The problem of amodal perception is the problem of how we represent features of perceived objects that are occluded or otherwise hidden from us. Bence Nanay (2010) has recently proposed that we amodally perceive an object's occluded features by imaginatively projecting them into the relevant regions of visual egocentric space. In this paper, I argue that amodal perception is not a single, unitary capacity. Drawing appropriate distinctions reveals amodal perception to be characterized not only by mentalimagery, as (...) Nanay suggests, but also by genuinely visual representations as well as beliefs. I conclude with some brief remarks on the role of object-directed bodily action in conferring a sense of unseen presence on an object's occluded features. (shrink)
When I am looking at my coffee machine that makes funny noises, this is an instance of multisensory perception – I perceive this event by means of both vision and audition. But very often we only receive sensory stimulation from a multisensory event by means of one sense modality, for example, when I hear the noisy coffee machine in the next room, that is, without seeing it. The aim of this paper is to bring together empirical findings about multimodal perception (...) and empirical findings about (visual, auditory, tactile) mentalimagery and argue that on occasions like this, we have multimodal mentalimagery: perceptual processing in one sense modality (here: vision) that is triggered by sensory stimulation in another sense modality (here: audition). Multimodal mentalimagery is not a rare and obscure phenomenon. The vast majority of what we perceive are multisensory events: events that can be perceived in more than one sense modality – like the noisy coffee machine. And most of the time we are only acquainted with these multisensory events via a subset of the sense modalities involved – all the other aspects of these multisensory events are represented by means of multisensory mentalimagery. This means that multisensory mentalimagery is a crucial element of almost all instances of everyday perception. (shrink)
It is generally accepted that there is something special about reasoning by using mental images. The question of how it is special, however, has never been satisfactorily spelled out, despite more than thirty years of research in the post-behaviorist tradition. This article considers some of the general motivation for the assumption that entertaining mental images involves inspecting a picture-like object. It sets out a distinction between phenomena attributable to the nature of mind to what is called the cognitive (...) architecture, and ones that are attributable to tacit knowledge used to simulate what would happen in a visual situation. With this distinction in mind, the paper then considers in detail the widely held assumption that in some important sense images are spatially displayed or are depictive, and that examining images uses the same mechanisms that are deployed in visual perception. I argue that the assumption of the spatial or depictive nature of images is only explanatory if taken literally, as a claim about how images are physically instantiated in the brain, and that the literal view fails for a number of empirical reasons – for example, because of the cognitive penetrability of the phenomena cited in its favor. Similarly, while it is arguably the case that imagery and vision involve some of the same mechanisms, this tells us very little about the nature of mentalimagery and does not support claims about the pictorial nature of mental images. Finally, I consider whether recent neuroscience evidence clarifies the debate over the nature of mental images. I claim that when such questions as whether images are depictive or spatial are formulated more clearly, the evidence does not provide support for the picture-theory over a symbol-structure theory of mentalimagery. Even if all the empirical claims were true, they do not warrant the conclusion that many people have drawn from them: that mental images are depictive or are displayed in some (possibly cortical) space. Such a conclusion is incompatible with what is known about how images function in thought. We are then left with the provisional counterintuitive conclusion that the available evidence does not support rejection of what I call the “null hypothesis”; namely, that reasoning with mental images involves the same form of representation and the same processes as that of reasoning in general, except that the content or subject matter of thoughts experienced as images includes information about how things would look. (shrink)
Mentalimagery (varieties of which are sometimes colloquially refered to as “visualizing,” “seeing in the mind's eye,” “hearing in the head,” “imagining the feel of,” etc.) is quasi-perceptual experience; it resembles perceptual experience, but occurs in the absence of the appropriate external stimuli. It is also generally understood to bear intentionality (i.e., mental images are always images of something or other), and thereby to function as a form of mental representation. Traditionally, visual mentalimagery, (...) the most discussed variety, was thought to be caused by the presence of picturelike representations (mental images) in the mind, soul, or brain, but this is no longer universally accepted. (shrink)
Fictions evoke imagery, and their value consists partly in that achievement. This paper offers analysis of this neglected topic. Section 2 identifies relevant philosophical background. Section 3 offers a working definition of imagery. Section 4 identifies empirical work on visual imagery. Sections 5 and 6 criticize imagery essentialism, through the lens of genuine fictional narratives. This outcome, though, is not wholly critical. The expressed spirit of imagery essentialism is to encourage philosophers to ‘put the image (...) back into the imagination’. The weakened conclusion is that while an image is not essential to imagining, it should be returned to our theories of imagination. (shrink)
Human beings have the ability to ‘augment’ reality by superimposing mentalimagery on the visually perceived scene. For example, when deciding how to arrange furniture in a new home, one might project the image of an armchair into an empty corner or the image of a painting onto a wall. The experience of noticing a constellation in the sky at night is also perceptual-imaginative amalgam: it involves both seeing the stars in the constellation and imagining the lines that (...) connect them at the same time. I here refer to such hybrid experiences – involving both a bottom-up, externally generated component and a top-down, internally generated component – as make-perceive (Briscoe 2008, 2011). My discussion in this paper has two parts. In the first part, I show that make-perceive enables human beings to solve certain problems and pursue certain projects more effectively than bottom-up perceiving or top-down visualization alone. To this end, the skillful use of projected mentalimagery is surveyed in a variety of contexts, including action planning, the interpretation of static mechanical diagrams, and non-instrumental navigation. In the second part, I address the question of whether make-perceive may help to account for the “phenomenal presence” of occluded or otherwise hidden features of perceived objects. I argue that phenomenal presence is not well explained by the hypothesis that hidden features are represented using projected mental images. In defending this position, I point to important phenomenological and functional differences between the way hidden object features are represented respectively in mentalimagery and amodal completion. (shrink)
What might a theory of mentalimagery look like, and how might one begin formulating such a theory? These are the central questions addressed in the present paper. The first section outlines the general research direction taken here and provides an overview of the empirical foundations of our theory of image representation and processing. Four issues are considered in succession, and the relevant results of experiments are presented and discussed. The second section begins with a discussion of the (...) proper form for a cognitive theory, and the distinction between a theory and a model is developed. Following this, the present theory and computer simulation model are introduced. This theory specifies the nature of the internal representations (data structures) and the processes that operate on them when one generates, inspects, or transforms mental images. In the third, concluding, section we consider three very different kinds of objections to the present research program, one hinging on the possibility of experimental artifacts in the data, and the others turning on metatheoretical commitments about the form of a cognitive theory. Finally, we discuss how one ought best to evaluate theories and models of the sort developed here. (shrink)
Traditionally, philosophers have appealed to the phenomenological similarity between visual experience and visual imagery to support the hypothesis that there is significant overlap between the perceptual and imaginative domains. The current evidence, however, is inconclusive: while evidence from transcranial brain stimulation seems to support this conclusion, neurophysiological evidence from brain lesion studies (e.g., from patients with brain lesions resulting in a loss of mentalimagery but not a corresponding loss of perception and vice versa) indicates that there (...) are functional and anatomical dissociations between mentalimagery and perception. Assuming that the mentalimagery and perception do not overlap, at least, to the extent traditionally assumed, then the question arises as to what exactly mentalimagery is and whether it parallels perception by proceeding via several functionally distinct mechanisms. In this review, we argue that even though there may not be a shared mechanism underlying vision for perception and conscious imagery, there is an overlap between the mechanisms underlying vision for action and unconscious visual imagery. On the basis of these findings, we propose a modification of Kosslyn’s model of imagery that accommodates unconscious imagination and explore possible explanations of the quasi-pictorial phenomenology of conscious visual imagery in light of the fact that its underlying neural substrates and mechanisms typically are distinct from those of visual experience. (shrink)
Mentalimagery has often been taken to be equivalent to “sensory imagination”, the perception‐like type of imagination at play when, for example, one visually imagines a flower when none is there, or auditorily imagines a music passage while wearing earplugs. I contend that the equation of mentalimagery with sensory imagination stems from a confusion between two senses of mentalimagery. In the first sense, mentalimagery is used to refer to a (...) psychological attitude, which is perception‐like in nature. In the second sense, mentalimagery refers to a mental content, which can be grasped via different attitudes. I will show that failure to acknowledge the distinction between these senses of mentalimagery has muddled philosophical discussion. This distinction brings much needed clarity to debates where sensory imagination and mentalimagery are invoked, shedding light on issues such as the nature of imagistic mental states, and the representational powers and limits of mentalimagery. I will conclude by sketching a general attitudinal account of imagination that does justice to both senses of mentalimagery, outlining a promising framework for understanding imagination. (shrink)
