chapter  2
Seeing, visualising and mental imagery
Pages 16

When we talk of seeing an image, either in front of us or visualised with closed eyes, we invoke a range of metaphors and ideas which highlight the relationship between perception and imagery. For those of us with unimpaired vision, to see with ‘the mind’s eye’ conjures up a picture of perception where there is not a great deal of difference between an external or internal image. What we see inside is an image of what we have already seen outside. Likewise, to consider perception as ‘image stimulation’ or ‘inscription’ on a retinal tableau evokes ideas of non-conscious automatic perceptual processing, where ‘brain-mind’ cognitive transformations make possible the phenomenon of perception. There are at least two meanings to the word perception: one being the reception of information through the senses, the other as ‘mental insight’, which would include processes dependent on memories and expectations (Rodaway 1995). The psychology of visual perception has concentrated on the former and avoided asking the question, ‘under what conditions can it be claimed that one sees anything at all?’, leaving such issues to philosophy and phenomenology. The aim in this chapter is to cast a critical eye over contemporary views of perception in order to understand why, among other things, perceptual psychology continues to provide the framework within which theories of mental imagery are formulated and understood.