色合い 香り 寒暖 季節を感じる
食べる 頬張る 食らう 味わう
触れる さわる 撫ぜる
|■ Image of mind.|
Casket that sharpens senses.
Please nothing but feel it by the sensibility nothing but what you feel.
It sees and feel it, please.
However, please nothing but taste it.
The tone might be able to be heard.
Please touch feeling of quality.
The desire might become a smell.
Key word that sharpens senses.
It feels it in the combination light and shade boundary of the color.
I think the word.
It gets drunk on the sound.
I feel seasons in the shade cold the smell.
It tastes it filling mouth ..eating.. ..eating...
|■ Image at the heart.|
The treasured box which sharpens the five senses.
What is felt, please feel by the sensitivity.
Please see and feel.
You may be able to hear the sound.
Please touch the feel of a material.
Expectation may come to the fragrance.
The key word which sharpens the five senses.
I'm impressed by a combination shade boundary with the color.
I think in a word.
I get drunk on sound.
A shade A fragrance Temperature A season is felt.
It eats, stuffs into its mouth, receives and tastes.
I touch I touch It's stroked.
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent thought. Common attributes of mind include perception, reason, imagination, memory, emotion, attention, and a capacity for communication. A rich set of unconscious processes are also included in many modern characterizations of mind.
Theories of mind and its function are numerous. Earliest recorded speculations are from the likes of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later, Islamic and medieval European philosophers. Pre-modern understandings of the mind, such as the neoplatonic "nous" saw it as an aspect of the soul, in the sense of being both divine and immortal, linking human thinking with the un-changing ordering principle of the cosmos itself.
Which attributes make up the mind is much debated. Some psychologists argue that only the "higher" intellectual functions constitute mind, particularly reason and memory. In this view the emotions—love, hate, fear, joy—are more primitive or subjective in nature and should be seen as different from the mind as such. Others argue that various rational and emotional states cannot be so separated, that they are of the same nature and origin, and should therefore be considered all part of what we call the mind.
In popular usage mind is frequently synonymous with thought: the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on "inside our heads." Thus we "make up our minds," "change our minds" or are "of two minds" about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No one else can "know our mind." They can only interpret what we consciously or unconsciously communicate.
The original meaning of Old English gemynd was the faculty of memory, not of thought in general. Hence call to mind, come to mind, keep in mind, to have mind of, etc. Old English had other words to express "mind", such as hyge "mind, spirit".
The generalization of mind to include all mental faculties, thought, volition, feeling and memory, gradually develops over the 14th and 15th centuries.
The meaning of "memory" is shared with Old Norse, which has munr. The word is originally from a PIE verbal root *men-, meaning "to think, remember", whence also Latin mens "mind", Sanskrit manas "mind" and Greek μένος "mind, courage, anger".
■ Mental faculties
Broadly speaking, mental faculties are the various functions of the mind, or things the mind can "do".
Thought is a mental activity which allows human beings to make sense of things in the world, and to represent and interpret them in ways that are significant, or which accord with their needs, attachments, goals, commitments, plans, ends, desires, etc. Thinking involves the symbolic or semantic mediation of ideas or data, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solving, reasoning and making decisions. Words that refer to similar concepts and processes include deliberation, cognition, ideation, discourse and imagination.
Thinking is sometimes described as a "higher" cognitive function and the analysis of thinking processes is a part of cognitive psychology. It is also deeply connected with our capacity to make and use tools; to understand cause and effect; to recognize patterns of significance; to comprehend and disclose unique contexts of experience or activity; and to respond to the world in a meaningful way.
Memory is the ability to preserve, retain, and subsequently recall, knowledge, information or experience. Although memory has traditionally been a persistent theme in philosophy, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also saw the study of memory emerge as a subject of inquiry within the paradigms of cognitive psychology. In recent decades, it has become one of the pillars of a new branch of science called cognitive neuroscience, a marriage between cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
The subject of memory has also been addressed in highly sophisticated ways in classic works of 20th century literature, notably in the novel of Marcel Proust, and in popular films, e.g. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Imagination is the activity of generating or evoking novel situations, images, ideas or other qualia in the mind. It is a characteristically subjective activity, rather than a direct or passive experience. The term is technically used in psychology for the process of reviving in the mind percepts of objects formerly given in sense perception. Since this use of the term conflicts with that of ordinary language, some psychologists have preferred to describe this process as "imaging" or "imagery" or to speak of it as "reproductive" as opposed to "productive" or "constructive" imagination. Things that are imagined are said to be seen in the "mind's eye". Among the many practical functions of imagination are the ability to project possible futures (or histories), to "see" things from another's perspective, and to change the way something is perceived, including to make decisions to respond to, or enact, what is imagined.
