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Neurophenomenology is a sub-field of the Scientific Study of Consciousness which aims to bridge the gap between 1st and 3rd person perspective. It comprises a methodological and ontological component:

  1. Methodological component: To use phenomenological methods in order to find a better or more true description of conscious experiences.
  2. Ontological compotent: Consciousness is assumed to be irreducible to the physical realm.

On the methodological level, neurophenomenology is a specific research method on how to construct bridges between 1st and 3rd person perspective, alternative to other research methods with the same goal. In light of the type and role of formal models in neurophenomenology (cf. below) it is a specific empirical method of how to infer theories of consciousness.

One key aspect of neurophenomenology is the observation of the qualitative aspect of the experience, which in neurophenomenology is taken to refer to the unnoticed aspects of the experience and (thus?) pre-reflective awareness.

The information currently presented below is at present based on two talks by Adriana Alcaraz and Mathis Trautwein at ASSC25. Many thanks for these talks.

Reciprocal Constraints

Pic from Thompson (2007)

phenomenological data and phenomenal invariants <- Formal dynamical models -> ... [check publciation]

Source: Berkovich-Ohana et all, "Hitchiker's Guide to Neurophenomenology"

Ways of bridging 1st PP and 3rd PP

There are various possible methodologies to bridge 1st and 3rd person perspectives in the context of neurophenomenology:

  • Front-loading phenomenology, cf. e.g. Gallagher, "Phenomenology and Experimental Design"
  • Phenomenological characterization of experience which is then correlated with neurophysiological measurements
  • Guiding data analysis: Microphenomenological interviews (say) gudie data analysis of data in the 3rd person domain
  • Guide experience: 3rd person data, such as for example from real-time fMRI, can guide the investigation/description of experience in the 1st person domain

Role of formal models

Neurophenomenology is using formal models in order to express a relation between the first- and third-person perspective. These models are required to be.

  • ontologically neutral
  • constrained by phenomenology
  • have formal links to neural processes

Because formal models that express a relation between first- and third-person perscpetives are models [link] or theories of consciousness [link], neurophenomenology is a specific method that aims to infer theories of consciousness from empirical methodologies. It is an alternative, and likely complementary, to other such approaches, e.g from psychophysics [link quality spaces].

Existing types of models:

  • Formalisms based on dynamical systems theory (suggested initially by Varela, not followed up laregly)
  • Active Inference (make link) (cf. Sandved-Smith et al, Ramstead et. al, Williford et al.), though the ontological neutrality may not be guaranteed