still” like snapshot still? Or still like you’re at an intersection and just don’t happen to be moving, but it would be a movie if you happened to be moving?
Melanie: It was snapshot still.
Russ: Color? Black and white?
Melanie: In color.
Russ: And accurate color as far as you know? The stop light’s red…?
Melanie: Yeah, and the desert colors and all that kind of thing, um hm.
Russ: So accurate colors, except not accurately portraying any particular intersection.
Russ: Okay. Any other details of the visual portion of this experience that we ought to be asking about?
Melanie: I can’t think of any.
Russ: Eric, do you want to ask about that portion?
Eric: Sure. I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say they weren’t specific buildings or it wasn’t a specific intersection or road. Was it that the buildings were kind of generic looking?
Melanie: Yeah, they were. They were, you know, rectangular buildings with windows, but I couldn’t have said, “Oh that’s the building that’s on the corner of Jones and Flamingo, so I must have been driving down Flamingo at the intersection with Jones.” I don’t know any of that.
Eric: So although the buildings had a specific appearance…
Eric: … they weren’t familiar?
Eric: Or let’s say… conceivably could there be an intersection in the world that looks exactly like that?
Melanie: Conceivably, yes.
Eric: Yeah, so it’s not that the buildings were kind of hazy or something like that?
Melanie: No. The scene was detailed and clear, but it just wasn’t representative of anything that I’ve seen here.
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: And clear all the way around? Like not just clear looking forward but clear to the sides? Like if you were really parked at an intersection I would think…
Melanie: No. It was clear straight ahead. I mean I couldn’t tell you like what cars were parked on the street running perpendicular to the one I was on, you know, waiting for the intersection there.
Russ: So the apartments that you’re talking about are on the street ahead of you?
Melanie: Yeah, they’re the ones that are across the street, on the other corner.
Russ: Okay. Sorry, Eric.
Eric: Um hm, that’s fine. So you said there were other cars that were in the image?
Melanie: Um, I couldn’t tell you that.
Eric: So you don’t know whether there were other cars?
Eric: So, just to get clear on what that means: It could be that the image may or may not have had other cars in it, and you just can’t remember that fact; or it could be that the image somehow under-specified whether there were cars there; or maybe there are other possibilities, too. Which way would you describe it, or how would you describe that?
Russ: [after a pause] She’s looking quizzical. I would ask the question more from a process rather than an entity perspective.
[The following six conversational turns summarize a somewhat longer conversation.]
Russ: So I might ask, if I were trying to get at the same thing: Was it that you didn’t see cars? Or was it that you just didn’t notice whether you were seeing cars or not?
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: She’s still looking
quizzical. Well, what I was reacting to in wanting to reframe the question was
what seemed to be the presupposition that there’s some inner screen somewhere,
or some neurological equivalent of an inner screen, on which we create images.
And then there’s some inner equivalent of a spectator in which we look at those
images. And those neurological processes could be more or less independent, so
that you could have a clear image and a lousy seer or a clear seer and a lousy
image or any combination thereof. I don’t want us to fall into the trap of
assuming that. [See
Eric: I agree that’s a trap, and I hope my question didn’t assume or imply that. What I was trying to get at was the difference between her imagery experience being indeterminate regarding the presence of cars, and her definitely remembering that fact, and her simply not remembering well enough what her imagery experience was to say whether there were cars in it.
Russ: My guess from watching
Melanie is that all this conversation has little to do with what her experience
of the moment is. [Melanie and Eric laugh] And I think the reason for that is
that for her to be able to accurately answer any of these questions, she’d have
to have a veridical copy of the image and compare what she was reporting to
what was actually happening, which of course she doesn’t have. [See
Russ: So what I hear her to be saying is something like, “I’m confident that I was seeing, that this was a visual experience. And I’m confident that in this visual experience was my hands on the steering wheel and the frame of the car I’m looking out. And I’m confident that there was the road and the stop light. And I’m confident that there were buildings that looked like real buildings and that I had no reason to think that these were sketchy or schematic buildings, but I don’t know which buildings or which intersection. And there may or may not have been cars – that I don’t know.” And beyond that, it seems like we’ve gotten pretty much to the limit of what she can say.
Eric: Yeah, right. I assume she’s nodding [laughs].
Russ: She is!
Melanie: Yes [laughs].
Russ: She looks happier now than she did five minutes ago.
Eric: [laughs] That seems fair. Maybe there is no way to determine from our vantage point now whether what she’s not confident about is a result of the failure of memory over time or a result of its not being there in the experienced image immediately prior to the beep.
Russ: And I think that’s true. I think we just can’t make that determination, and she’s nodding as if she agrees to that.
Melanie: Well, I would say that my inclination would be towards those cars weren’t in the image. I was looking straight ahead; I didn’t see anything out of my peripheral vision. I was mainly concentrating straight ahead. I can see room for the explanation of that, that there was an entire picture with things that could be in my peripheral vision. But all I was concentrating on, and all that was “in my awareness,” quote unquote, was directly straight ahead of me.
Eric: Um hm. Although I would have thought that the buildings would be more peripheral than the cars on the street in front of you.
Melanie: Well, no, because I was pulled up, like I was the first car at the stop light.
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: So there wasn’t a car in front of me; that wasn’t a question. There weren’t any cars ahead of me; I could tell you that. Like there weren’t any cars waiting at the stop light across the street. But it’s on the perpendicular road of this intersection that I couldn’t tell you, where looking at those cars really would be more peripheral than the buildings would be.
