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Applebaum: Themes in phenomenological psychological research


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Description of Event (150 words maximum): Descriptive phenomenology is a well-established approach to qualitative research in which the researcher develops the ability to carefully analyze participants’ descriptions of their experiences. Researchers learn to attend carefully to interview data, setting aside their preconceptions about participants’ experiences, and deepening their own ability to empathically listen and discover essential psychological meanings. This presentation accompanied a 2-day overview of the method and discussion of its applications. Students were introduced to the descriptive phenomenological method, which Giorgi, Wertz, Halling, and Englander have applied to a range of important psychological themes.

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Applebaum: Themes in phenomenological psychological research

  1. 1. August 2012, Saybrook Residential ConferenceMarc Applebaum, PhDAssociate Editor, Journal of Phenomenological PsychologyFounding Editor, PhenomenologyBlog ©2012 Marc Applebaum
  2. 2. Descriptive exerciseHave you had an experience of seeing an importantperson in your life as a real person in his or her ownright, as if for the first time?If yes, please describe what this was like, with as muchdetail as possible
  3. 3. To introduce you to the phenomenologicaltraditionTo give you a sense of how researchers inphenomenological psychology have approachedthe study of intimacy, resilience, and empathyTo give you enough information to decide whetherto begin learning the method by taking RES 3130 atSaybrook3130 is the hands-on introduction to conductingdescriptive phenomenological psychologicalresearch
  4. 4. My expertise is in the descriptivephenomenological method pioneered byAmedeo Giorgi at Duquesne and SaybrookAnd its roots in the philosophy of EdmundHusserl and Maurice Merleau-PontyI am Associate Editor of the Journal ofPhenomenological Psychology, and editPhenomenologyBlogMy interests include cultural and organizationalpsychology, and consciousness studies
  5. 5. This seminar aims to introduce students to thework of several contemporaryphenomenological psychologists…My summary of and excerpts from their workare partial and reflect my own perspective andthe limited time we haveI encourage you to read the publications ofHalling, Wertz, and Englander directly:references are provided at the end of thispresentation
  6. 6. Descriptive Phenomenological Psychology• Is one of the most carefully articulated qualitative psychological research methods• Envisions psychology as a human science, as distinguished from a natural science
  7. 7. “Science” and “Human Science”Scientia is Latin for “knowledge;” the word does notimply a particular method or subject matterInstead it refers to the outcome of inquiry: reliableknowledge for a community of knowersThe meanings of science have been debated formillennia--“science” is not a univocal term
  8. 8. Emergence of Natural ScienceThe origins of natural science predate Galileo’sbrilliant experiments in the 16th century. In thecourse of conceiving of human being as the objectof scientific investigation, the human person cameto be defined in large measure as a natural object.Therefore the human being came to be seen asspatially and temporally bounded and subject tomaterial causality.
  9. 9. Achievements of Natural ScienceWe’re surrounded by evidence of the naturalscience’s accomplishments—• The computer showing this presentation• The transportation that brought us here today• The food, housing, and health care that sustain us are in large measure due to natural science
  10. 10. Are human beings (only) natural objects?Nevertheless, since the 17th century there hasbeen a debate within philosophy and the sciencesregarding whether human being should be viewedas a natural object like chemicalcompounds, plants or animals…Or whether consciousness makes human beings aunique sort of object for science—an object who isalso a subject, requiring a “human science.”
  11. 11. Human scienceThe human science movement took particularshape the 19th century as an alternative topositivism, which had become the dominantphilosophy of science.Human science argues thatmeanings, not just facts, are criticalin understanding humanphenomena. Dilthey was a foundingfigure in this movement. Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911)
  12. 12. The “human” in human scienceFor a human science approach, the fullness of livedexperience must be preserved in order tounderstand human beingThis is lost if we reduce humanbeing to only its measurable andcausal-mechanical dimensionsWe’ll discuss examples of thislater…
  13. 13. Philosophers such asHusserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Gurwitch are part ofthe phenomenological tradition--It includes more than a century ofcritical thinking aboutscience, scientificmethods, psychology, and themeanings of technology in society Edmund Husserl (1859-1938)
  14. 14. Science is based upon the lived-world“The whole universe of science is built upon the world asdirectly experienced, and if we want to subject scienceitself to rigorous scrutiny…we must begin by reawakeningthe basic experience of the world of which science is thesecond-order expression.” (2005/1945, p. ix) -Maurice Merleau-Ponty Phenomenology of Perception
  15. 15. Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) foundedphenomenological philosophyPhilosophers such as Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Gurwitsch explored psychologicalimplications of phenomenology, but noresearch method had been articulated bypsychologistsIn the late 1960’s Amedeo Giorgi, trained as aquantitative psychologist, began to develop aqualitative research method based uponHusserl’s philosophical method
  16. 16. Re-envisioning psychology as a humanscience“When I articulated the idea that psychologyshould be a human science, it was because, forme, the discipline of psychology was essentiallymissing its target. It was not truly capturingpsyche…I realized that it wasn’t a patch-up jobthat psychology required so much as radicalreform.” -Amedeo Giorgi (2000)
  17. 17. What does it mean psychologically when timeseems to “slow down” or “speed up”?How is connectedness or disconnectednessexperienced between members of a team?What are the various meanings of feeling“distant” from a loved one?How does empathy, or lack of empathy, occur?
