ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (04): 305-315.

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Eye Movements in the Processing of Visual Mental Imagery

ZHANG Xia;LIU Ming   

  1. Department of Psychology, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China
  • Received:2008-01-04 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-04-30 Online:2009-04-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Xia

Abstract: Visual mental imagery is one kind of mental imagery. Whether mental imagery can be one special kind of mental representation and has its mental process or not is not only focal in imagery research but also is important in the cognitive psychology. The aim of the present study was to investigate the mental processing of mental rotation and visual imagery scanning through eye movements.
Two experiments were conducted in the present study. There were 22 participants (11 males and 11 females) volunteered to take part in Experiment 1 and another 20 participants (10 males and 10 females) took part in Experiment 2. The Experiment 1 investigated whether mental rotation was based on mental image or abstract proposition with a 2 (picture type: ichnography, mirror image) × 8( rotation angle: 0°, 45°, 90°, 135°, 180°, 225°, 270°and 315°) within-subject design. In the Experiment 2, a 3(scanning distance: 0cm, 7cm, 10.5cm)× 2( cognitive type: perception and imagery) within-subject design was conducted to examine whether imagery could also be scanned and whether the oculomotor behavior during imagery reenacted that which occurred when perceiving the object.
In the Experiment 1, the results indicated that mental rotation time to recognize rotated pictures increased linearly with different angles of rotation, and the RT was the largest when the pictures rotated 180°. Besides, the oculomotor measures had also similar mental rotation effects during the processing. Subjects need to spend more saccade duration, fixation time and more numbers of saccade as well as more numbers of fixation to identify objects when the pictures were rotated from 0° to 180°. The results of Experiment 2 showed that imagery could also be scanned and eye scanpaths during imagery were similar to those during visual perception. That is, the time of scanning increased linearly with increases in distance during the imagery and perception phase. Moreover, regression analysis of the time and number of scanning supported the notion that the oculomotor behavior during imagery reenacted that which occurred when perceiving the object.
The present study demonstrated that mental imagery could be one special kind of mental representation and had its mental process. The mental representation of imagery was mental image but not abstract proposition in some special conditions.

Key words: Key words visual mental imagery, mental rotation, visual imagery scanning, eye movements, mental representation

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