Talk:Mental image

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Images and copyright[edit]

I was very disappointed by the lack of graphics in this article, key to a good encyclopedic entry. I suppose this must be due to a lack of uncopyrighted mental images. Does anyone have access to one, preferably in some lossless format, that they can release into the public domain? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:40, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Norman's work on design[edit]

I would agree Don Norman's work on design is more suited for a mental models wikipage than mental image. --Wikivangelist 06:01, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

Added a section on experimental psychology and mental imagery in which I tried to pick up on the introspective and philosophical issues and show how the recent mental imagery evidence from congitive science has tried to address the philosophical issue(though I believe it has only pushed it back a bit). I also added a link to the mental rotation page, and created a mental imagery page that points both there and here. --Wikivangelist 06:01, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

NPOV: Anthropocentric[edit]

I tried to address this concern, albeit briefly, by changing "a defining characteristic of the human species" to "a central characteristic ..." Though we are still focused on the human aspects of mental images, perhaps by adding the section on psychology and mental imagery, which has strong historical connections in neuroscience to the neural motor images of the body that were first found in animals such as frogs, that will defuse this concern a bit... though I didn't want to work that data in since we were focused mostly on human experiments. Can we remove it now? or should we add a section toward the end on mental images in animals? I can draft one if there is demand. --Wikivangelist 06:01, 26 August 2006 (UTC)


This article is anthropocentric and, thus, high-POV. It presumes, unempirically, that imagination is a biological capability unique to the brains of Homo sapiens. Ringbang 17:45, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

I can't dispute that it is anthropocentric, but short of deleting the whole thing, how would you suggest it is changed?

The insight that other creatures --- dolphins, doigs, earthworms, bacteria, etc --- might have mental images too is not very interesting philosophically, because we can't -- so far -- communicate with them in order to find out.

Most of my ideas about this come from my philosophy degree from 20 years ago, and from reading Richard Dawkins, so I'm probably guilty as charged for being anthropocentric.

This was an early contribution of mine, -- I picked it up from a clean up request I think -- I'm not particularly proud of it, so if you think it should be changed or binned then go ahead.

all discussion welcome Thruston 19:14, 5 August 2005 (UTC)

was section Ok thanks for the input...

... but let's keep the original para (which is derived from Deutsch) as well and present both views.

Thruston 17:54, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Do people still think the page is NPOV due to anthropocentricity? If so, what edits need to be made? It seems to me that it's only the opening sentence, which is weak enough to deserve a rewrite regardless.
What research/writing has been done on mental imagery in animals? Plants? --Mgreenbe 11:59, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

Merging "Mental Images" page[edit]

Hello all? I'm not sure how active this page is. Anyway, I just found another page called Mental images, which I think needs to be merged. It refers (minimally) to computer vision also, which may link into the "non-human" issues.... Anyway, I'm not confident of the usefulness of the links they have. I may merge that as best I can (limited time). GregA 03:33, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

The Mental images page, in it's entirety, is:

Mental Images[edit]

Mental images are images as seen in the mind's eye, which CNN reporter Walter Rogers called the "camera in your mind". One complicating factor is the ambiguity of interpretation of an image. Computer vision pioneer David Marr produced a famous photograph of a woman's face, which includes an ambiguous feature that could be either her nose or her finger. Optical illusions regularly exploit this property.

See also: computer vision, machine vision, computer graphics.


I don't think this should be merged as a chunk, the individual thoughts should be mergeable

  1. "The mind's eye" (philosophical/spiritual, 3rd eye
  2. Ambiguity & Optical illusions
  3. links to computer vision (currently without any real explanation)

(I see no added value in a CNN reporters ideas) GregA 04:00, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

I've merged these together - though I'm not YET happy with the result. It seems that

  • a computer vision section (and perhaps links to animal intelligence) could be separate.
  • a "map vs reality" section is possible (interpretation vs reality). I've placed ambiguity with Freud's stuff on interpretation of reality but it's not quite right there. GregA 04:20, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Philosophical Views[edit]

I felt that the philosophical discussion was inaccurate. Berkeley was not a solipsist, he was an idealist. It is unfair to say that scientific realism is the most accurate worldview without discussing its problems. My later version accurately describes Berkeley's views and changes the scientism to a fairer account. posted by user Dazzling Darkness on 19:08, 1 December 2005 — please sign your posts with ~~~~