  18. 18. For more than a quarter of a century Saybrookhas been a home for phenomenologicalpsychology, thanks to the work of Amedeo Giorgi
  19. 19. Is a depth approach that requires intensivework with interview transcriptsFor a dissertation 3-4 subjects are interviewedregarding their experience of a phenomenonThe researcher seeks to discover whether ashared psychological structure unites thesubjects’ accounts of the phenomenon You will see examples later…
  20. 20. Pivotal moments in psychotherapyThe experience of living with hallucinatorypsychosisThe experience of precognitive dreamsThe experience of the body in multiplepersonality disorderUnconscious reaction to culture change as it isexpressed in dreams
  21. 21. RES 3130: The Descriptive PhenomenologicalMethodHTP 3140: The Phenomenological Critique ofPsychological Systems8100: Independent Study (theory or praxis)such as— Edmund Husserl: Crisis of European Sciences Maurice Merleau-Ponty: The Phenomenology of Perception Conduct a study with 3-4 subjectsRES 1100: Phenomenological ResearchPracticum
  22. 22. The phenomenological path at Saybrook1. Introduction to Phenomenological Psychological Research2. Independent study using the method (both theory and praxis)3. Research practicum using the method4. Candidacy essays5. Dissertation
  23. 23. Halling, Wertz, and EnglanderSteen Halling, Seattle Fred Wertz, Fordham MagnusUniversity University Englander, Malmö University
  24. 24. The researcher sets aside her previousexperiences and theoretical knowledge in orderto encounter the other’s experience freshly(bracketing)Neither affirming nor denying the factualcontent of the data (epoché)Seeking to explicate the lived-meanings in thedata from a psychological perspective
  25. 25. Steen Halling: Intimacy, Transcendence, and Psychology (2008)
  26. 26. Halling: research question“Describe as specifically as possible a time whenyou came to see someone of real significance inyour life more as a real person in his or her ownright.” (2008, p. 16)
  27. 27. Interview and analysisHow we interviewTranscribing and dividing data into “meaningunits”Transforming the data (explication)Seeking the least variant psychologicalstructure, among the descriptions gathered
  28. 28. Seeing the other as a real personAs we analyze data, we “dwell” with itInsights arise unpredictably—it’s not a mechanicalprocessTime, patience, and care are required Halling (2008)
  29. 29. Halling—grasping the phenomenon“This reaching out *to the other+ does not comeabout as we make a deliberate effort to bringabout a…transformation.” (2008, p. 24)Why might this be important, psychologically?
  30. 30. Halling“The awakening of the self to encounter orembrace more of the being of the other person isindeed a movement of creativity. In beingreceptive and responsive, the self changes, andimage of the other alters, and the relationshipchanges in ways that were unanticipated.”(2008, p. 32)What does this imply about “seeing the other”?
  31. 31. Halling: psychological constituents(1) Surprise and wonder,(2) participation in the perspective of theother, (3) recognition of separateness,(4) awakening of the self, and(5) a horizon of hopefulness. (2008, p. 23)How do these constituents relate to your ownspontaneous descriptions of the phenomenon?
  32. 32. Halling’s second study: ForgivenessReductionism is an issue phenomenologists oftenconfront--“Overall psychologists discuss forgiveness inrather reductive terms. By ‘reductive,’ I meanthat this process, which is subtle and profound, isfrequently described in ways that are simplisticand one-dimensional.” (2008, p. 102)
  33. 33. HallingPsychologists have called forgiveness “’a promisingtherapeutic tool,’” describing it as a willedaction, while other psychologists “encourageclinicians to ‘consider the use of forgiveness’ as ifit were a medication or technique.” (2008, pp.102-103)What’s problematic about framing forgivenessas a technique?
