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Concept: Phenomenology


What is the level of consciousness of the psychedelic state? Empirically, measures of neural signal diversity such as entropy and Lempel-Ziv (LZ) complexity score higher for wakeful rest than for states with lower conscious level like propofol-induced anesthesia. Here we compute these measures for spontaneous magnetoencephalographic (MEG) signals from humans during altered states of consciousness induced by three psychedelic substances: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD. For all three, we find reliably higher spontaneous signal diversity, even when controlling for spectral changes. This increase is most pronounced for the single-channel LZ complexity measure, and hence for temporal, as opposed to spatial, signal diversity. We also uncover selective correlations between changes in signal diversity and phenomenological reports of the intensity of psychedelic experience. This is the first time that these measures have been applied to the psychedelic state and, crucially, that they have yielded values exceeding those of normal waking consciousness. These findings suggest that the sustained occurrence of psychedelic phenomenology constitutes an elevated level of consciousness - as measured by neural signal diversity.

Concepts: Philosophy of mind, Consciousness, Unconscious mind, Phenomenology, Psychedelic drug, Altered state of consciousness, 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness


A comprehensive understanding of the phenomenology of auditory hallucinations (AHs) is essential for developing accurate models of their causes. Yet, only 1 detailed study of the phenomenology of AHs with a sample size of N ≥ 100 has been published. The potential for overreliance on these findings, coupled with a lack of phenomenological research into many aspects of AHs relevant to contemporary neurocognitive models and the proposed (but largely untested) existence of AH subtypes, necessitates further research in this area. We undertook the most comprehensive phenomenological study of AHs to date in a psychiatric population (N = 199; 81% people diagnosed with schizophrenia), using a structured interview schedule. Previous phenomenological findings were only partially replicated. New findings included that 39% of participants reported that their voices seemed in some way to be replays of memories of previous conversations they had experienced; 45% reported that the general theme or content of what the voices said was always the same; and 55% said new voices had the same content/theme as previous voices. Cluster analysis, by variable, suggested the existence of 4 AH subtypes. We propose that there are likely to be different neurocognitive processes underpinning these experiences, necessitating revised AH models.

Concepts: Sample, Cluster analysis, Philosophy of science, Schizophrenia, Hallucination, Psychosis, Proposal, Phenomenology


The field of hate crime research addresses the presence, sources, and impact of particular types of expressions of prejudice, often perceived as particularly damaging and hurtful forms of interpersonal abuse and violence. There is the reflexive question of the possibilities of researchers themselves ever being able to adopt a truly “unprejudiced” approach to the presence of such damaging prejudices. Can this goal be realized without a researcher necessarily losing an experientially grounded understanding of what these meanings, values and purposes have come to mean, and how they are themselves interpretively reconstituted anew, including within the lived experience of victims, witnesses, police, prosecutors, judges, and victim support workers? A possible philosophically informed approach to the dilemmas posed by this topic is offered by Husserl’s phenomenology. This study critically explores the possibilities, reflective stages, and theoretical limitations of a sympathetically reconstructed Husserlian approach to hate crime. It argues that despite its manifest tensions, gaps, ambiguities, and internal contradictions, aspects of the Husserlian philosophical approach directed toward the different levels of experienced hate crime still retain the potential to both challenge and advance our understanding of this topic.

Concepts: Psychology, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Abuse, Phenomenology, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl


Nucleation processes of mixed-phase states are an intrinsic characteristic of first-order phase transitions, typically related to local symmetry breaking. Direct observation of emerging mixed-phase regions in materials showing a first-order metal-insulator transition (MIT) offers unique opportunities to uncover their driving mechanism. Using photoemission electron microscopy, we image the nanoscale formation and growth of insulating domains across the temperature-driven MIT in NdNiO3 epitaxial thin films. Heteroepitaxy is found to strongly determine the nanoscale nature of the phase transition, inducing preferential formation of striped domains along the terraces of atomically flat stepped surfaces. We show that the distribution of transition temperatures is a local property, set by surface morphology and stable across multiple temperature cycles. Our data provide new insights into the MIT of heteroepitaxial nickelates and point to a rich, nanoscale phenomenology in this strongly correlated material.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Boiling point, Phenomenology, Spinodal decomposition, Crystal growth


In the Netherlands, there has been much debate on the question whether elderly people over 70 who are tired of life and who consider their life to be completed, should have legal options to ask for assisted dying. So far there has been little research into the experiences of these elderly people. In order to develop deliberate policy and care that targets this group of elderly people, it is necessary to understand their lifeworld. The aim of this paper is to describe the phenomenon ‘life is completed and no longer worth living’ from a lifeworld perspective, as it is lived and experienced by elderly people. Between April to December 2013, we conducted 25 in-depth interviews. A reflective lifeworld research design, drawing on the phenomenological tradition, was used during the data gathering and data analysis. The essential meaning of the phenomenon is understood as ‘a tangle of inability and unwillingness to connect to one’s actual life’, characterized by a permanently lived tension: daily experiences seem incompatible with people’s expectations of life and their idea of whom they are. While feeling more and more disconnected to life, a yearning desire to end life is strengthened. The experience is further explicated in its five constituents: 1) a sense of aching loneliness; 2) the pain of not mattering; 3) the inability to express oneself; 4) multidimensional tiredness; and 5) a sense of aversion towards feared dependence. This article provides evocative and empathic lifeworld descriptions contributing to a deeper understanding of these elderly people and raises questions about a close association between death wishes and depression in this sample.

Concepts: Death, Life, Understanding, Experience, Meaning of life, Knowledge, Perspective, Phenomenology


This paper presents Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness 3.0, which incorporates several advances over previous formulations. IIT starts from phenomenological axioms: information says that each experience is specific - it is what it is by how it differs from alternative experiences; integration says that it is unified - irreducible to non-interdependent components; exclusion says that it has unique borders and a particular spatio-temporal grain. These axioms are formalized into postulates that prescribe how physical mechanisms, such as neurons or logic gates, must be configured to generate experience (phenomenology). The postulates are used to define intrinsic information as “differences that make a difference” within a system, and integrated information as information specified by a whole that cannot be reduced to that specified by its parts. By applying the postulates both at the level of individual mechanisms and at the level of systems of mechanisms, IIT arrives at an identity: an experience is a maximally irreducible conceptual structure (MICS, a constellation of concepts in qualia space), and the set of elements that generates it constitutes a complex. According to IIT, a MICS specifies the quality of an experience and integrated information ΦMax its quantity. From the theory follow several results, including: a system of mechanisms may condense into a major complex and non-overlapping minor complexes; the concepts that specify the quality of an experience are always about the complex itself and relate only indirectly to the external environment; anatomical connectivity influences complexes and associated MICS; a complex can generate a MICS even if its elements are inactive; simple systems can be minimally conscious; complicated systems can be unconscious; there can be true “zombies” - unconscious feed-forward systems that are functionally equivalent to conscious complexes.

Concepts: Mathematics, Philosophy of mind, Consciousness, Logic, Concept, Abstraction, Unconscious mind, Phenomenology


Theories regarding the influences of electronic games drive scientific study, popular debate, and public policy. The fractious interchanges among parents, pundits, and scholars hint at the rich phenomenological and psychological dynamics that underlie how people view digital technologies such as games. The current research applied Martin Heidegger’s concept of interpretive frameworks (Heidegger, 1987) and Robert Zajonc’s exposure-attitude hypothesis (Zajonc, 1968) to explore how attitudes towards technologies such as electronic games arise. Three studies drew on representative cohorts of American and British adults and evaluated how direct and indirect experiences with games shape how they are seen. Results indicated this approach was fruitful: negative attitudes and beliefs linking games to real-world violence were prominent among those with little direct exposure to electronic gaming contexts, whereas those who played games and reported doing so with their children tended to evaluate gaming more positively. Further findings indicated direct experience tended to inform the accuracy of beliefs about the effects of digital technology, as those who had played were more likely to believe that which is empirically known about game effects. Results are discussed with respect to ongoing debates regarding gaming and broader applications of this approach to understand the psychological dynamics of adapting to technological advances.

