Examining the role of perceived body boundaries and spatial frames of reference in the mechanism of action of a body scan meditation in reducing emotional eating

 

Led by

Huma Shireen (McGill University)

Contact

Huma Shireen <huma.shireen@mail.mcgill.ca>

Funding

CIHR

Status

Ongoing (November 2021–)

Summary

Emotional eating, or overeating in response to emotions, is problematic because of its link to weight gain, obesity, and psychopathology such as bulimia and binge eating disorder. To date, a vast amount of research has studied the psychological processes that cause individuals to overeat in response to emotions in an effort to develop ways to help individuals reduce their emotional eating. The aim of the current project is to study two psychological processes that can potentially be positively influenced to improve well-being: perceived body boundaries and a person’s spatial frame of reference. Particularly, I will examine how perceived body boundaries and spatial frames of reference can be positively influenced through a body scan meditation and thereby improve emotional eating. Perceived body boundaries refer to the continuum along which the self is experienced, from a body-encapsulated entity that is separate from the surrounding world to a more diffuse entity that is more connected with others and the environment. Spatial frames of reference describe the region within one’s perception, often based in the body and construed as the self, that may be experienced as egocentric, through a preoccupation with internal events, or as allocentric, with feelings of unity and interdependence with others and the environment. One way for individuals to experience more diffuse body boundaries and allocentric frames of reference is through a body scan meditation. In this practice, individuals are instructed to intentionally shift their attention to various parts of the body and to notice what happens without judging or reacting. If thoughts and emotions arise, they are briefly noted, and attention is shifted back to the body.  Recent research has shown that when individuals practice the body scan meditation, they are likely to experience greater positive emotions, lower negative emotions, and higher psychological wellbeing. In addition, research has shown that individuals are able to experience more diffuse perceived body boundaries and more allocentric frames of reference through a body scan meditation. Based on this work, I predict that when emotional eaters practice the body scan meditation, they will experience more diffuse body boundaries and more allocentric frames of reference, which could in turn could reduce their negative affect and food cravings. I will test this hypothesis by asking emotional eaters to complete questionnaires that measure perceived body boundaries, spatial frames of reference, negative emotions, and food cravings before and after a body scan meditation. Negative mood will be induced using a microphenomenology-informed interview. To ensure that any changes in these measures are due to the meditation, I will compare these findings with emotional eaters who complete the same measures before and after a relaxation practice. The findings of the current study will be used to recommend the body scan meditation to emotional eaters to regulate their emotions, cravings, and eating behaviours.

Implicit and subjective structures of sudden, positive, transformational moments experienced by incarcerated men in England

A Moment of Insight Described

 

Led by

Jeanne Catherine

Contact

Jeanne Catherine <jeannelynnecatherine@gmail.com>

Funding

Three Principle Research and Consulting

Status

Ongoing (2019–)

Summary

The purpose of this micro-phenomenological investigation is to analyze the interviews about moments of insight from 17 incarcerated men talking about implicit, subjective experiences of change, when they stopped thinking one way and began thinking a new way, which they reported changed their behavior. This study examines a singular research question: Do experiences of insight among incarcerated men demonstrate a common implicit subjective structure that correlates to neurobiological descriptions and does this moment lead to a new specific and positive behavioral choice?

Outputs

PhD Thesis (in preparation).

Contentless awareness during sleep

 

Led by

Adriana Alcaraz Sanchez (University of Glasgow)

Collaborators: Ema Demšar (Monash University)

Contact

Adriana Alcaraz Sanchez <a.alcaraz-sanchez.1@research.gla.ac.uk>

Funding

Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)

Status

Ongoing (2019–2023)

Summary

This project is part of a larger PhD thesis which aims at developing a theoretical account of the experience of witnessing-sleep largely described by Indian philosophical traditions, which has been referred as the experience of consciousness-as-such, or pure awareness.

To that aim, two studies using micro-phenomenological interviews were carried out. The first one consisted of a pilot study interviewing participants who described an experience involving the immersion in a void, a state lacking any visual and perceptual experience during sleep. The results of this study can be found in Alcaraz-Sanchez (2021). In the second study, we explored a variety of contentless awareness had during sleep and interviewed participants shortlisted from a survey on sleep experiences distributed online. The interviews unveiled a similar sort of experience to the pilot study with participants describing the awareness of the 'nothingness' during sleep. The results of this study are currently under preparation.
 
