What Is Introspection? Psychology, Definition, And Applications

Updated October 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Every day people think about their feelings and emotions, but there is a way to do this that brings focus, purpose, and a better understanding of self-reflection and self-awareness. The introspection concept explores inner thoughts and feelings following a unique structure of analysis. Initially, it was a technique used as an experimental form of exploring emotions in detail. As the concept was further researched, it became a formalized approach in psychology to assist others that would encourage a better understanding of one’s thoughts and actions from the past. Introspection is significant because it promotes and sustains a positive direction for mental growth and development.

Introspection Defined

Do You Consider Yourself An Introspective Person?

Introspection explores access one has to one mental state of mind. Psychologist Wilhelm Wundt developed the technique. His studies developing the technique included helping others through self-observation of their thoughts. He trained people to analyze context within personal opinions objectively. The concept features a common element people do, which is examining their ideas. With introspection techniques, psychology experts help people emotionally engage in events from the past to understand their thought processes related to feelings they experienced. The aspect looks at how the mind processes emotions and memories to help one understand their meanings. It gives another look at how people are affected by things around them through a precise, structured process.

In modern terms, the concept helps people know themselves by uncovering values deep within and deciding how to use them. It is allowing you to become an expert on your emotions with professional guidance. Research on the concept shows evidence it encourages people to make better decisions in life, leading to fulfillment and a sense of purpose. Even when dealing with uncertainty, techniques practiced and applied to ensure that you stay on track to meet personal goals. It may lead to improved relations with others at home and work while enhancing mental health. Some see this as a way of uncovering inner strength and power, allowing better control of processing thoughts.

The practice was widely used throughout the United States and Europe after Wundt’s discovery, which included 40 years of research. The method is abandoned in parts of the world. Researchers continue to explore ways of self-reporting measures to understand thought pattern processes and perceptions of introspecting subjects. Some see introspection as a tool to observe a person’s thoughts, while others feel it is valuable spiritually when observing feelings of one’s soul.

Introspection Concerns

Wundt and other psychologists studying the technique have faced criticisms about the concept. Some experts feel the process itself may influence changes in how a person truly feels during the experience. For instance, when providing information about your feelings, chances are you have to stop and think about it for a moment. During this time, the experience is being changed and even the feeling itself because the thought process is interrupted to give feedback on what one is feeling.

Associated techniques with introspection are credited for advancing scientific aspects of psychology. However, experts have argued some areas of the method lacked scientific sufficiency when supporting certain forms of behavior. Additionally, the concept presented other concerns, including:

  • Responses by experts observing a person’s feelings may not be consistent.
  • The technique may benefit only certain groups of people, such as adults, instead of children.
  • Some experts think there are limitations with introspection in complex situations such as developmental, learning, mental, or personality disorders.

Elements of the concept continue to be explored and debated. Along with other observers, Wundt broke down their observations of people’s feelings into three categories: affection, images, and sensations. Concerns from theorists believe the technique doesn’t put enough focus on how thoughts are organized. Therefore, critics feel aspects of behavior should be the primary focus defined as scientific psychology.

The Validity of the Technique

The research method for this concept relies on a person’s thoughts and feelings. Also known as a self-report, other forms of psychology rely on the same elements, except some think one may distort their details if they feel undesirable. While it brings feelings expressed to the surface, some experts believe the feelings are intensified or changed without introspecting. It may encourage people to communicate choices made in a situation but not justify why they were not satisfied with the decision.

Researchers feel people understand their attitudes better than following the reasons for them. For instance, if you have a group of people who give their opinion about a product, and each offered their justifications of why they like or dislike it. People may have personal preferences even though it is the same product. The concept, in this case, allows people to introduce assumptions about their thoughts, but they may not be completely accurate in doing so. Experts believe there are valid areas introspection touches when exploring personal behaviors but feel more development is necessary for cognitive processes used within the technique. In general, the method gives insight into experiences from events instead of understanding the cause. Few believe using multiple methods may offer better results instead of using just one.