Hallucination is a big deal in contemporary philosophy of perception. The main reason for this is that the way hallucination is treated marks an important stance in one of the most hotly contested debates in this subdiscipline: the debate between 'relationalists' and 'representationalists'. I argue that if we take hallucinations to be a form of mentalimagery, then we have a very straightforward way of arguing against disjunctivism: if hallucination is a form of mentalimagery and (...) if mentalimagery and perception have some substantive common denominator, then a fortiori, perception and hallucination will also have a substantive common denominator. (shrink)
The objective of this article is twofold. In the first part, I discuss two issues central to any theoretical inquiry into mentalimagery: embodiment and consciousness. I do so against the backdrop of second-generation cognitive science, more specifically the increasingly popular research framework of embodied cognition, and I consider two caveats attached to its current exploitation in narrative theory. In the second part, I attempt to cast new light on readerly mentalimagery by offering a typology (...) of what I propose to be its four basic varieties. The typology is grounded in the framework of embodied cognition and it is largely compatible with key neuroscientific and other experimental evidence produced within the framework. For each imagery variety, I make some elementary suggestions as to how it may typically be cued by distinct narrative strategies. (shrink)
This paper (1) sketches a phenomenological analysis of visual mentalimagery; (2) applies this analysis to the mentalimagery debate in cognitive science; (3) briefly sketches a neurophenomenological approach to mentalimagery; and (4) compares the results of this discussion with Dennett’s heterophenomenology.
Many philosophers use findings about sensory substitution devices in the grand debate about how we should individuate the senses. The big question is this: Is “vision” assisted by (tactile) sensory substitution really vision? Or is it tactile perception? Or some sui generis novel form of perception? My claim is that sensory substitution assisted “vision” is neither vision nor tactile perception, because it is not perception at all. It is mentalimagery: visual mentalimagery triggered by tactile (...) sensory stimulation. But it is a special form of mentalimagery that is triggered by corresponding sensory stimulation in a different sense modality, which I call “multimodal mentalimagery.”. (shrink)
Mental images are one of the more obvious aspects of human conscious experience. Familiar idioms such as “the mind's eye” reflect the high status of the image in metacognition. Theoretically, a defining characteristic of mental images is that they can be analog representations. But this has led to an enduring puzzle in cognitive psychology: How do “mental pictures” fit into a general theory of cognition? Three empirical problems have constituted this puzzle: The incidence of mental images (...) has been unpredictable, innumerable ordinary concepts cannot be depicted, and images typically do not resemble things well. I argue in this paper that theorists have begun to address these problems successfully. I argue further that the critical theoretical framework involves thinking of mental images as information within a cognitive system that is fundamentally adaptive. The main outline of the adaptationist framework was evident in the school of thought known as American Functionalism, but adaptationism has formed a consistent pattern of theorizing across many authors and decades. I briefly describe Functionalism and then present seven basic claims about imagery that were common in the years before the predominance of behaviorism. I then show how these claims have reappeared and been further articulated in modern cognitive psychology. I end with a brief integration of some of the basic elements of an adaptationist theory of imagery. (shrink)
When we see an object, we also represent those parts of it that are not visible. The question is how we represent them: this is the problem of amodal perception. I will consider three possible accounts: (a) we see them, (b) we have non-perceptual beliefs about them and (c) we have immediate perceptual access to them, and point out that all of these views face both empirical and conceptual objections. I suggest and defend a fourth account, according to which we (...) represent the occluded parts of perceived objects by means of mentalimagery. This conclusion could be thought of as a (weak) version of the Strawsonian dictum, according to which “imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself”. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to argue that the phenomenal similarity between perceiving and visualizing can be explained by the similarity between the structure of the content of these two different mental states. And this puts important constraints on how we should think about perceptual content and the content of mentalimagery.
