The role of mental imagery in models of transitive inference

Richardson, John T. E. (1987). The role of mental imagery in models of transitive inference. British Journal of Psychology, 78(2) pp. 189–203.



The idea that mental imagery might be implicated in transitive inference has not received any substantial experimental confirmation. In contrast, the involvement of mental imagery has received clearer support in research on symbolic or mental comparisons. Moreover, the two areas of research have produced quite different accounts of the cognitive representations which the use of mental imagery might promote. This investigation considered whether effects attributable to mental imagery could be identified in transitive inference using a task as similar as possible to that involved in symbolic comparisons. Neither the concreteness of the transitive dimension nor the spatial ability of the subjects had any effect upon performance, while the concreteness of the stimuli was negatively related to performance. It was concluded that mental imagery probably plays no role at all in transitive inference, and that its involvement in symbolic comparisons is limited to decisions in which relevant information is available in long-term or semantic memory.

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