Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section

About this Section


At the turn of the last century, Wundt, James and the other founders of scientific psychology took it for granted that conscious experience was the discipline's central phenomenon. In the behaviourist period (roughly the first 50 years of the 20th Century) the study and even the mention of consciousness was largely suppressed. With the reintroduction of "mind" in cognitive psychology (over the second half of the 20th Century) mention of consciousness was gradually reintroduced, usually in connection with studies of selective attention and short-term memory. It was generally assumed however that consciousness was nothing more than a form of information processing, with little attention paid to how its rich phenomenology is experienced. The effort to develop an understanding of the mind that paid closer attention to the phenomenology of consciousness gathered pace from the early 1990's, along with a growing understanding of how the methods used to understand consciousness affect the ways that we think about it. In 1994 the founders of CEP were motivated by the conviction that the study of consciousness should be fully reincorporated into mainstream psychology. Official approval for CEP was announced on April 4th 1997, during the BPS Annual Conference. The ballot attracted over 3,000 votes (about 10% of BPS membership) - an overwhelming majority in favour. The study of consciousness is now firmly re-established at the heart of the discipline. 

There are now many consciousness research groups, for example the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, the Science and Consciousness Review and the Tucson Conferences. Not only psychologists, but individuals from many different disciplines study consciousness, including philosophers, neuroscientists, physicists, engineers working in artificial intelligence, anthropologists, and artists. There are also many ancient traditions for investigating consciousness that have developed in the East. 



Journals, such as Journal of Consciousness Studies and Consciousness and Cognition have appeared (including the e-journal, PSYCHE) and there are literally hundreds of books on the topic. Some possible reading about the area is available under the Resources tab.

There are also many additional resources available on the web. Particularly useful collections of on-line papers can be found in the CogPrints archive and on the website of the philosopher David Chalmers.


Areas of interest

We invite theoretical and empirical papers, reviews, research reports, comment and news on Consciousness Studies and Experiential Psychology, for example:

Consciousness studies: conceptual and methodological issues, reconceptualisation of consciousness, biological bases of consciousness, conscious and unconscious processes, evolution of consciousness, evaluation of phenomenological accounts.

Phenomenological psychology: subjective experience, self-exploration, creativity, intuition, flow, peak experience, exceptional experience, altered states.

Positive psychology: psychology of well-being, practical psychology of living, developing wisdom, joy, psychological health, personal development, change processes, transformational psychology, evaluation of spiritual practice.

Cultural and ecological perspectives: psychology of belief and value systems, philosophies of life and their psychological consequences, role of myth, morals, aesthetics, indigenous psychologies, changing values, cross-cultural perspectives, ecopsychology.


The Committee

Chair: Jane Henry

Jane Henry was founding chair of the CEP section and organised its conferences on wellbeing, positive psychology and change. Her interests include adult development, exceptional experience and creativity. Her research includes work on long-term outcomes of personal development strategies. Her books include Parapsychology: research on exceptional experience, European positive psychology, and Creativity, perception and development. She was head of the Experiential Research Group and the Human Resources and Change Management Centre at the Open University, a founding member of the European Network for Positive Psychology, on the board of Thinking Skills and Creativity and a member of the BPS and SPR councils.

Honorary Treasurer & Website Officer: John Pegler

John Pegler has a Masters degree in Psychology from the University of East London, having formerly completed a Masters in Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge, and worked in mechanical design and quality management systems. His interests as an independent researcher are in understanding worldviews, and how they influence wellbeing and conflict in everyday life, by bringing together diverse perspectives across the human sciences, philosophies and elsewhere.

Ordinary Member: Max Velmans

Max Velmans is currently Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, Visiting Professor in Consciousness Studies, University of Plymouth, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and the Academy of the Social Sciences, and has been involved in consciousness studies for around 40 years. His main research focus is on integrating work on the philosophy, cognitive psychology and neuropsychology of consciousness, and, more recently, on East-West integrative approaches. His book Understanding Consciousness (2000) develops Reflexive Monism, a distinct analysis of consciousness that was short-listed for the British Psychological Society book award in 2001 and 2002, and is now in its second (2009) edition. He was a co-founder and, from 2004-2006, Chair of the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society, and an Indian Council of Philosophical Research National Visiting Professor for 2010-2011.

Ordinary Member: Austin Caffrey

Austin is a doctoral candidate in existential psychology at the University of Middlesex. He is researching the experiences of significant personal transitions in mid-life. Austin has undertaken client work as an employee counsellor within an NHS Hospital Foundation Trust and for general patients within a PCT setting. He also works with The Mitchell Practice, a City of London firm of specialist psychologists and is the Lead Psychologist for Feel Good Co., one of the UK's leading wellbeing consulting companies.  In this context, Austin is primarily concerned with work-related pressures and the relationship between resilience, wellbeing and performance.

Communications Officer & BPS PsyPAG Representative: Léa M. Martinon

Léa holds a Masters in cognitive psychology from the Université de Bourgogne, France. She is doing her PhD at Northumbria University on neuro-correlates of mind-wandering in an aging population. Her interests include mind-wandering experiences, mental time traveling, metaawareness, meta-cognition, mindfulness meditation and creativity.