Eric: Um hm, right. So the cars on the street you were crossing would be more peripheral. But any cars on your street, even if they were, say, parked by the curb a couple of blocks ahead of you on the street…
Melanie: Right. Those weren’t there, I can tell you that. Those weren’t there. There weren’t any cars directly ahead of me. It was just the road.
Eric: So the road was in a way strikingly empty?
Russ: Or at least empty.
Eric: [laughs] Or at least empty. Maybe “strikingly”… yeah, okay. So maybe that means it wasn’t strikingly empty. I think the reason I said “strikingly” here was that it would be striking, in retrospect, if there was a road big enough to have a stoplight, and straight, and you can see all the way down it, and there were no cars coming or going on it in front of you and no cars parked on the sides.
[Here we’ve excised
a discussion of Eric’s use of “strikingly.” See
Russ: We can obviously revisit this later, but it seems pretty convincing to me. And are we ready to move on to the other portion of this experience?
Eric: I guess so, yeah.
Russ: Which was the feeling of anxiety as I recall. What was that like?
Melanie: It was more at the back of my mind. It wasn’t as clear, I’d say, as the image was, this feeling of anxiety. It was almost as though I was monitoring myself again, like one part of me – kind of me in the back of my mind – was monitoring what I was feeling at that time and noticed that these thoughts about what I was going to do this morning, and the fact that I had this appointment and everything this morning, went from being an idle thought to something I became quite focused on. It was after the beep that I noticed I was actually a little bit more tense, after I thought about it, than before. But it was just a general feeling of anxiety about wanting to be there on time.
Russ: Okay. So I’m a little confused about this experience. Is the feeling of anxiety a head kind of thing? Or a body kind of thing? Or both or neither one?
Russ: And what do you mean? What’s the body part? What’s the head part?
Melanie: The head part is knowing that it was anxiety that I was feeling.
Russ: So there’s some kind of cognitive awareness…
Russ: … cognitive understanding, apprehension, not in the negative sense, but the seeing of anxiety?
Melanie: Right. And then bodily, it was just focusing more, much more intently on something. That was the main bodily aspect of it.
Russ: So your body seemed focused?
Russ: On anything in particular?
Melanie: Just the thought.
Russ: And the thought being this image of the car or the thought of…
Melanie: The thought of this appointment.
Russ: So there was a thought of the
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Well, maybe we should start there.
Melanie: Uh, okay.
Russ: What was the thought of the appointment about?
Melanie: Stepping back a little bit, what I was doing last night was kind of running through things I have to do today…
Melanie: … and I remembered that I had to come here at 9:30, and then the next thing that came into my head was that I had this appointment at 11:15. And then I was thinking in my head that that appointment is all the way across town. And that’s when I started feeling the anxiety. And at that exact moment, after thinking that this appointment is all the way across town, this mental image slipped into my head of seeing the intersection of the car and driving all the way across town, and having an anxious feeling of worry about getting there on time.
Russ: Okay, and so is the thought “I’ve got this 11:15 all the way across town,” is that still there or is that here and gone by the time of the beep?
Melanie: Here and gone.
Russ: But the anxiety that that sort of aroused…
Melanie: Is there.
Russ: … or engendered is still there?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: And in what way is that there?
Melanie: It’s lingering. I’m not fully engaged in it, but it’s still there like at the back, kind of at the fringes of my thoughts and feelings.
Russ: And is it possible to say what it feels like? what it thinks like? what it…
Melanie: I couldn’t tell you at that time, but probably I had my brow furrowed and was staring at something pretty intently. But I didn’t know this at the moment of the beep.
Russ: Okay, so at the moment of the beep there was a sense that you were anxious?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: And that sense was partially bodily and partially…
Russ: … mental. And the mental seems to be in the back of your mind, you said?
Russ: And when you say “back of your mind” your hands are going…
Melanie: Yeah, it actually felt like it was in the rear of my head. [laughs]
Russ: Okay. So there’s some mental process that seems like in the rear of your head?
Melanie: Um hm. [See our discussion
of this issue in
Russ: So this isn’t a feeling in the back of your head…
Russ: This is a mental process that seems like it’s in the back of your head, which is this awareness of…
Melanie: Of being anxious.
Russ: … being anxious.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: So it’s not just that anxiety is in your body, but that there’s a mental…
Melanie: Cognitive aspect of knowing that I’m anxious.
Russ: …cognitive aspect of knowing that you’re anxious.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Okay. [to Eric] Your turn.
Eric: So were you actually having the thought, “I’m anxious”?
Melanie: No. It’s not like inner speech or inner hearing or anything like that. It’s just this knowledge that I’m anxious, if that makes sense.
Melanie: Like a mental or bodily knowledge. I’m not saying to myself “Oh I feel anxious right now” or anything like that. And I don’t hear rattling in my head or in my mind, or having a thought saying that I feel anxious.
Russ: Is this a mental knowledge of anxiety?
Russ: So some cognitive, or thoughtful, or whatever…
Russ: … understanding of that…
Melanie: Yes, but it’s not like having the words pass through my head or anything like that.
Eric: So would you say that you’re not just having the experience of anxiety, but that there is some kind of awareness of that experience?
Russ: And that that “some kind of awareness” is pretty hard to articulate.
Russ: It’s clearly not in words...
Melanie: Right, and it’s not something that I’m hearing or reading or seeing.
Russ: But it’s also not not there either. It is an awareness. So there’s some cognitive understanding of being anxious.
Russ: Okay. And the bodily portion of being anxious isn’t apparently much more differentiated than the thought portion?
Melanie: It wasn’t until after the beep.
Melanie: After the beep I noticed that I was a little bit tense, but not before.
