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Visual Imagery PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Visual Imagery. Visual imagery. What is it? What’s it like? What’s it for?. Imagery. What shape are Snoopy’s ears? If you were driving from Gilmer to the corner and the gate was down, what would be the shortest detour? What color is a bee’s head?

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Visual Imagery

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Visual Imagery

Visual imagery

  • What is it?

  • What’s it like?

  • What’s it for?


  • What shape are Snoopy’s ears?

  • If you were driving from Gilmer to the corner and the gate was down, what would be the shortest detour?

  • What color is a bee’s head?

  • Is a leopard’s tail more than half the length of its body?


Most people report “looking” at a mental picture to answer such questions.

This implies (but doesn’t prove) that there is a type of representation that is quasi-pictorial, that is, has some of the properties of a picture.




Truth value


Not spatial


No distinct relation

No syntax

Truth value only when described


Spatial medium

Analog vs. proposition: “A ball is on a box”

How do we know that there are images?

  • Big controversy through the 1970’s

  • Basic answer is that imagery has a lot of properties that you would predict it would have if it were quasi-pictorial, that propositions wouldn’t have.

Property 1: Rotation

Same (rotated)

Or different (mirror)

Property 1: Rotation

Time to answer question related to angle of rotation: easy to interpret as imaging the pieces rotating.

Property 2: Size zooming

Property 2: size zooming

Property 3: Scanning

Property 3: Scanning

Property 4: Brain locus

Visual centers

Language centers

What’s imagery like?

In many ways, it’s like perception

(but in some ways not)

Early perceptual processes

Visual experience “screen”

Memory representations

Confusability (Perky, 1910)

Perky (1910)

Like perception: Confusability (Perky, 1910)

People confused imagery and perception.

Like perception: interference

Atwood, 1971

High imagery: “A nudist devouring a bird”

Low imagey: “The intellect of Einstein was a miracle”

Visual interfering task: subjects see a 1 or 2 on a computer screen & must say which digit not appear

Auditory interfering task: subjects hear a “1” or “2” and must say the other digit.

Control group: no task

Atwood results

visual interfering task = big effect on high imagery pairs

auditory interfering task = big effect on low imagery pairs.

Like perception: separation of “what” and “where”



color questions (“what color is the outside of a pineapple?”

size comparisons (“which is bigger, a popsicle or a pack of cigarettes?”)

Letter rotation

Mental scanning

Spatial Imagery

Visual imagery:

Damage to ventral impairs visual imagery, damage to dorsal impairs spatial imagery

Imagery not like perception: distortions

  • Which city is further North, Rome or Philadelphia?

  • Which city is further East, Chicago, or Minneapolis?

  • Which city is further South, Mexico City or Panama City?

  • Which city is further west, Reno, or San Diego?

Imagery not like perception: distortion

Imagery not like perception: distortion

65% of Bay Area students got it wrong


San Francisco

San Diego

Imagery not like perception: distortion

Tilted figures tend to be remembered as more vertical or horizontal than they really are


San Francisco

San Diego

Imagery not like perception

Study this so that you could draw it.

Imagery not like perception

Before you draw it. . . Rotate it 90 degrees clockwise—can you tell what it is?

Now draw it.

Finke et al (1989)

Inspection allows you to determine what a visual image is.

Imagine the letter “B.” Rotate it 90 degrees counterclockwise. Put a triangle directly below it having the same width and pointing down. Remove the horizontal line. What is it?

Imagine the letter “B.”



Rotate it 90 degrees counter clockwise.


Put a triangle directly below it having the same width and pointing down

Remove the horizontal line

People get the transformations right about 60% of the timeIf they get the transformations right, they name the image 60% of the time.

Image inspection

Images can be inspected to some extent, but it is not as effective as perception

What is imagery for?

  • Memory

  • Make implicit knowledge conscious

  • Prepare for future actions


Dual coding model (Paivio)

Abstract nouns: can be coded only verbally.

Concrete nouns: can be coded verbally or in terms of images.

Does bizarreness help?

It seems to; data conflict a bit from study to study, but overall answer seems to be “yes.”

Make implicit knowledge conscious

What might be ways to code the world other than vision?

We are a visual species, and it makes sense for memory to follow perception.

Make implicit knowledge conscious

  • Is the writing on the Coca-Cola logo cursive?

  • Which is closer to the ground, the tip of a horse’s tail, or the knee on it’s back leg?

  • Which is larger, a tennis ball, or the rounded part of a light bulb?

This is information that was in the image, and so can be extracted, but was not encoded, per se.

Prepare for future actions

Example--will the bed fit in the alcove?

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