Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Author's Response

Stalking the elusive mental image screen

Zenon W. Pylyshyn a1
a1 Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020


After thirty years of the current “imagery debate,” it appears far from resolved, even though there seems to be a growing acceptance that a cortical display cannot be identified directly with the experienced mental image, nor can it account for the experimental findings on imagery, at least not without additional ad hoc assumptions. The commentaries on the target article range from the annoyed to the supportive, with a surprising number of the latter. In this response I attempt to correct some misreadings of the target article and discuss some of the ideas and evidence introduced by the commentators – much of which I found helpful, even though they do not alter my basic thesis. I also further develop the idea that the spatial character of images may come from the way they are connected to our immediate or immediately-recalled environment (by attention or by visual indexes) and towards which we may orient while we are imaging, thus leaving the alleged spatial properties of images outside the head and freeing image-representations from having to be displayed on any surface.