Russ: And so at the beep was there in your awareness any…?
Russ: So at the very precise moment of the beep is it true to say that really the only portion of the anxiety was the knowledge of the anxiety?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: So what’s happening is that there is something in your body, which is experiencing anxiety, but you’re not aware of that [See Box 8.4 for a comment on the use of “experiencing” here.]
Russ: But there’s also some kind of a thought process that knows that that process is going on, and you are aware of that.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: Okay, she seems confident in that now.
Eric: [laughs] I’m confused. So…
Russ: So shall I summarize the way I understand it?
Eric: Okay, yeah, why don’t you?
Russ: A second or so before the
beep she had been thinking, “Oh I’ve got this appointment across town. That’s
going to be tight,” or something like that. And that had caused, I guess, a
wave of anxiety that was probably in her awareness, but we didn’t beep her then
so we don’t really know that for sure. So now at the moment of the beep there
is apparently a bodily process that’s related to this anxiety, but that bodily
process seems to be outside her awareness. When beeped and called to take a
look at it, she can see, “Aha, yeah, there’s some anxiety going on in my body.”
But what is in her awareness is some kind of thoughtful apprehension of
the anxiety process. So even though the anxiety process isn’t in her awareness
directly, the thought about, the recognition of, the knowledge about that, is
in her awareness in a not-particularly-articulated way that seems somehow to be
in the back of her head, a mental process in the back of her head. And then all
at the same time is what seems to be the center of her attention, which is the
image of the intersection. [looking at Melanie] She seems to be pretty happy
with that reconstruction. [See
Eric: Hmm… so I guess I’m wondering… let’s see, um… So you had some anxiety but you say that you weren’t experiencing the anxiety then? You didn’t have an experience of it?
Melanie: Well, I was experiencing
it. I don’t know. We’re coming again into this whole quandary between
consciousness, awareness, experience, you know, picking the right word out.
[See Beep 3.2 and
Melanie: My body was experiencing it somehow. But the way I found out how it was experiencing it wasn’t until I reviewed what I was thinking about after the beep took place, when I noticed that I was a little bit tense and much more focused on this thought that I was having than the idleness of the thought that had come before. But at the moment of the beep I wasn’t aware of that tension and I wasn’t aware of that focus, but I was aware of the fact that I was feeling some anxiety.
[Some of Russ’s and Eric’s remarks from the following discussion have been excised for brevity; the principal themes are addressed in the boxes.]
Eric: I remember a discussion of emotion in a previous sample where you were feeling aware of the emotion at the same time it was going on. [See Beeps 3.2 and 4.1.]
Melanie: Um hm.
Eric: Now in that case I thought that you had said that you had both the emotion itself – the emotional experience – and (although maybe these two things aren’t separable) the awareness of the emotion, maybe not integrated with the emotion itself. Whereas here maybe you’re saying you just have the awareness without the underlying thing?
Russ: And my sense of it is that for Melanie that’s part of what is the emotion. It’s not like there’s the emotion that’s in her body, and then there’s an analytical thing that’s watching the emotion. It’s that the emotion in her body and the watching of it are sort of wrapped up together as the emotional experience. This is the way Melanie experiences emotion – as both a bodily and a mental watching kind of thing. And that might be different for Melanie than for some other people, but that’s her version of emotion.
Eric: Right. I don’t know. I guess I’m somewhat skeptical still. I’m not saying that that’s impossible, but it would seem to me – my first guess would be – that a lot of times we have emotional experiences, but normally we aren’t really attending to those emotional experiences as we’re having them. Now there are probably cases in which we think, “Oh, you know, I’m angry. Why am I angry?” But most of the time you’re just angry, or sad, or anxious, or whatever, without thinking about that fact at the same time that it’s going on. So it seems to me a little funny that Melanie seems to be reporting in general that she’s thinking about the emotion as it’s happening. And it seems in this case even a little funnier that she’s kind of thinking about the emotion but there isn’t the underlying emotional experience at all. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I guess I’m not wholly convinced.
Russ: Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t do it that way, and it sounds probably like you don’t do it that way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Melanie doesn’t do it that way.
Melanie: Because I mean I was just… sorry to interrupt…
Eric: That’s fine.
Melanie: … but I was just saying that in most, if not all of the cases when I have been experiencing an emotion there’s a mental component tied into it. There’s both going on at the same time.
Russ: Right. And that’s not the way most people are. That’s the way Melanie happens to be. That’s part of what makes Melanie Melanie as opposed to June or Sally or something [Melanie and Eric laugh]. So we’ve got to make sure we’re talking about the idiographic Melanie rather than people in general.
Eric: Yeah, right, and I’m not sure
how much variation there is between people. But it’s such a complex set of
Melanie: I was remembering that we’ve talked about the different kinds of emotion [see Beep 3.2]. There are emotional processes in the body; and there is the experience of the emotion itself; and there is the cognitive awareness that you are having the emotion. I remember when we were having that conversation I had a lot of trouble understanding the experience of emotion without any cognitive... without knowing that you’re feeling anything. That made no sense to me until I really tried to work it out, and finally I figured it out: “Oh! I guess that sometimes people must just feel the emotions!” But even then I had trouble. How do you feel anger without knowing that it’s anger? It’s something I still have trouble comprehending in some ways.
Russ: Right, so you’re at an opposite sense of where Eric is. Eric is thinking, “Well, how can you have emotion and have the thought [every time]?” And you’re thinking, “How can you have emotion without having the thought?”
Melanie: Yes, exactly.
Russ: And I think that’s the deal. You grew up doing it your way, and he grew up doing it his way and you both assume that everybody does it the same as you.
