Three Ways Your Ethics Class Might Backfire

... if your aim is to encourage students to actually act better. (Of course, this might not be among your aims.)

(This post was inspired by Janet Stemwedel's Facebook/Twitter post about students cheating in her ethics class, and subsequent discussion.)

1. Creating the appearance that every pro has an equally good con. Annette Baier is among those who have emphasized this risk. A typical philosophical teaching style is to present both sides of every major topic discussed, in a more-or-less even-handed way. We tell students that they are welcome to defend either the pro or the con, and we encourage contrarian students who challenge the reasoning and conclusions of the assigned authors. This even-handed debate-like format might lead some students to think that, in ethical reasoning, there are no right or wrong answers to be found, just interminable back and forth. Probably this attitude will have little effect on students' practical choices outside of the classroom; but if it does have an effect, it might be to weaken their sense that ethical principles that they might otherwise have acted on are as sound and indisputable as they would previously have thought.

2. Improving one's skill at moral rationalization. Suppose you want to do X -- steal a library book, for example. Of course, you wouldn't do that. It's wrong! But wait. Remember that ethics class you took? Maybe you can construct a utilitarian defense of stealing the book. No one would miss it that much, and you'd benefit greatly from keeping it. The institution has much more money than you do, and can easily replace it. Stealing the book would maximize human happiness! (Especially yours.) Such reasoning is rationalization, in the pejorative sense of that term, if your reasoning is basically just a biased search for reasons in support of the self-serving conclusion you'd like to reach. If you're tempted to do something morally wrong, skill at philosophical reasoning, and knowledge of a diverse range of possibly relevant moral principles, might enable you to better construct superficially attractive arguments that free you to feel okay doing the bad thing that you might otherwise have unreflectively avoided.

3. Giving the sense that unethical behavior is pervasive. I've argued that people mostly aim for moral mediocrity. They aim, that is, not to be morally good by absolute standards but rather to be about as morally good as their peers, not especially better, not especially worse. If so, then changes in your perception of what is typical behavior among your peers can cause you to calibrate your own behavior up or down. If most people litter, or cheat, or selfishly screw over their co-workers, then it doesn't seem so bad if you do too, at least a little. (Conversely, if you learn that almost everyone around you is honorable and true, that can inspire you not to want to be the one schmuck.) Some ethics classes, perhaps especially business ethics classes, focus on case studies of grossly unethical behavior. This company did this bad thing, this other company did this other bad thing, still another company did this other horrible thing.... Without a complementary range of inspirational examples of morally laudable behavior by other companies, students might get the sense that the world is even fuller of malfeasance than they had previously thought, leading them to calibrate their sense of mediocrity down. If so many other people do so many bad things, then it hardly matters (perhaps even it's only fair) if I fudge a bit on my expense report.

Do ethics classes actually have any of these backfire effects? I think we really have no idea. The issue remains almost entirely unstudied in any rigorous, empirical way.

[image source]

Help Me Choose Posts for My Next Book: Consciousness

As I've mentioned several times, my next book will consist of selected revised blog posts and op-eds. I've narrowed it down to about 150 posts, in seven broad categories. I'd really appreciate your help in narrowing it down more!


  • moral psychology
  • technology
  • belief, desire, and self-knowledge
  • culture and humor
  • cosmology, skepticism, and weird minds
  • consciousness (live as of today)
  • metaphilosophy and sociology of philosophy
  • Every week or so I'm posting a poll with about twenty posts or op-eds to rate, on one of those seven themes. I've found the polls helpful in thinking about what has resonated with readers or been memorable for them. Many thanks to those of you who have responded!

    Each poll will also contain links to the original posts and op-eds so you can refresh your memory if you want. But there's no need to rate all of the listed posts! Even if you just remember one or two that you like, it would be useful for me to know that.

    Today's poll, 19 selected posts on consciousness.

    (image from

    Birthday Cake and a Chapel

    Last weekend, at my 50th birthday party, one guest asked, "Now that you're fifty, what wisdom do you have to share?" I answered, "Eat more birthday cake!"

