Best way to Study the Mind?

Early psychological science emphasised a lot more on introspection as the way of examination of one's own conscious thoughts and feelings and thus learning about the truth of our minds. However, recently there is lot more reliance on neuroscience as the means. But is that a reliable way to study mind?

In the definition of science, it was established that legitimate science must be empirical, based on observations or experiences of nature. Is that not what we do when we are mindful of our own present feelings, perceptions, and thoughts in our own mind in an objective way?

However, psychologists are now trying to study other people’s brain by using a high technology brain activity scanners, by attaching EEG electrodes to people’s brain or testing for hormone spikes in blood, etc. New studies are getting released regularly which are using this data as the basis to make conclusions about how the mind works. Even though this data has been quite useful for our purpose of studying physiology. However, to study human mind by looking at states of brain or bodily reactions, all we can do is co-relate experiential changes with changes in brain states. But is that reliable way to study mind? What for example, is equanimity, which is a state of mind will have measurement results like on physiological level? If some one tells the doctors that they are fearful, yet equanimous, the doctors wont be able to see same results in brain scan, their cortisol wont be rising or sweat on palms wont be detected, etc. So would the conclusion be that the person is not fearful? Psychologists have to rely on first hand experiential data at least in case the data cannot be co-related.

Since psychology (study of the mind) is not same as neuroscience (study of the brain) or how body reacts as the resultant of activity in mind, the conclusions are not reliable especially when lot of 'inference' is involved.

In some of the very recent studies though, I think they have realised that the brain is easier to mould than they had thought. So when we fed different data (thoughts, etc) into our mind, the brain is changed accordingly. This shows that mind is the forerunner and bodily (including brain) changes follow the change in mind. This also makes us wonder if to some extent labelling mental patients is working to their disadvantage. Often once these patients get the label, they identify themselves with it, which robs them of the power and confidence to trust in themselves that they can change their mind. The medications works on body not on mind. Often, when the medication is stopped, the symptoms return back if the patient didn't work on his/her mind and completely relied on meditation for easing the symptoms temporarily.

Therefore, in my opinion, the best way and the only way to study our mind is in fact through meditation, mindfulness, investigation / introspection.

My personal experience in this context: When I am angry; I often experience that as soon as I become mindful and contemplate on wholesome thoughts, my mind is able to let go of anger and suddenly gets totally calm and joyous, however, my body continues to produce symptoms of anger - continuing with increased heart beat, etc. Body gets its signals to stop much later!  It's funny to witness that by the time I am already smiling with joy my body hasn't got the signal to stop producing bodily reactions ;)

PS: And no there is nothing wrong with my brain which you might think is reacting slower. We can only witness this clearly when there is sudden change in mental state especially with the opposing mental state.

Other Good Article:
Article “The Trouble with Psychology”,
Author: Paul Lutus,
Online Available: