Linked bibliography for the SEP article "Mental Imagery" by Nigel J.T. Thomas

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If everything goes well, this page should display the bibliography of the aforementioned article as it appears in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, but with links added to PhilPapers records and Google Scholar for your convenience. Some bibliographies are not going to be represented correctly or fully up to date. In general, bibliographies of recent works are going to be much better linked than bibliographies of primary literature and older works. Entries with PhilPapers records have links on their titles. A green link indicates that the item is available online at least partially.

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For reasons of space and convenience, the bibliography has been divided into three parts:

  • The supplement Mental Imagery Bibliography is an extensive, but inevitably incomplete, bibliography of the science and philosophy of mental imagery. Many, but not all, of the works listed in it are discussed, or at least cited, in the main text of the entry, or in its supplements. Many of the items are annotated.
  • The supplement Bibliography of cited works not about mental imagery lists works cited in the text of the entry, or in its supplements, but that themselves have little or nothing directly to say about mental imagery.
  • The Select Bibliography (below) consists only of particularly seminal or influential contributions to the imagery literature, or works that provide particularly useful reviews or collections of aspects of this literature. It does not include all the works cited in the text of the enty and supplements (for which, see the two supplementary bibliographies). Also, many well known classics of philosophy have not been included here, even though they may have a good deal to say about imagery, and may have had a significant influence on how the phenomenon is understood. Such works, together with many other relevant ones, are listed in the supplement Mental Imagery Bibliography.