    He seemed disappointed with my reply. I'm a philosopher; don't I have something better to say than "eat more cake"? Well, partly my reply was more serious than he may have realized; and partly I wanted to dodge the expectation that I have any special wisdom to share because of my age or profession. Still, I could have given a better answer.

    So earlier this week, I drafted a post on love, meaningful work, joy, and kindness. Some kind of attempt at wisdom. Then I thought, too, of course one also needs health and security. Well, it's an ordinary list; I wouldn't pretend otherwise. Maybe my best attempt at wisdom reveals my lack of any special wisdom. Better to just stick with "eat more birthday cake"? I couldn't quite click the orange "publish" button.

    Thursday, a horrible thing happened to someone I love. I won't share the details, for the person's privacy. But that evening I found myself in a side room of the Samuelson Chapel at California Lutheran University. The chapel made me think of my father, who had been a long-time psychology professor at CLU. (I've posted a reminiscence of him here.)

    In the 1980s, CLU was planning to build a new chapel at the heart of campus, and my father was on the committee overseeing the architectural plans. As I recall, he came home one evening and said that the architect had submitted plans for a boring, rectangular chapel. Most of the committee had been ready to approve the plans, but he had objected.

    "Why build a boring, blocky chapel?" he said. "Why not build something glorious and beautiful? It will be more expensive, yes. But I think if we can show people something gorgeous and ambitious, we will find the money. Alumni will be happier to contribute, the campus will be inspired it, and it will be a landmark for decades to come." Of course, I'm not sure of his exact words, but something like that.

    So on my father's advice the committee sent the plans back to be entirely rethought.

    Samuelson Chapel today:

    Not ostentatious, not grandiose, but neither just a boring box. A bit of modest beauty on campus.

    As I sat alone in a side room of Samuelson Chapel on that horrible evening, I heard muffled music through the wall -- someone rehearsing on the chapel piano. The pianist was un-self-conscious in his pauses and explorations, experimenting, not knowing he had an audience. I sensed him appreciating his music's expansive sound in the high-ceilinged, empty sanctuary. I could hear the skill in his fingers, and his gentle, emotional touch.

    In my draft post on wisdom, I'd emphasized setting aside time to relish small pleasures -- small pleasures like second helpings of birthday cake. But more cake isn't really the heart of it.

    In Samuelson Chapel, on a horrible night, I marveled at the beauty of the music through the wall. How many events, mostly invisible to us, have converged to allow that moment? The pianist, I'm sure, knew nothing of my father and his role in making the chapel what it is. There is something stunning, awesome, almost incomprehensible about our societies and relations and dependencies, about the layers and layers of work and passion by which we construct possibilities for future action, about our intricate biologies unreflectively maintained, about the evolutionary history that lays the ground of all of this, about the deepness of time.

    As I drove home the next morning, I found myself still stunned with awe. I can drive 75 miles an hour in a soft seat on a ten-lane freeway through Pasadena -- a freeway roaring with thousands of other cars, somehow none of us crashing, and all of it so taken for granted that we can focus mostly on sounds from our radios. One tiny part of the groundwork is the man who fixed the wheel of the tractor of the farmer who grew the wheat that became part of the bread of the sandwich of a construction worker who, sixty years ago, helped lay the first cement for this particular smooth patch of freeway. Hi, fella!

    The second helping of birthday cake, last weekend, which I jokingly offered to my guest as my best wisdom -- it was made from a box mix by my eleven-year-old daughter and hand-decorated by her. How many streams of chance and planning must intermix to give our guests that mouthful of sweetness? Why not take a second helping, after all?

    I think maybe this is what we owe back to the universe, in exchange for our existence -- some moments of awe-filled wonder at how it all has come together to shape us.

    Help Me Choose Posts for My Next Book: Cosmology, Skepticism, and Weird Minds

    As I've mentioned several times, my next book will consist of selected revised blog posts and op-eds. I've narrowed it down to about 150 posts, in seven broad categories. I'd really appreciate your help in narrowing it down more!


