Inteinational Buman Science Reseaich Confeience 2uu9

Nolue 0niveisity College, Noiway
Petei B Ashwoith
Bi Petei B Ashwoith, Emeiitus Piofessoi,
Faculty of Bevelopment anu Society uiauuate School,
0nit 9, Science Paik, Sheffielu Ballam 0niveisity, Bowaiu Stieet, Sheffielu S1 1WB, 0K.
Fiiuay, 19
Iune 2uu9
William Iames (19Su¡189u) insisteu iepeateuly that it was fallacious to assume that the
ieseaich paiticipant's expeiience was to be unueistoou in teims of the ieauily-available
categoiies of the ieseaichei. The psychologist's fallacy involves a confusion of the stanupoints
of the ieseaichei anu the ieseaicheu. The 'subjective woilu' of the ieseaich paiticipant must
be unueistoou in its own teims. In this papei, I ieview uebates in the histoiy of
phenomenology which show the uifficulty of thoioughly incoipoiating Iames's insight, anu
then uiscuss some tenuencies in contempoiaiy qualitative ieseaich which seem to make the
eiioi Iames pointeu out:
Taking it foi gianteu that 'the situation' foi the ieseaich paiticipant is
unpioblematical. Foi example, the ieseaichei is able to assume what the natuie of the
thing being peiceiveu is. Beie the !"#$% is neglecteu.
Tieating a featuie which is founu in the subjective woilu of a ieseaich paiticipant as
an outcome of an 'objective situation'. This involves causal thinking, maybe out of
concein foi theiapy, peuagogy oi policy.
Nixeu-moue (qualitative ¡ quantitative) ieseaich of vaiious kinus, which subsumes
iuiogiaphic featuies of the expeiience unuei geneial categoiies.
The stiongest line of phenomenological thinking which illuminates the issue is Neileau-
Ponty's tieatment of oui embouieu membeiship of the woilu: 'flesh'. This biings out the
iauicality of the notion of intentionality: collapsing the objective ¡ subjective uiviue, the woilu
&' one's lifewoilu.
The eailiest wiiteis, wiestling with a new appioach to human expeiience, often came face to
face with issues which latei ieseaicheis, piotecteu by a uevelopeu set of conventions, aie able
to ignoie oi skiit iounu - oi even fail to see because they notice only what they have come to
believe is theie anu cannot conceive of aspects of the ieseaich which aie not pait of the official
pioblematic. The nineteenth centuiy philosophei anu psychologist William Iames can be seen
to wiestle with issues in this veiy instiuctive way. Be shows so cleaily the uifficulty of the
task of ueveloping a scientific psychology - anu these pioblems aie still founu, both in piesent-
uay psychology anu in human science in geneial. But they aie often maskeu by convention anu
iaiely faceu.
In ()#*+,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21*of 189u (Iames 19Su¡189u) Iames wiites, appaiently
Psychology, the science of finite inuiviuual minus, assumes as its uata (1) 3)"42)3'*%!5*
0##/&!2', anu (2) %*.)1'&-%/*6",/5 in time anu space with which they coexist, anu which
(S) 3)#1*7!"68*888 This book, assuming that thoughts anu feelings exist anu aie vehicles of
knowleuge, theieupon contenus that psychology, when she has asceitaineu the empiiical
coiielates of the vaiious soits of thought anu feeing with uefinite conuitions of the biain,
can go no faithei - can go no faithei, that is, as a natuial science. (19Su¡189u: vi)
Beie we have piecisely the uualism of contempoiaiy cognitive psychology, a physical woilu on
the one hanu, possibly to be measuieu in teims of SI units, anu on the othei hanu an innei
woilu of expeiience. Between these two seemingly incommensuiable woilus, cognitivists
uevelop theii mouels of infoimation-piocessing steps, wheieby they explain the
tiansfoimation fiom the senseu physical eneigies to a iecognition of events in the expeiienceu
woilu. But the statement of the piogiamme of scientific psychology I have just quoteu is
contiauicteu in Iames's own text. It is only one siue of Iames's account of psychology. We finu
him wiestling with the funuamental uisjunction between the constiuction of exteinal, thiiu
peison causal mouels of psychological piocesses as if impeisonal, anu the unueistanuing of
the meanings given in fiist-peison human expeiience. As Biuce Wilshiie (1968) uemonstiates
so convincingly in his phenomenological ciitique of ()#*+,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21, the Ameiican
philosophei was acutely awaie of the claims of oui subjective giasp of the woilu, an
embiyonic phenomenology, in such chapteis as that on the Self, anu the one on the Stieam of
Thought. As Euie wiites:
In many cases Iames pieceueu anu ceitainly uevelopeu what weie to become essential
phenomenological themes piioi to, anu inuepenuently of, the woik of Euiopean
phenomenologists. ... In shoit, the value of Iames' thought as a whole is not exhausteu in its
impoitance foi phenomenology in any naiiow sense. ... It is only because of the intiinsic anu
logically necessaiily conveigences within Iames' philosophical uiscoveiies anu those of the
phenomenologists that we can show that they make contiibutions to what is, in essential
iespects, the same piogiam. (Euie, 197u: 486)
0ne way in which Iames's phenomenological sensibility was expiesseu was thiough the iuea
that ieseaicheis have a tenuency to pioject theii scientific oi peisonal view onto the
conscious expeiience of the ieseaich paiticipant, iathei than paying attention to the
expeiience itself, in its own teims, as expeiienceu. Be calleu this eiioi the 'psychologist's
fallacy' (Biiu, 1986: uioigi, 1981: Reeu, 1996, anu Wilshiie, 1968).
