Generating visual images: Units and relations

Stephen M. Kosslyn*, Brian J. Reiser, Martha J. Farah, Sharon L. Fliegel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Six experiments with 112 undergraduates investigated the imagery representational system. The following findings are reported: (1) mental images may be constructed by amalgamating images of individual parts, and an increment of time is required to add each additional part to an image. This was true when "parts" were defined by the Gestalt laws of proximity, continuity, or similarity; when parts of objects were presented on separate pages initially and the S mentally "glued" them together into a single image; and when the number of parts was varied by altering the way an ambiguous geometric form was described. (2) Descriptive information can be used in constructing images. Ss were able to image scenes in accordance with descriptions that specified the relative distances between component objects of the scene. More time was required to form images of scenes containing more objects, and more time was later required to scan between 2 imaged objects if they were mentally pictured at greater distances. (3) The ease of imaging a unit depends on how much material is included in each unit and on how difficult it is to locate where the unit should be placed relative to the existing portions of an image. Ss required less time to image arrays composed of units containing fewer letters and required less time if arrays were composed of relatively discriminable letters than if arrays were composed of relatively indiscriminable letters. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-303
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1983


  • imagery representational system, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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