Consciousness in mammals (this includes humans) is an aspect of the mind generally thought to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, sentience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment. It is a subject of much research in philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Some philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness, which is subjective experience itself, and access consciousness, which refers to the global availability of information to processing systems in the brain. Phenomenal consciousness has many different experienced qualities, often referred to as qualia. Phenomenal consciousness is usually consciousness of something or about something, a property known as intentionality in philosophy of mind.
■ Mental content
Mental contents are those items which are thought of as being "in" the mind, and capable of being formed and manipulated by mental processes and faculties. Examples include thoughts, concepts, memories, emotions, percepts and intentions. Philosophical theories of mental content include internalism, externalism, representationalism and intentionality.
■ Brain and mind
In animals, the brain, or encephalon (Greek for "in the head"), is the control center of the central nervous system, responsible for thought. In most animals, the brain is located in the head, protected by the skull and close to the primary sensory apparatus of vision, hearing, equilibrioception, taste and olfaction. While all vertebrates have a brain, most invertebrates have either a centralized brain or collections of individual ganglia. Primitive animals such as sponges do not have a brain at all. Brains can be extremely complex. For example, the human brain contains more than 100 billion neurons, each linked to as many as 10,000 others.
Understanding the relationship between the brain and the mind — mind-body problem is one of the central issues in the history of philosophy — is a challenging problem both philosophically and scientifically. There are three major philosophical schools of thought concerning the answer: dualism, materialism, and idealism. Dualism holds that the mind exists independently of the brain; materialism holds that mental phenomena are identical to neuronal phenomena; and idealism holds that only mental phenomena exist.
The most straightforward scientific evidence that there is a strong relationship between the physical brain matter and the mind is the impact physical alterations to the brain have on the mind, such as with traumatic brain injury and psychoactive drug use.
In addition to the philosophical questions, the relationship between mind and brain involves a number of scientific questions, including understanding the relationship between mental activity and brain activity, the exact mechanisms by which drugs influence cognition, and the neural correlates of consciousness.
Through most of history many philosophers found it inconceivable that cognition could be implemented by a physical substance such as brain tissue (that is neurons and synapses). Philosophers such as Patricia Churchland posit that the drug-mind interaction is indicative of an intimate connection between the brain and the mind, not that the two are the same entity. Descartes, who thought extensively about mind-brain relationships, found it possible to explain reflexes and other simple behaviors in mechanistic terms, although he did not believe that complex thought, and language in particular, could be explained by reference to the physical brain alone.
■ Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body. The mind-body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as the central issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body.
Dualism and monism are the two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind-body problem. Dualism is the position that mind and body are in some way separate from each other. It can be traced back to Plato, Aristotle and the Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy, but it was most precisely formulated by René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas Property dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.
The 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger suggested that subjective experience and activity (i.e. the "mind") cannot be made sense of in terms of Cartesian "substances" that bear "properties" at all (whether the mind itself is thought of as a distinct, separate kind of substance or not). This is because the nature of subjective, qualitative experience is incoherent in terms of – or semantically incommensurable with the concept of – substances that bear properties. This is a fundamentally ontological argument.
Monism is the position that mind and body are not physiologically and ontologically distinct kinds of entities. This view was first advocated in Western Philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th Century BC and was later espoused by the 17th Century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. According to Spinoza's dual-aspect theory, mind and body are two aspects of an underlying reality which he variously described as "Nature" or "God".
Physicalists argue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve.
Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind.
Neutral monists adhere to the position that perceived things in the world can be regarded as either physical or mental depending on whether one is interested in their relationship to other things in the world or their relationship to the perceiver. For example, a red spot on a wall is physical in its dependence on the wall and the pigment of which it is made, but it is mental in so far as its perceived redness depends on the workings of the visual system. Unlike dual-aspect theory, neutral monism does not posit a more fundamental substance of which mind and body are aspects.
