Figure

A sample of an ambiguous figure from Chambers and Reisberg's (1985) study. It can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit. Copyright © 1985 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

experimental work in this field consists of instructing the subject to behave as if he were seeing something in the outside world .Whether such results tell us how the system works, or indeed tell us much about the phenomenology, I am as yet uncertain" (p. 130). This matter has been the subject of much debate (see 1999 special issue of Cahier de Psychologie Cognitive, 18:4). Although several alternative accounts, such as Baddley's, have been proposed, it has been argued convincingly that there is still a strong empirical basis for accepting that image-scanning experiments do indeed reflect differences in imagery rather than something else (Denis & Cocude, 1999; Denis & Kosslyn, 1999).

Re-interpreting images of ambiguous figures

Recently, there has been considerable interest in how people re-interpret visual images of ambiguous figures (see Figure 9.9). Chambers and Reisberg (1985) presented subjects with ambiguous figures, like the duck/rabbit, that can be inter preted in different ways; for example, as a rabbit facing to the right or a duck facing to the left. Subjects who viewed a figure for five seconds were asked to image it before it was taken away. Then, still imaging it, they were asked to give a second interpretation of the figure. In spite of several different interventions to aid subjects, none of them could produce another interpretation of the figure. However, the same subjects could draw their image of the figure and having drawn it, could produce a reinterpretation of it.

This finding suggests that there is some propositional code that influences the construction of the image, to such an extent that details needed for the re-interpretation are omitted. As Chambers and Reisberg (1992) put it: "What an image depicts depends on what it means" (p. 146). However, these results also show that images do occur in a special medium, a medium that represents images at different levels of resolution. For instance, other research has shown that the definition of the image towards the "face" of the figure is better than at the "back" of the figure (see Brandimonte & Gerbino, 1993; Chambers & Reisberg, 1992; Peterson, Kihlstrom, Rose, & Glinsky, 1992). However, recent work has shown that this conclusion does not always hold, that with specific training and instructions it is impossible to help people re-interpret images (Brandimonte & Gerbino, 1993; Peterson et al., 1992).

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