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9.1: Introduction and History

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    Mental imagery was already discussed by the early Greek philosophers. Socrates sketched a relation between perception and imagery by assuming that visual sensory experience creates images in the human's mind, which are representations of the real world. Later on, Aristoteles stated that "thought is impossible without an image". At the beginning of the 18th century, Bishop Berkeley proposed another role of mental images - similar to the ideas of Sokrates - in his theory of idealism. He assumed that our whole perception of the external world consists only of mental images.

    At the end of the 19th century, Wilhelm Wundt - the generally acknowledged founder of experimental psychology and cognitive psychology - called imagery, sensations and feelings the basic elements of consciousness. Furthermore, he had the idea that the study of imagery supports the study of cognition because thinking is often accompanied by images. This remark was taken up by some psychologists and gave rise to the imageless-thought debate, which discussed the same question Aristoteles already had asked: Is thought possible without imagery?

    In the early 20th century, when Behaviourism became the main stream of psychology, Watson argued that there is no visible evidence of images in human brains and therefore, the study of imagery is worthless. This general attitude towards the value of research on imagery did not change until the birth of cognitive psychology in the 1950s and -60s.

    Later on, imagery has often been believed to play a very large, even pivotal, role in both memory (Yates, 1966; Paivio, 1986) and motivation (McMahon, 1973). It is also commonly believed to be centrally involved in visuo-spatial reasoning and inventive or creative thought.

    9.1: Introduction and History is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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