The Ambiguity of Mental Images: Insights Regarding the Structure of Shape Memory and Its Function in Creativity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Three lines of experimentation have indicated some of the ways in which pictures and images differ: (1) Reed demonstrated that the embedded figures task could not be performed very well in mental imagery; imagery did not seem capable of supporting the repartitioning processes necessary for finding embedded figures. Reed's experiments did not indicate a complete dissociation between imagery and perception. (2) Hinton demonstrated that the memory image of a three-dimensional cube failed to specify its three-dimensional structure precisely. (3) Chambers and Reisberg demonstrated that observers who saw only one interpretation of Jastrow's duck/ rabbit, when viewing a picture, were unable to reverse their mental image from duck to rabbit (or vice versa); this finding was replicated in other experiments using the Necker cube and the Schroeder staircase. Based on their evidence, Chambers and Reisberg claimed that mental images differ from pictures in that mental images cannot be reconstrued—that is, they cannot be separated from their interpretations. The first two lines of research indicate that not all of the part relationships that can be found in a picture or an object are preserved in a mental image. All three lines of research clearly demonstrate that pictures and mental images are not isomorphic. Finke et al. proposed two untested solutions: (1) that the complexity of classic reversible figures might preclude their reversal in mental imagery and (2) that the reversal of classic reversible figures might require processes that are available in perception but not in mental imagery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-185
Number of pages35
JournalAdvances in Psychology
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'The Ambiguity of Mental Images: Insights Regarding the Structure of Shape Memory and Its Function in Creativity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this