Introspection and Quantified Self

Hi everyone! Glad to be on the forum.

I’m putting together an article on QS from a different angle, linking the art, science and tech of understanding oneself - specifically I’m exploring the introspection vs. observation debate in psychology and philosophy. Introspection being “being able to look into oneself”, which philosophers claim exists, and psychologists claim there is no such thing. It’s a very interesting topic and I was wondering if we can get deep here for a minute…

Imagine that the more and more data we collect about ourselves, the more self-monitoring tools we have and the more insights we get out - we’ll eventually find out so much information about our minds and bodies that we know more about ourselves through QS data than through self-awareness. How does this affect you as a person?


Hello @basharov, interesting topic indeed !

You say that psychologists claime that there is no such thing as “being able to look into oneself”. I don’t think that is correct, influential psychologists such as Carl Jung have defined notions such as the “Self”, “The Inconscious” and their therapy is based on helping the patient better “look into himself”.
Therefore to make progress on this debate, I think its necessary to be more specific about the philosophical and psychological theories you are describing, to see where the opposition lies.

On your second point, I personally believe that quantifiable data can help us get a better understanding of oneself and that’s the primary reason I’m interested in it (as most people here probably?), but many of what defines us is hardly measurable, and its counterproductive or I would even say delusional to think that we can get a complete picture of ourselves through this incomplete “tool”. It is an incomplete tool serving self-awareness, there is no opposition to be made here. This is my opinion.


Thanks for chiming in @srbd! With regard to the “self” and introspection, the debate is more around the way in which we do this, with an argument that even being able to ‘look into oneself’ is simply another form of observation rather than some deep sixth sense which gives us direct access to our mental state. However this is all very abstract…

many of what defines us is hardly measurable, and its counterproductive or I would even say delusional to think that we can get a complete picture of ourselves through this incomplete “tool”

True, we can’t have a truly quantified self when there’s parts of ourselves that can’t be quantified. I see some people that collect seemingly obscure data hoping it will be ‘useful some day’ (myself included). It’s normal to want to have a more complete picture of yourself, but QS will not give you the big answers. Some cool insights at best, or confirming things you already should know - introspectively. Still, I’m interested in the tech and looking forward to having a ‘life dashboard’ that actually works at some point.

Happy to hear other opinions :slight_smile:

Same problem, I’ve been doing that for years :sweat_smile: I share your desire to have a life dashboard that works, and see it indeed as an assistive tool of a process that is driven by a deeper and “non quantitative” introspective effort.

Do you have links to interesting external resources discussing this debate ?

Hi @basharov @srbd

Curious and wanted to ask: what non-quantitative metrics do you think would allow for more introspection?

That’s an interesting question or proposition; that self-knowledge through data may be a more significant means of exploring one’s self, than through introspection. To be honest, I tend to hybridize my approach to self quantification, and rely on both (1) the labor that is mindfulness and (2) the ocean that is data to balance my approach to self awareness, or self knowledge.

Self quantification is perfectly suitable for improving one’s recognition, understanding and expression(s) of self. This is sort of where science and spirituality meet. But that’s a conversation for an entirely different thread herein.

I find it useful to think of self-tracking/self-research as a learning process; sometimes the learning takes place far upstream of the data analysis phase; for instance, in attempting to think through the observational protocol, it sometimes becomes clear that my overall sense of what I want to track is naive or impractical. Or I find that there isn’t as much variation as I expected. Sometimes the process of making the observations (before looking at the data) teaches me to notice things about the phenomena that I hadn’t been aware of. These are just a few ways that learning can place even
before data is very actively handled.

Late to the discussion as I’ve only recently found these forums even if I have been using QS App on my iPhone for several years.

Currently reading David Hobson’s recent book “The Expectation Effect” and on almost every page left am left wondering how the ideas he researched and discussed may affect the foundation of Quantified Self practice.