Eye Movements During Mental Imagery are Not Reenactments of Perception

Abstract

In this study eye movements were recorded for participants under three different conditions. All three conditions consisted of a perception phase and a mental imagery phase. The imagery phase was similar for all conditions: i.e., participants looked freely at a blank white screen. The perception phase was different for each condition. In the control condition, participants looked freely at a complex picture. In the first experimental condition, they looked at another complex picture but maintained fixation at the center of the picture. In the second experimental condition, they maintained central fixation while listening to a verbal scene description. The results revealed that despite central fixation during the perception phase under the two experimental conditions, participants’ eye movements were spread out during the imagery phase, reflecting the spatial positions and directions within the picture or scene. These results contradict the theory that eye movements during mental imagery are re-enactments of perception.


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