Melanie: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
Eric: [laughs] I’m not sure exactly where we ended up with this, but at least my thought at the time had been that maybe there were three different levels at least conceptually possible. One or more may not be possible in reality, or not very common in reality, but they’re at least conceptually possible. Those three are first what I think Russ calls an emotion fact-of-body, which would be just the fact that, say, your heart is racing or you’re tensed up; and then there is a second level which would be having the kind of subjective experiences that are associated with that kind of emotion; and then the third is an awareness, a kind of meta-cognitive awareness, of the fact that you are having that emotion. My thought would be that when you get to the third level, the meta-cognitive awareness of the emotion as it’s going on, that that would be…
Russ: That’s different from what Melanie’s reporting here.
Eric: It is?
[Here Russ and Eric enter a long
discussion about levels of self-awareness and the connection between awareness
and experience (see Beep 3.2 and Box 8.6) – a discussion in which we fail to
agree on the last point at issue above, and in which we sometimes misunderstand
each other (but not productively enough to merit detaining the reader). Melanie
does not comment. Against armchair introspection, see
The Sixth Sampling Day
Melanie: Okay. Some of these were taken from last night, and some were from today. I was in a restaurant with my boyfriend having dinner. We were talking about the All Star game that was on last night, discussing how this year is this whole new thing where whichever team, National or American, that won the All Star game would get home field advantage for the World Series. And we were trying to remember how they divide up the games in the World Series between the National and American fields. He said, although he thought it was wrong, that they did it three games in one place, two games in another place, and then two games somewhere else. And then I said, “But that doesn’t make any sense because that means that one stadium gets the World Series games five times if you play all seven games.” And then the beep went off. So the beep happened right when I said “that means one stadium gets the World Series five times” beep.
Russ: You were saying that out loud?
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: You were in the midst of saying “that means….” And what, if anything, is in your experience other than your saying this.
Melanie: A feeling of conviction that what he said was wrong.
Russ: And can you tell us more about this, how you know this is a feeling of conviction, what it feels like, and…?
Melanie: Um… I think probably being a little bit more assertive in what I’m saying is part of it, and just a certainty that I’m right.
Russ: Okay. So if an unbiased observer were watching your conversation, would that observer be able to say, “Well she’s being definitive here”? Are you saying that there are characteristics of your voice that…?
Russ: Okay. So these are externally observable characteristics.
Melanie: Um hm. And although it certainly wasn’t in my awareness at the time, I probably leaned forward a little bit, kind of, so there was body language.
Russ: Okay. And was there anything other – I think you said that there was but I don’t remember what it was now – anything other than the certainty in your voice that led you to…?
Melanie: I can’t really get any more specific than this, just the feeling of knowing that what I was saying was correct.
Russ: And is that feeling of knowing, is that describable in any more detail? Mental? Physical? Bodily…?
Melanie: It’s mental. It’s not physical or bodily. It’s definitely mental but… beyond that, no.
Russ: So it’s not just that your voice is more definitive. There is some awareness beyond just the recognition of the characteristics of your voice that you are right about this.
Melanie: Yes. Um hm.
Russ: Okay. But we’re not finding any way to describe it other than this is some kind of a mental event.
[For brevity we have excised, here and elsewhere in this sample, some of Russ’s confirmatory repetitions of Melanie’s statements.]
Russ: Okay. And is there anything else going on at this particular moment in your awareness?
Melanie: I was looking at the person I was speaking to, and I was aware that I was looking at him, but there wasn’t anything else, like I couldn’t tell you what particular part of his face I was looking at, and there wasn’t some bit of me noticing what I was seeing. I just know that I was looking at him.
Russ: And when you say “you know that you’re looking at him,” does that mean in a retrospective sense?
Melanie: No, it means that I know that my eyes are pointed straight forward.
Russ: At the moment of the beep you know that your eyes are on him.
Melanie: Yeah, I’m not looking down and I’m not looking up, I’m looking straight ahead.
Melanie: Which ties into the whole feeling of certainty…
Russ: Leaning forward looking at him.
Melanie: Yeah, and feeling of asserting something.
Russ: Okay. So there is at the moment of the beep some awareness of looking straight ahead…
Melanie: Straight ahead.
Russ: … at this guy. Okay, and anything else?
Melanie: That’s it.
Eric: So you said that you knew your eyes were pointing straight forward. Would you describe this as more knowledge about your eyes, then, or knowledge about the thing you’re seeing? Or…?
Melanie: Probably knowledge about the eyes as opposed to what I’m seeing.
Eric: So in a way it sounds like, it would be analogous to, say, bodily knowledge that you’re faced a certain direction or something?
Melanie: Yeah. More like that than
looking directly at something. And picking up what I was looking at. Because I
could have been staring at anything, or looking at anything, but I just knew
that I was looking straight ahead. [See
Russ: And is that part of the feeling of leaning forward, leaning into these words in some…
Melanie: Um hm, definitely.
Russ: So it’s not like you knew that your body was intensely focused forwards, and, separately from that, you knew that you were looking forwards.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: It was that those things were the same or those were coordinated?
Melanie: Coordinated, yeah.
Russ: Coordinated processes.
Eric: Oh, that’s funny. Maybe I misheard what you said before. But I thought that you had said that it was only after the beep that you realized that you were leaning forward, that that wasn’t part of your experience at the time of the beep.
Melanie: Well, no, that’s right. I didn’t know that I was leaning forward; I did know that I was looking straight ahead and I assume that I was leaning forward.
