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The documents on this page are introductory texts assume some knowledge of philosophy or psychology.
It is hoped that these texts will provide a useful starting point for anyone interested in the topic.
Some of the problems and fundamental distinctions involved in the contemporary imagery debate are introduced here. Although they lend support to the approach I take in The Nature of Visual Mental Images, these texts are intended to be informative and thought-provoking rather than argumentative.
For an academic, research-oriented, linear approach, read the texts below in sequence, starting with What are Mental Images? The on-line experiments demonstrate the empirical base that sparked the imagery debate, but some researchers will find that taking time to perform the on-line experiments is not necessary.
Readers with more casual interests often find the on-line experiments interesting -- and sometimes worrisome!
Information on citing these works
If you cite any of these materials in an academic paper, I would appreciate an e-mail. This will help me judge their usefulness and help me improve the texts.
Diagrams and texts for understanding the approach explored at this site. Except for philosophers, who may wish to read the Overview first, these are not recommended as starting points. After you have reviewed some of the material in Starting Points or Related Commentary below, come back to this area.
NOTE: The Conceptual Subway Map has links to all texts on this page, showing their interrelation according to their emphasis on experimental, traditional, cognitive, or philosophical psychology (the four separate "lines" of the subway).
What Are Mental Images?
Discusses how one might initially answer this question. Introduces notion of imagery types and need to describe our experiences.
Types of Mental Imagery
Further discussion of imagery types introduced above. Uses a chart to introduce properties of general types of mental images.
Explains why eidetic images are problematic for psychology. Explains how they are to be differentiated from after-images.
A brief introduction to a fascinating topic. Includes a proposed break-down of subtypes, including dreams and drug-induced imagery. Closes with a brief discussion of the place of Cartesian arguments in psychology.
Explains how memory images are to be distinguished from imagination images. Very brief, since it is assumed that everyone is familiar with memory images.
Imagination images are often thought to be essential to creativity. Einstein's use of an imagination image is probably the most famous example of this century. Imagination images differ from memory images in a specific way.
Projected images are included in the inventory of types for philosophic reasons. Inspired by Wittgenstein's discussion of what it is like to imagine an object in physical space.
Along with memory images, the most controversial and least understood kind of mental imagery. Brief introduction lists some of the central historical problems.
Intentionality and Mental Phenomena
Defines intentionality and explains how this applies to mental phenomena in general.
Definition and Approach of Traditional Psychology
Attempts to define mental images as they are understood by traditional psychology.
Definition and Approach of Cognitive Science
Shows how contemporary cognitive science attempts to understand mental images. Indicates the current disagreement in cognitive science on the issue of the status of mental images.
Explains briefly why Pylyshyn argues against Kosslyn and why he regards mental images as the epiphenomenal results of other processes.
Difficulties for the Theory of Intentionality
Quick outline of two theories of intentionality: the object theory and the content theory. States why both need a full defence and detailed exposition.
Mental Images and Content: Philosophic Approach
Explains why many philosophers think mental images have no content.
Mental Images and Content: Empirical Psychology
Explains why contemporary psychology can develop arguments for content in mental images.
Introduction to Pictorialism
Introduction to Pictorialism. Kosslyn and others have argued that mental images have distinctively pictorial properties in cognitive processes. Uses interesting examples to illustrate how this idea can be developed.
Introduction to Descriptivism
Shows how thought has been understood to be inextricably linked to language or descriptions rather than images by such diverse thinkers as Blanshard and Dennett. Gives background arguments and attempts to summarize essential claims of descriptivism.
Introduction to the Contemporary Imagery Debate
Shows how the fundamental dispute between descriptive and pictorial accounts arises from fundamental problems in human memory.
Richardson: In Defense of the Imagism of Traditional Psychology
Introduces the work of Alan Richardson and suggests why the approach of traditional psychology may have advantages over the other contemporary approaches based on cognitive science.
Special Text: Stating the Homunculus Problem
Slide Show: Image Processing in the Visual Arts - Entering the Imagosphere. Slide show with sound commentary. Note: This is a prototype; the "speech" is more or less spontaneous. There are a few cases where the last item on the slide is not fully explained. I was limited to 60 seconds per slide. The sound starts simultaneously with each slide. Disable popup blockers if you do not hear sound. Feedback welcome for this experimental talk.
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