Special Issue "Vividness, Consciousness, and Mental Imagery: Making the Missing Links across Disciplines and Methods"
A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 December 2019).
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.
Interests: mental imagery; visual cognition; neuroscience of consciousness; vividness; ecological reliability and validity of imagery; imagery qualia; electroencephalography; event related potentials; Transcranial Direct Current stimulation (TDCs); structural MRI; reaction times modeling; verbal reports and protocol analysis; meta-analytic procedures; systematic research synthesis; brain computer interaction
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Over twenty years ago, Baars (1996) noted that, “The strategy of treating consciousness as a variable has now become standard in the study of subliminal vision, blindsight, and implicit cognition. We can easily apply it to mental imagery—yet we rarely do so.” He concluded that, “As a result, even as consciousness research thrives in other domains, we have very little firm evidence about the conscious dimension of mental imagery.” In many respects, Baar’s conclusion still stands.
Today in many studies, mental images are still either treated as conscious by definition, or as empirical operations implicit to completing some type of task, such as the measurement of reaction time in mental rotation, an underlying mental image is assumed, but there is no direct determination of whether it is conscious or not.
The vividness of mental images is a potentially helpful construct which may be suitable, as it may correspond to consciousness or aspects of the consciousness of images. There is currently a surge of interest in vividness in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging literature (see Runge, Cheung and D’Angiulli, 2017, for a review). It seems that a general implicit assumption is that vivid images are conscious, and it is possible that the least vivid images are effectively unconscious or that they become such once a threshold (e.g., the “no image” in the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire) is reached. Thus it still unclear whether the vividness dimension may in fact be a kind of “disguised correlate of consciousness” (Baars, 1996) or if instead it might be a supramodal metacognitive dimension not necessarily associated with imagery. But even from studies using a vividness approach in neuroscience, the conscious dimension of mental imagery is not explicitly or fully tackled head on. Indeed, when a proper exhaustive literature search is conducted, it leads back to a paper by David Marks (1999) for a glimpse of what a theoretical discussion of the missing links might look like.
In this context, a complicating factor seems to be the surprising variety in what is meant by the term vividness or how it is used or theorized. Some authors do not mention imagery or consciousness at all when using the term vividness, but associate it to various forms of memory such as prospective, episodic, autobiographical, or to aliased processes not literally called imagery but, for example, imagining or visualizations or simulations. Similarly, replacement constructs for vividness have been offered, for example, in terms of the strength of imagery or semantic long-term memory contents. In all these cases, it is not really clear what is achieved by replacing one label with another or replacing a research tradition with another. We are still left with the gaps pointed out by Baars.
To fill some of the gaps, the goal of the present Special Issue is to create a publication outlet where authors can fully explore through sound research the missing theoretical and empirical links between vividness, consciousness and mental imagery across disciplines, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, cognitive science, to mention the most obvious ones, as well as transdisciplinary methodological (single, combined, or multiple) approaches. Manuscripts based on studies integrating phenomenology, brain and behavior are sought for submission, as are studies that are not just on the “normative” but also on clinical or developmental or aging aspects. Mental imagery is here considered in the broadest possible terms, including imagination and all sensory modalities, and not confined to humans. However, vividness and consciousness need to be clearly defined or framed at the outset, and be terminologically consistent and coherent throughout a manuscript submitted to this Special Issue. Research articles, reviews, communications, perspectives, opinions, concept papers and case studies will be considered.
Baars, B.J. (1996). When Are Images Conscious? The Curious Disconnection between Imagery and Consciousness in the Scientific Literature. Consciousness & Cognition, 5, 261–264
Marks, D.F. (1999). Consciousness, mental imagery and action. British Journal of Psychology, 90(4), 567-585.
Runge, M.; Cheung, M.W.-L. & D’Angiulli, A. (2017). Meta-analytic comparison of trial- versus questionnaire-based vividness reportability across behavioral, cognitive and neural measurements of imagery. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 1-13. doi: 10.1093/nc/nix006.
Prof. Amedeo D'Angiulli
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- Mental Imagery
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cognitive Psychology
- Verbal report