Concepts: Scientific method, Debate, Science, Empiricism, Technology, Phenomenology, Martin Heidegger, Bernard Stiegler


Recent research suggests that prospective and non-prospective forms of mind-wandering possess distinct properties, yet little is known about what exactly differentiates between future-oriented and non-future-oriented mind-wandering episodes. In the present study, we used multilevel exploratory factor analyses (MEFA) to examine the factorial structure of various phenomenological dimensions of mind-wandering, and we then investigated whether future-oriented mind-wandering episodes differ from other classes of mind-wandering along the identified factors. We found that the phenomenological dimensions of mind-wandering are structured in four factors: representational format (inner speech vs. visual imagery), personal relevance, realism/concreteness, and structuration. Prospective mind-wandering differed from non-prospective mind-wandering along each of these factors. Specifically, future-oriented mind-wandering episodes involved inner speech to a greater extent, were more personally relevant, more realistic/concrete, and more often part of structured sequences of thoughts. These results show that future-oriented mind-wandering possesses a unique phenomenological signature and provide new insights into how this particular form of mind-wandering may adaptively contribute to autobiographical planning.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Structure, Factor analysis, Phenomenology


Hypnosis research binds phenomenology and neuroscience. Here we show how recent evidence probing the impact of hypnosis and suggestion can inform and advance a neurophenomenological approach. In contrast to meditative practices that involve lengthy and intensive training, hypnosis induces profound alterations in subjective experience following just a few words of suggestion. Individuals highly responsive to hypnosis can quickly and effortlessly manifest atypical conscious experiences as well as override deeply entrenched processes. These capacities open new avenues for suspending habitual modes of attention and achieving refined states of meta-awareness. Furthermore, hypnosis research sheds light on the effects of suggestion, expectation, and interpersonal factors beyond the narrow context of hypnotic procedures. Such knowledge may help to further foster phenomenological interviewing methods, improve experiential reports, and elucidate the mechanisms of contemplative practices. Incorporating hypnosis and suggestion into the broader landscape of neurophenomenology, therefore, would likely help bridge subjective experience and third-person approaches to the mind.

Concepts: Psychology, Philosophy of mind, Mind, Consciousness, Meditation, Phenomenology, Hypnosis


A distinguishing characteristic of the biomedical model is its compartmentalized view of man. This way of seeing human beings has its origin in Greek thought; it was stated by Descartes and to this day it still considers humans as beings composed of distinct entities combined into a certain form. Because of this observation, one began to believe that the focus of a health treatment could be exclusively on the affected area of the body, without the need to pay attention to patient’s subjectivity. By seeing pain as a merely sensory response, this model was not capable of encompassing chronic pain, since the latter is a complex process that can occur independently of tissue damage. As of the second half of the twentieth century, when it became impossible to deny the relationship between psyche and soma, the current understanding of chronic pain emerges: that of chronic pain as an individual experience, the result of a sum of physical, psychological, and social factors that, for this reason, cannot be approached separately from the individual who expresses pain. This understanding has allowed a significant improvement in perspective, emphasizing the characteristic of pain as an individual experience. However, the understanding of chronic pain as a sum of factors corresponds to the current way of seeing the process of falling ill, for its conception holds a Cartesian duality and the positivist premise of a single reality. For phenomenology, on the other hand, the individual in his/her unity is more than a simple sum of parts. Phenomenology sees a human being as an intending entity, in which body, mind, and the world are intertwined and constitute each other mutually, thus establishing the human being’s integral functioning. Therefore, a real understanding of the chronic pain process would only be possible from a phenomenological point of view at the experience lived by the individual who expresses and communicates pain.

Concepts: Psychology, Health, Human, Mind, Philosophy of science, Thought, Phenomenology, Humans