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Mental Imagery
Chapter 10
Historical Overview
3 basic ages of mental imagery:
– the prescientific period known as the
philosophic period
– the measurement period
– the cognitive and neurocognitive period
Current debate...
Is visual imagery really visual or is it
governed by general-purpose cognitive
– When I “image” a tree, the same (or very
similar) neurons/processes are activated
as when I originally saw the tree
– Representations used in imagery are not
the same as those used in real
3 Theories...
1. Pavio’s Dual-Coding Hypothesis
2. Conceptual-Propositional Hypothesis
3. Functional-Equivalency hypothesis
Paivio's Dual-Coding Theory
The basic tenant of this theory is that
information is mentally represented
either in a verbal system or a nonverbal
(analogical) system (or both).
– Each system contains different kinds of
– Each concept is connected to other related
concepts in the same system and the other
– Activating any one concept also leads to activation
of closely related concepts.
Basic Result: Paivio (1971)
Give S's a long list of pictures or words
to remember.
Later, test memory with either a recall or
recognition memory test.
– S's recall more pictures than words.
Basic Result: Paivio (1971)
1) The Imagen system has superior
memory abilities to the Logogen
2) Representing ideas in both systems is
superior to representing ideas in only
one system.
Basic Result: Paivio (1971)
which of the explanations is correct?
– Compare:
• Memory for Verbalizable and Nonverbalizable
• High-Imagability words (e.g., DESK) and LowImagability words (e.g., EFFORT).
• S's instructed to form mental images of words
and S's not instructed to form images of words.
Results: Across all these situations, the
evidence consistently supports claim that
having two representations = superior memory.
Can using dual coding ever
interfere with/disrupt memory?
Schooler & Engstrom-Schooler (1990)
– S's are shown a videotaped robbery. (This
creates a visual memory.)
– S's then either:
1) Are asked to imagine the robber.
2) Are asked to describe the robber.
3) Are asked to do a series of math problems.
– S's complete a recognition memory test
picking the robber out of a lineup of eight
Results:Creating two codes can disrupt memory for
information that is only represented in one code.
Another example: Wilson & Schooler (1991)
S's tasted different kinds of strawberry
jam and either:
– thought about it's taste
– described it's taste.
S's then rated the quality of each jam.
hypothesis (Anderson and Bower)
Taking conservation approach, claimed
wasn’t scientifically viable to suggest
that memories are carried in memory
like photos
hypothesis (Anderson and Bower)
we store interpretations of events,
whether they be verbal or visual, rather
than the imaginal components.
– Anderson and Bower explain that concrete
concepts are coded by a rich set of
predicates that bind concepts together.
..."the only difference between the internal
representation for a linguistic input and a
memory image is detail of information"
hypothesis (Anderson and Bower)
Anderson and Bower’s conceptualpropositional hypothesis is a good
model theoretically
– The hypothesis does have trouble
accounting for some imaginal processes
The functional-equivalency hypothesis
was first proposed by Shepard and
Kosslyn and states that imagery and
perception are extremely similar.
– Shepard and Kosslyn introduced mental
rotation of visual stimuli in memory.
• Relationship between time required for a
specific mental rotation and the actual degrees
of rotation
Visual images reflect internal
representations that operate in a way
that is analogous to the functioning of
the perception of physical objects.
Neurocogntitive Evidence
Many studies haven been done to
obtain neurocognitive evidence for
supporting the concept of mental
– People who have damage to the left
hemisphere have trouble with verbal
memory while patients with damage to the
right hemisphere have trouble with visual
findings support dual-coding hypothesis
Neurocogntitive Evidence
– Different areas of brain are associated with
different cognitive tasks
– visual imaginal tasks and vision seem to be
situated in similar locations in the brain
– visual imaginal tasks, which require
associative knowledge, activate brain
regions affiliated with memory and vision
Support functional-equivalency
cognitive map
a map that allows us to navigate
through the world.
– Thorndyke and Hays-Roth (1982) found
two types of knowledge that are used in
moving about from day to day:Route
Knowledge and Survey Knowledge.
cognitive map
Route knowledge is the knowledge that
we draw on for getting around.
– If I gave someone directions to my house, I
am using Route Knowledge.
Survey Knowledge is knowledge that
allows us to know understand the
general spatial relationships that are
– I could tell the person that my house was
south of the University.
cognitive map
Mental maps tend to be biased by the
person drawing them.
– In a map drawn by a student in Australia,
the Australian continent was at the top of
the map instead of the bottom.
Synesthesia: The Sound of
Synesthesia is a condition where
sensations usually experienced in a
single modality are experienced in two
– This conditiongive psychologists some very
interesting data and research.
– Some examples of synesthesia are
receiving an auditory signal or sensation in
a visual modality, where it obviously
shouldn’t be.
Synesthesia: The Sound of
Seeing the words to OVER THE RAINBOW, a form of synesthesia.