The Investigation of Conscious Emotion: Combining First Person and Third Person Methodologies

An On-Line Conference

Sponsored By Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona and the Journal of Consciousness Studies

February 22-March 5, 1999


This on-line conference is one of a series of events held over the past year that have targeted issues at the interface of emotion research and consciousness studies.

  • In February of 1998, the first on-line conference "Emotion, Consciousness and Cognitive Neuroscience" brought together leading investigators of emotion to discuss the relevance of consciousness studies to contemporary emotion research. Conference discussions were aimed at advancing our understanding of the functional neuroanatomy of emotion, and at improving our knowledge of the basis of the pathological emotional states, the mechanisms by which emotion stress influences physical health, and the interactions between emotion and aspects of cognition. The conference drew over a hundred participants from a wide variety of disciplines.
  • Plenary and concurrent sessions on Consciousness and Emotion were held at the recent Tucson III: Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference in May, 1998. Selected papers from these sessions will be published in the conference proceedings.
  • This past summer, through the generous support of the Fetzer Institute, Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, held its 1998 Summer Institute on "Brain, Emotional Experience and Culture" at Fetzer's Seasons Retreat Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Over a period of 4 days, 24 investigators - representing a wide range of expertise in the field of emotions research - came together to discuss emotional experience from a variety of empirical and theoretical perspectives.
  • In October, 1998, U of A Consciousness Studies co-sponsored the conference "Emotions, Qualia and Consciousness" on the island of Ischia, Italy, together with the International School of Biocybernetics, Arco Felice, Italy. This meeting brought together over 60 investigators in emotion research and consciousness studies.

The present online conference, which focuses on research methods for the study of conscious emotion, is co-sponsored by the Journal of Consciousness Studies. JCS is providing excerpts from the upcoming special double issue "The View From Within: First-Person Methodologies for the Study of Consciousness" for inclusion in the Conference Library. This issue, co-edited by Francisco J. Varela and Jonathan Shear, examines the question: Could there be such a thing as a science of subjectivity, or is this a contradiction in terms? Drawing on a wide range of approaches, the authors of this special issue examine the possibility of a disciplined approach to subjective states. A number of contributors to The View From Within have been invited to serve as commentators in this conference, including editor Jonathan Shear. Francisco Varela is unfortunately unable to join us, due to conflicting travel engagements. However, a 1996 JCS article by Varela in which he outlines his "neurophenomenology" approach has been included in the Conference Library.


For conference participants interested in ordering a copy of The View From Within, it can be ordered online at http://www.imprint.co.uk/prepay or by contacting one of the JCS order offices:

Consciousness Studies

Dept. of Psychology, U. of Arizona

Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

Tel: (520) 621-9317

Fax: (520) 621-9801

Email: Center@u.arizona.edu

Imprint Academic,

PO Box 1

Thorverton, EX5 5YX, UK

Tel: +44 1392 841600

Fax: +44 1392 841478

Email: Sandra@imprint.co.uk

Overall Focus of the Conference:

The conference organizers believe that the study of the conscious experience of emotion is specially suited to draw together investigators in both emotion research and consciousness studies who are concerned about the difficult methodological problems posed by subjective phenomena.

The field of emotion research examines a class of mental phenomena for which a main component is the conscious experience of emotion. Due to difficulties inherent in rendering first person subjective experience measures amenable to scientific interpretation, our current understanding of the experiential component of emotion remains limited.

Open-ended verbal response format procedures have had the advantage of allowing description of an emotional experience with whatever words seem to best capture it. However, the resulting narratives can be difficult to adequately categorize and quantify. Fixed response format approaches are more easily quantified, but rest on a priori assumptions about what comprises the domain of emotional experience. When these subjective measures are linked to third person behavioral and physiological measures interesting correlations have been found.

But what do these correlations tell us? Do they suggest a functional role for the conscious experience of emotion? Does the subjective experience of emotion play an important role in the development of a sense of self, in social communication, in emotional regulation, or in other forms of complex cognitive processing? Or is the experiential component of emotion a mere epiphenomenon?

As investigators of emotion begin to tackle questions at the interface of emotion, neuroscience, and consciousness studies, new methodologies may be required. This on-line conference will focus on methodological issues facing emotion researchers in particular, and investigators of consciousness in general, who are interested in understanding role of experience in our mental life.

Conference Organization:

The conference will run for two weeks, during which the conference leaders will moderate the discussion around five main topics. The topics of discussion for each of the weeks are listed below.

