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Image and Mind

Image and Mind

Stephen M. Kosslyn

ISBN 9780674443662

Publication date: 01/01/1986

Are images an important means of recalling information from memory and solving problems? Or are images just display lights on the mind’s computer? In Image and Mind, Stephen Kosslyn makes an impressive case for the view that images are critically involved in the life of the mind. In a series of ingenious experiments, he provides hard evidence that people can construct elaborate mental images, search them for specific information, and perform such other internal operations as mental rotation. Kosslyn demonstrates that these results are best explained by a two-tiered model in which images are stored in abstract form in long-term memory and then assembled for internal display in much the way that images on a TV screen can be created from files in a computer memory.

Kosslyn shows how this model can be used to solve many of the persistent questions which have traditionally plagued theories of imagery that attempted to install imagery as the exclusive medium of mental representation.

Unlike any other work on imagery, Image and Mind provides an integrated account of most of the modern empirical results from imagery research within the framework of a coherent theory. The book also introduces a host of new experimental techniques and major hypotheses to guide future research. The result is a landmark book and a major event in the study of the mind.


  • Image and Mind is, in a sense, like a great novel—it can be read and appreciated from many different viewpoints: it is an account of the author’s experiments, some of the cleverest in cognitive psychology. It contains a comprehensive theory of the imagery system with some novel standards of evaluation. It summarizes the methods and results of a computer simulation of the imagery system. It is a storehouse of ideas for the developmental psychologist. It is a treatise on the philosophy of science, with a number of ideas that will be new to many psychologists. Finally, it is a philosophical statement of the nature of mental events… In summary, Image and Mind is undoubtedly a landmark in cognitive psychology. It has served to define a field: to state the issues, to indicate important unsolved problems, to provide a fairly comprehensive theory of imagery, and to provide a model of how unobservable states can be studied and theorized about.

    —Contemporary Psychology


  • Stephen M. Kosslyn is John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Emeritus, at Harvard University and Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press