The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.
Many modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, e.g. in the fields of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences. Other philosophers, however, adopt a non-physicalist position which challenges the notion that the mind is a purely physical construct.
Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states.
Non-reductive physicalists argue that although the brain is all there is to the mind, the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science.
Continued neuroscientific progress has helped to clarify some of these issues. However, they are far from having been resolved, and modern philosophers of mind continue to ask how (if at all) the subjective qualities and the intentionality (aboutness) of mental states and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.
Jose M.R. Delgado writes, "Aristotelian thought has permeated most Occidental philosophical system until modern times, and the classification of man's function as vegetative, sensitive, and rational is still useful. In present popular usage, soul and mind are not clearly differentiated and some people, more or less consciously, still feel that the soul, and perhaps the mind, may enter or leave the body as independent entities."
■ Science of mind
Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour, mental functioning, and experience; noology, the study of thought. As both an academic and applied discipline, Psychology involves the scientific study of mental processes such as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, as well as environmental influences, such as social and cultural influences, and interpersonal relationships, in order to devise theories of human behaviour. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals' daily lives and the treatment of mental health problems.
Psychology differs from the other social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology) due to its focus on experimentation at the scale of the individual, or individuals in small groups as opposed to large groups, institutions or societies. Historically, psychology differed from biology and neuroscience in that it was primarily concerned with mind rather than brain. Modern psychological science incorporates physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of perception, cognition, behaviour, and mental disorders.
■ Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an approach within psychology that examines psychological traits — such as memory, perception, or language — from a Darwinian evolutionary perspective. It seeks to explain how many human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional products of natural selection or sexual selection. Adaptationist thinking about physiological mechanisms, such as the heart, lungs, and immune system, is common in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology applies the same thinking to psychology.
Evolutionary psychologists argue that much of human behavior originates as psychological adaptations that evolved to solve recurrent problems in human ancestral environments.
Further information: Evolutionary neuroscience, Konrad Lorentz, E O Wilson, The Adapted Mind, and Steven Pinker.
■ Evolutionary history of the human mind
The evolution of human intelligence refers to a set of theories that attempt to explain how human intelligence has evolved. The question is closely tied to the evolution of the human brain, and to the emergence of human language.
The timeline of human evolution spans some 7 million years, from the separation of the Pan genus until the emergence of behavioral modernity by 50,000 years ago. Of this timeline, the first 3 million years concern Sahelanthropus, the following 2 million concern Australopithecus, while the final 2 million span the history of actual human species (the Paleolithic).
Many traits of human intelligence, such as empathy, theory of mind, mourning, ritual, and the use of symbols and tools, are already apparent in great apes although in lesser sophistication than in humans.
There is a debate between supporters of the idea of a sudden emergence of intelligence, or "Great leap forward" and those of a gradual or continuum hypothesis.
Theories of the evolution of intelligence include:
● Robin Dunbar's social brain hypothesis
● Geoffrey Miller's sexual selection hypothesis
● The ecological dominance-social competition (EDSC) explained by Mark V. Flinn, David C. Geary and Carol V. Ward based mainly on work by Richard D. Alexander.
● The idea of intelligence as a signal of good health and resistance to disease.
● The Group selection theory contends that organism characteristics that provide benefits to a group (clan, tribe, or larger population) can evolve despite individual disadvantages such as those cited above.
● The idea that intelligence is connected with nutrition, and thereby with status A higher IQ could be a signal that an individual comes from and lives in a physical and social environment where nutrition levels are high, and vice versa.
■ Mental health
By analogy with the health of the body, one can speak metaphorically of a state of health of the mind, or mental health. Merriam-Webster defines mental health as "A state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no one "official" definition of mental health. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how "mental health" is defined. In general, most experts agree that "mental health" and "mental illness" are not opposites. In other words, the absence of a recognized mental disorder is not necessarily an indicator of mental health.
One way to think about mental health is by looking at how effectively and successfully a person functions. Feeling capable and competent; being able to handle normal levels of stress, maintaining satisfying relationships, and leading an independent life; and being able to "bounce back," or recover from difficult situations, are all signs of mental health.
Psychotherapy is an interpersonal, relational intervention used by trained psychotherapists to aid clients in problems of living. This usually includes increasing individual sense of well-being and reducing subjective discomforting experience. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behavior change and that are designed to improve the mental health of a client or patient, or to improve group relationships (such as in a family). Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation, though some also use various other forms of communication such as the written word, art, drama, narrative story, or therapeutic touch. Psychotherapy occurs within a structured encounter between a trained therapist and client(s). Purposeful, theoretically based psychotherapy began in the 19th century with psychoanalysis; since then, scores of other approaches have been developed and continue to be created.
■ Animal intelligence
Animal cognition, or cognitive ethology, is the title given to a modern approach to the mental capacities of animals. It has developed out of comparative psychology, but has also been strongly influenced by the approach of ethology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology. Much of what used to be considered under the title of animal intelligence is now thought of under this heading. Animal language acquisition, attempting to discern or understand the degree to which animal cognition can be revealed by linguistics-related study, has been controversial among cognitive linguists.
■ Artificial intelligence
In 1950 Alan M. Turing published "Computing machinery and intelligence" in Mind, in which he proposed that machines could be tested for intelligence using questions and answers. This process is now named the Turing Test. The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first used by John McCarthy who considered it to mean "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines". It can also refer to intelligence as exhibited by an artificial (man-made, non-natural, manufactured) entity. AI is studied in overlapping fields of computer science, psychology, neuroscience and engineering, dealing with intelligent behavior, learning and adaptation and usually developed using customized machines or computers.
Research in AI is concerned with producing machines to automate tasks requiring intelligent behavior. Examples include control, planning and scheduling, the ability to answer diagnostic and consumer questions, handwriting, natural language, speech and facial recognition. As such, the study of AI has also become an engineering discipline, focused on providing solutions to real life problems, knowledge mining, software applications, strategy games like computer chess and other video games. One of the biggest difficulties with AI is that of comprehension. Many devices have been created that can do amazing things, but critics of AI claim that no actual comprehension by the AI machine has taken place.
The debate about the nature of the mind is relevant to the development of artificial intelligence. If the mind is indeed a thing separate from or higher than the functioning of the brain, then hypothetically it would be much more difficult to recreate within a machine, if it were possible at all. If, on the other hand, the mind is no more than the aggregated functions of the brain, then it will be possible to create a machine with a recognisable mind (though possibly only with computers much different from today's), by simple virtue of the fact that such a machine already exists in the form of the human brain.
■ Religious perspectives
Various religious traditions have contributed unique perspectives on the nature of mind. In many traditions, especially mystical traditions, overcoming the ego is considered a worthy spiritual goal.
Judaism teaches that "moach shalit al halev", the mind rules the heart. Humans can approach the Divine intellectually, through learning and behaving according to the Divine Will as enclothed in the Torah, and use that deep logical understanding to elicit and guide emotional arousal during prayer. Christianity has tended to see the mind as distinct from the soul (Greek nous) and sometimes further distinguished from the spirit. Western esoteric traditions sometimes refer to a mental body that exists on a plane other than the physical.
Hinduism's various philosophical schools have debated whether the human soul (Sanskrit atman) is distinct from, or identical to, Brahman, the divine reality.
Buddhism posits that there is actually no distinct thing as a human being, who merely consists of five aggregates, or skandhas. According to Buddhist philosopher Dharmakirti, mind is defined as "that which is clarity and cognizes"—where 'clarity' refers to the formless nature of the mind and 'cognizes' to the function of mind, namely that every mind must cognize an object. The Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo attempted to unite the Eastern and Western psychological traditions with his integral psychology, as have many philosophers and New religious movements.
Taoism sees the human being as contiguous with natural forces, and the mind as not separate from the body. Confucianism sees the mind, like the body, as inherently perfectible.
|■ Mental image|
A mental image is an experience that, on most occasions, significantly resembles the experience of perceiving some object, event, or scene, but occurs when the relevant object, event, or scene is not actually present to the senses. There are sometimes episodes, particularly on falling asleep (hypnagogic imagery) and waking up (hypnopompic), when the imagery, being of a rapid, phantasmagoric and involuntary character, defies perception, presenting a kaleidoscopic field, in which no distinct object can be discerned.
