Object Recognition in Mental Representations: Directions for Exploring Diagnostic Features through Visual Mental Imagery
Roldan, Stephanie M.
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One of the fundamental goals of object recognition research is to understand how a cognitive representation produced from the output of filtered and transformed sensory information facilitates efficient viewer behavior. Given that mental imagery strongly resembles perceptual processes in both cortical regions and subjective visual qualities, it is reasonable to question whether mental imagery facilitates cognition in a manner similar to that of perceptual viewing: via the detection and recognition of distinguishing features. Categorizing the feature content of mental imagery holds potential as a reverse pathway by which to identify the components of a visual stimulus which are most critical for the creation and retrieval of a visual representation. This review will examine the likelihood that the information represented in visual mental imagery reflects distinctive object features thought to facilitate efficient object categorization and recognition during perceptual viewing. If it is the case that these representational features resemble their sensory counterparts in both spatial and semantic qualities, they may well be accessible through mental imagery as evaluated through current investigative techniques. In this review, methods applied to mental imagery research and their findings are reviewed and evaluated for their efficiency in accessing internal representations, and implications for identifying diagnostic features are discussed. An argument is made for the benefits of combining mental imagery assessment methods with diagnostic feature research to advance the understanding of visual perceptive processes, with suggestions for avenues of future investigation.