  • moral psychology
  • technology
  • belief, desire, and self-knowledge
  • culture and humor
  • cosmology, skepticism, and weird minds (live as of today)
  • consciousness
  • metaphilosophy and sociology of philosophy
  • Every week or so I'm posting a poll with about twenty posts or op-eds to rate, on one of those seven themes. I've found the polls helpful in thinking about what has resonated with readers or been memorable for them. Many thanks to those of you who have responded!

    Each poll will also contain links to the original posts and op-eds so you can refresh your memory if you want. But there's no need to rate all of the listed posts! Even if you just remember one or two that you like, it would be useful for me to know that.

    Today's poll, 23 selected posts on cosmology, skepticism, and weird minds.

    [image source]

    Top Reasons As to Why You Should Have a Backyard Tool Shed

    There are numerous reasons with reference to why you ought to have an apparatus shed and this could persuade you to really get one. It can fill in as a splendid present for any individual who loves to work outside and it is a simple method to discover things that would have been difficult to discover when supplied up in the house.

    A shed is an imperative place that can be utilized for capacity.

    A portion of the best reasons regarding why you ought to think about getting one


    Capacity is over the rundown. Aside from devices, there are boundless things that you can store in the shed. The cases, old designs and different things that you never again utilize can be put away in the shade.


    When it gets cool outside and you have children, the shed can fill in as an astonishing playing ground for the children and this can keep them occupied for quite a long time enabling you to deal with different things. You can appreciate some time alone as they botch up in the unit


    When you purchase a shed, you will don't hesitate to take up side interests that you may have constantly wanted. You will have space for various things and capacity for whatever you are taking a shot at. When you know you have some space to do additional things, you will without a doubt discover time to accomplish something that you adore.


    On the off chance that you think about every one of the things that might lie in the yard like garden devices, grass trimmers, and even bicycles, you will concur that when they are in the shed you won't need to stress excessively over their being stolen. At the point when there is incremental climate, you can make sure that your things are sheltered and sound, and they will be in the best condition when you require utilizing them next.


    When you clear every one of those devices and things lying around your yard and bring them into the shed, you will have the capacity to appreciate an extremely decent and clean lawn. You will, in this way, appreciate being out in the yard and you won't need to stress over your children getting hurt as they play.


    A great many people concur that when you claim a shed, there is the probability that you will be exceptionally imaginative since you have space and time. You can find things about yourself that you may have no clue about.


    A device shed can be an awesome place to escape and appreciate some alone time. You can have some isolation without being too far from your family. Everybody needs peace and calm on occasion.


    Having an instrument shed in the lawn can really build the estimation of your home. On the off chance that you are thinking about offering, you may find that having some storage room in the patio enables you to get a lift in the market. Individuals like it when they get something additional with another home and might will to pay more for the same.

    There is no compelling reason to mess the carport a lot with various instruments and a wide range of things. A lawn apparatus shed can offer you a great deal more and is, in this way, the best place for each one of those collectibles. You can have an apparatus shed that is uniquely crafted in order to fit your own particular spending plan and style.

    The Advantages and Benefits of Using Spray Foam Insulation at Home

    The Advantages and Benefits of Using Spray Foam Insulation at Home

    Regardless of whether you are building another home or renovating the present one, it is imperative to offer significance to the ideal protection. There are various alternatives accessible and you need to settle on the correct choice. You can run over a large group of items that are stash well disposed, yet over the long haul they won't be the correct arrangement. Correspondingly, there are costly items accessible too and they can spare several dollars on your power charges over the long haul.

    What do you think about shower froth protection?

    Shower froth has been extremely prevalent in the current circumstances and has flown up as a proficient home encasing. There are two mixes utilized as a part of its making, isocyanate and polyol pitch which are known to extend in volume when combined. In the event that the mixes are put away independently, they can be held for a more extended timeframe. When they are blended, they shape froth and should be connected promptly. At the point when this is connected to a region, it solidifies after a short interim of time and goes about as a superb protecting layer. Besides, it is strong also.

