09 Cognitive Psychology: Module 18




Scarince, Collin

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Module 18: Imagery Perry was on his way to visit his friend Garry who lives in a large apartment complex. Perry knew Garry's apartment number was 64, meaning the fourth unit of building 6. The buildings, however, were not arranged in a way that the numbering made sense. Perry had been to the complex before, so he knew he could rely on his long-term memory to find Garry's apartment without guessing which way to go. To do this, Perry closed his eyes and imagined the last time he visited Garry. In his mind, he could see himself turning right after entering the complex, then walking on the path between buildings 2 and 5. The path is lined with short bushes and there is a large crack in the sidewalk near the other side. Building 6 is across a section of grass. After imagining the last time Perry made this trip, he wondered how he was able to so clearly experience the visual aspects of the complex. Perry used mental imagery to do this. Mental imagery is the cognitive ability to intentionally experience sensory information that is not physically available. In Perry's example, he is using visual imagery from memory to navigate a familiar place. Mental imagery can also be used to "experience" perceptions you have not directly had (i.e., imagination). You've probably never been to the Moon, but given images, videos, and description you've encountered in the past, you might be able to reasonable imagine what it would be like. Mental imagery was already discussed by the early Greek philosophers. Socrates sketched a relationship between perception and imagery by assuming that visual sensory experience creates images in the human's mind, which are representations of the real world. Later on, Aristoteles stated that "thought is impossible without an image". At the beginning of the 18th century, Bishop Berkeley proposed another role of mental images—similar to the ideas of Socrates—in his theory of idealism. He assumed that our whole perception of the external world consists only of mental images. At the end of the 19th century, Wilhelm Wundt—the generally acknowledged founder of experimental psychology and cognitive psychology—called imagery, sensations, and feelings the basic elements of consciousness. Furthermore, he had the idea that the study of imagery supports the study of cognition, because thinking is often accompanied by images. This remark was taken up by some psychologists and gave rise to the imageless-thought debate, which discussed the same question Aristoteles already had asked: Is thought possible without imagery? In the early 20th century, when Behaviorism became the mainstream of psychology, Watson argued that there is no visible evidence of images in human brains and therefore, the study of imagery is worthless. This general attitude towards the value of research on imagery did not change until the birth of cognitive psychology in the 1950s and 60s. More recently, imagery has often been believed to play a very large, even pivotal, role in both memory (Yates, 1966; Paivio, 1986) and motivation (McMahon, 1973). It is also commonly believed to be centrally involved in visuo-spatial reasoning and inventive or creative thought.



open educational resources, cognitive psychology, imagery



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