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Publication Date: 
October, 1991
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Picking up where I left off in the editorial in the last issue of PPPJ, I want to further consider the question of how we evaluate the scientific value of introspective reports. A major hindrance to accepting introspective reports as scientific data lies in the view that real scientific data are "objective" while introspective reports are "subjective." The distinction between objective and subjective is actually the product of the mind-body dualism that is inherent in Euroamerican culture. It is not really an accurate reflection of scientific procedure. All observations, whether scientific or otherwise, have an introspective component, as well as an intersubjective, communicative component. And how we understand our theories and our procedures influences how we experience the world, whether that experience involves experimentation in the laboratory, or transpersonal experiences in the ashram (see Stephen Toulmin's book, Foresight and Understanding, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press).

In other words, there is a "private" and a "public" aspect to all scientific data. Ken Wilber has clarified this nicely in his book, A Sociable God (Boston: Shambhala, 1984). He notes, both introspective methods and experimental methods involve

1. Injunction: "If you want to know this, do this."

2. Apprehension: cognitive apprehension and illumination of "object domain" addressed by the injunction.

3. Communal confirmation: results are checked with others who have adequately completed the injunctive and illuminative operations.

There are two major points we need to underscore here. The first is that the procedures we use in science should be appropriate to the "object domain" or scope of inquiry. This is not always evident to scientists. I am reminded of a story that Emil Menzel told about his research in comparative psychology (see his article, "Naturalistic and experimental research on primates." Human Development 10, 170-186, 1967). Menzel had worked for years with baboons in the laboratory. He had developed the impression from his research results that baboons are fairly stupid creatures. By chance he had the opportunity to visit Kenya and observe baboons in their natural setting. In a flash of insight he realized that baboons are in fact quite intelligent, and that he had been asking them the wrong questions in his lab experiments. In other words, his procedures were inappropriate to finding out what he wanted to know.

The second point is that results may only be validly checked by other researchers who are experientially qualified to do so, and who have prepared themselves to carry out the original injunction. Just ask yourself, are you qualified and trained to replicate experiments in, say, particle physics or neurophysiology? Ask the same question about verifying the experience of Nirvana, of the "second wind" phenomenon in long distance running, or of childbirth. "If you want to know this, then do this." In order to carry out this injunction you have to both know exactly what you want to know, and be prepared to carry out the procedures appropriate and necessary to attain the requisite experience and to apprehend the knowledge. And then you have to find the most appropriate medium to communicate that experience, as well as the procedures that led to the experience, to qualified others so that they, too, may carry out the procedures and confirm your experience.

The trouble is that scientific disciplines exclude more experience from their repertoire of acceptable data than they include. Science in an enlightened world would be interested in and incorporate the full range of human experience. But that is a Utopian view of science at this point in time. The best we can realize at present is a flourishing interdisciplinary approach to things. That is the real strength of the kind of psychology our association and journal represent. By insisting upon an interdisciplinary approach, we open up the scope of inquiry to the widest possible domain of experience.

But in order for experiential reports to count as scientific data in this domain of experience, they must be done in such a way that they make clear the entire sequence of exploration as noted by Wilber. They must stipulate what knowledge is desired, what procedures were followed, and what were the resultant experiences. And all of this must be described in such a way that others prepared to carry out the procedures may reenact the entire process.

In our first article, Dr. Brent Logan, Director of the Prelearning Institute in Snohomish, Washington, reports on the results of his pilot research on the postnatal effects of prenatal auditory stimulation. Although the results are tentative, this is very important and controversial research that has led to other replicative projects now being carried out by independent researchers. These resulting researches will clear up some of the methodological problems faced by Dr. Logan in this pilot project.

The next article is by Dr. Joan Raphael-Leff, a psychoanalyst and social psychologist in London, England, and interprets certain sex and gender distinctions in contemporary fantasies relative to parental roles. Along similar lines, Dr. Laurie Sherwen, a nursing researcher and professor, offers a psychoanalytic account of fantasies during pregnancy and their relevance to clinical diagnosis of risk. Drs. Richard Blasband, Robin Karpf and Charles Konia follow with a description of the effect of orgonomic (or bioenergetic) therapy upon energy release and ease of labor. And Dr. Michael Hynan discusses the emotional reactions of parents to high-risk births.

Charles Laughlin


Carleton University

Ottawa, Canada