For more information about the project at large and for updates, visit https://adriana-alcarazsanchez.xyz/
 

Publications

Alcaraz-Sanchez, A. (2021) Awareness in the void: a micro-phenomenological exploration of conscious dreamless sleep. Phenomenology and Cognitive Sciences. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.gla.ac.uk/10.1007/s11097-021-09743-0

Micro-phenomenologically informed neuroimaging

 

Led by

Chris Allen (Cardiff University)

Contact

Chris Allen <allencp@cardiff.ac.uk>

Funding

Wellcome trust

Status

Ongoing (2016–)

Summary

A multi-stage pre-registered project combining micro-phenomenology and neuroimaging (magnetoencephalography, ultra-high field functional magnetic resonance imaging). It examines the coupling between experience of simple sensor-motor task and brain activity.

Outputs

https://osf.io/h4nam/

Sermon as Improvisation

Homiletics goes Jazz

 

Led by

Martin Scheidegger (PhD Candidate, University of Zurich)

Ralph Kunz (Thesis advisor)

Contact

Martin Scheidegger <martin.scheidegger@uzh.ch>

Status

Ongoing (2018–2024)

Summary

Comparison between Jazz musicians improvising on standard songs collected in the realbook with preachers preaching (improvising) on biblical texts collected the Bible. Jazz musicians are being interviewed microphenomenologically and the respective analysis will be researched on whether it can contribute to the work of preachers.

Tracing time

 

Led by

Federica Cavaletti (Catholic University of Milano)

Katrin Heimann (Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark)

Contact

Katrin Heimann <katrinheimann@gmail.com>

Funding

Interacting Minds Centre

Status

Ongoing (2019–)

Summary

ln the field of cognitive psychology, subjective time perception is often assessed by employing two main types of temporal tasks: duration estimation (DE – the quantitative estimation of the length of a time interval in conventional units) and time passage perception (TPP - the qualitative impression of the speed of the temporal flow). Though the two types of tasks are frequently used interchangeably, a rigorous theoretical reflection about what they precisely assess and, relatedly, their supposed equivalence has been missing. Therefore, in order to improve the understanding of DE and TPP, we followed the precise design of a recent study of time perception in movie watching.

In the experiment, 20 participants were presented one short video-clip. Then, they were asked to express both a DE judgment (in seconds) and a TPP judgment (on a 9-point Likert scale). Lastly, they were interviewed, using MP, about the experience of performing this task. The interviews revealed significant differences between the experiences of performing the different tasks and delivered crucial indications about why existing studies using them interchangeably have produced ambiguous results. The results are currently written up in a paper. 

Publications

In preparation.

The Anatomy of Indifference and Care project

 

Led by

Deanne Bell (Department of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom)

Contact

Deanne Bell <Deanne.bell@ntu.ac.uk>

Funding

Nottingham Trent University

Status

Ongoing (2018–)

Summary

Seventy years ago forty-eight countries adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR marked an international commitment to end discrimination against people based on their race and ethnicity, practices that have produced social suffering globally. Despite this intention, human rights failures persist. In 2015, an evaluation of equality and human rights by 175 civil society organizations in the UK, for example, found that ethnic minorities’ experiences of health, education, income, employment, justice and safety lag behind white UK citizens and evidence social suffering as a result.

Why and how do we remain indifferent to others’ pain despite our stated intention to do otherwise?

The Anatomy of Indifference and Care research project explores people’s relationship to the suffering caused by social inequalities and social injustice. Its main purpose is to find out much more than is currently known about indifference and care in light of social suffering. The project is designed to learn more about psychological moments when we are being indifferent and when we are caring toward others who are socially disadvantaged.

Because indifference and care are experienced in the Global North and South participation is open regardless of where you live.

No study has been conducted like this despite potential benefits to civil society if we understand these phenomena more deeply.

Publications

In preparation.