    Shower froth protection is better

    On the off chance that splash froth protection is contrasted and different sorts of protection as far as their viability, this is exceedingly successful. It has a high R esteem running from 6 to 7.7. The adequacy of protection is estimated as far as a R-Value. At the point when the R-esteem is higher, the thickness of the protector is higher and subsequently the adequacy is likewise more. In the event that this encasing is contrasted and that of fiber glass protection, which has a R-estimation of just 3.5, you can get a thought regarding the better item. On the off chance that, you are paying special mind to this administrations in the UK, you won't be disillusioned with the differing alternatives that are accessible.

    Choosing splash froth protection is advantageous

    One of the significant advantages of splash froth protection is its application procedure. The whole procedure is simple and with no issues. Despite the surface, level or vertical, the protection can be connected. The froth can be effortlessly showered over the assigned surface territory in a totally uniform way. You needn't bother with any cutting mats or estimating for the application. Moreover, the wearing and tearing of this protection is moderately less and its solidness is additionally more.

    What influences shower to froth an effective encasing?

    • The application procedure can be done in a brief timeframe. It gets hard and sets inside a brief timeframe.

    • The use of this is likewise simple without the prerequisite of any estimating and exact cuts.

    • The splash froth has an extending nature. Thus, when it is connected on a surface region, it begins growing. Consequently, the protection is watertight and hermetically sealed, giving an astounding seal.

    • The protection by means of splash froth is just exceptional. It will keep the inside of your home warm amid the winter months and the other way around in the late spring. Essentially, this can protect your home entirely great.

    On the off chance that, you have been intending to get your home protected, it is exceptionally prescribed to apply this and give the correct protection in your home.

    Will shower froth protection help in the counteractive action of form disease?

    You will be upbeat to realize that there are particular varieties of this which incorporates microbial specialists as the fixings. It can be useful in the anticipation of the shape development in your home. In the event that you live in a sticky place, there is each probability that your home may be contaminated with shape, which are frequently undetected until the point when they turns out to be excessively extreme.

    This isn't useful for the wellbeing of your family. At the point when there is a separator that can give a make preparations for the shape contamination and offer a more advantageous home, you should decide on it. Splash froth is a profoundly strong and viable form averting encasing that must be connected. Truth be told, this encasing likewise helps in anticipating bugs and vermin getting inside your home. Why hold up when you can ensure your home with shower froth?

    Step by step instructions to Get Rid of Fruit Flies at Home With Some Helpful Tips

    Summer is the period of strawberries, fruits, watermelons, melons and peaches, which are strategically placed in advertise slows down and are simply holding up to get to your home. On the off chance that you cherish generous summer endowments, the organic product bowl is an absolute necessity have adornment for your table. At each cruising by, you have the chance to charge freshness and an enormous dosage of vitamins appropriate out of nature. The aroma that is carried on it uproots every single fake flavor. A brilliant pixie amidst the room is an excellent visual expansion to the inside of each room. Natural product flies, be that as it may, are simply holding up to return home with organic product filled packs and orchestrate your most loved bowl completely. The little annoids in a flash possess the craving of prey, and nothing appears to repulse them.

    There are any innovative kitchen devices, yet in the event that you don't have one to shield the organic product from flies, there are some valuable traps to enable you to state "Farewell!" of undesirable creepy crawlies. Fortunately you don't need to utilize costly bug sprays that are destructive to your family. It is sufficient to attempt one of the accompanying traps in the wake of tossing all the spoiled organic product out of the can. On the off chance that you require fundamental home cleaning, contact the hygienists to keep your home fabulousness.

    Bit of ruined organic product

    Put some vinegar and some extremely spoiled organic product in a container. At that point wrap a sheet of paper so you get a cone. Put its sharp end in the container and be quiet. Organic product flies will be enticed to take after their most loved flavor and will wind up in the container without the privilege to offer.


    In the event that for reasons unknown the organic product flies that possess your home don't focus on the above draws, there is another approach to dispose of them. Pour in a pointless bowl of 1-2 fingers of vinegar and include a couple of drops of dishwashing cleanser. The consequence of this bait is negative to flies and advantageous to the microclimate in the natural product room. When they arrive in the bowl, they will never get out again in light of the fact that the sudsy fluid will shield them from taking off.

