In cognitive science, it is unclear what precisely presence (both in the sense of objecthood and immersion) refers to in lived experience. The present study addresses the research question of what the relationship between presence is and lived space. A hundred and seventeen phenomenological interviews were conducted with 14 participants. We sampled their experience in a transdiagnostic manner. That is, we observed how the experience of presence changes both in circumstances appraised as positive (e.g., sexual intimacy) and negative (e.g., psychopathology). Our grounded theory suggests that presence is a phenomenon that is comprised of all available sensory knowledge, however, it itself is not present in any one sensory modality. Presence takes the form of a disembodied sense of solidity. Our findings can be related to the notion of transmodality in contemporary qualitative phenomenology (i.e., the idea that there are some aspects of experience that can be readily translated from one sensory modality to another. Further, how presence (in its capacity as immersion) is related to lived space can shed further light on the formation of delusions, suggesting that it is based on sensory alterations rather than changes in belief. Finally, the observation that presence as it appears in lived space need not perfectly correspond to the objective situation, can elucidate extant discussion on whether presence is an amodal aspect of consciousness.


presence, lived space, first-person research, transdiagnosticism

Author Bio(s)

Aleš Oblak is a cognitive scientist at the University of Ljubljana, associated with the University Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana. He works on the intersection between neuroscience, psychopathology, phenomenology, and anthropology. He primarily focuses on subjective aspects of visuo-spatial working memory, and perceptual presence. In particular, he is working on the neurophenomenology of subjective veridicality, integrating empirical phenomenology and electroencephalography. This work includes investigating psychopathologies of presence (e.g., visual hallucinations), idiosyncratic perception (e.g., synesthesia), and anomalous experiences of space. Please direct correspondence to oblak.ales.93@gmail.com.

Asena Boyadzhieva is a cognitive scientist with a background in medica land pharmaceutical biotechnology. From 2018 to 2019 she was researching addiction, eating disorders, and dopaminergic signaling at the University Medical Center Utrecht Brain Center. In 2019, she enrolled in the Middle European Master’s Programme in Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna, where she has been investigating the role of respiratory-entrained dynamics in self-regulatory processes. Her interest in mind-body interactions is situated within the wider context of the development of selfhood. During her exchange at the University of Ljubljana, she employed a phenomenological lens to investigate perceptual presence and intersubjective space. Currently, she is working on the integration of embodied practices and well-being in an educational setting.

Jaya Caporusso is a cognitive scientist mainly interested in the philosophical and empirical investigation of the self, and neurophenomenology. She graduated from the Middle European interdisciplinary master’s program in Cognitive Science at the University of Vienna. Her thesis, titled “Dissolution experiences and the experience of the self: An empirical phenomenological investigation”, includes the study of experiences that occurred in the contexts of meditation, the use of psychedelic substances, art, nature, love and intimacy, and psychopathology. Having previously focused on empirical phenomenology, Jaya is now a master’s student at the Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School and is collaborating with the Department of Knowledge Technologies at the Jožef Stefan Institute, working on topics centered on text mining and natural language processing. Her aim is to integrate computational methods into a neurophenomenological framework.

Borut Škodlar is Head of the Unity for Psychotherapy at the University Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana and Associate Professor of psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His clinical and academic interests center on phenomenological psychopathology and psychotherapy of psychotic states and disorders (schizophrenia), phenomenological analyses of emotional and existential processes, and interconnections between spiritual quests, like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and mental disorders, particularly interconnections between psychotic and mystical states. Some of his recent publications include: “EAWE: Examination of Anomalous World Experience” (with L. A. Sass et al.,

Psychopathology, 2017); “Multiple Orientations within the Worldviews in Psychosis and Mysticism: Relevance for Psychotherapy” (with J. Ciglenečki, Discipline Filosofiche, 2017); “Toward a Phenomenological Psychotherapy for Schizophrenia” (with M. G. Henriksen, Psychopathology, 2019); “Exploring Tranquility: Eastern and Western Perspectives” (with V. Ringgaard Christoffersen et al., Frontiers In Psychology, 2020); “Expressing Experience: The Promise and Perils of the Phenomenological Interview” (with E. Pienkos et al., Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2022); Meandri duše: antična filozofija in psihoterapija [Meanders of the Soul: Ancient Philosophy and Psychotherapy] (with J. Ciglenečki), Ljubljana: KUD Logos: Inštitut za študije meništva in kontemplativne znanosti, 2022.

Jurij Bon, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist, working at University Psychiatric Clinic Ljubljana. After completing his PhD studies in biomedicine at University of Ljubljana, he currently holds the position of Assistant professor at Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at University of Ljubljana and teaches at different undergraduate and postgraduate study programs at Faculty of Medicine and Department of Psychology at University of Ljubljana. He treats patients with chronic psychiatric disorders, (e.g., treatment resistant affective disorders and psychotic disorders). His main research interests focus on developing diagnostic methods and individualized treatments for psychiatric disorders, by combining descriptive and phenomenological psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience methods and novel treatments like non-invasive brain stimulation.


The authors wish to thank Sinja Miloševič for her help with preparing the manuscript.

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