Thésée.png
Thésée

Theories and Explorations of Subjectivity and Elicited Experience

 

Led by

Magali Ollagnier-Beldame (Laboratoire ICAR UMR CNRS 5191, France)

Christophe Coupe (Laboratoire DDL UMR CNRS 5596, France)

Anne Cazemajou (Laboratoire ICAR UMR CNRS 5191, France)

Contact

Magali Ollagnier-Beldame <mbeldame@gmail.com>

Funding

LabEx Aslan, Université de Lyon

Fonds Recherche de l’ENS de Lyon

Status

Completed (2015–2020)

Summary

The Thésée project aims at understanding how people who come into contact for the first time experience this moment. It aims at describing the sensory, emotional, bodily and cognitive components of the experience that accompanies the encounter (Vermersch, 1994/2004, Petitmengin, 2006). To do this, we rely on an epistemology in the first person (study of subjectivity) and on a second-person methodology (guided retrospective introspections) using the micro-phenomenological interview. Our working material consists of recorded and transcribed interviews, which we analyze in the light of different problems, such as those of the constitution of intersubjectivity, or the porosity of the boundaries between oneself and others.

We study two types of encounters: (i) "experimental" (induced) encounters between two people and (ii) "ecological" encounters that subjects have had in the past. For this second type, we study in particular the first meetings between care-givers and patients.

Publications

Coupé, C. & Ollagnier-Beldame, M. (To appear). La place du langage dans les premières rencontres entre soignants et soignés. SHS Web of Conferences.

Ollagnier-Beldame, M. & Cazemajou, A. (2019). Intersubjectivity in first encounters between healthcare practitioners and patients: Micro-phenomenology as a way to study lived experience. The Humanistic Psychologist 47(4): 404-425. https://doi.org/10.1037/hum0000133

Ollagnier-Beldame, M. & Coupé, C. (2019). Meeting you for the first time: Descriptive categories of an intersubjective experience. Constructivist foundations 14(2):167-180.

Coupé, C. & Ollagnier-Beldame, M. (2019). Epoché, verbal descriptions and corpus size in the conduct and analysis of explicitation interviews. Constructivist foundations, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 14(2):158-160.

Ollagnier-Beldame, M. & Coupé, C. (2019). Authors’ response: Focus of interest and epistemological issues in the study of first encounters. Constructivist foundations, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 14(2):193-196.

A list of all outputs concerning the project (including posters and other communications) is available here.

 
Writers block revisited

A micro-phenomenological case study on how an impeding internalized voice is related to writer’s block

 

Led by

Eva Bojner Horwitz (Education director, Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Center for social sustainability, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society Karolinska Institute, and Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

Walter Osika (Center for social sustainability, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institute and Department of Clinical Neuroscience Karolinska Institute Sweden)

Cecilia Stenfors (Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, and Karolinska Institute, Sweden)

Contact

Eva Bojner Horwitz <eva.bojner.horwitz@ki.se>

Funding

Riddargårdskliniken, Sweden

Status

Completed (2015–2019)

Summary

Procrastination, and more specific writers block, is common and can have a deleterious impact on individuals’ academic performance. This comparative study stems from a case with a master’s student with writer’s block, who was asked to perform body movements reflecting a thesis writing process over time. The micro-phenomenological interview method was used to uncover the student’s experience during the exercise, including bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts, and particularly the very precise process related to an inner voice. The inner voice was recorded with the student´s own voice and was the subject of analyses. The structure analysis shows in detail the process, i.e. how the student perceives very specific mental images, micro movements and sensations in relation to the specific “inner voice” experience. Specifically, it was discovered that the student´s inner voice was triggering different body movements and gestures and not the other way around.  The micro phenomenological method together with video interpretation applied on the first-person perspective can reveal very detailed bodily experiences, movements and sensations. These findings suggest that the power of non-verbal ways of learning by using movements may be applied in broader areas such as research writing.

Publications

Horwitz, E.B., Stenfords, C., Osika, W. (2018). Writer's block revisited: A Micro-Phenomenological Case Study on the Blocking Influence of an Internalized Voice. Journal of Consciousness Studies 25 (3-4): 9-28.