The nature of these experiences, what makes them possible, and their function (if any) have long been subjects of research and controversy in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and more recently, neuroscience. As contemporary researchers use the expression, mental images (or mental imagery) can occur in the form of any sense, so that we may experience auditory images, olfactory images, and so forth. However, the vast majority of philosophical and scientific investigations of the topic focus upon visual mental imagery. It has been assumed that, like humans, many types of animals are capable of experiencing mental images. Due to the fundamentally subjective nature of the phenomenon, there is little to no evidence either for or against this view.
Philosophers such as George Berkeley and David Hume, and early experimental psychologists such as Wilhelm Wundt and William James, understood ideas in general to be mental images, and today it is very widely believed that much imagery functions as mental representations (or mental models), playing an important role in memory and thinking. Some have gone so far as to suggest that images are best understood to be, by definition, a form of inner, mental or neural representation; in the case of hypnagogic and hypnapompic imagery, it is not representational at all. Others reject the view that the image experience may be identical with (or directly caused by) any such representation in the mind or the brain, but do not take account of the non-representational forms of imagery.
In 2010 IBM applied for a patent on how to extract mental images of human faces from the human brain.
■ How mental images form in the brain
Common examples of mental images include daydreaming and the mental visualization that occurs while reading a book. When a musician hears a song, he or she can sometimes "see" the song notes in their head, as well as hear them with all their tonal qualities. This is considered different from an after-effect, such as an after-image. Calling up an image in our minds can be a voluntary act, so it can be characterized as being under various degrees of conscious control.
According to psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, our experiences of the world are represented in our minds as mental images. These mental images can then be associated and compared with others, and can be used to synthesize completely new images. In this view, mental images allow us to form useful theories of how the world works by formulating likely sequences of mental images in our heads without having to directly experience that outcome. Whether other creatures have this capability is debatable.
■ Philosophical ideas about mental images
Mental images are an important topic in classical and modern philosophy, as they are central to the study of knowledge. 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.
More recently, Bishop George Berkeley has proposed similar ideas in his theory of idealism. Berkeley stated that reality is equivalent to mental images — our mental images are not a copy of another material reality, but that reality itself. Berkeley, however, sharply distinguished between the images that he considered to constitute the external world, and the images of individual imagination. According to Berkeley, only the latter are considered "mental imagery" in the contemporary sense of the term.
David Deutsch addresses Johnson's objection to idealism in The Fabric of Reality when he states that if we judge the value of our mental images of the world by the quality and quantity of the sense data that they can explain, then the most valuable mental image — or theory — that we currently have is that the world has a real independent existence and that humans have successfully evolved by building up and adapting patterns of mental images to explain it. This is an important idea in scientific thought.
Critics of scientific realism ask how the inner perception of mental images actually occurs. This is sometimes called the "homunculus problem" (see also the mind's eye). The problem is similar to asking how the images you see on a computer screen exist in the memory of the computer. To scientific materialism, mental images and the perception of them must be brain-states. According to critics, scientific realists cannot explain where the images and their perceiver exist in the brain. To use the analogy of the computer screen, these critics argue that cognitive science and psychology has been unsuccessful in identifying either the component in the brain (i.e. "hardware") or the mental processes that store these images (i.e. "software").
■ Mental imagery in experimental psychology
Cognitive psychologists and (later) cognitive neuroscientists have empirically tested some of the philosophical questions related to whether and how the human brain uses mental imagery in cognition.
One theory of the mind that was examined in these experiments was the "brain as serial computer" philosophical metaphor of the 1970s. Psychologist Zenon Pylyshyn theorized that the human mind processes mental images by decomposing them into an underlying mathematical proposition. Roger Shepard and Jacqueline Metzler challenged that view by presenting subjects with 2D line drawings of groups of 3D block "objects" and asking them to determine whether that "object" was the same as a second figure, some of which were rotations of the first "object". Shepard and Metzler proposed that if we decomposed and then mentally re-imaged the objects into basic mathematical propositions, as the then-dominant view of cognition "as a serial digital computer" assumed, then it would be expected that the time it took to determine whether the object was the same or not would be independent of how much the object was rotated. Shepard and Metzler found the opposite: a linear relationship between the degree of rotation in the mental imagery task and the time it took participants to reach their answer.
