Imagining Predictions: Mental Imagery as Mental Emulation

Samuel T. Moulton and Stephen M. Kosslyn

in Predictions in the Brain

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780195395518
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897230 | DOI:
Imagining Predictions: Mental Imagery as Mental Emulation

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For cognitive scientists, the term mental imagery typically first brings to mind either the protracted debate over the nature of the representations used in imagery or the role of imagery as a mnemonic. The “imagery debate” frequently overshadows the question of the everyday functions of mental imagery, which are at least as important as the questions that have received the most attention. This chapter moves beyond questions such as “What is imagery?” and “Can imagery enhance memory?” to ask, “What is the primary psychological function of imagery?” In doing so, it argues that mental imagery affords us more than the mental rotation of stacked cubes—it allows us to simulate reality at will, and, because of this, allows us to predict what we would experience in a specific situation or after we perform a specific action. This ability not only allows us to reconstruct the past but also to anticipate what may occur in the near and distant future.

Keywords: mental imagery; reality; simulation; future predictions

Chapter.  7172 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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