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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



observation, the object of which is the mental state and activity of the observing subject. Introspection develops as the infant’s mind develops, following a course analogous to the development of external perception—that is, there is a progression from nonverbal, meaningless introspection to verbal, meaningful, objective introspection, which signifies the generalization of internal forms of mental activity. This is manifested by a transition to a new way of regulating the internal forms of mental activity, to mastery of one’s own behavior (L. S. Vygotskii). Methodologically, psychology is faced with the question of which function or form of introspection can be used without disturbing the scientific character of research.

For a long time before it became the subject of debate in experimental psychology, the problem of introspection was considered by philosophy. In the concept of “analytical introspection” proposed by W. Wundt and E. Titchener, introspection proper, as an observation occurring under the conditions of a psychological experiment and satisfying the basic principles of the scientific method, was counterposed to the “interior perception” that occurs under natural conditions (W. Wundt, 1888). Introspection by an observer with the naïve, commonplace orientation was counterposed to observation by an observer with a special, “psychological” orientation (“introspection” in a narrow sense; Titchener, 1912), which made possible the direct apprehension of an experience in its psychological reality. Owing to the sensationalism and atomism of the Wundt-Titchener concept, only that which can be described in terms of the basic elements of consciousness (perceptions, ideas, feelings) and their attributes (quality, intensity, duration, and extension) is acknowledged to be psychologically real. According to Titchener, anything that does not fit into this rigid schema should be eliminated from an introspective description as a “stimulus-error.”

The crisis in analytical introspection became noticeable after the work of the Würzburg school. However, the tenets of analytical introspection were subjected to a genuine reexamination by Gestalt psychology, which asserted that the whole is not composed of the sum of its “elements,” which may be obtained by means of isolation (Wertheimer, 1912). Consequently, the “protoelements” to which an observed experience is reduced in analytical introspection are not the real “parts” of the experience considered as a whole. Therefore, it is necessary to replace the “analytical” orientation of the observer with a natural “phenomenological” one, which presupposes a free, unprejudiced description of the character of an experience in all the richness and specificity of the means by which it is revealed to the observer.

In general, introspection cannot be recognized as an independent method in psychology. It merely furnishes the investigator with “raw” empirical material, in which the object of study is presented in an indirect form that always requires special interpretation.


Kravkov, S. V. Samonabliudenie. Moscow, 1922.
Koffka, K. “Samonabliudenie i metod psikhologii.” In the collection Problemy sovremennoi psikhologii, vol. 2. Leningrad, 1926.
Voloshinov, V. N. Freidizm. Moscow-Leningrad, 1927.
Rubinshtein, S. L. Printsipy i puti razvitiia psikhologii. Moscow, 1959. Pages 164–84.
Eisler, R. Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe, 4th ed., vol. 3. Berlin, 1930.
Titchener, E. B. “The Schema of Introspection.” American Journal of Psychology, 1912, vol. 23, no. 4.
Boring, E. G. “A History of Introspection.” Psychological Bulletin, 1953, vol. 50, no. 3.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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