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Mental Imagery, Reasoning, and Blindness


Knauff,  M
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Knauff, M. (2006). Mental Imagery, Reasoning, and Blindness. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A: Human Experimental Psychology, 59(1), 161-177. doi:10.1080/17470210500149992.

Although reasoning seems to be inextricably linked to seeing in the ‘‘mind’s eye’’, the evidence is equivocal. In three experiments, sighted, blindfolded sighted, and congenitally totally blind persons solved deductive inferences based on three sorts of relations: (1) visuo-spatial relations that are easy to envisage either visually or spatially, (2) visual relations that are easy to envisage visually but hard to envisage spatially, and (3) control relations that are hard to envisage both visually and spatially. In absolute terms, congenitally totally blind persons performed less accurately and more slowly than the sighted on all such tasks. In relative terms, however, the visual relations in comparison with control relations impeded the reasoning of sighted and blindfolded participants, whereas congenitally totally blind participants performed the same with the different sorts of relations. We conclude that mental images containing visual details that are irrelevant to an inference can even impede the p rocess of reasoning. Persons who are blind from birth—and thus do not tend to construct visual mental images—are immune to this visual-impedance-effect.