  34. 34. Excerpt from a phenomenological description “The experience of forgiving the person who has injured oneself is a complex multidimensional process that moves from a tearing of one’s lived world through feelings of hurt, anger, revenge, confusion to an opening up to a larger experience of oneself and the world.” (Halling, 2008, p. 106)
  35. 35. Descriptive exerciseDescribe in writing a situation when something veryunfortunate happened to you
  36. 36. Frederick Wertz: “A Phenomenological PsychologicalApproach to Trauma and Resilience”, in Five Ways of Doing Qualitative Analysis (2011)
  37. 37. Wertz (2011): a case studyIn this case the method was used with a singlecaseThe data was gathered in a slightly differentway, due to the structure of the collaboration
  38. 38. Wertz: full research question“Describe in writing a situation when somethingvery unfortunate happened to you. Please beginyour description prior to the unfortunate event.Share in detail what happened, what you felt anddid, and what happened after, including how youresponded and what came of this event in yourlife.” (2011, p. 104)
  39. 39. Wertz: research attitude“The overall attitude I adopted in this work wasfirst to put aside my knowledge of scientifictheories and research on trauma and resilience inorder to focus on the concrete example inTeresa’s life….” (2011, p. 136)What challenges can you imagine in adopting aphenomenological attitude?
  40. 40. Wertz: examples of psychological constituents • “Initially, trauma is passively suffered. It happens to a person, was not intended, and therefore is experienced in cognitive shock and disbelief…in which a previously active agent becomes an acute sufferer. • Trauma is lived bodily by way of numbness, paralysis, diminishment, contractio n, shrinkage, or withdrawal in relation to the world.” (2011, p. 154)
  41. 41. Wertz: other examples• “The individual’s stance toward trauma and strategies of living through and coping with trauma are…continuations of habitual ways in which he or she has coped with past adversity…”• “Trauma is individualizing, isolating, lonely— the traumatized person is singled out and separated from others.” (2011, p. 154-155)
  42. 42. Magnus Englander“
  43. 43. Englander• Draws upon phenomenological philosophical explorations of empathy in the work of Husserl, Stein, and others (see Zahavi, 2010)• Questions the predominant psychological view of empathy as a kind of simulation• Seeks to explore lived-empathy as an experience of opening to intersubjectivity
  44. 44. Englander (forthcoming)Drawing on phenomenological philosophy, heargues: “Empathy is a distinct form ofintentionality and is not to be confused orfused with closely related phenomena such assympathy, caring…providing service, helpingsomeone solve a problem, et cetera.”
  45. 45. Empathy training• Englander’s training (forthcoming) is an experiential workshop• Participants work in dyads and are introduced to the descriptive phenomenological perspective--• As a way of learning to discriminate between their experiences of empathizing and, for example, problem-solving in relation to an other…
  46. 46. Conclusion: becoming a researcher“Using Giorgi’s method involves judgment andimagination, and there is a sense in which onedoes not really appreciate the method until onehas worked with it for a while, ideally with theguidance of an experienced phenomenologicalresearcher. As Kuhn pointed out, you do notbecome a competent member of a scientificcommunity just by reading texts and manuals.” (Halling, 2008, p. 164)
  47. 47. Englander, M. (forthcoming). Empathy training from a phenomenological perspective. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology.Giorgi, A. (2009). The descriptive phenomenological method in psychology: A modified Husserlian approach. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press.Giorgi, A. (2000). Psychology as a human science revisited. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 40 (3): 56-73.Halling, S. (2008) Intimacy, transcendence, and psychology: Closeness and openness in everyday life. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.Merleau-Ponty, M. (2005). The phenomenology of perception. C. Smith (Trans.). London: Routledge. (original work published in 1945)Wertz, F. (2011). A phenomenological psychological approach to trauma and resilience. In Five ways of doing qualitative analysis, F. Wertz et al. (Eds.). (pp. 124-164). New York: The Guildford Press.Zahavi, D. (2010). Empathy, embodiment, and interpersonal understanding: From Lipps to Shutz. Inquiry, 53(3): 285-306. Photo credit: anatomy of the brain from Curious Expeditions