It must be emphasiseu that the eiioi is a veiy geneial one, anu affects ieseaicheis fai beyonu
the 'psychologist' categoiy.
uuiwitch chaiacteiises the issue in this way:
It is of gieat methouological impoitance that these two stanupoints nevei be confounueu. It is
this confusion that Iames stigmatises as "the psychologist's fallacy .%,*#9-#//#!-#8" The "object of
thought" stuuieu must be taken at face value, exactly such as it piesents itself. The psychological,
physiological, physical anu common-sense knowleuge that the psychologist has as a psychologist
must not be foisteu into the thought stuuieu. (uuiwitsch, 1992: 14-1S)
This papei is by no means unique in uiscussing Iames's psychologist's fallacy in ielation to
contempoiaiy qualitative ieseaich. Foi example, many of the matteis which I will iaise have
been toucheu on anu some tieateu in uepth in a shoit aiticle by Ameueo uioigi (1981, see also
199S anu 2uu6). uioigi was also the tianslatoi of Linschoten's (1968¡19S9) :!*3)#*;%1*
("6%,5*%*+)#!"$#!"/"2&-%/*+'1-)"/"21<*()#*+'1-)"/"21*"0*;&//&%$*=%$#'8*uioigi's 1981 papei
is paiticulaily stiong wheie the key issue is the ielationship of Iames's insights to Busseil's
woik. Ny aigument will be a little uiffeient to that of uioigi, howevei. I will map Iames's views
onto uebates in the histoiy of phenomenology, anu will also point out some ways in which
cuiient qualitative ieseaich can fall foul of the psychologist's fallacy.
??@ !"##"$%&'$%()&*+&,-(&7)80-*#*9"),:)&;$##$08&!"#$%&'%((%)'%
Iames's account of the psychologist's fallacy in ()# +,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21*begins like this
The 2,#%3 snaie of the psychologist is the -"!04'&"!*"0*)&'*"6!*'3%!5."&!3*6&3)*3)%3*"0*3)#*$#!3%/*
0%-3*about which he is making his iepoit. I shall heieaftei call this the 'psychologist's fallacy' .%,*
#9-#//#!-#8*. The psychologist . stanus outsiue of the mental state he speaks of. Both itself anu
its object aie objects foi him. Now when it is a -"2!&3&># state (peicept, thought, concept, etc.), he
oiuinaiily has no othei way of naming it than as the thought, peicept, etc., "0*3)%3*"?@#-38*Be
himself meanwhile, knowing the self-same object in )&' way, gets easily leu to suppose that the
thought which is "0*it, knows it in the same way in which he knows it, although this is often veiy
fai fiom being the case. (Iames, 19Su¡189u, vol 1: 196. Iames's emphases.)
So the psychologist, without ieflection, can assume that the ieseaich paiticipant, looking at
whatevei it is - a iose, say - is expeiiencing it as he, the psychologist, woulu. Iames is waining
that this shaiing of peispective is a false piesupposition. Be goes on to say:
-"!'-&"4'*"0*&3'#/0*%'*3)#*.'1-)"/"2&'3*&'*-"!'-&"4'*"0*&38* The mental state is awaie of itself only
fiom within: it giasps what we call its own content, anu nothing moie. The psychologist, on the
contiaiy, is awaie of it fiom without, anu knows its ielations with all soits of othei things. What
the thought sees is only its own object: what the psychologist sees is the thought's object, plus
the thought itself, plus possibly all the iest of the woilu. (Iames, 19Su¡189u, vol 1: 197. Iames's
The psychologist, in othei woius, on obseiving a ieseaich paiticipant looking at a iose, may
not only assume that the expeiience is of a iose just like the psychologist woulu expeiience a
iose, but also take foi gianteu that the expeiience is known by the ieseaich paiticipant as a
.#,-#.34%/*one in which "I" am "peiceiving" a iose8*But Iames wants to insist that, in the act of
expeiience, one is "43*3)#,#*&!*3)#*6",/5. The ieseaich paiticipant is piesent to a iose, without
being 3)#$%3&-%//1 awaie of themselves oi of the moue of expeiience involveu. Iames
We must be veiy caieful theiefoie, in uiscussing a state of minu fiom the psychologist's point of
view, to avoiu foisting into its own ken matteis that aie only theie foi ouis. . (Iames,
19Su¡189u, vol 1: 197.)
uioigi (1981: 77, citing Wilshiie, 1968: Wilu, 1969, anu Iames, 19Su¡189u, himself) points to
'numeious eiiois in the histoiy of thought' uue to the psychologist's fallacy. uioigi (1981: 8u)
iegaius the psychologist's fallacy as best unueistoou as what Iames calls a 'confusion of
stanupoints'. The ieseaichei fails to pay uue attention to the ieseaich paiticipant's uiffeient
peiception oi conception of a situation. The psychologist's fallacy is hugely peivasive. Iames
supplies seveial examples.
1. As we have seen, Iames cites as an example, taking it foi gianteu that the othei peison's
expeiience of something is equivalent to that of the ieseaichei. This is what uioigi (1981)
labels the '*)+%#,-./%'+*0%$'1)2-,*1)' anu it involves attiibuting what the psychologist
believes aie 'geneially known' featuies of the enviionment oi stimulus situation to the
awaieness of the peison. Rathei, an expeiience must be investigateu in its own teims, just
as it appeais.
2. Anu we have seen a seconu example fiom Iames wheie theie is an "++#*.-+*1)$12$
#%3(%'+*0%)%,, to the expeiiencei. The ,#'#%,-)#, may know that heie we have such-anu-
such a peison, peiceiving oi iemembeiing, but the point Iames is making is that this is not
necessaiily pait of the ,#'#%,-)*.%,3&-&.%!3B'*expeiience. Theie is no justification in
assuming that they have a ieflective awaieness of themselves as expeiiencei at the moment
of expeiiencing, though the ieseaichei may implicitly imagine that the expeiience of a
peison incluues a thematic awaieness that they aie being awaie: awaie of self anu awaie of
theii 'mental state' as peiceivei, foi example. An expeiience may not incluue ,#C/#-3&># self-
awaieness. In peiception, foi example, we aie not 'in oui heaus' viewing a peiceptual fielu,
but paiticipating in the lifewoilu. We must not assume ieflective awaieness. Iames wiites:
So fai is it fiom being tiue that oui fiist way of feeling things is the feeling of them as subjective
oi mental, that the exact opposite seems to be the tiuth. 0ui eailiest, most instinctive, least
uevelopeu kinu of consciousness is the objective kinu, anu only as ieflection becomes uevelopeu
uo we become awaie of an innei woilu at all. (Iames, 19Su¡189u, vol 2: S2)
S. Bowevei, theie is an almost contiauictoiy veision of the attiibution of ieflectiveness. The
ieseaichei in inteiesteu in a segment of the ieseaich paiticipant's expeiience, ielevant to
the ieseaich topic. But expeiience is bioauei than this. I believe heie we have what uioigi
(1981) points to when he uiscusses the 'pait-whole confusion'. So in the pait-whole
confusion, the ieseaichei substitutes (as it weie) the 'ielevant topic of thought' foi
expeiience (that Iames calls the 'object of thought'). The ieseaichei foigets that expeiience
is of a focal thing within the hoiizon of the lifewoilu. Iames was notable foi his use of the
notion of 'fiinges' in a way that is similai to Busseil's use of the teim 'hoiizon'. In fact,
Busseil himself tells us in D,&'&'E*FBusseil 197u¡19S4: 264) that "W. Iames was alone, as fai
as I know, in becoming awaie of the phenomena of hoiizon - unuei the title of 'fiinges'..." So
let us call this foim of the psychologist's fallacy, ')%4(%'+$12$+5%$51#*61)$12$+5%$(*2%71#(8'.
