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MENTAL CONSTRUCTION David Pearson Room T10, William Guild Building [email protected] Neomentalist research provided evidence for a functional similarity between internally-generated images and externally-produced percepts.

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MENTAL CONSTRUCTION

David Pearson

Room T10, William Guild Building

[email protected]


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  • Neomentalist research provided evidence for a functional similarity between internally-generated images and externally-produced percepts.

  • This research does not directly address the issue of the role played by imagery during creative thought.

  • To what extent can novel and creative discoveries be made purely on the basis of manipulating and inspecting mental images ?


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Mental Paper Folding similarity between internally-generated images and externally-produced percepts.

  • Research by Shepard and Feng (1972) as a follow-up to work on mental rotation.


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Mental Construction of 3D Objects physical manipulation in real world.

  • Cooper (1990) examined mental construction in engineering students using isometric and orthographic views of abstract 3-D objects.


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Isometric and Orthographic physical manipulation in real world.

Projections of 3D objects

ORTHOGRAPHIC

ISOMETRIC


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Mental Construction of 3D Objects physical manipulation in real world.

  • Cooper (1990) examined mental construction in engineering students using isometric and orthographic views of abstract 3-D objects.

  • Study consisted of an orthographic compatibility problem-solving task, followed by a surprise isometric view recognition task.


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Results of Cooper (1990) physical manipulation in real world.


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  • Results indicated a significant link between performance of both tasks.

  • Probability of correctly recognising an isometric view of an object, given that the corresponding orthographic compatibility problem had been solved correctly, was 0.90

  • If the corresponding orthographic compatibility problem had been solved incorrectly, the probability of correctly recognising the isometric view fell to 0.72


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  • The work of Shepard & Feng and Cooper indicates that: presentations of isometric and orthographic views by adding an

  • people are capable of mentally constructing three-dimensional representations from two-dimensional displays

  • can then subsequently use these mentally constructed representation in further cognitive tasks.


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The Interpretation of Mentally Constructed Images presentations of isometric and orthographic views by adding an

  • Mental interpretation of images is an important aspect of creative thought; i.e., Kekule’s linking of his image of a snake to the structure of the benzene molecule.

  • Finke, Pinker & Farah (1989) explored this issue with a guided image transformation task

  • Participants mentally transformed alphanumeric and geometric symbols in response to verbally presented instructions. They were then asked to identify the final resulting pattern.


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Guided Image Manipulation Task (Finke, Pinker & Farah, 1989) presentations of isometric and orthographic views by adding an

  • Imagine a capital ‘D’

  • Imagine a capital ‘J’

  • Rotate the ‘D’ to the left by 90 degrees

  • Place the ‘D’ on top of the ‘J’

  • What object might this final pattern represent?


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  • Participants correctly carried out transformations on 59% of trials. Out of these trials they correctly identified the emergent symbol 58% of the time.

  • With partial transformations (20% of trials), emergent symbol was identified 13% of the time.

  • With incorrect transformations (19% of trials), the emergent pattern was never correctly identified.

  • Results suggest that it is only by transforming the presented symbols in the correct way that the emergent pattern can be recognised.


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  • Critics argue that the emergent pattern can be guessed purely on the basis of the presented symbols alone (Chambers & Reisberg, 1985).

  • In a second experiment Finke et al. used stimuli in which the emergent patterns only became apparent after the final transformation had been carried through

  • Participants were instructed to guess at each stage what they thought the emergent pattern could be.


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  • Imagine a capital ‘H’ purely on the basis of the presented symbols alone (Chambers & Reisberg, 1985).

  • Imagine a second capital ‘H’

  • Rotate the second ‘H’ clockwise through 90 degrees

  • Superimpose the second’H’ on top of the first

  • What object might this final pattern resemble?


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First Instruction 0% correct purely on the basis of the presented symbols alone (Chambers & Reisberg, 1985).

Second Instruction 4% correct

Final Instruction 66% of trials correctly transformed.Out of these, 47% correctly identified


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  • Finke also argues that combinatory play (or ‘mental synthesis’) requires that:

    (1) mental images can depict the geometry of a shape sufficiently well enough to allow for mental reinterpretation.

    (2) people are able to apply shape classification procedures to the information depicted by mental images.


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Creative Synthesis synthesis’) requires that:

  • One potential weakness of the guided image transformation task is that it lacks the apparent spontaneity of imagery use in real-life reasoning.

  • Constrained nature of task may also restrict participants ability to make creative reconstruals of their images.

  • Finke attempted to rectify this with creative visual synthesis task (Finke & Slayton, 1988).


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Recognisable patterns 38% of trials alphanumeric and geometric symbols, and then are given two minutes to mentally combine the symbols into any recognisable object that they can think of.

Difficult to recognise 32%

Wrong-part patterns 6%

No pattern 22%

  • In total participants produced patterns on 70% of trials, 38% of which were rated as depicting recognisable objects by independent judges.

  • Again, potential criticism is that emergent patterns could be determined from viewing the presented symbols alone, without carrying out mental synthesis.


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  • Finke & Slayton carried out second two-stage experiment. alphanumeric and geometric symbols, and then are given two minutes to mentally combine the symbols into any recognisable object that they can think of.

  • Stage 1: participants presented with groups of randomly selected symbols and given 30 seconds to try and predict what emergent patterns they could discover without actually carrying out mental synthesis.

  • Stage 2: participants completed creative synthesis task as in first experiment. Half of the symbol groups had been presented in stage 1, the other half were novel.


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Symbol groups used in Stage 1 alphanumeric and geometric symbols, and then are given two minutes to mentally combine the symbols into any recognisable object that they can think of.

recognisable patterns 44%

Novel symbol groups recognisable patterns 39%

  • Participants no more likely to discover a recognisable pattern from a novel group of symbols than they were from a group that had been used in Stage 1.

  • Participants predicted 18% of the recognisable patterns they subsequently produced in Stage 2.

    An independent observer predicted 14%.


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