Eric: Uh huh. So you say, then, that you had an experience having to do with, maybe your eyes being pointed forward at the time of the beep, and then after the beep you had an experience of which that was a part, which is a kind of general kind of feeling of leaning forward. Is that what you’re conveying?
Melanie: Yes, that expresses it exactly.
Eric: I don’t think in previous beeps you’ve described an experience of feeling certainty or feeling uncertainty about anything you’ve said.
Russ: I’m agreeing with that.
Eric: So is your sense that this is different from your reports about other things that you said in that respect?
Melanie: Well, there aren’t many other times when I report that I’ve actually said something. [Beep 1.3 is the only case.]
Melanie: Usually it’s inner speech or inner hearing.
when it’s inner speech or inner hearing there isn’t certainty or uncertainty,
one way or the other. It’s just kind of a thought meandering through my head,
for lack of a better word. [See
Eric: I don’t know whether we’ll meet again, but it would be interesting to see whether that’s a general feature of your experience of talking, that was maybe particularly salient in this case because it was so strong, or whether it’s something that is generally absent.
Russ: Melanie has said sort of all along that she has something like an analytical portion of her, which is watching what she’s doing while she’s doing it.
Russ: And it seems like this is part of that, or similar to that kind of process to me. She’s nodding to that.
Russ: When you said, Melanie, that this is “I’m right,” is there an affect that goes along with that? Like “I’m right” triumphantly? Or is it “I’m right” declaratively? As a matter of the fact of the world, this happens to be one fact that’s right…
Melanie: Yeah, declaratively more than… I don’t feel like I won anything and I don’t feel superior or anything. It’s just a fact.
Russ: So this is a stamp of correctness…
Russ: … more than a stamp of victory.
Melanie: Yeah, it has nothing to do with anything victorious at all.
Russ: Okay. Do you have other questions about this piece, Eric?
[Here we have excised some confusion between Russ and Eric regarding Melanie’s purported self-analyticity.]
Eric: When I was doing my own
beeping, especially at the beginning, I think I was quite bad at determining
the exact moment of the beep. So I’m wondering what your feeling is about the
precision with which you’re locating what’s going on immediately before the
beep. I’m wondering whether you’re kind of gathering up a bunch of stuff that’s
in the general time vicinity of the beep and putting it all together as the
thing that’s going on at the moment of the beep. [See
Melanie: Well… I certainly tried to
be as accurate as possible. That’s probably the only answer I can give with any
certainty. But beyond that, I think if I were just doing that kind of “sum up”
process, I could add a lot more to it. There is a lot more going on in those
seconds right before the beep, because I was looking around the restaurant and
I could add in little bits and pieces about that too, or things that caught my
eye, or things that I was aware of hearing in the din of the other people
there. But I can say with certainty that at the moment of the beep I wasn’t
hearing the other people in the restaurant; that wasn’t in my awareness,
although it had been at one time before. [See
Eric: Um hm.
Melanie: And I wasn’t aware of what was on the TV screens around us, even though I had been just a moment before that because it had something to do with what we were talking about. But right in that moment before the beep it, none of that was there, and I know that.
Russ: So is your question, Eric, something like this: “Is it your opinion, as best that you can give your opinion (and we recognize there’s limitations to this), that it seems that if we could take some kind of recording of your experience and then play back this experience, there would be sort of two things going on simultaneously in this recording?…
Russ: …There would be the speaking, and the analysis or the conviction?”
Melanie: Yeah. I
think that at any time you might try to record my experiences that you would
have that specific duality between what I’m doing or what I’m thinking or what
I’m saying and this analytical part of me that’s watching what I’m doing or
what I’m thinking or what I’m saying. [See
Eric: Um hm. I’m remembering also now something that you had said when we sampled the speech act by you before [Beep 1.3]. At that time you said that you had the experience – now I’m not going to remember exactly what it was – something like your closing your mouth or the feeling of vibrations in your throat or…
Melanie: Oh right. Yes.
Eric: At that time I think you made a generalization that you thought that was fairly typical for you.
Melanie: Um hm.
Eric: Would you say in this case there was also that kind of stuff going on?
Melanie: No, not here.
Eric: Do you still accept that generalization though?
Melanie: I would certainly say it happens pretty often.
Eric: Uh huh.
Russ: Let me ask a related question. Does the what-we’re-calling the analytic process, the “I’m right” part, seem like the same kind of a process as the noting the sensations in your mouth…
Russ: … or does it seem like a different kind of process?
Melanie: A similar process, if not the same.
Russ: So if that’s true, then that seems like the answer to your question, Eric. When she said, back awhile ago [Beep 1.2], “It seems to me like I do this kind of thing a lot,” [she actually said at Beep 1.2, “…often. Quite often.”] you and I thought that what she meant by that was she pays attention to the vibrations in her mouth. But what she really meant was a somewhat broader thing, which would include things like monitoring herself for correctness, or whatever.
[Here we have excised, and above we have trimmed, some further discussion of the timing of the beep.]
[Melanie begins by expressing some embarrassment over the fact that she was playing a video game, a rare event for her. Russ and Eric reassure her that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.]
Melanie: I was playing it with someone, and the beep came right after I said, “You’re crowding me” in a joking manner. The beep came right after I finished saying that. And at the moment of the beep I was still smiling from having said that remark in a joking manner, and I felt just happy. I was just very happy.
Russ: And when you say that you were still smiling…
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: … is that smiling in your awareness?
Melanie: Yes, I knew I was smiling.
Russ: So you were aware of the smiling.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: And when you say you felt happy, is that also in your awareness at the moment of the beep?
Melanie: Yes, definitely.
