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A Dance Between the Reduction and Reflexivity: Explicating the "Phenomenological Psychological Attitude"

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This article explores the nature of "the phenomenological attitude," which is understood as the process of retaining a wonder and openness to the world while reflexively restraining pre-understandings, as it applies to psychological research. A brief history identifies key philosphical ideas outlining Husserl's formulation of the reductions and subsequent existential-hermeneutic elaborations, and how these have been applied in empirical psychological research. Then three concrete descriptions of engaging the phenomenological attitude are offered, highlighting the way the epoché of the natural sciences, the psychological phenomenological reduction and the eidetic reduction can be applied during research interviews. Reflections on the impact and value of the researcher's stance show that these reductions can be intertwined with reflexivity and that, in this process, something of a dance occurs—a tango in which the researcher twists and glides through a series of improvised steps. In a context of tension and contradictory motions, the researcher slides between striving for reductive focus and reflexive self-awareness; between bracketing pre-understandings and exploiting them as a source of insight. Caught up in the dance, researchers must wage a continuous, iterative struggle to become aware of, and then manage, pre-understandings and habitualities that inevitably linger. Persistance will reward the researcher with special, if fleeting, moments of disclosure in which the phenomenon reveals something of itself in a fresh way.

Affiliations: 1: The Open University, United Kingdom


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