Coupling to Variant Information: an Ecological Account of Comparative Mental Imagery Generation

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 11 (4):899-916 (2019)
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Abstract

Action-based theories of cognition place primary emphasis upon the role that agent-environment coupling plays in the emergence of psychological states. Prima facie, mental imagery seems to present a problem for some of these theories because it is understood to be stimulus-absent and thus thought to be decoupled from the environment. However, mental imagery is much more multifaceted than this “naïve” view suggests. Focusing on a particular kind of imagery, comparative mental imagery generation, this paper demonstrates that although such imagery is stimulus-absent, it is also stimulus-sensitive. Exhibiting stimulus-sensitivity is sufficient for a process to qualify as coupled to the environment. The notion of variant coupling is explicated as the coupling of a cognizer’s perceptual system to variant environmental information. By demarcating the categories of stimulus-absent and stimulus-sensitive cognition, and variant and invariant coupling, this paper expands the conceptual apparatus of action-based theories, suggesting not only a way to address the problem that comparative mental imagery generation presents, but perhaps a way to account for other forms of imagery too.

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Matthew Sims
Ruhr-Universität Bochum

References found in this work

Causation.David Lewis - 1973 - Journal of Philosophy 70 (17):556-567.
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.Marc H. Bornstein - 1980 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 39 (2):203-206.

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