Intersubjectivity in First Encounters Between Healthcare Practitioners and Patients: Micro-Phenomenology as a Way to Study Lived Experience

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This article is dedicated to the lived experience of intersubjectivity according to its different dimensions—cognitive, emotional, motor, motivational, and so forth—and their implicit features. We consider these experiential layers through first-encounter situations: What is the lived experience of meeting a new person? What implicit operations organize our experience in this type of situation? What are the microdynamics of these perceptual, cognitive, bodily operations? We address these research questions with a first-person epistemology, that is, considering subjectivity from the point of view of the subjects themselves. Our research is based on a method dedicated to the study of lived experience: the microphenomenological interview, also called the “explicitation interview.” We first provide some background knowledge on intersubjectivity and why the prism of lived experience is the best means for its study. We then describe what is lived experience and the way it can be studied with a first-person epistemology and a second-person interview method (Petitmengin, 2001, 2006; Vermersch, 1994, 2012). We present the choice that we made in order to study intersubjective experience: to consider first-encounter situations, occurring between health care practitioners and patients. Then, we describe our corpus, including data collection and analysis. Finally, from the model of semiosis developed by Vermersch, we present and discuss the descriptive categories of intersubjectivity that we highlighted and the microdynamics of health care workers’ activity.

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