Monday, February 7, 2011

Kiverstein & Farina's Example of Mental Imagery

This is nicely illustrated by Chambers and Reisberg’s (1985) finding that when individuals are shown a picture of an ambiguous image for 5 seconds, a period to short for them to discover the alternative interpretation, and then asked to find the alternative interpretation through recall, subjects fail to find the alternative image.  However when asked to draw the ambiguous figure from memory they can discover a second image in what they’ve drawn. People find it impossible to find different interpretations in their mental imagery, a difficulty they don’t have when presented with a picture on a page. (Kiverstein & Farina, forthcoming, p. ???)
This is just the kind of evidence that Pylyshyn, for example, uses to argue that mental imagery is not a matter of having little pictures in the head.  It's just the kind of thing that makes A&A not really worry about Menary's appeal to mental imagery to challenge the non-derived content condition on the cognitive.


  1. Hmmm. I've speculated that:

    - the function of mental imagery is to support immediate description of the visual scene.

    - what gets stored in long-term memory are latent actions in response to stimuli

    My focus has been language: it's useful to have mental imagery so that we can immediately describe a visual scene verbally, while long term we need essentially canned verbal responses to many - arguably all - verbal inputs. This finding suggests the possibility that what gets stored in long-term memory in response to a visual scene are the actions necessary to graphically reproduce the scene with some degree of fidelity.

    So, generalizing my speculations, perhaps when we perceive something, we need the ability to describe the experience (eg, verbally or graphically), whether by effecting an immediate description of the associated mental imagery or by recalling from long-term memory the motor commands necessary to do so.

    From this perspective, while it's literally correct that there aren't "little pictures in the head", there are latent pictures in long-term memory. This seems completely analogous to the storage in the head of latent "English sentences", AKA thoughts!

    I don't yet understand the distinction between derived and non-derived content well enough to opine, but I sense that this has some relevance there as well.

  2. I have managed to find the alternative interpretation through recall twice.

    Well, some people have better memory than others.