So, when Iames tells us that it is a foim of psychologist's eiioi (what we have calleu the
'attiibution of ieflectiveness') to assume that the peison's expeiience incluues self-
awaieness anu being ieflectively awaie of the natuie of oui mental state, this uoes not mean
Iames thinks that an expeiience is limiteu to a focal thing, theie is a host of implicateu
meanings suiiounuing this focus which aie inueeu essential aspects of the expeiience.
4. Iames pointeu out stiongly that it was a foim of the psychologist's fallacy to attiibute
featuies suggesteu by psychological theoiy, to mental states oi activities. Beie Iames is
especially uismissive of the atomistic tenuencies of his contempoiaiies, who assumeu that
sensoiy uata is 'bitty', anu that theiefoie oui awaieness is unconsciously fiagmentaiy.
Iames wiites:
Lipps ... finus that eveiy space we think of can be bioken up into positions, anu concluues that
in some unuefineu way the seveial positions must have pie-existeu in thought befoie the
aggiegate space coulu have appeaieu to peiception. (Iames, 19Su ¡ 189u, vol 2: 281.)
No, again the uesciiption of expeiience must be %'*&3*%..#%,', whethei this concoius with
the theoiy of psychological piocesses oi not.
uioigi (1981) labels this the '9)17(%84%$0%#,-,$%&!%#*%)'%' confusion. It is to assume that
(e.g.) the scientific account of the causal conuitions of an expeiience ('knowleuge') shoulu
be piesent somehow in the peison's expeiience itself. uioigi iegaius this foim of the
psychologist's fallacy specifically as the one which woulu be counteieu by Busseil's
pioceuuie of biacketing 'knowleuge about things'.
Reeu gives this statement of Iames's view:
As fai as Iames is conceineu, psychological theoiy which foices theoiists to make asseitions
about how mental states 'must be' uiffeient fiom what those states appeai to be, is not piopeily
psychology at all. An acute phenomenologist, Iames hau no stomach foi playing fast anu loose
with the uesciiption of consciousness. Be also insisteu that psychology shoulu be a 'natuial
science' by which he meant a science iooteu ... in caieful obseivation. (Reeu, 199S, pp 64-6S)
But we shall see that Iames was capable of falling foi this foim of the fallacy himself.
S. Language can have a pait to play in the pait-whole confusion, with its easy assumption of a
shaieu conception anu its piovision of a woiu which seems to label the expeiience when it
ieally inuicates the focus oi even the topic, the iefeient in 'ieality'. We can be :*,(%8$.;$+5%$
"0"*(".*(*+;$12$"$71#8 in the language which coveis the thing the expeiience is "0, anu fail
to see the wiue iamifications of the thing in expeiience. In the famous 'Stieam of Thought'
chaptei, Iames wiites:
Beie ... language woiks against oui peiception of the tiuth. We name oui thoughts simply, each
aftei its thing, as if each knew its own thing anu nothing else. What each ieally knows is cleaily
the thing it is nameu foi |a iose, maybe], with uimly peihaps a thousanu othei things. It ought to
be nameu aftei all of them, but it nevei is. ... 0ui own bouily position, attituue, conuition, is one
of the things of which '"$# awaieness, howevei inattentive, invaiiably accompanies the
knowleuge of whatevei else we know. We think, anu as we think we feel oui bouily selves as the
seat of the thinking. If the thinking be "4, thinking, it must be suffuseu thiough all its paits with
that peculiai waimth anu intimacy that makes it come as ouis. (Iames, 19Su ¡ 189u, vol 1: pp
241-242. Ny inteipolation.)
So heie we have Iames ueveloping his phenomenology by pointing out that, while
peiception oi thought might be focally of a ceitain nameable thing, expeiience of that thing
is wiuei than the iaw name woulu suggest anu incluues a multituue of iamifications anu
connotations - incluuing a kinu of peiipheial awaieness of ones own bouily piesence.
Latei wiiteis, uiawing on Iames, have intiouuceu theii own commentaiy on the psychologist's
fallacy. Foi example, we have the woik of Iill Noiawski.
6. Noiawski (2uuS) takes the view that Iames's sciupulousness in tiying to avoiu the
psychologist's fallacy has been oveitaken by the onwaiu maich of expeiimental psychology.
She iegaius psychologists as wiuely committeu to the opinion that the 'scientific account' of
expeiiences has pieceuence ovei the account that ieseaich paiticipants themselves woulu
give. She wiites:
The psychologist's fallacy was soon buiieu unuei the ueepening conñuence in the psychologists'
piivilegeu ('objective') stanupoint. ... If anything, psychological subjects, although now calleu
expeiimental 'paiticipants', aie assumeu to be even less iational anu less autonomous than they
weie when these ciitiques weie auvanceu. (Noiawski, 2uuS: 96)
Beie we have an unueistanuing of Iames's psychologist's fallacy which seems to ask us to
ieject of ieseaichei inteipietations of the peison's expeiience - at least in the sense of
Ricouei's (197u) heimeneutics of suspicion. Noiawski is aiguing that Iames can be ieau as
piecluuing the inteipietation of the peison's expeiience in teims which oveiiiue that
peison's own unueistanuing.
Six paiticulai foims of the fallacy, then. Iames's specification of the psychologist's fallacy is a
stiong inuication of his closeness to phenomenology, foi we can see iuentification of the
fallacy as a kinu of ieveise appioach to the epoche, the methouological move by the
phenomenologist of biacketing piesuppositions so as to allow the phenomenological
ieuuction in which the phenomenon as given to consciousness will ieveal itself . Iueally, the
epoche, caiiieu out conscientiously, shoulu piecluue the psychologist's fallacy.
Bowevei, the move is not an easy one anu Wilshiie aigues that Iames himself fell foul of the
psychologist's fallacy in ()#*+,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21. An example of this is wheie Iames
(19Su¡189u, vol 2: 78) wiites: 'G#!'%3&"!%/*%!5*,#.,"54-3&>#*?,%&!H.,"-#''#'*-"$?&!#5E*3)#!E*
%,#*6)%3*2&>#*4'*3)#*-"!3#!3*"0*"4,*.#,-#.3&"!'B*(his italics. ) Beie Iames is speaking of
peiception as if it was the outcome of sensations woikeu on by biain piocesses. Sensations
aie uesciibeu as if 'inuepenuent of 0bject anu fiinge' (Wilshiie, 1968: 2u8). Iames seemingly
makes the eiioi that he elsewheie castigates his contempoiaiies foi: 'punctifoim mental bits
which fiinges aie embioiueieu aiounu' (Wilshiie, 1968: 2u9). We have heie an example of the
knowleuge veisus expeiience confusion. Be is ieveiting heie to his official uualistic
expeiimental psychology piogiamme.
As Wilshiie (1968) uemonstiateu, Iames is also heie uiawing a uistinction between the actual
thing 'in ieality' anu the thing as given in expeiience. Bow shoulu we iegaiu this uistinction. It
took a while foi phenomenologists to foimulate the issue auequately. Wilshiie finus that Iames
is actually not cleai about what naiiative to pioviue conceining the 'objective ieality' of the
woilu in ielation to 'subjective expeiience'. Be uses two funuamentally uistinct languages in
()#*+,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21*H*one to uo with human meaning anu the othei to uo with the
causal conuitions of awaieness.
The histoiy of phenomenology also uisplays a lack of claiity - oi, bettei, a giauual claiification
- of the stiuctuie of consciousness.
If we aie to use the Busseilian label foi the object as given in expeiience, this is the*!"#$%8*
William Iames (19Su¡189u, vol. I: 196-198) maue a fiim uistinction - at least, sometimes -
between the noema anu the 'ieal' object, anu he iegaiueu it as a caiuinal eiioi to tieat
ieseaichei's unueistanuing of the natuie of the 'ieal' object as if this coinciueu with the
noema, which is the phenomenon %'*&3*%..#%,' to the ieseaich paiticipant's awaieness. In
oiuei to investigate the meaning of the noema ¡ ieal object uistinction, we neeu to look at the
histoiy of intentionality. The natuie of the object of expeiience, the noema, is pait of the
uesciiption of intentionality.
The authois of the collection of aiticles on the noema euiteu by Biummonu anu Embiee
(1992, notably the contiibutions of Bait, Naibach, Biummonu, anu Nohanty) all make points
veiy similai to Iames. Willaiu(1992) tells us that it is impeiative to uistinguish between the
'object as it is intenueu' anu 'the object which is intenueu'. The foimei might be iegaiueu as
%..#%,%!-#, the lattei, ,#%/&31 (though this is iough, ieauy, anu question-begging - anu we will
latei ieject the foimulation)8*The natuie of the object of expeiience, the noema, is pait of the
uesciiption of intentionality.
Bientano (199S¡1874) hau uiffeientiateu mental anu physical entities using the teim
... Psychologists in eailiei times have alieauy pointeu out that theie is a special affinity anu
analogy which exists among all mental phenomena, anu which physical phenomena uo not shaie.
Eveiy mental phenomenon is chaiacteiizeu by what the Scholastics of the Niuule Ages calleu the
intentional (oi mental) inexistence of an object, anu what we might call, though not wholly
unambiguously, iefeience to a content, uiiection towaiu an object (which is not to be unueistoou
as meaning heie a thing), oi immanent objectivity. Eveiy mental phenomenon incluues
something as object within itself, although they uo not all uo so in the same way. In piesentation
something is piesenteu, in juugement something is affiimeu oi uenieu, in love, loveu, in hate
hateu, in uesiie, uesiieu anu so on.
This intentional in-existence is chaiacteiistic exclusively of mental phenomena. (Bientano,
199S¡1874: 88-89)
The intentionality of expeiience is that all consciousness is consciousness "08*Busseil took this
up as a founuing insight of phenomenology. Although Bientano hau tiieu to make it plain that
Scholastic teiminology uiu !"3 mean that the 'object' of awaieness was 'objective' in the sense
of having 'a ieal existence outsiue the minu' (Bientano, 199S¡1874: 88, footnote), Busseil
neveitheless felt that Bientano's foimulation of intentionality was inauequate. In I5#%'E*J
(198S¡191S), Busseil wiote:
... |I]t shoulu be well heeueu that )#,#* 6#* %,#* !"3* '.#%7&!2* "0* %* ,#/%3&"!* ?#36##!* '"$#*
psychological occuiience - calleu a mental piocess - anu anothei ieal factual existence - calleu
an object - noi of a .'1-)"/"2&-%/*-"!!#-3&"!*taking place &!*:?@#-3&>#*%-34%/&31 between one anu
the othei. Rathei we aie speaking of mental piocess puiely... (Busseil, 198S¡191S, §S6: 7S,
Busseil's emphases.)
What you .#,-#&>#, is youi peispectival, meaning-lauen 'noematic' peicept. Whethei it uoes
iefei to an item in the 'ieal woilu' is ?,%-7#3#5. So Busseil (198S¡191S) iefineu Bientano's
account of intentionality such that all consciousness is the constitution |the !"#'&'] of an
intentional object |the !"#$%], anu noema anu noesis iefei to coiielateu aspects of piesent
expeiience. Full attention given both to the -"!'-&"4'*$"5# in which the phenomenon appeais
anu to the K3)&!2B*3)%3*%..#%,'. Beie we have Busseil's coiielational analysis of consciousness
- that the same noema coulu be the object of numeious acts. "No mental act coulu be specifieu
except thiough its object" (Euie, 197u: 499). This is a veiy iigoious account of the fielu of
expeiience anu - in line with the epoche - it is entiiely about the meaning of the expeiience
Wheieas Iames sometimes left it ambiguous as to whethei the object of expeiience shoulu be
taken in its subjective iichness oi as a ieality of the physical woilu, Busseil was at pains to
emphasise that intentionality ielateu consciousness to an 'immanent' object, an object of
awaieness, which might oi might not have some kinu of ieality beyonu its mental 'piesence'.
In I5#%'*I, the founuei of phenomenology maue especially suie that the innei ¡ outei
inteipietation woulu be iuleu out of couit. Both the !"#'&', the moue of consciousness (such
as peiceiving) anu the intentional object the !"#$%*(such as the peicept) aie 'innei' - that is,
aspects of the expeiience. The ielationship between the noema anu noesis is unbieakable foi
neithei can exist without the othei. But it is of couise possible to make the noema ¡ noesis
uistinction analytically.
Baving got so fai with oui claiification of the iealm of expeiience with the help of Iames's
foims of the psychologist's fallacy, anu with Busseil's emphasis on expeiience as 'innei', let us
move to a few implications.
Though we usually assume that qualitative ieseaich (at least, wheie it is phenomenologically
baseu) pays piopei attention to expeiience in its appeaiing anu knows that this is uistinct
fiom any piojection of 'what the situation ieally is' by the ieseaichei, neveitheless theie aie
uangeis which we neeu to notice. In this section of the papei I uiscuss some types of ieseaich
uesign which fall foul of Iames's ciitique.
As an example, let is take the uothenbuig ieseaich on univeisity stuuents' appioaches to
stuuying (e.g. Naiton 197S: Naiton anu Säljo 1976a, b: Säljo 197S: Svensson 1977) in which
stuuents weie founu to auopt eithei a ueep appioach to stuuying, focusing on the meaning of
the mateiial to be stuuieu, oi a suiface appioach to stuuying, focusing piimaiily on
committing the mateiial to memoiy. It has been shown by Kay uieasley anu myself (Ashwoith
anu uieasley, 2uu7: Ashwoith anu uieasley, 2uu9: uieasley anu Ashwoith, 2uu7) that this
woik concentiates on the mental oiientation (noesis) with which leaining mateiial is
appioacheu. The meaning foi the stuuent of the leaining mateiial itself (incluuing such things
as its uifficulty oi inteiest, oi the fatefulness oi otheiwise of success oi failuie in leaining it) is
not sought. It is taken foi gianteu, in just the way Iames conuemneu, that the 'mateiial to be
leaineu' is unpioblematical: the ieseaichei knows what it is - the noema of the stuuent is not
investigateu. This is uespite the emphatic statement of Naiton that appioach to leaining, like
othei ways of expeiiencing something, is ielational:
. a way of expeiiencing something . is an inteinal ielationship between the expeiiencei anu
the expeiienceu (Naiton anu Booth, 1997, p. 11S).
Reseaich iepoiteu in moie uetail elsewheie (uieasley, 2uuS: uieasley anu Ashwoith, 2uu7)
takes the uebate fuithei by showing the enoimous significance of the noema in uesciibing
inuiviuual stuuents' appioaches to stuuying. This empiiical woik, using qualitative
inteiviewing, sought to answei the phenomenological question, 'What is an appioach to
leaining &!*&3'*%..#%,&!2.' The ultimate stage of the inteiview analysis was intenueu to
pioviue a piofile of the meaning of appioaches to leaining foi each stuuent. These woulu
uesciibe both the noetic anu noematic aspects of expeiience. We woulu theiefoie feel it
appiopiiate, if it aiose, to finu that a stuuent who founu stuuying 0#%,04/ coulu be uesciibeu as
having, as the noema of the expeiience, a 0#%,'"$#*3%'7*(which woulu then have to be
uesciibeu in uetail fiom the stuuent's viewpoint), anu coiielatively, as having as the noesis*of
the expeiience, a 0#%,04/*%33&345#. So the stiuctuie of consciousness in Busseil is being useu as
a heuiistic uevice to uiscovei as thoioughly as possible the meaning of each stuuent's
appioach(es) to leaining.
As an example of pait of the analysis of one stuuent's appioach to leaining, consiueieu in
teims both of noema anu noesis, consiuei Figuie 1. (uaiy, like all the stuuent names heie, is a
pseuuonym.) Beie we have an extiemely summaiiseu veision of just one aspect of the way in
which this stuuent appioacheu leaining. 0n the noetic*siue we have a mental oiientation
which uaiy auopteu to leaining - which entaileu a veiy negative attituue to text amounting to
avoiuance of the wiitten woiu: piociastination, seeking uistiactions, anu so on. 0n the siue of
the intentional object - the noema - we have the text as enemy. Text uistant fiom himself,
alien. Insofai as textual mateiial is impoitant to leaining, it means low self esteem to uaiy. It
auus up to leaining as a slow giinu.
The peisonal meaning of the thing to be leaineu, neglecteu in the appioaches to stuuying
tiauition, is hugely impoitant.
Figure 1
Text as an enemy (an aspect of the intentional object of learning - noema)
and Text avoidance (an aspect of the mental orientation to text – noesis)
Learning for Gary unfortunately entails text as a necessity. He views the academic process as being
closely tied with difficult reading As a dyslexic learner he finds his relationship with text an
acrimonious one and sees text as the enemy, something completely unrelated and distant from
himself. Learning is time-consuming, because reading is a slow grind. There is great resentment of
text as somehow inhibiting the learning process.
Gary adopts an avoidance strategy, which helps him deal with enemy which is text. By limiting the
amount of reading required and seeking out other methods of information gathering, e.g. through
conversations, he is able to limit contact with text.
Procrastination is built into his orientation to the learning situation. It is a technique employed to
avoid text, finding distractions, seeking out other people and places where he is not a student as a
useful excuse for not engaging with text (the enemy).
His alienation from the matter to be learned carries with it low self-esteem. Learning holds out the
regularly-realised threat of academic performance which he finds disappointing. This unfruitful
relationship with learning frustrates his project which requires academic success.
b. L()0="."+9&$&;($,3=(&;*3+2&"+&(M7(="(+0(&$)&$+&*3,0*%(&*;&$+&H*./(0,"1(&)",3$,"*+:@
The woilu of expeiience exactly as it appeais foi the peison shoulu not be biought togethei
with an assessment of the 'ieality of the situation' in a ieseaich uesign - intenuing to ielate the
ciicumstances (as the ieseaichei views them) to subjective iesponse.
An example of this foim of the fallacy is founu in a stanuaiu ieseaich uesign in investigating
univeisity stuuents' appioaches to stuuy. In this uesign, some ieseaichei-uesignateu "?@#-3&>#
ciicumstance of the leaining situation is ielateu to the '4?@#-3&># expeiience of the stuuent.
The objective ciicumstance of leaining might be, foi example, the kinu of assessment which
will be useu (Piossei anu Nillai, 1989: uibbs, 199S: Willis, 199S), oi the teaching styles being
auopteu (Shaima, 1997). This ciicumstance is then typically ielateu to subjective expeiience -
specifically, whethei the stuuent auopts a ueep appioach to stuuy (paying attention to the
meaning of the mateiial being stuuieu), oi whethei the stuuent auopts a suiface appioach
(simply tiying to memoiise the mateiial).
Now, we have seen that theie aie pioblems with the way stuuent's expeiience is uesciibeu in
'appioaches to stuuy' ieseaich anyway (it falls foul of Iames's ciiticism), but I want to focus on
anothei issue - that of the combining of a ieseaich appioach which avoweuly seeks to
eluciuate the peisonal woilu of the stuuent - the appioach to stuuying - with an 'objective'
featuie of the suiiounuing woilu. Plainly theie is an incoheience heie - the soit of
incoheience of which Iames waineu. The uesign neeus to be aujusteu. 0ne way of uoing this is
to iealise that, if the stuuent's oiientation - theii appioach to leaining - is unueistoou as
subjective, then the .#,'"!%/*$#%!&!2*"0*3)#*'&34%3&"!*must also be assesseu: it must not be
taken foi gianteu that the ciicumstance has the meaning foi the stuuent that the ieseaichei
imputes (oi that it has the same meaning foi all stuuents). So both the appioach to leaining
anu the meaning of the situation iequiie qualitative, 'fiist-peison' analysis. Weie this to be
uone, howevei, we woulu no longei have a uesign in which one vaiiable (a featuie of the
leaining situation) is hypothesiseu to affect anothei vaiiable (expeiience) causally. Rathei we
have a uesciiption of a stuuent's subjective way of unueistanuing the meaning (foi him oi hei)
of the thing to be leaint within its multi-faceteu context.
Theie aie a numbei of featuies of the fallacious uesign which makes it especially tempting.
Fiistly, in ielating stuuent expeiience to some 'objective' aspect of the ciicumstances of
leaining, a causal analysis is intiouuceu into the stuuy of expeiience. In the case just
uiscusseu, the stuuent's supeificial oiientation to stuuy can be ielateu to the objective
ciicumstances of assessment. We can peihaps say that, since the moue of assessment uoes not
call foi any uemonstiation of unueistanuing of what has been leaint, but only accuiate iecall
of some key teims, it is obvious that a suiface appioach to stuuy will be auopteu. All well anu
goou. But the flaw in the uesign iemains. We neeu to be able to uemonstiate a connection of
meaning within the stuuent's expeiience between the meaning of the assessment anu the
meaning of theii stuuying the mateiial.
A seconu ieason why the flaweu uesign is tempting is ielateu to its claim to show a causal link
between expeiience anu objective conuitions. Anu it occuis especially when the ieseaichei
wants the ieseaich to show 'how to make a uiffeience'. In the example, the ieseaichei hopes to
be able to show how peuagogic techniques might help the leainei to auopt a ueep appioach to
stuuy. But in othei cases, the hope might be to assist in theiapy, oi pioviue a way foiwaiu foi a
policy initiative.
All these motives foi ieseaich aie goou. But they aie not justifications foi auopting a flaweu
ieseaich uesign.
c. &N"M(2O%*2(&PJ3$#",$,"1(&Q&J3$+,",$,"1(R&=()($=0-&*;&1$="*3)&S"+2)D&K-"0-&)3.)3%(&
Theie is an incieasingly stiong tenuency foi ieseaicheis in a numbei of uiscipline aieas to
constiuct ieseaich uesigns which incluue qualitative anu quantitative elements (Touu, Neilich,
NcKeown anu Claike, 2uu4). Sometimes the motive is baluly political, tiauing on the belief
that quantification biings with it gieatei scientific cieuibility. It is also occasionally thought
appiopiiate foi qualitative eviuence to be piesenteu in oiuei to invest statistical finuings with
human impact. Anu qualitative stuuies aie often caiiieu out as an eaily phase of investigation
to aiu the piocess of the iuentification of vaiiables which can then be built into hypotheses foi
statistical test.
Nixeu ieseaich uesigns, I believe, inevitably fall foul of Iames's ciitique. The geneial categoiies
which must be constiucteu to function as vaiiables foi quantitative ieseaich necessaiily move
the ieseaich away fiom liveu expeiience. Peisonal meaning becomes subsumeu unuei the
geneial teim, anu the focus moves fiom the lifewoilu to a conceptual univeise maue up of
uisciete vaiiables.
So we can see fiom these thiee examples of ways in which qualitative ieseaich can fall foul of
Iames's psychologist's fallacy, that it is all to easy to slip fiom a commitment to the epoche, in
which attention is exclusively on the expeiience in its appeaiing. We have seen that the noema
can be neglecteu, that the lifewoilu can be misiepiesenteu as a system of vaiiables, anu that
expeiience can be poitiayeu, not as a stiuctuie of meanings but as the effect of causal
influences of the 'ieal' woilu.
Busseil's account of intentionality as an 'innei' stiuctuie analysable into a mental state
(noesis) anu an object of awaieness (noema) uoes seem to be immensely valuable in uiiecting
the ieseaichei's attention to the expeiience as such, anu avoiuing the psychologist's fallacy.
Bowevei, theie aie uangeis even heie. Paiticulaily the use of 'innei' to uesciibe expeiience.