    Red wine

    The organic product flies love the fragrance of red wine. In the event that you leave a container with a tad bit of the alcoholic fluid on the base, they will be pulled in to this fragrance. The thin throat of the container won't enable them to turn out.

    Unfiltered apple vinegar

    Pour a little measure of apple vinegar into an unfilled jug. Close your throat by extending on it a bit of plastic pack or straightforward kitchen thwart and connecting it with an elastic band. Penetrate a little opening through which the natural product flies get into the trap. They can not avoid the fragrance that is borne by the jug. That is the reason one by one they end up in it, deceived by their own particular covetousness. In addition, they will stay there everlastingly in light of the fact that they are not sufficiently brilliant to discover the best approach to salvation. You could pick a misty jug or crease the transparencies so you don't perceive what is going on in the trap.

    10 Doubts You Should Clarify About Builders

    From your well deserved cash, you have been sparing from the day you began working, you are at long last fit for arranging the development of your home. Yet, as you have a set spending plan and particular requests, you positively don't need any developer to play with your chance, cash and feeling.

    Hence, it is smarter to stroll erring on the side of caution, elucidate every one of the questions about the nearby developers. While you intend to procure them, organize a meeting and get some information about the questions and concerns you have.

    Some of those questions which you should clear up from your manufacturer are specified underneath.

    10 questions to clear up:

    Check Certificate of Insurance:

    In the event that he is guaranteed, you won't need to hold up under the risk and pay if something transpires while taking a shot at site. Ensure you search for the endorsement.

    How long he has given to this industry?

    In the event that you need to pick anybody from the rundown of suggested developers, ensure you make this inquiry. It will uncover how master your manufacturer would be. Progressively the time, more will be the experience and at last, you will get the best work!

    Does he concur on month to month reports on the finished development?

    As you would pay the cash, you have the privilege to be educated about the fulfillment of the development consistently. Thusly, request that your manufacturer previously keep you refreshed amid the development.

    Does he consent to demonstrate his contracting permit?

    Each city, each region, and each state have an alternate arrangement of development parameters to be taken after to acquire a permit. Along these lines, if the manufacturer is a bona fide one, he should have the best possible permit to work in the business. You should check the permit.

    Does he give you a guarantee?

    On the off chance that the picked manufacturer did not perform well and indicated poor workmanship, at that point you are at risk to get it revised without paying any additional sum. It is your privilege and guarantee is the term that ensures it.

    Does he give site tidy up after development?

    There are numerous suggested nearby manufacturers, who have the site clean administration in the agenda. Ensure you likewise clear your questions previously enlisting one of them.

    Does he deliver the evaluated cost in-composed?

    In this way, that the manufacturer does not cheat you for the sake of shrouded expenses, ensure you clear the uncertainty about the evaluated cost. It will protect you in future.

    Does he store the material and hardware in your home?

    It happens that a large portion of the developers tend to store the materials and instruments in your home toward the finish of each working day. You should clear this with the manufacturer so no future ruckus is experienced.

    Does he request full installment at one time?

    Nobody should clear the aggregate sum of development in one go. You can give him forthright and plan the installment as per the well ordered finishing of the development venture.

    Does he give any pay if a postponement happens?

    On the off chance that any kind of deferral happens in the culmination of the undertaking, would the manufacturer be obligated for giving the pay? On the off chance that the developer says 'yes,' ask things in composing.

    You should clear every one of your questions with respect to these focuses so the manufacturer won't deny later.

    Check Trescothic is a manager in Content and Communication. He has given his key commitment in development related themes. He invested a long time in composing content for development firms and tradesmen. Post your prerequisite at Bag a Builder and contract suggested neighborhood developers in few ticks.

    Why the Epistemology of Conscious Perception Needs a Theory of Consciousness

    On a certain type of classical "foundationalist" view in epistemology, knowledge of your sensory experience grounds knowledge of the outside world: Your knowledge that you're seeing a tree, for example, is based on or derived from your knowledge that you're having sensory experiences of greens and browns in a certain configuration in a certain part of your visual field. In earlier work, I've argued that this can't be right because our knowledge of external things (like trees) is much more certain and secure than our knowledge of our sensory experiences.

