Surprise in the spontaneity of emotions: a vector for enlarged cognition


Natalie Depraz (UMR 8547, Pays germaniques, histoire, culture et philosophie (ENS-CNRS) Archives-Husserl)

Agnès Celle and Pascale Goutéraux (CLILLAC-ARP, EA 3967, Université Paris-Diderot)

Vincent Camus and Thomas Desmidt (INSERM U930, ERL CNRS 30106 Equipe 4, Troubles affectifs)


Natalie Depraz: pr.natalie.depraz@gmail.com


ANR (French National Agency for Research)





Emphiline is a research project whose theme is surprise and depression in their emotional, cognitive, bodily and linguistic components. We correlated a methodology in the third person (experimental physiological device of generation of surprise) and a methodology in the first person (micro-phenomenological interviews).  On the basis of the analysis of 42 interviews correlated with the analysis of physiological measurements (FC, FR, cerebral pulsatility, cutaneous conductance, EEG), we aimed at testing the hypothesis that surprise, far from being reduced to a sudden shock, is part of a three-phased micro-temporal process composed of implicit anticipation, crisis and aftermath, and thus unfolds on the background of two main structures that are attention (its condition), and emotion (its implication).

The practical outcome of the project was the building of a database, the publication of interdisciplinary books and the elaboration of a protocol in cardiovascular research. It contributes to advances in the use of crossed micro-phenomenological first-person and third person methods and allows to suggest an extension of neurophenomenology in the direction of what we call a « cardiophenomenology ».



Empirical articles:

1) Th. Desmidt, M. Lemoine, C. Belzung & N. Depraz, « The temporal dynamic of emotional emergence », Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Emotion Special Issue, 2014, Springer, Heidelberg.

2) N. Depraz & Th. Desmidt, « Cardio-phénoménologie », in: La naturalisation de la phénoménologie 20 après, J.-L. Petit éd., Cahiers philosophiques de Strasbourg n°38, 2015.

3) N. Depraz & Th. Desmidt, « Cardiophenomenology : an extension of neurophenomenology : preliminary results », Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2017, Springer, Heidelberg (in course of revision).

4) N. Depraz, M. Gyemant, Th. Desmidt, « First person data analysis: a generative method using third person data. Surprise and depression: A case study », Colloque « Neurophenomenology: building a science of experience », 21-22 January 2016, org. C. Valenzuela-Moguillansky, Santiago, Chile, submitted to the Journal of Constructivist Foundations.

More detailed description of the project

Updated on 10/12/2016

First and second person study of the phenomena of awakening intention


PhD student: Frédéric Borde

Thesis directors: Natalie Depraz and Pierre Vermersch




Ongoing (since 2014)



The notion of “awakening intention“ belongs to the vocabulary of the French psychologist Pierre Vermersch who, since the 80’s, pursues the goal of describing the organization of subjectivity, while constructing means of access to consciousness. In this scheme, he took over the renewal of introspection, through a methodology responding to the scientific criteria of expansion and transmission. This research horizon depends, in its principle, on the possibility to awake the intuitive donation of past lived experiences intentionally, a possibility that may be summarized by the French term “explicitation” (previously translated by “elicitation”). The purpose of this doctoral thesis is to study, by the means of explicitation, the phenomenality of this “intentional awakening”, which is the very condition of possibility of the new introspection.


Several articles published in Expliciter, journal of the Groupe de Recherche pour l’Explicitation (free journal without peer-reviewing).


Borde F. (2016). L’entretien d’explicitation et les obstacles à la description de l’activité. Questions d’orientation, revue de l’ACOP France n° 3.

Borde F. (2010). L’art et la médecine, histoire d’une rencontre. Soins Pédiatrie –  Puériculture n° 255.

Borde F. (2009). Analyse de la pratique et entretien d’explicitation. Soins Cadres, Hors série pédagogie, vol. 18.



Borde F. (2016). Entre transcendantal formel et empirique: l’enjeu phénoménologique de la référence au singulier. Journée de discussions autour du volume Psychologie et psychologisme, coordonnée par Natalie Depraz et Maria Gyemant. Archives Husserl, ENS Paris, vendredi 12 février 2016.

Updated on 17/01/2017

A gap in Nisbett and Wilson's findings?

A first-person access to our cognitive processes


Claire Petitmengin (Institut Mines-Télécom - Télécom EM and Archives Husserl - ENS Paris), Anne Remillieux (Institut Mines-Télécom - Télécom EM), Béatrice Cahour (CNRS and Institut Mines-Télécom - Télécom ParisTech), Shirley Carter-Thomas (Institut Mines-Télécom - Télécom EM et CNRS - LATTICE) 



Renault, France



finished in 2013



One of the most quoted papers in the field of social science, written in 1977 by Nisbett and Wilson, draws from a series of experimental studies the conclusion that we have no introspective access to our decision-making processes. In 2006, a Swedish team tried to verify these conclusions by carrying out the following experiment: the experimenter shows the participants two pictures of women’s faces and asks them to choose which one they find the most attractive. Immediately after, he shows the chosen picture again and asks them to explain the reasons for their choice. In 79,6%  of cases, participants provide an explanation for the choice they did not make,

We have reproduced this protocol, while accompanying some subjects in the description of their choice by a micro-phenomenological interview: the subjects who were assisted detected the manipulation in 80% of cases. Our experiment confirms Nisbett and Wilson's findings that we are usually unaware of our decision processes, but goes further by showing that we can access them through specific mental acts, which may be fostered by an expert guidance.



Petitmengin C., Remillieux A., Cahour B., Carter-Thomas S. (2013). A gap in Nisbett and Wilson’s findings? A first-person access to our cognitive processes. Consciousness and Cognition 22 (2), 654–669.

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