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Mental Imagery
by disuse. The highest minds are probably those in which it is not lost, but
subordinated, and is ready for use on suitable occasions. I am, however,
bound to say, that the missing faculty seems to be replaced so serviceably
by other modes of conception, chiefly, I believe, connected with the
incipient motor sense, not of the eyeballs only but of the muscles
generally, that men who declare themselves entirely deficient in the power
of seeing mental pictures can nevertheless give life-like descriptions of
what they have seen and can otherwise express themselves as if they were
gifted with a vivid visual imagination. They can also become painters of
the rank of Royal Academicians.
The facts I am now about to relate are obtained from the returns of 100
adult men, of whom 19 are Fellows of the Royal Society, mostly of very
high repute, and at least twice, and I think I may say three times, as many
more are persons of distinction in various kinds of intellectual work. As
already remarked, these returns taken by themselves do not profess to be
of service in a general statistical sense, but they are of much importance in
showing how men of exceptional accuracy express themselves when they
are speaking of mental imagery. They also testify to the variety of
experiences to be met with in a moderately large circle. I will begin by
giving a few cases of the highest, of the medium and of the lowest order
of the faculty of visualising. The hundred returns were first classified
according to the order of the faculty, as judged to the best of my ability
from the whole of what was said in them, and of what I knew from other
sources of the writers; and the number prefixed to each quotation shows
its place in the class-list.
(From returns, furnished by 100 men, at least half of whom are
distinguished in science or in other fields of intellectual work.)
Cases where the faculty is very high.
Brilliant, distinct, never blotchy.
Quite comparable to the real object. I feel as though I was dazzled, e.g.
when recalling the sun to my mental vision. Previous page Top Next page