A blog about problems in the field of psychology and attempts to fix them.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Abduction and the myth of introspection

First question from most people: What the heck is abduction? 

There are many answers to that question. 

My preferred (at the moment): Abduction is that it's that thing scientists do that definitely isn't deduction or induction, but which has been mindbogglingly successful over the last few hundred years.

Nick's preferred answer, and figure 1 in the paper: 

That's a teaser, and here is the abstract: 
Much of the history of psychology can be understood as a debate over what we do when we attribute psychological states to ourselves and to others. In the classic Cartesian view, those activities are quite distinct: We engage an infallible ability—introspection—when examining our own psychological states, but merely speculate when trying to identify the psychological states of others. The American Philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce dedicated several early papers to a critique of the Cartesian approach. He concluded that attempts at self-knowledge require the same inferential processes that we use when attributing mental states to others, and therefore incur the same logical risks. By pursing these ideas further, we intend to show that self-knowledge results from a special kind of abduction; the inference of behavior states from particular observed behaviors. Such inferences allow us to anticipate yet-unseen patterns of behavior in yet-to-be-manifested circumstances.

Full text available on ResearchGate: (PDF) Abductive Inference, Self-Knowledge, and the Myth of Introspection (researchgate.net)

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