William James's “psychologist's fallacy” and contemporary human science research

ASHWORTH, Peter (2009). William James's “psychologist's fallacy” and contemporary human science research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 4 (4).

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Official URL: http://www.ijqhw.net/index.php/qhw/article/view/50...

Abstract

William James (1950/1890) insisted repeatedly that it was fallacious to assume that the research participant's experience was to be understood in terms of the readily-available categories of the researcher. The psychologist's fallacy (of which all researchers concerned with experience may fall foul, not only psychologists) involves a confusion of the standpoints of the researcher and the researched. The “subjective world” of the research participant must be understood in its own terms. In this paper, I review debates in the history of phenomenology which show the diffi culty of thoroughly incorporating James's insight, and outline some tendencies in contemporary qualitative research which seem to make the error James pointed out: ? Impoverished account of experience, neglecting the horizon of the lifeworld. ? Emphasiz on the noesis—the mental orientation of the person—and neglect of the noema—the thing that is experienced. ? Treating a feature which is found in the subjective world of a research participant as an outcome of an “objective situation”. The strongest line of phenomenological thinking which illuminates the issue is Merleau-Ponty's treatment of our embodied membership of the world: “fl esh”. This brings out the radicality of the notion of intentionality: collapsing the objective/subjective divide. The world is one's lifeworld; “fl esh of my fl esh”.

Item Type: Article
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Centre for Education and Inclusion Research
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2010 17:27
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2010 17:27
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/2343

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