This commentary focuses on four major points: (1) “Tacit knowledge” is not a complete explanation for imagery phenomena, if it is an explanation at all. (2) Similarities and dissimilarities between imagery and perception are entirely consistent with the depictive view. (3) Knowledge about the brain is crucial for settling the debate. (4) It is not clear what sort of theory Pylyshyn advocates.
Much indirect evidence supports the hypothesis that transformations of mental images are at least in part guided by motor processes, even in the case of images of abstract objects rather than of body parts. For example, rotation may be guided by processes that also prime one to see results of a specific motor action. We directly test the hypothesis by means of a dual-task paradigm in which subjects perform the Cooper-Shepard mental rotation task while executing an unseen motor rotation in (...) a given direction and at a previously learned speed. Four results support the inference that mental rotation relies on motor processes. First, motor rotation that is compatible with mental rotation results in faster times and fewer errors in the imagery task than when the two rotations are incompatible. Second, the angle through which subjects rotate their mental images, and the angle through which they rotate a joystick handle are correlated, but only if the directions of the two rotations are compatible. Third, motor rotation modifies the classical inverted V-shaped mental rotation response time function, favoring the direction of the motor rotation; indeed, in some cases motor rotation even shifts the location of the minimum of this curve in the direction of the motor rotation. Fourth, the preceding effect is sensitive not only to the direction of the motor rotation, but also to the motor speed. A change in the speed of motor rotation can correspondingly slow down or speed up the mental rotation. (shrink)
A particular research program on mental imagery is defended against certain sweeping methodological criticisms that have been advanced against it. The central claim is that the approach taken in the program is an appropriate response to the problem of doing empirical research in a theoretical vacuum, and that when it is viewed in this perspective, the criticisms are not merely unfounded, they are inappropriate. The argument for this claim is developed by first describing the program and then analyzing the methodological (...) rationale behind it. (shrink)