INTROSPECTION (from Lat. introspicere, to look within), in psychology, the process of examining the operations of one's own mind with a view to discovering the laws which govern psychic processes. The introspective method has been adopted by psychologists from the earliest times, more especially by Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and English psychologists of the earlier school. It possesses the advantage that the individual has fuller knowledge of his own mind than that of any other person, and is able therefore to observe its action more accurately under systematic tests. On the other hand it has the obvious weakness that in the total content of the psychic state under examination there must be taken into account the consciousness that the test is in progress. This consciousness necessarily arouses the attention, and may divert it to such an extent that the test as such has little value. Such psychological problems as those connected with the emotions and their physical concomitants are especially defective in the introspective method; the fact that one is looking forward to a shock prepared in advance constitutes at once an abnormal psychic state, just as a nervous person's heart will beat faster when awaiting a doctor's diagnosis. The purely introspective method has of course always been supplemented by the comparison of similar psychic states in other persons, and in modern psycho-physiology it is of comparatively minor importance.
See PSYCHOLOGY, ATTENTION, etc. ; a clear statement will be found in G. F. Stout's Manual of Psychology (1898), i. 14.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)