    Today I want to suggest that foundationalist or anti-foundationalist claims are difficult to evaluate without at least an implicit background theory of consciousness. Consider for example these three simple models of the relation between sensory experience, knowledge of sensory experience, and knowledge of external objects. The arrows below are intended to be simultaneously causal and epistemic, with the items on the left both causing and epistemically grounding the items on the right. (I've added small arrows to reflect that there are always also other causal processes that contribute to each phase.)

    [apologies for blurry type: click to enlarge and clarify]

    Model A is a type of classical foundationalist picture. In Model B, knowledge of external objects arises early in cognitive processing and informs our sensory experiences. In Model C, sensory experience and knowledge of external objects arise in parallel.

    Of course these models are far too simple! Possibly, the process looks more like this:

    How do we know which of the three models is closest to correct? This is, I think, very difficult to assess without a general theory of consciousness. We know that there's sensory experience, and we know that there's knowledge of sensory experience, and we know that there's knowledge of external objects, and that all of these things happen at around the same time in our minds; but what exactly is the causal relation among them? Which happens first, which second, which third, and to what extent do they rely on each other? These fine-grained questions about temporal ordering and causal influence are, I think, difficult to discern from introspection and thought experiments.

    Even if we allow that knowledge of external things informs our sense experience of those things, that can easily be incorporated in a version of the classical foundationalist model A, by allowing that the process is iterative: At time 1, input causes experience which causes knowledge of experience which causes knowledge of external things; then again at time 2; then again at time 3.... The outputs of earlier iterations could then be among the small-arrow inputs of later iterations, explaining whatever influence knowledge of outward things has on sensory experiences within a foundationalist picture.

    On some theories, consciousness arises relatively early in sensory processing -- for example, in theories where sensory experiences are conscious by virtue of their information's being available for processing by downstream cognitive systems (even if that availability isn't much taken advantage of). On other theories, sensory consciousness arises much later in cognition, only after substantial downstream processing (as in some versions of Global Workspace theory and Higher-Order theories). Although the relationship needn't be strict, it's easy to see how views according to which consciousness arises relatively early fit more naturally with foundationalist models than views according to which consciousness arises much later.

    The following magnificent work of art depicts me viewing a tree:

    [as always, click to enlarge and clarify]

    Light from the sun reflects off the tree, into my eye, back to primary visual cortex, then forward into associative cortex where it mixes with associative processes and other sensory processes. In my thought bubble you see my conscious experience of the tree. The question is, where in this process does this experience arise?

    Here are three possibilities:

    Until we know which of these approaches is closest to the truth, it's hard to see how we could be in a good position to settle questions about foundationalism or anti-foundationalism in the epistemology of conscious perception.

    (Yes, I know I've ignored embodied cognition in this post. Of course, throwing that into the mix makes matters even more complicated!)

    Help Me Choose Posts for My Next Book: Culture and Humor

    As I've mentioned, my next book will consist of selected revised blog posts and op-eds. I've narrowed it down to about 150 posts, in seven broad categories. I'd really appreciate your help in narrowing it down more.

  • moral psychology
  • technology
  • belief, desire, and self-knowledge
  • culture and humor (live as of today)
  • cosmology, skepticism, and weird minds
  • consciousness
  • metaphilosophy and sociology of philosophy
  • Every week or so I'll post a poll with about twenty posts or op-eds to rate, on one of those seven themes. So far, I have found the polls helpful in thinking about what has resonated with readers or been memorable for them. Many thanks to those of you who have responded!

    Each poll will also contain links to the original posts and op-eds so you can refresh your memory if you want. But there's need to rate all of the listed posts! Even if you just remember one or two that you like, it would be useful for me to know that.

    Today's poll, 25 selected posts on culture, including some attempts at humor.

