Volume 14 · Number 2 · Pages 167–180
Meeting You for the First Time: Descriptive Categories of an Intersubjective Experience

Magali Ollagnier-Beldame & Christophe Coupé

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Context: There is little research currently on first encounters with a first-person epistemology and empirical evidence. Problem: We want to provide an answer to the question: “What is the lived experience of being with others for the first time?” Method: We rely on a first-person epistemology and a second-person method, namely the explicitation interview, a technique of guided retrospective introspection. We analyze a corpus of 24 interviews conducted after planned first encounters. We identify generic descriptive categories of subjects’ lived experience. Results: We propose a typology of the micro-moments that constitute people’s intersubjective experiences during first encounters. We identify five descriptive categories of these experiences: act, mode of intersubjectivity, sense of agency, experiential modality, and content in terms of involved persons. Implications: This article highlights what a careful investigation of subjective experience can bring to the understanding of intersubjectivity. It shows in particular how an applied phenomenology can complement and revisit less empirical philosophical approaches. It can be useful to scholars conducting third-person studies on first encounters. This study is a first step toward investigating more spontaneous encounters, occurring for instance in everyday situations or in less usual settings. We are currently analyzing interviews on first encounters between health practitioners and their clients, which will offer practical advice to both sides. Constructivist content: Constructivist approaches argue that “reality” is actively brought forth by the subject rather than passively acquired. Questioning the separation between the objective world and subjective experience, they examine how people build their own reality through their perceptions, through their experience of the world, and through their interactions with others. Our study focuses on first encounters “from within,” listening to subjects’ accounts of their lived experience. We aim to defend and promote the experiential perspective in the field of cognitive science. We therefore follow Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch, for whom the “concern is to open a space of possibilities in which the circulation between cognitive science and human experience can be fully appreciated and to foster the transformative possibilities of human experience in a scientific culture.”

Key words: Intersubjectivity, experience, first encounter, first-person epistemology, micro-phenomenology, explicitation interview, micro-experiential phenomenon, generic descriptive category


Ollagnier-Beldame M. & Coupé C. (2019) Meeting you for the first time: Descriptive categories of an intersubjective experience. Constructivist Foundations 14(2): 167–180. https://constructivist.info/14/2/167

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