Time, experience, and descriptive experience sampling

John Sutton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) rightly encourages concrete, experience-near description of specific psychological states. But it needs to be further connected and opened up, both to the search for converging methods and objective corroborating evidence for the reports of subjective experience, and to more temporallyextended sequences in experience. I criticize DES for deliberately eradicating the dynamics of conscious experience by providing only a flash snapshot of 'the last undisturbed moment before the beep'. This restriction rules out certain significant experiential phenomena, and renders the kind of 'personal truth' revealed strangely thin, by neglecting the fact that we are creatures whose present experience is often animated in many distinctive ways by our past. I query the distinction between recalling and reconstructing, and re-examine parts of two reports discussed by Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel. These examples reveal rich cross-temporal interactions that should encourage us to explore, in ways DES officially rules out, how kinaesthetic memory and autobiographical memory respectively animate present experience. A slightly extended experience-sampling practice could take a central place among other methods for investigating experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Consciousness Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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