Emotional Influences on Cognitive Flexibility Depend on Individual Differences

A Combined Micro-Phenomenological and Psychophysiological Study

 

Led by

Alejandra Vasquez-Rosati (Escuela de Psicología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile & Laboratorio de Fenomenología Corporal, Villarrica, Chile)

Contact

Alejandra Vasquez-Rosati <alejandravasquezrosati@gmail.com>

Funding

CONICYT Grant #21120514

Status

Completed (2014–2018)

Summary

Imagine a scenario where you are cooking and suddenly, the contents of the pot start to come out, and the oven bell rings. You would have to stop what you are doing and start responding to the changing demands, switching between different objects, operations and mental sets. This ability is known as cognitive flexibility. Now, add to this scenario a strong emotional atmosphere that invades you as you spontaneously recall a difficult situation you had that morning. How would you behave? Recent studies suggest that emotional states do modulate cognitive flexibility, but these findings are still controversial. Moreover, there is a lack of evidence regarding the underlying brain processes. The purpose of the present study was, therefore, to examine such interaction while monitoring changes in ongoing cortical activity using EEG. In order to answer this question, we used two musical stimuli to induce emotional states (positive/high arousal/open stance and negative/high arousal/closed stance). Twenty- nine participants performed two blocks of the Madrid Card Sorting Task in a neutral silence condition and then four blocks while listening to the counterbalanced musical stimuli. To explore this interaction, we used a combination of first-person (micro- phenomenological interview) and third-person (behavior and EEG) approaches. Our results show that compared to the positive stimuli and silence condition, negative stimuli decrease reaction times (RTs) for the shift signal. Our data show that the valance of the first emotional block is determinant in the RTs of the subsequent blocks. Additionally, the analysis of the micro-phenomenological interview and the integration of first- and third-person data show that the emotional disposition generated by the music could facilitate task performance for some participants or hamper it for others, independently of its emotional valence. When the emotional disposition hampered task execution, RTs were slower, and the P300 potential showed a reduced amplitude compared to the  facilitated condition. These findings show that the interaction between emotion and cognitive flexibility is more complex than previously thought and points to a new way of understanding the underlying mechanisms by incorporating an in-depth analysis of individual subjective experience.

Publications

Vásquez-Rosati, A., Montefusco-Siegmund, R., López, V., & Cosmelli, D. (2019). Emotional influences on cognitive flexibility depend on individual differences: A combined micro-phenomenological and psychophysiological study. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1138. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01138

Developing a micro-phenomenology of emotion for affective science

 

Led by

Emily Hammond (University of Exeter, UK)

Contact

Emily Hammond <e.r.hammond@exeter.ac.uk>

Funding

Economic and Social Research Council PhD studentship

Mind and Life Institute Francisco J. Varela Award

Status

Completed

Summary

What is it like to experience emotion? The question is a deceptively simple one. Affectivity is a fundamental aspect of how we experience the world, yet curiously, detailed experiential accounts of emotion and affect are lacking from the empirical literature in affective science. The measurement of subjective experience – the feeling of emotion - is often restricted to self-reported ratings of researcher-selected emotion terms such as ‘elation’, ‘sadness’ or ‘pleasantness’, which limits the scope for exploring phenomenological nuance and depth. This project considers how micro-phenomenology might contribute to this open question for affective science through two strands of work: empirical investigation into the fine-grained phenomenological features of emotion, and methodological work to establish concrete steps towards effectively applying the micro-phenomenological technique in experimental research. The overarching intention behind the project is to begin to identify ways in which fuller, body-mind accounts of emotion might be developed within basic emotion science for application to translational research on affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Outputs

Hammond E. (2016). Why we need a phenomenology of emotion in translational affective science. Talk given at the Mind and Life International Symposium for Contemplative Studies, San Diego, 10-13 November 2016.

Hammond E. (2016). Developing a micro-phenomenology of emotion for affective science: some reflections on methodology in practice. Talk given at advanced micro-phenomenology workshop led by Professor Claire Petitmengin, 26-30 September 2016.

