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PSYCO258 (77)
Chapter 7


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University of Alberta
Blaine Mullins

CHAPTER 7 Imagery Chapter Summary This chapter examines mental imagery and how we invoke mental pictures or sounds in order to remember and think. An interesting example of this is seen in time-space synethesia, which is the case when people experience various units of time (e.g., the months or days of the week) as a spatial pattern that only they can see. Paivio postulated the dual-coding theory, which argues that images can be represented by both verbal and non-verbal systems. Logogens are the units that are part of the first system, and imagens comprise the latter. Furthermore, Paivio maintained that words that produce a mental im- age have concreteness. In one of his experiments a high correlation was found between ratings of high concreteness and high imagery. He was also in favour of the theory that the right hemisphere controls imagery and that the left hemisphere is responsible for verbal representation, although this view was later challenged by fMRI studies that used lexical decision tasks for words of varying concreteness. Imagery has also been used as a mnemonic technique, by employing the method of loci (us- ing bizarre images of objects placed in familiar places), for instance. Distinctiveness has been strongly related to imagery. It has long been found that the most bizarre or distinctive items in a set of common items are better remembered (von Restorff effect). This phenomenon also applies to humour, with more humorous material recalled more easily. Furthermore, people can use the spe- cial places strategy; however, since it relies solely on distinctiveness, it is a less reliable aid to memory. A peculiar aspect of psychology is when a stimulus appropriate to one sense (e.g., a sound) trig- gers an experience appropriate to another sense (e.g., a colour). This is referred to as synesthesia, a condition that affects as many as one in 200 people. The most common form of synesthesia is col- oured hearing (chromesthesia). The cue that brings on such experiences is called an inducer and the response to it is named the concurrent. Synesthetic experiences improve memory for certain stimuli. A modern neurobiological explanation of such phenomena is that what starts out as transi- Cognition, Fifth Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 ent connections in the brain become permanent when a process called apoptosis (neuronal prun- ing) fails to eliminate improper connections. Considering that even thinking about concepts can lead to synesthetic experiences, people who experience chromesthesia are deemed strong synesthetes. However, even if individuals are not strong synesthetes, they might still show similar cross-modal effects. In fact, most people are weak synesthetes. An icon is “a snapshot of the information contained in a visual stimulus.” Similar to iconic im- agery, eidetic imagery also persists after the removal of the stimulus, however it stays longer than an icon does. Both eidetic imagery and synesthesia are examples of cognitive dedifferentiations, which simply means that processes for typically independent processes are fused. Although it is pos- sible that everyone may possess eidetic imagery to a certain extent, people view ordinary visual memory images differently in their vividness of visual imagery. Furthermore, despite being able to recall many details from eidetic images, these descriptions are generally no more accurate than ordi- nary memories (i.e., this does not represent photographic memory). Photographic memory as it is commonly understood likely doesn’t exist, although, there has been a single reported case of superb eidetic imagery ability. People vary in their ability to use visual imagery. This has been referred to as the vividness of visual imagery, and can be quantified using a questionnaire called the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire. In addition to perceiving images, people can imagine whole objects that move. For example, par- ticipants use mental rotation to conclude whether or not two objects are the same. Furthermore, it was found that objective distance is preserved in people’s mental images. It was then argued that categorical distance was another important factor that contributes to the time it takes to scan through a mental image. Images can also be used as anticipations. Moreover, they can show emer- gent properties whilst being constructed. It has often been maintained that imagery is an analog form of representation. In contrast to mental rotation, there are egocentric perspective trans- formations, where people imagine themselves moving in a mental environment. Finally, the spatial framework in which people perceive themselves has one vertical and two horizontal dimensions. Although there has been a great deal of research on imagery, there is some debate regarding the nature of the representation of knowledge. One theory is called propositional knowledge, in which Tolman proposed that behaviour is determined by cognitive maps. Another view is that people use an egocentric frame of reference to orient themselves. By adopting this technique, they can also use path integration. Overall, people have mental models for many situa- tions. Key Concepts Analog form of representation The hypothesis that a mental image embodies the essential rela- tionships of the thing it represents. (p. 227) Apoptosis Programmed pruning of neurons. (p. 212) Categorical distance The number of units traversed during mental scanning. For example, land- marks on an island map, rooms in a building, or counties in a state. (p. 220) Chromesthesia Coloured hearing. (p. 210) Cognition, Fifth Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 Cognitive dedifferentiation Perceptual processes that typically function independently are fused instead. (p. 214) Cognitive map (Tolman) Information from the environment is “worked over and elaborated . . . into a tentative, cognitive-like map . . . indicating routes and paths and environmental relationships.” (p. 229) Concreteness (Pavio) The degree to which a word refers to “concrete objects, persons, places, or things that can be heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.” (p. 204) Cross-modal effects The ability to appreciate that the sensations of one modality can be similar to those of another modality. (p. 214) Distinctiveness The hypothesis that the more distinctive the item, the easier it is to recall. (p. 207) Dual-coding theory (Paivio) The theory that verbal and non-verbal systems are alternative ways of representing events. (p. 203) Egocentric frame of reference People use information available from their current perspective to orient themselves. (p. 231) Egocentric perspective transformations You imagine yourself moving, while the objects in the environment remain still. (p. 228) Eidetic imagery Images projected onto the external world that persist for a minute or more even after a stimulus, such as a picture, is removed. (p. 214) Emergent properties New properties that emerge when a mental image is constructed. (p. 227) Icon The initial, brief representation of the information contained in a visual stimulus. (p. 214) Imagens (Paivio) The units containing the information that generates the mental images that make up the non-verbal system. (p. 203) Imagery (Pavio) The ease with which something such as a word can elicit a mental image. (p. 204) Images as anticipations The hypothesis that an image is a readiness to perceive something. (p. 223) Inducers and concurrents The cue that elicits a synesthet
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