Skip to main content
Original Articles and Reviews

Exploring the Behavioral, Experiential, and Conceptual Dimensions of the Self

Introducing a New Phenomenological Approach

Published Online:

Abstract. The self has become a prominent field of research in psychology but despite its eminent first-person character, it is typically studied from a third-person perspective. Such a third-person approach is well suited to enquire into the behavioral expression of the sense of selfhood but it does not capture the core experience – the so-called qualia nature – of the self. In the current article we illuminate the challenges that a predominant third-person approach poses to an understanding of the self. We outline two levels of analysis that can complement and enrich a third-person, behavior-focused view, namely the level of experience and the level of conceptual insight. Both these additional levels are accessible via a first-person mode of enquiry and can reveal a degree of richness about the self that reaches beyond a third-person approach. We here provide a methodological justification for such a qualitative mode of enquiry, as well as a synopsis of findings from our own first-person research which involved introspective reports of the authors’ experiences during meditation on geometrical shapes, words, and short phrases.