How Introspection Explores Consciousness

Psychologically, it examines thought processes related to thinking, learning, perception, problem-solving, and analyzing dreams as a method. During the late 1800s, Wundt and other observers relied on this method often to understand levels of consciousness of the mind. Wundt had a unique interest in understanding what a person is thinking, feeling, and perceiving during specific experiences in time. Visual and auditory elements such as light and sound were also introduced to understand other aspects of one’s experience,

The studies behind the method present more intricate reflections of what a person experienced. Others observed along Wundt were aggressively trained on examining, describing, and reporting related senses of the experience described by those they were studying. The questioning line involved systematic and avoided bias while preventing outside influence from affecting how the experience was reported. Those that participated in the study were assumed to be in good health, alert, and free of distractions while giving personal self-reports.

The Self-Reflection Connection

The Greek philosopher Plato has influenced developments of introspection, along with the aspect of human self-reflection. His beliefs included not just reviewing one’s thoughts but being thorough in examining how they appear within us. Introspection is exercised by the human ability to learn more about one’s nature and purpose. Philosophy of the mind, self-awareness, and consciousness also play essential roles in self-reflection. Mental exercises may include introspection and self-reflection to help people find value within personal mistakes to encourage spiritual growth.

Some feel effective ways to engage in these aspects may reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. An element to note is that it is suggested to avoid becoming obsessed with experiencing certain beliefs but instead stay focused on answering questions or getting to the bottom of what is causing negative emotions. Questions asking why may help someone understand personal limitations created from their feelings. Questions asking what fuels curiosity and positivity about future results. While there are ways to apply such exercises to gain personal reflection of one’s feelings, it is crucial to stay open to similar concepts that may open doors to understanding how your thoughts engage in behaviors expressed.

Why Many Suggest That Introspection is Crucial

Introspection may help you realize the capabilities to deal with the challenges you thought were impossible. Exploring your thoughts may be done differently, from analyzing relationships to how to meet goals in life. Asking questions about yourself is the starting point of realizing what you can do and why some things have a stronger effect on you than others. Using a concept such as introspection and other useful mental health tools may help achieve a productive approach to creating a balanced lifestyle.

Do You Consider Yourself An Introspective Person?

BetterHelp counselors can help you create an account of introspection insights uncovered and mirrored back to you during the therapeutic process. It may also help you identify communication styles and patterns of behavior. Introspection is a philosophy of mind where one can figure out how they feel and tackle the mind-body problem. This might be easier with an online therapist because you don’t have to worry about getting yourself to an office on time and at a time that’s inconvenient for you. Below you’ll find some reviews of BetterHelp’s counselors from people interested in personal growth through introspection.

Counselor Reviews

“Super awesome and really nice person. The questions she has asked often lead me to a lot of introspection where I quickly realize what I should have done or should have been thinking.”

“Gail is kind and compassionate. Remarkably astute, I find that she offers “tough, thinking questions.” These questions often offer another perspective that acts as a catalyst for more introspection. She does not so much lead as she supports and makes herself malleable to the direction of the sessions. She has an endearing way of speaking, and the smile travels well in her voice. Time with her has been incredibly productive. She has always been upfront (I feel), which ties in well with sincerity. She gets excited with you, and having someone who can do that is very valuable. Overall, a positive addition! If you are feeling hesitant about attempting therapy, she is an excellent bridge for that. She has a warm energy about her, and somehow the time flies by. She has helped me see just how valuable this work can be, and for that, I am very grateful. Thank you, Gail; you’ve been such a pleasure to work with.”


Introspection can give you insight into your own decision-making process and free you up to make informed decisions beneficial to you and others. Having a trained therapist guide you through this cognitive process can lead to a more positive quality of life. Take the first step toward discovering a deeper understanding of how you think and make better decisions that affect your life.

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