This mental rotation finding implied that the human mind — and the human brain — maintains and manipulates mental images as topographic and topological wholes, an implication that was quickly put to test by psychologists. Stephen Kosslyn and colleagues showed in a series of neuroimaging experiments that the mental image of objects like the letter "F" are mapped, maintained and rotated as an image-like whole in areas of the human visual cortex. Moreover, Kosslyn's work showed that there were considerable similarities between the neural mappings for imagined stimuli and perceived stimuli. The authors of these studies concluded that while the neural processes they studied rely on mathematical and computational underpinnings, the brain also seems optimized to handle the sort of mathematics that constantly computes a series of topologically-based images rather than calculating a mathematical model of an object.
Recent studies in neurology and neuropsychology on mental imagery have further questioned the "mind as serial computer" theory, arguing instead that human mental imagery manifests both visually and kinesthetically. For example, several studies have provided evidence that people are slower at rotating line drawings of objects such as hands in directions incompatible with the joints of the human body, and that patients with painful, injured arms are slower at mentally rotating line drawings of the hand from the side of the injured arm.
Some psychologists, including Kosslyn, have argued that such results occur because of interference in the brain between distinct systems in the brain that process the visual and motor mental imagery. Subsequent neuroimaging studies showed that the interference between the motor and visual imagery system could be induced by having participants physically handle actual 3D blocks glued together to form objects similar to those depicted in the line-drawings. Amorim et al. have recently shown that when a cylindrical "head" was added to Shepard and Metzler's line drawings of 3D block figures, participants were quicker and more accurate at solving mental rotation problems. They argue that motoric embodiment is not just "interference" that inhibits visual mental imagery, but is capable of facilitating mental imagery.
These and numerous related studies have led to a relative consensus within cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience and philosophy on the neural status of mental images. Researchers generally agree that while there is no homunculus inside the head viewing these mental images, our brains do form and maintain mental images as image-like wholes. The problem of exactly how these images are stored and manipulated within the human brain, particularly within language and communication, remains a fertile area of study.
One of the longest running research topics on the mental image has been the fact that people report large individual differences in the vividness of their images. Special questionnaires have been developed to assess such differences, including the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) developed by David Marks. Laboratory studies have suggested that the subjectively reported variations in imagery vividness are associated with different neural states within the brain and also different cognitive competences such as the ability to accurately recall information presented in pictures Rodway, Gillies and Schepman used a novel long-term change detection task to determine whether participants with low and high vividness scores on the VVIQ2 showed any performance differences. Rodway et al. found that high vividness participants were significantly more accurate at detecting salient changes to pictures compared to low vividness participants. This replicated an earlier study.
Recent studies have found that individual differences in VVIQ scores can be used to predict changes in a person's brain while visualizing different activities. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to study the association between early visual cortex activity relative to the whole brain while participants visualized themselves or another person bench pressing or stair climbing. Reported image vividness correlates significantly with the relative fMRI signal in the visual cortex. Thus individual differences in the vividness of visual imagery can be measured objectively.
■ Training and learning styles
Some educational theorists have drawn from the idea of mental imagery in their studies of learning styles. Proponents of these theories state that people often have learning processes which emphasize visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems of experience. According to these theorists, teaching in multiple overlapping sensory systems benefits learning, and they encourage teachers to use content and media that integrates well with the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic systems whenever possible.
Educational researchers have examined whether the experience of mental imagery affects the degree of learning. For example, imagining playing a 5-finger piano exercise (mental practice) resulted in a significant improvement in performance over no mental practice — though not as significant as that produced by physical practice. The authors of the study stated that "mental practice alone seems to be sufficient to promote the modulation of neural circuits involved in the early stages of motor skill learning."
■ Mental imagery, visualization and the Himalayan traditions
Vajrayana Buddhism, Bön and Tantra in general, utilize sophisticated visualization or imaginal (in the language of Jean Houston of Transpersonal Psychology) processes in the thoughtform construction of the yidam sadhana, kye-rim, and dzog-rim modes of meditation and in the yantra, thangka, and mandala traditions, where holding the fully realized form in the mind is a prerequisite prior to creating an 'authentic' new art work that will provide a sacred support or foundation for deity.