Brain Box

Stephen Michael Kosslyn. Ghosts in the Mind's Machine: Creating and Using Images in the Brain. W. W. Norton, 1985.

This book is an account of recent research into mental imagery. It describes various experiments which have been devised to investigate ways in which people create and manipulate mental Images.

Such investigations cannot be carried out by studying the brain itself, but by studying the functioning of the brain. To this end experiments are carried out in which subjects are asked to view various images and then are asked questions designed to test their powers of mental imagery. Some 'of the experiments also explore the connections between mental images and the words which are used to describe the objects being visualised. Although most of the experiments described are quite simple, the experimenters have taken precautions to ensure that subjects do not 'second guess' them and fake the 'right' answers just to please them. The results make it possible for a theory to be constructed of how the brain functions and to give us some insights into the processes involved in the construction and use of mental images.

A more indirect form of investigation described in this book is the devising of computer programs which are capable of identifying images. Experience with such programs leads to results which suggest useful ideas for further experiments on human subjects.

The subject of perception and mental imagery is, or should be, of great interest to all those who are interested in reports of UFOs or other strange sights, and this book provides plenty' of information to inspire the . serious researcher into such phenomena, although I must emphasis that it deals almost exclusively with normal imagery and not hallucinations and other unusual experiences.

My only quibble is with the philosophising in which the author indulges, where he asserts that new theories of mental functioning have solved the mind-body problem. This' problem actually has very little to do with the details of brain functioning, and this is why it has proved to be so intractable. -- John Harney. Magonia 20, August 1985

No comments: