Phenomenology in laboratory-based tasks: exploring methodologies that integrate experiential reports with behavioural measures in psychological research
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Disparate research traditions in the study of experience have led to contentious arguments over the use of first-person methods in psychological research (Dennett, 2001; Schwitzgebel, 2003). Some believe that researchers are inclined to avoid qualitative techniques due to their many limitations (Vermersch, 2004), largely because these methods may resist replication and fail to control for the subtleties of meaningful experience, as well as the effects these methods have on the examined behaviour (Petitmengin, 2006; Hurlburt & Aktar, 2006; Schwitzgebel, 2008). However, recently emerging approaches within Psychology and Cognitive Science have argued strongly that experience should play a more central role in our examination of behavioural data. Despite this emerging consensus, the relationship between experience and behaviour remains very poorly understood. Placing emphasis on understanding subjective experiences calls for a re-examination of the methods we commonly use in psychology, with the aim to gain a better understanding of the person's experiences, and the meaning of their actions, at the time that the behaviour of interest is carried out. In order to further investigate this phenomenon, the current project has built on research using integrative and phenomenologically-informed methods in the study of experience. Five experiments were conducted to explore the potential use of such methods in the laboratory, with the initial series of experiments aiming to find an experimental paradigm that engages the participant in meaningful ways. The final experiments of this thesis directly gather data on participant experiences during a contextualised lab-based paradigm. Findings suggest that the use of integrative methods in the laboratory may have extraneous effects on task behaviour and we are still in the early stages of the development of more far reaching methods in the study of experience. This work highlights the challenges and necessity of understanding how we can use revised methods to further explore the relationship between experience and behaviour in meaningful, but controlled, ways.