Innovative Learning


Imagery is a cognitive phenomena of long-standing, first studied by Wilhelm Wundt at the turn of the century. From a theoretical perspective, imagery is a critical issue in terms of memory structures and processes (e.g., Shepard & Cooper, 1982). Theories that postulate a propositional basis for memory (e.g., ACT ) have difficulty accounting for imagery. A number of imagery researchers have developed their own theories of memory that focus on the visual components of imagery. Paivio has proposed a dual coding theory that suggests that verbal and nonverbal information is processed separately. Kosslyn (1980) has proposed a two-stage model of imagery that involves a surface representation generated in working memory from a deep representation in long-term memory. Piaget & Inhelder (1971) discuss the role of imagery in cognitive development.

From a practical point of view, imagery has been shown to facilitate recall in many studies. It also appears to play a major role in problem-solving and creativity. For example, there are many anecdotes of imagery in scientific discovery (Miller, 1984). Imagery also appears to help sensory-motor skills by allowing mental rehearsal of a task or activity. However, it is clear from theories of intelligence (e.g., Guilford ) that people differ in their ability to create visual images.


Bower, J. (1972). Mental imagery and associative learning. In L.

Gregg (ed.), Cognition in Learning and Memory. New York: Wiley.

Kosslyn, S. (1980). Image and Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Miller, A. (1984). Imagery in Scientific Thought. Boston: Birkhauser.

Richardson, A. (1969). Mental Imagery. New York: Springer.

Piaget, J. & Inhelder, B. (1971). Mental Imagery and the Child. New York: Basic Books.

Sheehan, P. (1972). The Function and Nature of Imagery. New York: Academic Press.

Shepard, R. & Cooper, L. (1982). Mental Images and Their Transformations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.