For each topic, a number of invited commentators have been asked to prepare short statements presenting their views. These commentaries will be posted in the Conference Library on February 15 and will be available throughout the conference. The commentaries are intended to serve as a springboard for the general discussion in the Conference Hall.

In addition to the commentaries, a number of journal articles have been archived in the Conference Library. These articles are recommended as useful background resources for the issues to be discussed during the conference.

Discussions of the main topics will take place in the Conference Hall. Each topic will be introduced by the conference leaders, after which participants and commentators are encouraged to post their contributions to the discussion. Postings to the Conference Hall are made using the message form at the bottom of the Conference Hall screen. Postings will be threaded by topic. Buttons on the message form allow participants to either post a comment to an existing thread, or to start a new discussion thread. To avoid excessively lengthy postings, it is requested that messages be as brief as possible.

More informal or tangential discussions can take place in the Coffee Shop, to which all participants and commentators have access. The procedure for posting to the Coffee Shop discussion is the same as that for posting to the Conference Hall.

The conference will officially break for the weekend of February 24-25, though the site will remain open for access to the Library and for review of the previous week's discussions.

List of Topics by Week:


  • Methodological Proposals in Consciousness Studies

(February 22-23)

Researchers in a variety of disciplines have outlined broad methodological strategies for approaching the scientific study of consciousness. Common among a number of these is a concern to take subjective reports seriously as a valid source of information about consciousness.

  • First Person Methods in Emotion Research

(February 23-25)

Emotion is a complex psychological construct that evades simple definition. However, many researchers will agree that emotions involve several components, including physiological arousal, overt or expressive behavior, cognitive appraisal, and subjective experience. Current research programs incorporate measures of experience in a variety of ways.

Considered as true "measures of experience," how do the various approaches "measure up"? What are the particular strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches? What are the built-in assumptions of each?

  • Arguments against Introspection

(February 25-26)

How fatal are the arguments against introspectionism to any attempts to integrate phenomenal data in empirical research on consciousness?


  • Re-thinking Our Approach to Experiential Phenomena

(March 1-3)

Perhaps acceptance of phenomenological data as a valid component to experimental studies in its own right will not come from arguments about the validity of introspective data. Instead, such acceptance might come through the consistent demonstration that emotional experience has an important functional role (e.g., in cognitive activity, in social behavior, in mediating physiological responses to emotional events).

Such an approach will require that we continue to evaluate our measures of experience and get better at understanding the dimensions along which experiences can vary and the types of laboratory situations that are conducive to the elicitation of emotional experiences.

  • New Methodologies: Evoking Experience and Measuring Experience

(March 3-5)

Participants discuss current and future approaches.


Conference Leaders:

  • Lis Nielsen, Psychology, University of Arizona
  • Al Kaszniak, Psychology, Neurology and Psychiatry, University of Arizona

With Invited Commentaries By:

  • Bernard Baars, Psychology, The Wright Institute, Berkeley, California
  • David Chalmers, Philosophy, University of Arizona
  • James Coan, Psychology, University of Arizona
  • Jonathan Cole, Clinical Neurological Sciences, University of Southampton
  • Craig DeLancey, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Indiana University
  • Natalie Depraz, Philosophy, CREA, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, France
  • David Galin, University of California, San Francisco
  • Shaun Gallagher, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Canisius College
  • Marja Germans, Psychology, Vanderbilt University
  • Leslie Greenberg, Psychology, York University, Ontario
  • Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Philosophy, Virginia Tech
  • Richard Lane, Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Arizona
  • Bruce Mangan, Institute of Cognitive Studies, University of California, Berkeley
  • Jaak Panksepp, Psychology, Bowling Green State University
  • Alberta Pos, Psychology, York University, Ontaria
  • Michael Robinson, Psychology, University of Illinois
  • Marilyn Schlitz, Director of Research, Institute of Noetic Sciences
  • Jonathan Shear, Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Heather Urry, Psychology, University of Arizona
  • Max Velmans, Psychology, University of London
  • Pierre Vermersch, CNRS, GREX, Saint-Elbe, France
  • Doug Watt, Director of Neuropsychology, Quincy Hospital, Quincy, MA

System Requirements:

In preparation for the conference, please be sure that you have a reasonably current web browser. Your web browser's version number should be available under its Help..About.. menus. We strongly recommend a minimum of either Internet Explorer 4 or Netscape Communicator 4. You must have at least Internet Explorer 3.0 or Netscape Communicator 3.0.

If your browser is an earlier version, please visit http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/modernsci/contSysReq.html. We have posted the system requirements for each browser version and links to places within Microsoft and Netscape where you can download a newer browser.