Bitbol M. & Petitmengin C. (2017) Neurophenomenology and the micro-phenomenological interview. In: Schneider S. & Velmans M. (eds.) The Blackwell companion to consciousness. Second edition. Wiley & Sons, Hoboken NJ: 726–739. https://cepa.info/4120
Summary: In its most radical version, Neurophenomenology asks researchers to suspend the quest of an objective solution to the problem of the origin of subjectivity, and clarify instead how objectification can be obtained out of the coordination of subjective experiences. It therefore invites researchers to develop their inquiry about subjective experience with the same determination as their objective inquiry. However, accessing lived experience raises the question of the investigation method, and of the reliability of its results. Here, we present an accurate method of exploration of lived experience: the elicitation (or microphenomenological) interview. In the course of this interview, one first triggers a form of “phenomenological reduction,” then assists the subject in retrieving or “evoking” past experiences, and finally helps the subject to perform acts of attention about this evoked experience, to describe it faithfully. It is shown that this method addresses a set of traditional objections against introspection Relevance: Elicitation interview, first-person, introspection, lived experience, microdynamics, micro-phenomenological interview, neurophenomenology, pre-reflective experience.
Neurophenomenology, as an attempt to combine and mutually enlighten neural and experiential descriptions of cognitive processes, has met practical difficulties which have limited its implementation into actual research projects. The main difficulty seems to be the disparity of the levels of description: while neurophenomenology strongly emphasizes the micro-dynamics of experience, at the level of brief mental events with very specific content, most neural measures have much coarser functional selectivity, because they mix functionally heterogeneous neural processes either in space or in time. We propose a new starting point for this neurophenomenology, based on (a) the recent development of human intra-cerebral EEG (iEEG) research to highlight the neural micro-dynamics of human cognition, with millimetric and millisecond precision and (b) a disciplined access to the experiential micro-dynamics, through specific elicitation techniques. This lays the foundation for a microcognitive science, the practical implementation of neurophenomenology to combine the neural and experiential investigations of human cognition at the subsecond level. This twofold microdynamic approach opens a line of investigation into the very cognitive acts in which the scission between the objective and the subjective worlds originates, and a means to verify and refine the dynamic epistemology of enaction. Relevance: The twofold microdynamic approach that we are advocating in this article not only provides a methodological solution to the problems of correlation between experiential and neuronal, first-person and third-person descriptions of our cognitive processes. It also opens a line of investigation into the very cognitive acts in which the scission between the objective and the subjective worlds originates, and a means to verify and refine the dynamic epistemology of enaction.