Russ: So this is not looking back when the beep goes off and saying, “What’s going on with me?”
Melanie: No. I knew that…
Russ: It’s “I’m
happy and I know it.” [See
Russ: And how do you feel, what is this happy feeling?
Melanie: Very kind of lightweight inside, you know, just no pressures, nothing to worry about, just feeling good and feeling happy and almost feeling healthy in a way.
Russ: And when you said “lightweight inside,” you went like this, sort of referring to your chest?
Melanie: Yeah, it’s like in your lungs, almost like when you have a balloon in your lungs or something like that. Not when you feel choked up, because you can also use that to express that, but just really lightweight, like there’s no pressure. It’s easy to breathe, it’s easy to think and to talk all at the…
Russ: But sort of mostly in your upper torso, does that mean…
Russ: … neck to midsection?
Melanie: Yeah, um hm.
Russ: So in some other places you’ve said that you have feelings that were in your head [maybe Beeps 1.1 and 5.1, depending on how you interpret them]. This one wasn’t so much in your head?
Melanie: No. This felt all over. But at the same time if I had to just give it a place where it was, it started like around, you know, midsection or upper torso.
Russ: And now it sounds like we’re maybe confusing what was happening in the physiology and what was happening in the experience. So at the moment of the beep [snaps fingers], are you more aware of your midsection as opposed to other portions of your body?
Melanie: Yeah, yes.
Russ: So you’re feeling this lightness from…
Melanie: Upper torso.
Russ: … upper-torso-ness in your awareness.
Russ: And anything else going on in your experience?
Melanie: Just that.
Russ: You’re playing the game but you’re not really paying attention to the game?
Melanie: Well, we weren’t playing. It was kind of... We were switching off taking turns, so there was like a pause, you know, and so I was kidding around to the person I was playing with. And at the moment we didn’t have to punch a button or something like that, and so it was just like a little break.
Russ: Okay, and are your eyes aimed at the computer screen still?
Melanie: They were down, but I wasn’t really paying attention to where they were located.
Russ: And by “down” do you mean at the computer screen? Or…
Melanie: No. It was like an arcade game, so I would say that the screen was kind of straight ahead and the controls were downward, so I was looking toward the controls.
Russ: But they weren’t really in your awareness?
Russ: Your eyes were aimed at them but you weren’t really paying much attention to what your eyes were…
Russ: Right, okay.
[Here we’ve excised a brief discussion of her physical situation.]
Eric: So I think that we had said that it was at least conceivable at one point that you could have an emotional experience but not have knowledge at the time that you’re having the experience, or attentiveness to the experience at the time it’s going on.
Melanie: Okay, yeah.
Eric: And you would say this would be a case in which you were having the experience and you were attending to the experience.
Melanie: Yeah. I was happy, and I knew I was happy.
Eric: And you said you knew you were smiling. Is this an awareness of your facial posture…
Eric: … or is it kind of like…
Melanie: It was more like I could feel the smile.
Eric: It’s an awareness of having your face in that position…
Melanie: Yes, I think the latter. I could feel that I was smiling, like feel a little tightness in my cheeks – that whole sort of thing that I go through with smiling.
Eric: Um hm.
Russ: And is that part of the awareness of the lightness in your upper torso? Or does that seem like it’s different for you?
Melanie: Similar, again.
Russ: And in the beep that we were just talking about, when you were talking aloud, you were aware of facial, mouthful things, oral things. Is this the same or different from that?
Melanie: It’s the same.
Russ: So there’s what we were talking about as being a sort of an analytical kind of a thing.
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: So the noticing of the smile is part of the analytical, part of the self-aware…
Melanie: Part, yeah.
Russ: …part. And is the awareness of the body also part of the self-aware part? Or…
Melanie: Um hm, it’s like I’m monitoring what’s going on at that moment in my body.
Russ: Okay. So it’s not just that it’s going on in your body and you’re noticing it, but you’re noticing it in an analytical sense. Is that correct? Kind of self-awareness…
Melanie: Yeah. Almost [laughs wryly] like there’s this other little being that’s taking notes about what’s going on.
Russ: Um hm.
Melanie: That sort of awareness.
Russ: So theoretically, but apparently not for you or at least not very often, it might be possible for a lightness feeling in your body and a smile to take place, and you might know that it would be happening, and you could recognize it and feel it happen, so to speak. But this experience has something on top of that which is…
Melanie: A knowledge of what’s going on.
Russ: …and it’s sort of in an analytical or self-monitoring kind of way?
Melanie: Yeah. Um hm.
[Here a further
discussion of self-awareness, mostly between Russ and Eric, is excised. For
Eric’s concerns about this exchange see
In lieu of the full transcript of the discussion of this sample (available on the website), here is a description of Melanie’s experience at the moment of the beep as she conveyed it in the interview.
At the moment of the
beep Melanie was still playing the arcade game, standing in front of the arcade
machine with her arms crossed, concentrating on what was on the screen. She was
very aware of the fact that she was concentrating, and in particular she was
noticing that her brow was furrowed, that she was worrying (chewing on) her
lower lip, and that she had her arms crossed. She was also aware of the way her
feet were placed and the way she was standing. All these bodily manifestations
were part of the feeling of concentrating, but they did not exhaust that feeling
Melanie: I was at home. We had some flowers on our kitchen table, and I had taken them to the sink in the kitchen to throw them out because they had gone dry. Right before the beep I had taken the bulk of the flowers out of the vase and tossed them in the trash. Then right before the beep, I was leaning over the sink and picking up the remaining petals and collecting them in my hand to throw them in the trash. I was thinking that those flowers had lasted for a nice long time. It was just kind of an idle thought that was inner speech.