Busseil wiote in I5#%'*?""7*J:
We have bestoweu such gieat caie on woiking out univeisally the uiffeience between noesis (i.e.,
the concietely intentive mental piocess.) anu noema because the seizing upon anu masteiing it
aie of the gieatest impoitance foi phenomenology, anu inueeu uecisive foi the legitimate
giounuing of phenomenology. At fiist glance it woulu seem to be something obvious: Any
consciousness is a consciousness of something, anu moues of consciousness aie highly
uiveisifieu. 0n appioaching moie closely, howevei, we become sensible of the gieat uifficulties
involveu. They concein oui unueistanuing of the moue of being of the noema, the way in which it
is "implicit" in the mental piocess, in which it is "intenueu to" in the mental piocess. 0uite
paiticulaily they concein the clean sepaiation of those things which, as its ieally inheient
components, belong to the mental piocess itself anu those which belong to the noema. (Busseil,
198S¡191S, §96: 2SS- 2S4)
We see in this paiagiaph a uilemma that was beginning to suiface. The 'mental
act' (peiceiving, juuging, anu so on) coulu be iegaiueu as 'inheient' to awaieness. But the
noema was moie pioblematical. Was the noema 'inheient'. A footnote inuicates that Busseil
was not confiuent about the chaiacteiisation of the noema as excluueu fiom the phenomenon.
. |T]he Eiuos of the noema points to the Eiuos of the noetic consciousness: both belong togethei
#&5#3&-%//1. The intentive as intentive is what it is as the intentiveness belonging to consciousness
'3,4-34,#5 thus anu so, consciousness which is consciousness of it.
In spite of this non-selfsufficiency the noema allows foi being consiueieu by itself, compaieu
with othei noemas, exploieu with iespect to possible tiansfoimations, etc. (Busseil, 198S¡191S,
§98: 241)
Theie is a 'pioblem' of the noema - its multiplicity anu iefiactoiiness to eiuetic specification.
Busseil iegaiueu the noesis, the mental act constituting the phenomenon, as moie inteiesting
anu moie piouuctive foi his philosophical puipose. Iuuging, then, was moie focal foi him than
was the unlimiteu set of juugements. Anu yet:
.|E]iuetic uesciiption of consciousness leaus back to that of what is intenueu to in it, that the
coiielate of consciousness is insepaiable fiom consciousness anu yet is not ieally inheient in it.
The noematic became uistinguisheu as an "?@#-3&>&31*belonging to consciousness anu yet
specifically peculiai. (Busseil, 198S¡191S, §128: Su7)
In the enu phenomenology must uesciibe both 'poles' of the intentional coiielation between
noema anu noesis:
.|A] systematic phenomenology is not alloweu to uiiect its aim one-siueuly at an analysis of
what is ieally inheient in mental piocesses anu specifically of intentive mental piocesses.
(Busseil, 198S¡191S, §128: Su8)
The uistinction between the noema anu noesis is unuoubteuly valuable as a heuiistic uevice.
In phenomenologically-baseu empiiical woik, as we have seen, the uistinction allows
ieseaichei to analyse the inteiview uata by asking the questions, K;)%3*&'*3)#*$#%!&!2*"0*3)&'*
the concept of noema tuins out to be somewhat pioblematical. An investigation is iequiieu.
Insofai as oui pieceuing aigument anu the inteipietation of the empiiical finuings ielieu on
Busseil's noema ¡ noesis uistinction, it all may neeu ievision.
In ()#*N%'&-*+,"?/#$'*"0*+)#!"$#!"/"21E*Beiueggei (1988¡1927) uevelopeu an exceeuingly
impoitant elaboiation of Busseil's veision of intentionality, which is of gieat consequence.
Fiistly, he went fuithei than the authois we consiueieu eailiei, since he not only emphasiseu
that noema anu noesis can only be consiueieu within the phenomenological iealm, but he also
5&'$&''#5*3)#*5&'3&!-3&"!*?#36##!*3)#$. Though noema anu noesis aie analytically sepaiable,
they aie nevei actually apait in expeiience. Be also ieemphasiseu the finuing that the
meaning of the noema is not simple but embeuueu in the full liveu context. Anu anothei aspect
of intentionality comes into view. This is ciitical. It is the inevitable '4?@#-3&>&31*of the woilu -
my woilu, unique to me anu my life:
The suiiounuing woilu is uiffeient in a ceitain way foi each of us, anu notwithstanuing that we
move in a common woilu. (Beiueggei, 1988¡1927, §1Sc: 164)
It seems that Beiueggei wants to say that to exist in the human way is to alieauy finu oneself
as within the stiuctuie of meaning uesignateu by 'woilu.' In intentionality, theiefoie, we finu
"4,*'#/>#' in the subjective woilu to which oui compoitment is uiiecteu.
With these iefinements in view, let us move back to Iames.
Iames may be iegaiueu as wanting to have his cake anu eat it too, foi, on the one hanu, his
piogiamme foi ()# +,&!-&./#'*"0*+'1-)"/"21 seems to be veiy much within the tiauition of
expeiimental psychology, wheieas on the othei hanu in uiscussing such matteis as the
psychologist's fallacy anu in many othei themes of the book, he insists on the centiality of the
woilu of expeiience. When the lattei appioach uominates, Iames is veiy close to an existential
phenomenology. But his othei siue leu him to two eiiois which I believe we can justifiably
claim to be foims of the psychologist's fallacy, anu which can now be uesciibeu in the light of
the uebate about the noema anu noesis.
