The Changing Character of Phenomenological Psychology

By Klein, Perry; Westcott, Malcolm R. | Canadian Psychology, April 1994 | Go to article overview

The Changing Character of Phenomenological Psychology

Klein, Perry, Westcott, Malcolm R., Canadian Psychology


The methodologies of Husserlian and contemporary phenomenological psychology are compared. The Husserlian project was an a priori, descriptive, intuitive inquiry into the universal, necessary structures of intentional phenomena. Contemporary phenomenological psychology, examined here through a review of contemporary psychological articles and methodological sources, includes four types of methods: empirical, hermeneutic, traditional and experimental. Phenomenological psychology continues to attempt to describe the essences of experiences. However, in contrast to the Husserlian phase, the current stage of the movement is characterized by the inclusion of the experience of a group of subjects in addition to that of the researcher, the use of hermeneutic rather than descriptive methods, existentialism as an interpretive guide, and the use of empirical as well as a priori evidence for the generalizability of descriptions. Essentialism as a central tenet of phenomenological psychology is criticized in light of anthropological evidence.

For twenty - five years, a growing number of writers have identified a philosophical and methodological crisis in mainstream positivistic psychology (Cf. Brandt, 1982; Gergen, 1978, 1982; Giorgi, 1970; Harre & Secord, 1972; Koch, 1981; Koch & Leary, 1985; Reason & Rowan, 1981; Sampson, 1978; Sarason, 1981; Smith, 1972; Westcott, 1988; Westland, 1978). Their concerns have had to do with what they see as the stultifying and distorting effects on the study of human psychology which have resulted from the positivist, natural science perspective. Many alternatives have been proposed, some worked out in greater detail than others (Cf. Rychlak, 1975, 1977; Harre & Secord, 1972; Harre, 1974; Gergen, 1982; Giorgi, 1970; Reason & Rowan, 1981).

One alternative to mainstream psychology has been phenomenological psychology, a perspective which has much to recommend it: it has a stimulating, highly developed philosophical background (Spiegelberg, 1960); it has methods for analyzing experience, action, and textual material, including a receptive yet critical approach toward the use of self - reports (e.g., Kvale, 1983); it has a long tradition of research which has produced a body of stimulating ideas about psychological phenomena (e.g., Binswanger, 1963; Husserl, 1928/1964; Merleau - Ponty, 1962; Strasser, 1956/1977; Straus, 1966; Cf. Spiegelberg,1972).

As phenomenological psychology has evolved over the past (approximately) eighty years, the guiding theory of the movement has received several interpretations and has been extended in a number of different ways. A reader approaching phenomenological psychology for the first time might be struck by the diversity of methods which present themselves within this movement. What are these methods, and in what sense is each phenomenological? This paper will examine these questions by comparing the methods of early and contemporary phenomenological psychology While there are several branches of contemporary phenomenological psychology, the community associated with the psychology department of Duquesne University invites close examination because for the past two decades it has dominated the phenomenological movement in North America. The Journal of Phenomenological Psychology (hereafter JPP) and The Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, the two major periodicals of the movement, are published there, and a large proportion of the authors and editors of these journals are Duquesne faculty or graduates. The serial Duquesne Studies in Phenomenological Psychology and many texts on the topic - in fact, the vast majority of phenomenological research in North America - are published by The Duquesne University Press. Duquesne has become the "capital of phenomenological psychology in the New World" (Misiak & Sexton, 1973, p. 62).

Just as this orientation has many branches, it also has many roots; the writings of Edmund Husserl have been selected as the point of departure for the present discussion of methods in phenomenological psychology for several reasons. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

The Changing Character of Phenomenological Psychology


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.