Thanks for your changes! Go ahead and be bold; you don't need to justify non-controversial changes. Welcome to Wikipedia! --Mgreenbe 12:04, 9 December 2005 (UTC)

Reading this page it seems to me not to quite flow right... yet I've spent several hours playing with it and haven't yet found something that flows better (my work occassionally allows these distractions!).
Aside from the flow, general issues include:

  1. Psychology is really about design and usability
  2. The Psychiatry section can be expanded beyond Freud when considering that the mental images in our mind affect our behaviour
  3. Philosophy seems a very general topic header... when we're really talking about philosophical discussions of "map vs territory", or "objective vs subjective reality"
  4. I think there's room for mental images as they relate to learning - they're taught as part of "teaching", and there's some good research that mentally imagining doing a task has a great effect on learning that task.

If I can get it to flow I'll put up an alternative, keeping what's there but with a different arrangement, for whoever looks at this page to alter, improve, or revert (if revert, hopefully only partially!). Otherwise I've written up a section on learning, and updated usability. GregA 12:15, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Mental Practice of Action[edit]

I have just posted an entry titled "Mental Practice of Action." This entry addresses one of the concerns about imagery and learning. Perhaps someone could write a link to this entry or somehow merge it with the current article.

How mental images form in the brain.[edit]

Have you ever wondered why you seem to get a mental picture of something happening when you are reading a book? Or maybe when you have a daydream? These images that one receives are like pictures in your head. For example, when a musician hears a song they can sometimes "see" the song notes in their head. This is different from an after image. For example, after-image from an event that is induced is considered not under our conscious control. By contrast, however, when we call up an image in our imagination or minds, it is considered to be voluntary. Therefore, we can characterize our imagery as being various degrees of our conscious control.

What is up with this paragraph? --Sillywalker 02:07, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Yeah, seriously. What the hell? 20:57, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

No kidding. I added a copyedit tag in the article. Matthew0028 09:11, 1 July 2008 (UTC)


I have rewritten the introduction to this, bringing it more into line with actual usage and opinion in fields (philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience) that study mental images, and adding citations. "Mental image" is not, as the former version implied, technical jargon, but is a commonly used expresion of ordinary English. It is true, however, that images have been much studied by both philosophers and psychologists. I cut the reference to communication studies. I am not aware that that field has taken any special interest in mental images, or made any significant contribution to our understanding of them. Certainly there is no hint of it in the Wickipedia entry about the field. I believe communication studies does concern itself quite a bit with images simpliciter (i.e., pictures and other graphics), and with public images (i.e., roughly, reputations), but these are both quite different things. [If anyone familiar with the field of communication studies believes otherwise, and can cite, I will not be upset if the reference and internal link are reinstated.] On the other hand, recent neuroscience has had quite a lot to say about mental images.

Treharne 10:16, 1 August 2007 (UTC)

Introduction again[edit]

The introduction I wrote and justified above was completely removed by editor Mattisse on the grounds of "looks like original research," and reverted to the older, incoherent, ill-informed and ungrammatical version, that almost entirely lacked citations (the one it did contain being of very questionable appropriateness). I can see no reasonable justification for this reversion, which clearly made the entry less informative and less accurate, and, frankly, seems to me more like vandalism than editorial improvement. I am not saying that what I wrote could not be improved upon, but I do not see how the wholesale removal of my contribution can possibly be reasonably justified, or how anyone could think that the old introduction that Mattisse restored was clearer, more coherent, more informative, more accurate, or even more neutral in POV than mine. I have now reverted the entry to how it stood before Mattisse's reversion. So far as I can see no significant edits have been made since Mattisse removed all my work, and I have left in the relatively minor edits that were made to the material by others in the meantime.

Unless "contains original research" means something like "well informed about the topic," I can see no justification for saying that what I wrote in any way violated the "original research" rule. I backed almost every point of what I wrote with citations (often multiple ones) to peer reviewed literature, and although, as someone who is well informed about and deeply interested in this topic, I do have personal opinions about it that are not universally shared, I was at some pains to keep these out of what I wrote, and to maintain a neutral POV. The only slightly controversial claim was balanced by mention of the contrary opinion and the justification given for it by its supporters (with citations). By contrast, the older introduction to which Mattisse reverted consists almost entirely of unsubstantiated assertions which are controversial in the field, and it gives a very misleading picture of the field of imagery research by harping on a topic (imagery in animals) in which very few researchers have taken much interest. (In deference to whoever originally put this in, and somewhat against my better judgement, I left a mention of this issue in the introduction section that I wrote, but then, I was making an effort to treat the work of other contributors with tact and sensitivity, and not to rigidly impose my own judgement.)

