Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Author's Response
Commentary on Zenon W. Pylyshyn (2002). Mental imagery? In search of a theory. BBS 25(2):157–182.

From reifying mental pictures to reifying spatial models

Zenon W. Pylyshyn a1
a1 Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University at New Brunswick, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020 [email protected]


Assuming that the vehicle of imaginal thought is a spatial model may not be quite as egregious an error as assuming it is a two-dimensional picture, but it represents no less a reification error. Because the model is not a literal physical layout, one is still owed an explanation of why spatial properties hold in the model – whether because of architectural constraints or by stipulation. The difference is like the difference between explaining behavior from a principle and predicting it by looking it up in a list. In the latter case no purpose is being served by calling it a mental model.