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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter outlines the history of theoretical beliefs about mental imagery’s status as a representational tool and reviews evidence supporting the current predominant view, focusing on visual imagery’s relevance to social cognition. According to the current predominant view, visual imagery is a legitimate form of mental representation that functions specifically in representing concrete, perceptual information. However, emerging evidence suggests imagery may also have the capacity to represent abstract information. The authors propose potential revisions to the current predominant view, incorporating a function of imagery in the process of abstraction. The chapter explores how variation in imagery ability and use, as well as perceptual qualities of images (e.g., vividness, visual perspective), correspond with variation in social information processing. Evidence illuminates the function of visual imagery in a wide range of social cognitive processes including attribution, impression formation, memory, emotion, mental simulation, persuasion, communication, and judgment and decision making. And, findings demonstrate implications for understanding social phenomena such as addiction, false memories, supernatural belief, and cultural differences.

Keywords: visual imagery, mental simulation, mental representation, social cognition, vividness, visual perspective, abstraction

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