Experimental studies of ongoing conscious experience
Jerome L. Singer
A research programme designed to find ways of applying a variety of methods in psychological science to studying the seemingly ephemeral phenomena of the human stream of consciousness and its manifestations in daydreams, interior monologues, imagery and related private experiences is described. Approaches include psychometric studies to establish normative information on daydreaming and experimental studies using signal-detection paradigms to capture the ongoing stream of thought. Recent experiments involve thought-sampling methods for identifying the determinants of the content of the stream of thought in adolescents or the ways in which self-beliefs and emotions are manifested in a group of cocaine and heroin abusers. Children’s pretend play is studied as a possible forerunner of adult consciousness. It is proposed that the human condition involves a continuing tension between processing information generated from the physical and social milieu and the continuous operation of centrally generated material from long-term memory in the form of reminiscences, wishes, current concerns, expectancies and fantasies. This concept has implications for personality variation, affective arousal and adaptive behaviour.