AskDefine | Define introspect

Dictionary Definition

introspect v : reflect on one's own thoughts and feelings

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To engage in introspection.

Extensive Definition

Introspection is the mental self-observation reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires and sensations. It is a conscious mental and usually purposive process relying on thinking, reasoning, and examining one's own thoughts feelings, and, in more spiritual cases, one's soul. It can also be called contemplation of one's self, and is contrasted with extrospection, the observation of things external to one's self. Introspection may be used synonymously with self-reflection and used in a similar way.
Behaviorists claimed that introspection was unreliable and that the subject matter of scientific psychology should be strictly operationalized in an objective and measurable way. This then led psychology to focus on measurable behavior rather than consciousness or sensation. Cognitive psychology accepts the use of the scientific method, but rejects introspection as a valid method of investigation for this reason. It should be noted that Herbert Simon and Allen Newell identified the 'thinking-aloud' protocol, in which investigators view a subject engaged in introspection, and who speaks his thoughts aloud, thus allowing study of his introspection.
On the other hand, introspection can be considered a valid tool for the development of scientific hypotheses and theoretical models, in particular, in cognitive sciences and engineering. In practice, functional (goal-oriented) computational modeling and computer simulation design of meta-reasoning and metacognition are closely connected with the introspective experiences of researchers and engineers.
Introspection was used by German physiologist Wilhelm Wundt in the experimental psychology laboratory he had founded in Leipzig in 1879. Wundt believed that by using introspection in his experiments he would gather information into how the subjects' minds were working, thus he wanted to examine the mind into its basic elements. Wundt did not invent this way of looking into an individual's mind through their experiences; rather, it can date to Socrates. Wundt's distinctive contribution was to take this method into the experimental arena and thus into the newly formed field of psychology.

In fiction

Introspection (also referred to as internal dialogue, interior monologue, self-talk) is the fiction-writing mode used to convey a character's thoughts. As explained by Renni Browne and Dave King, "One of the great gifts of literature is that it allows for the expression of unexpressed thoughts…" . According to Nancy Kress, a character's thoughts can greatly enhance a story: deepening characterization, increasing tension, and widening the scope of a story . As outlined by Jack M. Bickham, thought plays a critical role in both scene and sequel . Among authors and writing coaches, there appears to be little consensus regarding the importance of introspection and how it is best presented.



  • Schultz, D. P. & Schultz, S. E. (2004). A history of modern psychology (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Bickham, Jack M. (1993). Scene & Structure. Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0-89879-551-6.
  • Browne & King (2004). Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print. New York: Harper Resource. ISBN 0-06-054569-0
  • Kress, Nancy (August 2003), Writer's Digest

External links

introspect in Bulgarian: Интроспекция
introspect in Czech: Introspekce
introspect in Danish: Introspektion
introspect in German: Selbstbeobachtung
introspect in Spanish: Introspección
introspect in French: Introspection
introspect in Italian: Introspezione
introspect in Hebrew: אינטרוספקציה
introspect in Lithuanian: Introspekcija
introspect in Dutch: Introspectie
introspect in Japanese: 内観#.E5.BF.83.E7.90.86.E5.AD.A6.E7.A0.94.E7.A9.B6.E3.81.AE.E6.96.B9.E6.B3.95.E3.81.A8.E3.81.97.E3.81.A6.E3.81.AE.E5.86.85.E8.A6.B3
introspect in Polish: Introspekcja (psychologia)
introspect in Portuguese: Introspecção
introspect in Russian: Интроспекция
introspect in Slovak: Introspekcia
introspect in Serbian: Интроспекција
introspect in Finnish: Introspektio
introspect in Swedish: Introspektion
introspect in Urdu: دروں بینی

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

be abstracted, brood, chew the cud, consider, contemplate, debate, deliberate, digest, meditate, muse, perpend, play around with, play with, ponder, reflect, ruminate, speculate, study, toy with, weigh
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