RTG 2386

Extrospection. External Access to Higher Cognitive Processes

New doctoral program with fast-track option

The DFG Research Training Group (RTG) 2386 "Extrospection" will offer an interdisciplinary structured doctoral program including a fast-track option for Master's students. During the first funding period 2018–2023, a sophisticated admission process will select three cohorts of doctoral researchers and two cohorts of fast-track students. Doctoral candidates will apply with the proposal for an interdisciplinary doctoral project devoted to the problem of extrospection. When applying, applicants should also explain why they wish to conduct their doctoral research in an interdisciplinary and structured doctoral program. Upon admission, each doctoral candidate will be assigned two experts from different disciplines who will act as their primary and secondary advisors.

The core of the RTG’s curriculum will consist of specific research seminars devoted to extrospection, and a series of workshops and academic retreats. Moreover, the RTG will offer basic and advanced courses tailored to each individual student’s specific needs.

The RTG 2386 will be based at and administered by the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

What is Extrospection?

While introspection means first-person access to one’s own conscious states, extrospection stands for third-person access to another person’s conscious experience, e.g. with scientific methods or by way of mind reading. Recognizing that another person feels pain, or investigating the conscious perceptual experience of an experimental subject with an fMRI scanner are typical cases of extrospection.

What are the research goals of the Research Training Group 2386 “Extrospection”?

Conscious processes like states of emotion, perception, belief formation, or mind-reading, are of essential importance in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It is quite controversial, though, to what extent these processes can be captured adequately by means of extrospection. The reason for this controversy is that extrospective methods are restricted to indirect external evidence. Introspection, by contrast, has long been treated as privileged, given its direct first-person access to these processes.

The present project aims at a comprehensive epistemological, historical and empirical assessment of extrospection. As a working hypothesis, we assume that there is an epistemic symmetry between extrospection and introspection: What can be known by way of first-person methods can be known by way of third-person methods as well, at least in principle. While we do not deny the obvious insufficiencies of current extrospective methods, we hypothesize that they can be overcome by future scientific, methodological, and technological developments.

What is a Research Training Group?

Research Training Groups (RTG) are established by universities to promote young researchers. They are funded by the DFG for a period of up to nine years. Their key emphasis is on the qualification of doctoral researchers within the framework of a focused research programme and a structured training strategy. RTGs often have an interdisciplinary approach. The aim of RTGs is to prepare doctoral researchers for the complexities of the job market in science and academics and simultaneously encourage early scientific independence.


This page last updated on: 25 May 2018

Annette Winkelmann (Managing Director)
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Berlin School of Mind and Brain
Office: Luisenstraße 56, 10117 Berlin

Tel.: +49 30 2093-1706
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