Exploring the Extent of the Use of Mental Imagery in Human Cognition

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The Issue

Mental imagery, the process by which people summon and think with images not immediately drawn from their senses has been a topic of contention in the field of Cognitive Science for some time. The question, in its most general sense, is whether or not people use mental imagery as a way of thinking about problems and arriving at solutions. Like many areas in cognitive science, philosophers, psychologists, and thinkers have struggled with how the mind works with imagery for thousands of years, and there is still no firm consensus on the matter. More recently, scientific experiments have been able to shed a great deal of light on how the brain works, and the ways in which it is subdivided functionally. More and more is being
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What remains is a compromise between these two polarized views. A theory of mental imagery must now try and pin down exactly how and when the mind uses mental imagery. One such theory suggests that the human brain is capable of using pictorial representations as a primary aspect of thought, and that it does so when a task lends itself to image-based thinking (Thagard, 2005). This theory suggests that the brain has the ability to summon pictures to be observed as though they were being seen, and to think in pictures, by performing operations on them and observing the results. This theory the favoured theory in cognitive science (Thagard, 2005), although it is not without its detractors. Some cognitive scientists argue that the assumption that the brain thinks pictorially is premature, given the available data on the subject. Pointing out alternative methods by which the brain could implement something like mental imagery, and through which the same experimental results could be achieved even without a comprehensive pictorial model of thought, they suggest that the majority of the computation is being done non-pictorially, and perhaps even non-visually. Some variations of this theory would suggest that the brain's ability to use mental imagery is not truly based on imagery at

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