Fiistly, Iames can be founu speaking of mental states as if inuepenuent of the object, that is,
one can sepaiate the noema anu noesis. The aigument heie is that mental states, in theii
intentionality, uo liteially ,#0#,, meaning that oui awaieness can only be unueistoou in teims
of what it is that we aie awaie "08*Beie we have an aspect of the pioblem of 'appioaches to
stuuy' - in focusing on the mental oiientation of the stuuent anu neglecting the lifewoilu
suiiounuing anu incluuing the mateiial to be stuuieu, ieseaicheis in that tiauition have
misseu the phenomenon. But is must also be noteu that, thioughout ()#*+,&!-&./#'*"0*
... the ieauei can finu passages in which Iames attempts to specify mental states in isolation fiom
the 0bject. ... It is an example of the psychologist's fallacy: confusing what the natuial scientist
knows about the being of paiticulai things in natuie ... with what the thought being stuuieu
knows... (Wilshiie, 1968: 2u9)
In auuition to the six foims of the psychologist's fallacy consiueieu in Section III, then, we
ought to lay out a seventh: the .*2-#'"+*1)$12$%&!%#*%)'%*into a mental state anu something
which that mental state is "08* Cential to the phenomenological stance anu to the iejection of
the psychologist's fallacy is the effoitful maintenance of #9.#,&#!-# as focal. Anu expeiience
entails as its focus the intentional object with as fiinges oi hoiizons all its lifewoiluly
meanings. As a phenomenological ieseaichei, one must be captuieu neithei by (a) the mental
oiientation on the one hanu noi (b) the object, uetacheu fiom the awaieness of the peison
helu in some abstiact 'ieality' on the othei hanu.
An eighth foim of the psychologist's eiioi may also be seen in Iames's own tenuency to wiite
as if expeiience anu ieality coulu be uistinguisheu in the uesciiption of expeiience. Expeiience
is of a lifewoilu, anu it is fallacious to iefei to expeiience as 'innei' oi 'mental', which implies
that the peison's awaieness is of some kinu of inteinal copy of the woilu iathei than of the
woilu itself. Anothei aspect of this fallacy is that it leaus to an "(*%)"+*1)$12$,-./%'+*0*+;$2#1:$
Though it is tempting foi all soits of cultuial anu linguistic ieasons to tieat the 'subjective' as
the 'innei' anu the 'objective' as 'outei', to link 'self' with 'oui own peispective' anu to iegaiu
'ieality' as inuepenuent of stanupoint, theie is a majoi illusion heie. Such locutions as 'innei
woilu of expeiience' aie pione to misunueistanuing. The illusion may have been inauveitently
encouiageu by Bientano's conceptualisation of intentionality, anu by Busseil's insistence on
the imminence, oi mental natuie, of the noema, setting asiue in the epoche the question of
ieality. This way of uesciibing the phenomenological appioach coulu itself be iegaiueu as
inviting a ceitain misunueistanuing, foi - as Beiueggei saw - theie is no #93#,!%/ anu
impeisonal access to 'ieality'. In fact that notion, 'objective, impeisonal ieality', is fanciful.
Rathei, the woilu &' oui lifewoilu. In 'suspenuing' commitment to ieality, Busseil coulu be
ieau as implicitly conceuing the possibility of a non-existential stance. (Recent attempts to
inteipiet the epoche foi the human sciences, e.g. Ashwoith, 1996: Finlay, 2uu8, anu Bahlbeig,
Bahlbeig anu Nystiom,2uu8, suffei fiom the same possibility of misinteipietation.) Rathei,
phenomenology finus that the woilu is the lifewoilu anu that the peison is unueistanuable
only as being-in-the-woilu. That uualism which is maue up of the physical woilu anu the
mental woilu is not viable. Though the founuei of phenomenology asks us us to biacket
affiimation of the objective in oiuei to inteiiogate the woilu of expeiience, he is not ieally
claiming &!*&!3#,&",#*)"$&!#*)%?&3%3*>#,&3%'E*though this claim about tiuth being 'innei' is
Busseil's*(197S¡19Su: 1S7). Rathei, the sense to be given to this iuea is that the woilu of
expeiience is a woilu of meanings which aie to be uncoveieu by setting asiue oui cultuial
assumption that uetacheu objectivity is piimaiy anu subjectivity seconuaiy. The call of
phenomenology - anu geneially of William Iames - is to seize again the woilu as oui
habitation. To implicitly iegaiu the meaningful woilu of expeiience as 'innei' is a foim of the
psychologist's eiioi.
Naybe the fuithest uevelopment of the theoiy of intentionality is that of Neileau-Ponty
(1968¡1964). Baving affiimeu a veision of the Beiueggeiian position, ('all compoitment is
within anu towaius a woilu'), in his statements of intentionality such as I am 'a subject
uestineu to the woilu' (1962¡194S: xi), Neileau-Ponty pioviues a thoioughly
phenomenological account of the 'natuie' of that woilu foi us. It is ceitainly one to which we
have 'access'. But, theie again, the iuea of 'access' may be iegaiueu as ill-foimulateu in a sense,
because of its weakness. Rathei, we have a piimoiuial 'peiceptual faith' (Neileau-Ponty,
1968¡1964:4-S) in the being of the woilu - much moie funuamental a piesupposition than
anything which is susceptible to the phenomenological ieuuction. 0ui bouily membeiship of
the woilu engages us with it oi makes us pait of it. But this woilu in which we aie entaileu is a
woilu infuseu with oui meanings anu piojects: it is oui lifewoilu. It is not alien but flesh of oui
flesh. In singling out the psychologist's fallacy foi what it was, Iames was asseiting the
piimacy of liveu expeiience of the woilu.
Beyonu pieieflective expeiience, Iames was awaie that a ieflective intuition was iequiieu if
we weie able to say anything, baseu on cleai uesciiptions of expeiience, about what
'iemembeiing', 'peiceiving', 'thinking' anu so on weie. Be wiote:
Now this spiiitual self |self as minu] may be consiueieu in vaiious ways. We may uiviue it into
faculties |such as peiceiving anu iemembeiing] .. isolating them fiom one anothei, anu
iuentifying ouiselves with eithei in tuin. ... But ... oui consiueiing the spiiitual self at all is a
ieflective piocess, |anu] is the iesult of oui abanuoning the outwaiu-looking point of view, anu of
oui having become able to think of subjectivity as such, 3"*3)&!7*"0*"4,'#/>#'*%'*3)&!7#,'8*(Iames,
19Su¡189u, vol 1: 296. Iames's emphasis: my biacketeu claiifications)
But heie we go beyonu the phenomenological uesciiption of expeiience anu beyonu the iealm
to which issues such as avoiuance of the psychologist's fallacy applies, to the intuition of
essences, oi to a ceitain kinu of inteipietation.
Ashwoith, P. B. (1996). Piesuppose nothing! The suspension of assumptions in phenomenological
psychological methouology. ="4,!%/*"0*+)#!"$#!"/"2&-%/*+'1-)"/"21E*OPE*1-2S.
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