    [image source]

    The Experience of Reading: Empirical Evidence

    What do you experience while reading? Do you experience inner speech, as though you or the author are saying the words aloud? Do you experience visual imagery? Do you experience the black marks on the white page? All of these at once? Different ones at different times, depending on how you're engaging with the text?

    Although educators, cognitive psychologists, and literary critics often make claims about readers' typical experience, few researchers have bothered to ask readers, in any systematic way, these basic questions about their experience. [Note 1] So Alan Tonnies Moore and I decided to try doing that. Alan's work on this topic became his 2016 dissertation, and we have now have a paper forthcoming in Consciousness and Cognition (final submitted manuscript available here).

    In each of three experiments, we presented readers with several hundred words of text. In two of these experiments, a beep interrupted participants' reading. Immediately after the beep, readers were to report what was in their experience in the final split second before the beep. We collected both general free-response descriptions of their experience and yes/no/maybe reports about whether they were experiencing visual imagery, inner speech, and visual experience of the words on the page (all phrases defined beforehand). In all three experiments, we also collected readers' retrospective assessments of how frequently they experienced visual imagery, inner speech, and the words on the page while reading the passage we had presented.

    At the end of each experiment, participants answered several questions about the text they had just finished reading. Some questions we thought might relate to visual imagery (such as memory for visual detail), other questions we thought might relate to inner speech (such as memory for rhyme), and still other questions we thought might relate to visual experience of words on the page (such as memory of the font). We were curious whether performance on those questions would correlate with reported experience. Do visual imagers, for example, remember more visual detail?

    Here are the main things we found:

    (1.) People differ immensely in what types of experiences they report while reading. Some people report visual imagery all the time; others report it rarely or never; and still others (the majority) report visual imagery fairly often but not all of the time. Similarly for inner speech and words on the page.

    To see this, here are a couple of histograms [click to enlarge and clarify].

    Readers' retrospective reports in Experiment 2 (Experiments 1 and 3 are similar):

    Readers' yes/no/maybe reports immediately after the beep, also in Experiment 2:

    (2.) Inner speech is less commonly reported than many researchers suppose. This has also been emphasized in Russ Hurlburt's related work on the topic. Although some researchers claim or implicitly assume that inner speech is normally present while reading, we found it in a little more than half of the samples (see the histograms above). Visual imagery was more commonly reported than inner speech.

    (3.) Reported experience varies with passage type, but not by a lot. In Experiment 2, we presented readers with richly visually descriptive prose passages, rhyming poetry, and dramatic dialogue, thinking that readers might experience these types of passages differently. Differences were in the predicted directions, but weren't large. For example, visual imagery was reported in 78% of the beeped moments during richly descriptive prose passages vs 66% of the poetry passages and 69% of the dramatic dialogue (chi-square = 14.4, p = .006). Inner speech was reported in 65% of the beeped moments during dramatic dialogue passages vs 59% of the poetry passages and 53% of the descriptive prose (chi-square = 19.1, p = .001).

    (4.) There was little or no relationship between reported experience and seemingly related comprehension or skill tasks. For example, people who reported seeing the words of text on the page were not detectably more likely to remember the font used. People who reported visual imagery were not detectably more likely to remember the color of objects described in passages. People who reported inner speech were not more likely to disambiguate difficult-to-pronounce words by reference to the rhyme scheme. Although all of this is possibly disappointing, it fits with some of my previous work on the poor relationship between self-reported experience and performance at behavioral tasks.

    Alan and I believe that sampling studies will soon become an important tool in empirical aesthetics, and we hope that this study helps to lay some of the groundwork for that.

    Full version of our paper available here.


    Note 1: One important exception to this generalization is Russ Hurlburt in his 2016 book with Marco Caracciolo and in his paper with several collaborators forthcoming in Journal of Consciousness Studies.)


    Related Posts:

    What Do You Think About While Watching The Nutcracker? (Dec 17, 2007)

    The Experience of Reading (Nov 25, 2009).

    The Experience of Reading: Imagery, Inner Speech, and Seeing the Words on the Page (Aug 28, 2013).

    Waves of Mind Wandering During Live Performances (Jan 15, 2014)