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Imagery and reasoning

Outline of the course:


The aim of this course is to introduce students to cognitive studies of mental imagery and the role that imagery plays in reasoning, especially to the interaction between imagic and verbal reasoning. The course will cover the major theories that explain the mental representations and cognitive processes implicated in imagery. Relevant experimental results will be discussed. The application of imagery in reasoning in general, in learning science and mathematics and in design will be discussed.


Plan of the course:

  1. Overview of issues, debates and experimental methods (1 lecture - Kosslyn) 

  2. Theories of vision, Cognitive processes in high level vision (1 lecture – Marr, Kosslyn) 

  3. The role of imagery in vision (1 lecture – Kosslyn) 

  4. Cognitive processes in imagery (2 lectures – Kosslyn) 

  5. Visuospatial reasoning: varied contexts (2 lectures – Tversky) 

  6. Imagery and mathematical reasoning (1 lecture – Vinner, Thompson) 

  7. Imagery in design (Invited lecture) 

  8. Alternative accounts of imagery and reasoning (4 lectures: Johnson-Laird, Pylyshyn, Thomas, Barsalou) 



  1. Mid-sem exam: 30% (28th Feb, 2005) 

  2. End-sem exam: 30% (10th Apr, 2005) 

  3. Experiment: Draft report  – 10% (due 18th March, 2005), Presentation – 15% (23rd March, 2005), Final report – 15% (due 28th March, 2005) 



  1. Kosslyn, S. (1995) Image and Brain: The Resolution of the Imagery Debate, Cambridge, MIT Press. 

  2. Tversky, B. (In press, available from webpage). Visuospatial Reasoning, In Holyoak, K. and Morrison, R. (Eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Cambridge, CUP 

  3. Tversky, B. What Does Drawing Reveal about Thinking? 

  4. Tversky, B and Suwa, M. External Representations Contribute to the Dynamic Construction of Ideas. 

  5. Thompson, P.W. (1996) Imagery and the development of mathematical reasoning. 

  6. Vinner, S. and Dreyfus, T. (1989) Images and Definitions for the Concept of Function, Journal of Research in Mathematics Education.

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