Russ: As in quote, “Those flowers lasted for a nice long time,” unquote?
Melanie: Quote, “They lasted for a nice long time.”
Melanie: And at
the moment of the beep my awareness was split between being focused on picking
up the petals and on hearing the echoes of “nice long time” in my head. [See
Russ: So you had said in inner speech, “they lasted for a nice long time,” just prior to the beep?
Melanie: Um hm, not at the beep but just prior to it.
Russ: But in some way the “nice long time” portion is still there. Is that right?
Melanie: Yeah, it was. The best I can liken it to is an echo.
Russ: And is this a hearing experience? You called that a hearing experience; do you mean that to be taken literally? Or…
Melanie: It was. The “nice long time” bit was. The “it lasted for a nice long time,” quote unquote, was inner speech, but this was much more like inner hearing.
Russ: Okay. And when you said it in inner speech, was that in your own voice?
Russ: And when you’re hearing “nice long time,” is that still hearing your own voice?
Russ: And do all of these things sound the same? Because there’s your real voice, and then there’s the innerly spoken voice, and then there’s the heard voice, are they…?
they sound the same. [Compare Beep 1.1,
Russ: Okay. And “echo.” I want to understand what you mean by “echo.” An echo gets softer and softer; did you mean to imply that? And echo sometimes is repeated and sometimes once but…
Melanie: No, it didn’t get softer and softer, it’s almost like [quizzically] it got blurrier and blurrier. Not in terms of visual blurry, but a sound blurry [again quizzically], where it just started overlapping itself until it just came to this jumble in which you can’t make any noise out. It sounds really weird but…
Russ: So are you saying that you said in inner speech something that was quite clear…
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: … “It lasted for a nice long time,” and then there’s “nice long time,” “nice long time,” overlapped with “nice long time”…
Russ: … then “nice long time” overlapped with “nice long time” overlapped with “nice long time”…
Melanie: And it keeps going.
Russ: … until there’s sort of several of these things going?
Russ: Okay. And is it possible to say how many of these things?
Russ: And is it possible…?
Melanie: I think at the moment of the beep it had only been a couple.
Russ: So the part about overlapping a long time would be sort of speculating about what would have happened if this had gone on undisturbed…
Melanie: Um hm.
Russ: … that there would have been more of these things included?
Melanie: Yeah, because it started to overlap, and then overlap a little more. Not a couple, so there were about three or four that echoed in there.
Russ: Okay. And at the same time as these overlapping inner hearings are taking place, you’re seeing petals…
Melanie: Yeah, and picking them up, and so focused in the motions of: There’s a flower petal, reach my hand down, pick it up, and put it in my other hand.
Russ: Okay. Do you mean that in a cognitive sense? Or in a somehow thinking that I should pick up this petal?
Russ: So it’s a…
Melanie: It’s just what I’m doing.
Russ: … it’s your arms are going and petals are coming up. That kind of thing.
Russ: And that kind of thing could happen in awareness, and it could happen outside of awareness.
Melanie: It’s in awareness.
Russ: So you’re directedly, consciously, so to speak, in awareness…
Melanie: Yeah, oh there’s another one. Yeah.
Russ: … but you’re not saying, “Oh there’s another one”?
Russ: You’re examining the sink…
and then just going and picking up all of the ones there, collect them all out
of the sink and throw them away. [See
Russ: Okay, and you said your awareness was “split.” Did you mean to imply evenly split, partially split, 80-20, 99-10…?
Melanie: It felt pretty evenly.
Russ: Your turn, Eric.
Eric: So, the echoes that you’re hearing of your inner speech. At first I was inclined to take the idea of an echo pretty metaphorically…
Melanie: Um hm.
Eric: … like there may be some pretty vague sense in which a thought can still be with you even after you’ve finished saying it in inner speech.
Eric: But you don’t mean that. You mean something much more like an echo, where there’s actually a repetition…
Eric: … of an auditory thing that’s going over and over again.
Russ: In sort of the same way as if we all decided in a minute here, to say, “nice long time” all at the same time. You would start at one time, and I would start a little bit later, and Eric would start a little bit later than that, and we’d all say “nice long time.” That’s what it sounded like?
Russ: Except that it would be all your voice.
Eric: So it
probably takes about a second to say “nice long time.” So if you’re talking
about having the echoing repeating, you’re talking about something that’s
happening over the course of several seconds? Or I remember your saying at some
point earlier on that in your inner speech things are speeded up [Beep 1.1; see
Melanie: Yeah. It felt instantaneous. Or not instantaneous but incredibly, you know, microseconds apart. I mean in a very, very short span of time, so it all felt like it was happening all at once.
Russ: And does that mean that it felt like the speech was speeded up? Or did it just feel like the whole experience happened at the same time?
Melanie: No, it didn’t seem like it was faster than normal speaking. It just felt like it was all happening at once.
Russ: And so is what you’re saying, basically, a physical impossibility here, because Eric is right, these things take a second or so, that some overlapping has got to take a couple of seconds, if it was going to happen in reality. But it’s not happening in reality…
Russ: … it’s happening in your imagination, so this seems like it happens…
Melanie: Very fast.
Russ: … more or less instantaneously, even though in reality…
Melanie: It couldn’t.
Russ: Okay. I don’t know how she could do that either [all laugh], but that doesn’t mean that she can’t.