Select Bibliography

Barsalou, L.W. (1999). Perceptual Symbol Systems (with commentaries and author's reply). Behavioral and Brain Sciences (22) 577–660. [Preprint available online (PDF)] Purportedly not directly about imagery, but deals with the closely adjacent topic of mental representations that are inherently perceptual in character, and argues that they are adequate to account for cognition, and explanatorily superior to “amodal” conceptions of representation (such as mentalese) For some recent supporting evidence, that also makes the link with imagery explicit, see Kan et al. (2003), and for some philosophical support see Nyíri (2001) and Prinz (2002).
Bartolomeo, P. (2002). The Relationship Between Visual perception and Visual Mental Imagery: A Reappraisal of the Neuropsychological Evidence. Cortex (38) 357–378. Reprint available online
Reviews the clinical evidence on deficits in visual mental imagery (and related deficits in visual perception) resulting from brain injury. He concludes that the evidence is not consistent with the quasi-pictorial theory of Kosslyn (1980, 1994), but favors an enactive theory. See also: Bartolomeo & Chokron (2002); Bartolomeo et al. (2013).
Bisiach, E. & Luzzatti, C. (1978). Unilateral Neglect of Representational Space. Cortex (14) 129–133. The first scientific description of the phenomenon of representational neglect: brain damaged patients who ignore things to their left also ignore the left side in their imagery.
Block, N. (Ed.) (1981a). Imagery. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Widely read collection of philosophical and theoretical pieces concerned with the analog/propositional debate..
Chambers, D. & Reisberg, D. (1985). Can Mental Images be Ambiguous? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance (11) 317–328. A striking experiment revealing an important disanalogy between mental images and pictures; but see Peterson et al. (1992), Rollins (1994), Cornoldi et al, (1996), Slezak (1991, 1995), and other listed works by Chambers and/or Reisberg for related (and sometimes conflicting) experimental results, and competing interpretations.
Descartes, R. (1664). L'Homme (Treatise of Man). (Facsimile of the original French, together with an English translation by T.S. Hall: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972. An abridged translation, by R. Stoothoff, is also available in J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff & D. Murdoch (Trans. & Eds.), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol.1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.) Descartes' mechanical theory of human physiology, including a mechanistic account of imagery closely akin to the modern quasi-pictorial theory. (The work is thought to have been written in or before 1633, but was not published until 1664.)
Finke, R.A. (1989). Principles of Mental Imagery. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Useful textbook of the experimental cognitive psychology of imagery.
Fodor, J.A. (1975). The Language of Thought. New York: Thomas Crowell. (Paperback edition: Harvard University Press, 1980) The main thesis of this very influential book is that cognition depends upon an unconscious, language-like representational system innately built into the brain, and which Fodor calls mentalese. However, it also includes a substantial (and also very influential) section on imagery arguing that imagery representations probably have a real role in cognition, but that images (which he takes to be picture-like) cannot be unambiguously meaningful in their own right, and therefore must derive their semantics from mentalese: they function in cognition as "images under descriptions."
Galton, F. (1880). Statistics of Mental Imagery. Mind (5) 301–318. Reprint available online
Pioneering individual differences survey of imagery vividness. Galton claims to have found that many intellectuals, and scientists in particular, have very weak visual imagery, or even lack it altogether. However, a recent study by Brewer & Schommer-Aikins (2006) persuasively refutes this claim.
Holt, R.R. (1964). Imagery: The Return of the Ostracised. American Psychologist (19) 254–266. Influential account of the historical vicissitudes of the concept of imagery in scientific psychology.
Intons-Peterson, M.J. (1983). Imagery Paradigms: How Vulnerable are They to Experimenter's Expectations? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance (9) 394–412. A salutary demonstration of the effects of demand characteristics on imagery experiments. Experimental results can be significantly distorted by even very subtle cues as to the experimenters' expectations.
Kosslyn, S.M. (1980). Image and Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Detailed statement and defence of the computational version of quasi-pictorial theory of imagery, which has been extremely influential. See Kosslyn (1981) and Kosslyn, Pinker, Smith, & Shwartz (1979) for more concise accounts.
Kosslyn, S.M. (1994). Image and Brain: The Resolution of the Imagery Debate. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Updates the quasi-pictorial theory with an account of how imagery may be neurologically embodied. For a more concise (and more recent) account see Kosslyn, Thompson & Ganis (2006) or Kosslyn (2005).
Kosslyn, S.M., Thompson, W.L., & Ganis, G. (2006). The Case for Mental Imagery. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
A relatively succinct and accessible defense of the quasi-pictorial theory of imagery.
Luria, A.R. (1968). The Mind of a Mnemonist. (Translated from the Russian by L. Solotaroff.) New York: Basic Books. Seminal case study of a “hyper-imager”.
Morris, P.E. & Hampson, P.J. (1983). Imagery and Consciousness. Academic Press. London. A textbook that usefully summarizes much experimental evidence. Covers quasi-pictorial, description, and enactive theories, and attempts a theoretical synthesis.
Neisser, U. (1976). Cognition and Reality. San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman. Proposes one of the most fully developed versions of the enactive theory of imagery: an alternative to both pictorial/analog and propositional/descriptional accounts.
Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and Verbal Processes. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. (Republished in 1979 – Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.) Classic statement of the Dual Coding (imaginal and linguistic) theory of memory and mental representation, with much empirical evidence on the mnemonic effects of imagery. Paivio's work (together with Shepard's mental rotation experiments) probably played the key role in re-establishing imagery as a scientifically wothwhile topic of investigation in cognitive science, aftre the era of Behaviorist neglect of the phenomenon.
