It is often said that we can never truly know the minds of others, because we can’t “get inside their heads.” Our ability to know our own minds, though, is rarely called into question. It is assumed that your experience of your own consciousness clinches the assertion that you “know your own mind” in a way that no one else can. This is a mistake.
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Introspection, “the mind’s eye,” assures us with the greatest confidence that it is the best, in some cases the only authority on how the mind works, because we all think it has direct, first person access to itself. We’re all very confident that we just know what’s going on in our own minds, from the inside, so to speak.
Yet research in cognitive and behavioral sciences increasingly undermines that confidence. It seems hardly a week goes by without another article in the media reporting counterintuitive laboratory findings by empirical psychologists studying cognition, emotion and sensation. What makes many of these results remarkable is their consistent violation of expectations, assumptions and prejudices forced on us by our own conscious awareness….