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In this paper, we address the physical origin of self-pulsation in narrow stripe edge emitting semiconductor lasers. We present both experimental time-averaged polarization-resolved near-field measurements performed with a charged-coupled device camera and picosecond time resolved near-field measurements performed with a streak camera. These results demonstrate dynamic spatial-hole burning during pulse formation and evolution. We conclude from these experimental results that the dominant process which drives the self-pulsation in this type of laser diode is carrier induced effective refractive index change induced by the spatial-hole burning.