Paivio, A. (1986). Mental Representations: A Dual Coding Approach. New York: Oxford University Press. A major restatement and defense of Dual Coding Theory.
Perky, C.W. (1910) An Experimental Study of Imagination. American Journal of Psychology (21) 422–52. A famous study showing that mental images can be confused with (faint) percepts under certain, special conditions. See Segal (1971, 1972) for a modern partial replication.
Prinz, J.J. (2002). Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and their Perceptual Basis. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Defends an empricist theory of concepts, closely akin to the traditional image theory of ideas, but updated in the light of cognitive science. Strongly influenced by the work of Barsalou (1999).
Pylyshyn, Z.W. (1973). What the Mind's Eye Tells the Mind's Brain: A Critique of Mental Imagery. Psychological Bulletin (80) 1–25. A seminal attack on pictorial accounts of imagery. This was the opening salvo of the infamous analog/propositional dispute.
Pylyshyn, Z.W. (1981). The Imagery Debate: Analogue Media Versus Tacit Knowledge. Psychological Review (88) 16–45. A restatement of the propositional/descriptional account of imagery that squarely confronts the empirical arguments brought by pictorialists.
Pylyshyn, Z.W. (2002a). Mental Imagery: In search of a theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences (25) 157–182 (–237 including commentaries and reply). Reprint available online
A major restatement and updating of Pylyshyn's conceptual and empirical objections to pictorial theories of imagery, including a critique of recent claims (e.g. Kosslyn, 1994; Kosslyn, Pascual-Leone et al., 1999) that neuroscientific evidence suports pictorialism.
Richardson, A. (1969). Mental Imagery. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Despite its age, this remains a useful literature review, especially because it covers not only mental imagery in the narrower sense in which the term is usually used today (what Richardson calls “memory imagery”), but also other more or less distantly related quasi-perceptual phenomena such as eidetic imagery, hypnagogic imagery, hallucinations, and after-images.
Richardson, J.T.E. (1999). Mental Imagery. Psychology Press: Hove, U.K. Useful textbook concisely surveying the cognitive psychology of imagery, including individual differences research.
Ryle, G. (1949). The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson. Chapter 8 contains a seminal critique of pictorial accounts of imagery and questions the traditional concept of imagination as the image producing faculty. It is suggested that both imagination and imagery are conceptually related to pretending.
Sartre, J.-P. (1940). The Psychology of Imagination. (Translated from the French by B. Frechtman, New York: Philosophical Library, 1948.) Presents Sartre's own positive theory of imagery and imagination. Argues for the intentionality of imagery, and holds that mental images are not inner objects.
Sheikh, A.A. (Ed.) (2003). Healing Images: The Role of Imagination in Health. Amityville, NY: Baywood.
A collection of essays on therapeutic techniques that make use of imagery.
Shepard, R.N. (1978b). The Mental Image. American Psychologist (33) 125–137. Probably Shepard's clearest statement of his views about the nature of imagery, its analog nature and its “second order isomorphism” to what it represents.
Shepard, R.N., Cooper, L.A., et al. (1982). Mental Images and Their Transformations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. A useful compendium of the seminal work by Shepard and his students on the mental rotation of images (and related phenomena).
Shepard, R.N. & Metzler, J. (1971). Mental Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects. Science (171) 701–703. A classic psychological experiment. The first, most striking, and best known of the mental rotation studies. Together with the work on the mnemonic effects of imagery (see Paivio, 1971) this played a major role in re-inspiring scientific interest in imagery research.
Slezak, P. (1995). The “Philosophical” Case Against Visual Imagery. In P. Slezak, T. Caelli, & R. Clark (Eds.) Perspectives on Cognitive Science: Theories, Experiments and Foundations. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. An empirically well informed philosopher makes the cognitivist case against pictorialism. A valuable supplement to Pylyshyn's arguments.
Thomas, N.J.T. (1999b). Are Theories of Imagery Theories of Imagination? An Active Perception Approach to Conscious Mental Content. Cognitive Science (23) 207–245. Preprint available online
Discusses cognitive theories of imagery in the light of their relevance to theories of imagination and its role in creative thought. Proposes and defends a "perceptual activity" (enactive) theory of imagery, arguing that is both empirically and conceptually superior to both quasi-pictorial and propositional theories.
Tye, M. (1991). The Imagery Debate. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. This fills out the argument in defense of quasi-pictorial theory given earlier (Tye, 1988) and gives an admirably clear philosophical account of the analog/propositional debate and the conceptual basis of quasi-pictorialism. However, it fails to look seriously beyond this context, and is occasionally unreliable on historical and empirical issues.
Watson, J.B. (1913a). Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It. Psychological Review (20) 158–177. Reprint available online The classic “Behaviorist manifesto”. Questions the very existence of imagery. See Watson (1913b) for more detail.
White, A.R. (1990). The Language of Imagination. Oxford: Blackwell. Part 1 is an excellent, if selective, concise history of the concept of imagination in philosophy. Part 2 argues (in the teeth of the strong historical consensus detailed in part 1) that there is no conceptual connection whatsoever between imagination and imagery. See Thomas (1997a) for a critique of this view.
Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical Investigations. (Ed. G.E.M. Anscombe & R. Rhees, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe.). Oxford: Blackwell. Contains a powerful and very influential critique of the imagery theory of linguistic meaning.
Yates, F.A. (1966). The Art of Memory. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. A celebrated and seminal history of mnemonic uses of imagery, from ancient to early modern times. Argues that such techniques have had a previously unrecognized importance in the history of western intellectual life.

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