Hammond E. (2016). Transcending the natural attitude? Possibilities and limitations of empirical phenomenology. Talk given at the Sussex Phenomenology Graduate Conference, University of Sussex, 23-24 June 2016.

The minimal phenomenal experience. The case of lucid dreamless sleep

Experiences of awareness during sleep

 

Led by

Adriana Alcaraz Sánchez (MPhil student, CSPE, University of Glasgow)

Contact

Adriana Alcaraz Sánchez <a.alcaraz-sanchez.1@research.gla.ac.uk>

Funding

Self-funding

Status

Completed

Summary

Lucid dreamless sleep experiences have been described as mental experiences happening during sleep that cannot be categorised as dreams. The reason for this is that lucid dreamless sleep lacks the feeling of being in a simulative world, characteristic of dreams. Some philosophers, drawing from Indian Philosophical traditions, have suggested that lucid dreamless sleep should be regarded as the experience of being alive, the experience of ‘nowness’ or the experience of alertness.

This project aimed at studying awareness during sleep by describing the associated phenomena that appear in the different stages of this process. For that purpose, a qualitative study was carried out with the use of micro-phenomenological interviews.

Publications

Alcaraz-Sanchez, A. (2021). Awareness in the void: a micro-phenomenological exploration of conscious dreamless sleep. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 1-39.

The Phenomenology of Occurrent, Conscious Thinking

Experiences of awareness during sleep

 

Led by

Fergus Anderson (PhD Candidate, Alanus University, Germany)

Contact

Fergus Anderson <Fergus.Anderson@alanus.edu>

Funding

Funded PhD research

Status

Completed (in 2018)

Summary

In this research, I address a question drawn from the contemporary field of cognitive phenomenology, which is whether there is a specific “non-sensory” kind of phenomenology associated with cognitive states such as judging, deciding, understanding etc. This specific kind of cognitive phenomenology is said to constitute cognitive states in a way that is comparable to the way that sensory phenomenology constitutes sensory states, but there is disagreement about what it is and whether it exists at all. In this research I take a first-person approach to this question rather than the more common “analytic” approach. I primarily use auto-elicitation, and also microphenomenological interviews which focus on specific kinds of provoked thinking experiences. Out of this I put forward a thesis regarding what I call the “dynamic” phenomenology of thinking, which I argue is an important but neglected aspect of cognitive phenomenology.

Publications

Anderson, F. (2016). The dynamic phenomenology of Occurrent thinking. Phenomenology and Mind, (10), 196-205.

The auditory experience

 

Led by

Claire Petitmengin (Institut Mines-Télécom Institute - Telecom EM et Ecole Polytechnique – CREA)

Michel Bitbol (CNRS)

Jean-Michel Nissou, Bernard Pachoud, Hélène Curallucci, Michel Cermolacce and Jean Vion-Dury (Unité de Neurophysiologie et Psychophysiologie, Pôle de Psychiatrie Universitaire, Hôpital Sainte Marguerite, Marseille)

Contact

Claire Petitmengin <cp@clairepetitmengin.fr>

Funding

Cognisud, France

Status

Completed (2018–2024)

Summary

In our Western culture, sight is considered the noblest of the senses, and the essence of our understanding of knowledge is based on the visual model. When sound is studied, it is so from a physical or psycho-acoustic point of view, but rarely from a philosophical point of view, even more rarely as a lived experience.

This study examines the experience associated with listening to a sound. Its aim is not to try to isolate the sense of hearing from other sensory modalities, but to describe what we are experiencing in our whole experience when a sound is produced. After collecting a set of micro-phenomenological descriptions of auditory experiences, we analyzed these descriptions. This work allowed us to identify a threefold generic structure of the auditory experience, depending on whether the subject's attention is 1) on the event that is at the source of the sound, 2) on sound as such, considered independently of its source, 3) on bodily felt sound. This study leads to the hypothesis that this threefold structure may be found in other sensory modalities.

Publications

Petitmengin, C., Bitbol, M., Nissou, J. M., Pachoud, B., Curalucci, H., Cermolacce, C., & Vion-Dury, J. (2009). Listening from Within. Journal of Consciousness Studies 16 (10-12), 252-284.