Is anything written out of a real knowledge of the subject matter, and of the range of opinions that are taken seriously in the peer reviewed literature to be classified as unacceptable "original research"? If so, Wikipedia will never be anything but a compendium of ignorance and popular prejudice. I challenge Mattisse to say what, specifically, in my contribution constituted "original research" (or, come to that, lack of neutrality) in any remotely objectionable sense.

I apologize for this being a rant, and if it has been put in the wrong place. I am not someone who has the time or energy to be a high-volume editor and to learn all the ins and outs of Wikipedia and its customs and etiquette. I merely sought to improve the entry on a topic on which I am well informed, and it its very disheartening to see my careful work totally obliterated in one stroke by what appears to be an ignorant and thoughtless reversion like this. I expected to see changes made to my contribution, including, probably, ones I would not much like, but I did not expect to see this sort of vandalism and contempt for the hard work of a sincere expert contributor by an established editor. Clearly it was not done out of knowledge of the subject matter or careful consideration of the merits of the versions, but rather out of an overzealous, careless, mechanical and inappropriate application of guidelines that are meant to be applied with tact, thought, and flexibility.

I had thought to contribute more to this entry, beyond the introduction, when I had the time, and perhaps to some other entries on topics about which I am knowledgable. The rest of the imagery entry is largely a jumbled hodgepodge of often unsubstantiated opinions and decontextualized and sometimes questionable facts. I think I could have improved it a lot both in terms of informativeness and neutrality. However, I do not know that I can be bothered now. If the plan is to drive away contributions from people who are well informed about certain topics, but do not wish to devote their lives to Wikipedia, then Mattisse is going about it the right way. (talk) 14:00, 1 March 2008 (UTC)


(Or whatever the correct word is.) I can't do it, not even remotely I think. For example I can "feel" (not in a physical sense) 3D objects I might imagine, but not see them in any visual sense, except for perhaps the vaguest perception of space. For example, imagining colour is no different to imagining other physical properties such as density or hardness. I dream when I am asleep, and apart from the odd fleeting hallucination as a student after pulling 3 all-nighters in a row, that's it as far as spurious imagery goes. I am normally sighted, I'm an electronics designer, and I have no difficulty dealing with things like mechanical design or photography. I've found at least one other person on the web describing the same thing, and apparently the ability to visualise varies on a continuous scale. So arguments that the article might be anthropocentric, or that some other animals may or may not have this capacity, seem worthless to me. I thought my experience might be of use in shaping this article or something derived from it some day. --Adx 14:37, 26 October 2007 (UTC)

Hubbard's Work[edit]

This should at least be noted; I am surprised that it is not even mentioned. His best-known work on the subject is, of course, Dianetics. But he refined his theories and technologies over the following many years (Dianetics dating from 1950). And most of what he wrote or said publicly during that entire period is published and available. I think it deserves more serious attention. L e cox (talk) 07:03, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

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Appeal to Plato[edit]

Just wanted to point out that the following is highly contentious:

In the Republic, book VII, Plato uses the metaphor of a prisoner in a cave, bound and unable to move, sitting with his back to a fire and watching the shadows cast on the wall in front of him by people carrying objects behind his back. The objects that they are carrying are representations of real things in the world. The prisoner, explains Socrates, is like a human being making mental images from the sense data that he experiences

The last sentence is not accurate; Socrates never compares the shadows to mental images (for my own research, I wish he did!) and he has no concept of sense-data. I'm also not aware of any interpretation along these lines in the secondary literature -- although there may be one -- and the more common suggestion is that these are false prevailing ethical opinions ('shadows of justice' as he calls them).

BUT Plato does have an account of mental images: Philebus 38c5-40c11. Here Plato introduces a simile of an inner painter, painting images that accompany our beliefs. Also, Aristotle wrote more explicitly, and at far greater length, about mental images. I'm sorry I don't have time to make any changes myself, but it would be nice to see someone update the article. Thomas' SEP article on mental imagery has a well-researched section on Aristotle: Hope this helps! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:28, 15 March 2012 (UTC)