Introspection in Psychology

Introspection in Psychology

In this article I will discuss what is introspection in psychology. Psychology makes a prominent place gradually apart from philosophy, anatomy, physics, and organism the end of the 19th century. 

Introspection in Psychology Definition | Like other sciences, evaluation of psychology on a scientific basis, demand for observation, and experiment increase in this field. 

Every school of thought in psychology studied the character and mental processes. For this purpose, importance is given to internal observation or used external observation. 

In the observation method, introspection in psychology started when psychology and philosophy were inter-related. However the science of psychology has abandoned introspection, and still using external observation method. It is considered as a reliable source.

Introspection Meaning

What does introspection mean | The meaning of introspection in psychology is “Looking Inward” or “Peeping into Oneself”. Introspection refers to a person’s knowledge of his inner state or feelings.

Introspection is considered as a favorable method for psychologists till the end of the 19th century and beginning of 20th century. At the level of consciousness, information about the inner state of each individual can be obtained directly.

The introspection method is used in a wider sense for thought training, solution of problems, dream analysis, and psychological cognition.

Introspection in a Sentence

Introspection is not only a reflexive experiment but subjects are efficiently, so they can make analysis accurately, explain it and answer the questions of instant inner feelings according to defined rules.

Introspection in Psychology Definition

Edward Bradford Titchener has explained proper introspection in psychology as the behavior of subjects should be non-prejudiced and they ought to avoid association to prevent any influence on the report.

The subject should be intelligent, healthy, present-minded, active, and fatigueless. Along with they should have a keen interest in all those experiments. Through the introspection method an individual can observe his own thoughts and feelings.

Advocators of introspection method are the view that as human being we can better explain the feelings and experiences of other humans, and compare with each other.

William James a well-known psychologist has used introspection vastly. He states that by introspection, he can learn many instincts which may help human motivations. 

Introspection in psychology has played a vital role in Psychoanalysis. Sigmund Freud set up many basic theories by his broad personal analysis on dream interpretation, personality dynamics, and psychiatric problems. 

According to Freud the the information gained from his personal experiences could be applied to all people.

Even today experts of psychoanalysis used the introspection method for human guidance and counseling. That’s why psychoanalysis is considered more relevant to philosophy instead of scientific psychology.

Similarly Wilhelm Wundt used this method in Germany and Titchener used this method in America successfully. These two persons have to implement psychology for an understanding of consciousness structure and function. 

An individual gone through introspection in psychology can narrate his feelings accurately because no other person can describe his inner state effectively.

For example when a person passes through the inner changes to find the solution to a problem, he is well aware of his feelings.  His anguish feelings are restricted to him, and only he known about irritation, the intensity of pain, and agony. 

Similarly happiness and feelings attached can be best felt by a happy person only. As if there are some pleasures and sorrows within a person, it is an uphill task to describe them in words.

All the inner states including grief, anger, happiness and sadness can be felt and recorded through introspection in psychology.

Attributes / Qualities of Introspection in Psychology

  1. By introspection method, we become well aware of our mental states. Until we do not peep into our inner changes, we can never understand another person’s inner state through their character. So it can be said that these states are one’s personal property. We completely own our emotions, feelings, and thought which can possibly be studied only through introspection in psychology.
  2. It can be helpful for ordinary mental diseases especially for phobias.
  3. The most reliable source of information is one’s own self. Scientists make advancements in their researches by introspection method.
  4. This method requires no laboratory or equipment. It is also not bound to time and space and we can get benefit from it wherever we like.

Disadvantages of Introspection/ Shortcomings of Introspection in Psychology

  1. This method is useless to analyze other person’s feelings and experiences, and fail to judge the truth level a person is speaking in his report.
  2. Introspection in psychology is only applicable to adults.
  3. Animals, children, and persons suffering from severe mental disorders cannot be studied through the introspection method.
  4. Similarly, unconscious acts cannot be recorded and studied by introspection method in psychology.
  5. Mental conditions are not permanent, they change from time to time. As time passes those mental conditions undergo changes.

1       Critical Analysis

Structuralist has named psychology as conscious experiences. They have divided experiments of introspection in psychology into elements and initial senses. 

Senses are at a primary place while coordination of perceptual actions reconnaissance was given secondary place.

Thematic impressions of consciousness and information about the mind was the debate topic of structuralism.

Gestalt School of Thought was strictly against it. According gestalt school of thought introspection in psychology cannot clear anything because of incidents are taken as a sample of experiments. 

They were strongly against the observation after breaking the consciousness into small pieces, they believe in a complete analysis of things not into parts.

John Dewey also goes against this method, instead, he emphasized observation and experiments. JB Watson has excluded this method from psychology because its objective study is not possible. According to him topic of psychology should be an observable human character. In which stimulus and response can be tested.


Introspection in Psychology is an important method. Although it has no scientific base, it does provide data to scientists. 

For the reason that this is the only way to study some of the inner states of the mind as thought, memory, imagination and passion.

Therefore, the usefulness of inner observation or introspection in psychology cannot be denied.

Objective or External Observation Method in Psychology

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