One of the most promising trends both in the neuroscience of pain and in psychiatric treatments of chronic pain is the focus on mentalimagery. My aim is to argue that if we take these findings seriously, we can draw very important and radical philosophical conclusions. I argue that what we pretheoretically take to be pain is partly constituted by sensory stimulation-driven pain processing and partly constituted by mentalimagery. This general picture can explain some problematic (...) cases of pain perception, for example, phantom-limb pain, and it also has important consequences for some recent philosophical debates about the nature and content of pain. (shrink)
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.
Neuroimaging and psychophysiological techniques have proved to be useful in comprehending the extent to which the visual modality is pervasive in mentalimagery, and in comprehending the specificity of images generated through other sensory modalities. Although further research is needed to understand the nature of mental images, data attained by means of these techniques suggest that mentalimagery requires at least two distinct processing components.
In this paper, I oppose the common assumption that visual descriptions in prose fiction are imageable by virtue of perceptual mimesis. Based on introspection as well as convergent support from cognitive science and other disciplines, I argue that visual description (and the mentalimagery it elicits), unlike narrative (and the mentalimagery it elicits), often stands in no positive relation to perceptual mimesis because it lacks a structural counterpart in perceptual experience. I present an alternative way (...) of defining the kind of mentalimagery elicited by visual descriptions, and propose a number of text variables underlying the imageability or non-imageability of any such description. (shrink)
We argue that the field has moved forward from the old debate about “analogical” versus “symbolic” processing. First, it is questionable that there is a strong a priori argument for assuming a common processing mode. Second, we explore the possibility that imagery is not a unitary mental function. Finally, we discuss the empirical basis of the involvement of primary areas.
This paper sketches a phenomenological analysis of visual mentalimagery and uses it to criticize representationalism and the internalist-versus-externalist framework for understanding consciousness. Contrary to internalist views of mentalimageryimagery experience is not the experience of a phenomenal mental picture inspected by the mind’s eye, but rather the mental simulation of perceptual experience. Furthermore, there are experiential differences in perceiving and imagining that are not differences in the properties represented by these experiences. (...) Therefore, externalist representationalism, which maintains that the properties of experience are the external properties represented by experience, is an inadequate account of conscious experience. (shrink)
Historically, mentalimagery has been defined as an experiential state - as something necessarily conscious. But most behavioural or neuroimaging experiments on mentalimagery - including the most famous ones - don’t actually take the conscious experience of the subject into consideration. Further, recent research highlights that there are very few behavioural or neural differences between conscious and unconscious mentalimagery. I argue that treating mentalimagery as not necessarily conscious (as potentially (...) unconscious) would bring much needed explanatory unification to mentalimagery research. It would also help us to reassess some of the recent aphantasia findings inasmuch as at least some subjects with aphantasia would be best described as having unconscious mentalimagery. (shrink)
Phenomenal reports were obtained immediately after participants retrieved information from long-term memory. Data were gathered for six basic forms of memory and for three forms of memory that asked for declarative information about procedural tasks . The data show consistent reports of mentalimagery during retrieval of information from the generic perceptual, recollective, motor—declarative, rote—declarative, and cognitive—declarative categories; much less imagery was reported for the semantic, motor, rote, and cognitive categories. Overall, the data provide support for the (...) theoretical framework outlined in Brewer and Pani. (shrink)
I discuss the suggestion that conscious will is an illusion. I take it to mean that there are no conscious decisions. I understand ‘conscious’ as accessible directly and ‘decision’ as the acquisition of an intention. I take the alternative of direct access to be access by interpreting behaviour. I start with a survey of the evidence in support of this suggestion. I argue that the evidence indicates that we are misled by external behaviour into making false positive and false negative (...) judgements about our own decisions. Then I turn to a challenge to this suggestion. What could we interpret in cases when there is no external behaviour? I propose the response that we interpret internal behaviour. We can understand internal behaviour as mental simulation of external behaviour, which can proceed by way of conscious mentalimagery. I argue that the proposal has the following advantages. It helps us explain more evidence than we could otherwise. It relies mostly on mechanisms that we already have reason to believe in. And it receives support from the available neurological evidence. I also suggest a way to test the proposal in future empirical research. I conclude by discussing the limitations of the proposal and its implications for the wider debates about the imagination and the will. (shrink)