Eric: Right. It seems to me that it can’t literally seem both that it’s repeating multiple times, one after the other, and that it’s instantaneous. It seems like the seeming of repetition must involve at least some little time gap between the starts of the various…
Melanie: It did. I didn’t mean instantaneous, but it felt like mere microseconds apart. Very fast.
Russ: And I disagree with the implication of your statement. I don’t think that’s an impossibility.
Eric: Uh huh.
for example, said – I’ve never sampled with him unfortunately, which would have
been a pretty cool thing to do [all laugh] – that he heard a whole symphony at
the same time. [See
Eric: Uh huh.
Russ: And you would be saying that’s impossible because these things are temporal and there are entrances and exits and whatever…
Russ: … how could you hear those things at the same time? Somehow he could do it. It would be interesting to know whether that was really true – I don’t know whether it was or not. But it seems like we have to suspend the laws of physics if we’re going to understand what experience is like.
Eric: Right. But it doesn’t seem to me like this is just the laws of physics. I mean, you know, maybe it is conceivable. Maybe I’m being narrow-minded – the Mozart story has kind of a nice ring to it. But it does seem to me like if you’re imagining a symphony auditorially, you have to imagine one note ending and another one beginning after it’s ended. I don’t think that’s a matter of physics. If it’s true, it’s a matter of what a symphony is.
Russ: Not to Mozart.
Eric: If all the notes come at the same time, it’s not a symphony even in imagination.
Russ: But not to Mozart, apparently. And you’d think he’d know!
Eric: Maybe I’m being too narrow about this, but the thought I was having was that it’s a violation of the laws of physics to go floating off the floor, but you can certainly imagine that coherently.
Eric: But I’m not sure you can coherently imagine an instantaneous symphony in the same way.
Russ: Well, I’ve got the advantage probably of having sampled with a bunch of other people. Time is a pretty screwy thing in the sense that it’s not at all uncommon for people to report things that seem to violate the laws of temporal sequence. The example we’ve got going here is a pretty good example.
Eric: Uh huh.
Russ: And I’ve asked as many skeptical questions as you’ve asked over many years of doing this kind of stuff, to try to say, “Well, you know, it can’t possibly be!” And people like Melanie stick pretty much to their guns and say, “Well, you know, maybe it can’t be. But that’s the way it seemed. It seemed like there was a long thing happening but it didn’t seem like it took a long time to do it.”
Russ: And so the laws of experience are somehow different from the laws of physics. But, you know, a skilled moviemaker can capture an event that takes a long time to actually occur, can capture that in some kind of implied way. If a moviemaker can do that in the really restricted medium of a movie, Melanie ought to be able to do it better in her own experience.
Eric: Yeah, well maybe so.
Russ: Here again, I’m not saying what it is that she did and what it is that she didn’t. But it’s part of what I call “bracketing,” that it’s not fair to discount her experience on the basis of what must happen in reality, because her experience is not reality.
Eric: Yeah. Well, for some reason I can find more sympathy with the idea that something could go quickly and not seem sped up – you know, go much more quickly than it would in reality. So when Melanie says that her inner speech happened quickly, more quickly than normal speech, but it didn’t seem that she was talking fast [Beep 1.1], that doesn’t bother me as much as what seems to me saying that the echoes were instantaneous does, which Melanie actually denies in this case.
Russ: Yeah. It seems to me that if we took a regular piece of audio tape and played it back at double speed, it would of course be twice as high in pitch and take half as long. And if we did this kind of thing often enough, we could probably become quite skilled at hearing the original speaker as if the original speaker were actually speaking in his normal voice, even though in actuality it’s going higher and faster. And so I think Melanie can develop a shorthand that goes even better than that about her own voice.
Now…. see, I think I’m much more inclined than you are to see people as similar
in their basic experiences [see
Eric: So it
would seem to me possible that someone attempting to characterize that would
think of the metaphor of an echo, which is kind of a nice metaphor. But then
she might buy into the metaphor too much and start to attribute to her experiences
the literal features of an echo, imputing them backwards and erroneously into
the experience, like I think people in the 1950s erroneously attributed to
their dreams black-and-whiteness because it seemed natural to compare dreams to
movies. [See Schwitzgebel 2002b for an extended discussion of this issue; also
Eric: Right, so I guess I have a suspicion that that would be what was going on in this case.
Russ: Yeah, and I think it’s okay to have that suspicion and that you ought to inquire about it as carefully as you can, but not just assume it.
Russ: And as part of our conversations here I have come to the notion that there’s a fundamentally important deal about the difference between thinking that everybody’s the same and thinking that everybody might not be the same.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s a big deal, all right. People give very different reports of experience, and I guess I have just a general bias toward the default presupposition being that people are the same. You would have something to overcome, some burden of proof before you could say, “Wow! You know, people really are as different as they seem from these reports!”
Russ: Yeah. But let’s put it this way. When I sample with people, people say things that would never in a million years occur to me to say.
Eric: [laughs] Right. See, I guess my overall inclination is to think that experience is elusive and gone in a second. So it’s hard to remember. And in addition, it’s hard to articulate. We don’t have good words for talking about it. We don’t usually think about it or talk about it. It’s hard to describe, hard to conceive, hard to categorize the things that are going on in experience. So we reach for different ways of speaking about it, different kinds of metaphors, and because people reach in different ways and reconstruct in different ways and employ different categories to deal with their experience, it can give the impression that people’s experiences are very different, where they may actually be pretty similar.
Russ: Yeah, I
can appreciate that. But I’ve tried to be as absolutely, scrupulously careful
as I can to distinguish between what’s metaphorical and what’s not, and to give
people the out of saying, “Well I don’t really know.” And yet, when I do that,
people come out to be a lot different. [See