I have been invited by Prof. Steve Torrance to give a talk at the COGS seminar series at the University of Sussex. The talk will take place today in Pev1 1A7 at 4pm. The title and abstract are as follows:
Validating and calibrating first-person methods
Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science
After over a century of neglect the last two decades have seen a significant amount of progress in the science of consciousness. This resurgence of interest has been largely driven by the availability of increasingly sophisticated neuroscientific methods. However, as the field is maturing it is becoming progressively more evident that further scientific progress will not only depend on improvements in measurement technology. Additionally, there are two major outstanding challenges that need to be addressed. We still need a theory of consciousness that could inform the design and interpretation of experimental studies. And we also need a more systematic way of accessing and measuring the phenomenology of consciousness, i.e. our lived experience. The latter challenge takes a special place because a rigorous method of obtaining phenomenological data may turn out to be a powerful catalyst for the field as a whole. Only with increasingly refined verbal reports about what it is like to be conscious can we hope to better understand the detailed data that neuroscience is providing, and to delimit the phenomenological facts that a theory of consciousness must take into account.
Accordingly, it is not surprising that there have been a growing number of attempts to go beyond employing standard questionnaires and spontaneous verbal reports of untrained subjects in the science of consciousness. I will describe some of the outstanding examples of how more rigorous first- and second-person methods can inform empirical research. However, there are conflicting claims between the two most prominent second-person interview methods regarding the existence and accessibility of previously unattended experience. I discuss the possibility of a methodological resolution of this conflict, which is based on ideas produced by a recent working group within the Sackler for Consciousness Science focused on this topic. It may be possible to objectively validate and calibrate first- and second-person methods of consciousness.