Coupling to Variant Information: an Ecological Account of Comparative Mental Imagery Generation

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Action-based theories of cognition place primary emphasis upon the role that agent-environment coupling plays in the emergence of psychological states. Prima facie, mental imagery seems to present a problem for some of these theories because it is understood to be stimulus-absent and thus thought to be decoupled from the environment. However, mental imagery is much more multifaceted than this “naïve” view suggests. Focusing on a particular kind of imagery, comparative mental imagery generation, this paper demonstrates that although such imagery is stimulus-absent, it is also stimulus-sensitive. Exhibiting stimulus-sensitivity is sufficient for a process to qualify as coupled to the environment. The notion of variant coupling is explicated as the coupling of a cognizer’s perceptual system to variant environmental information. By demarcating the categories of stimulus-absent and stimulus-sensitive cognition, and variant and invariant coupling, this paper expands the conceptual apparatus of action-based theories, suggesting not only a way to address the problem that comparative mental imagery generation presents, but perhaps a way to account for other forms of imagery too.
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Archival date: 2019-12-28
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