Spatial Cognition and Mental Imagery: A Golledge Lecture featuring Professor Markus Knauff
Spatial cognition is about our experience of inner and outside space and how it is represented and processed in the human brain. Visual mental imagery is the subjective experience of seeing objects or events in front of the ‘inner eye’, although they are not actually present. Although much research has been concerned with the role of visualization in spatial cognition, the evidence remains equivocal.
In this special presentation hosted by Dr. Markus Knauff, Dr. Knauff will address the aforementioned inconsistencies and show that (1) our conscious experience of mental imagery can be fatally misguiding, that (2) people often use spatial presentations that are more abstract than visual mental images, that (3) visual mental imagery can even be harmful to spatial thinking. Although his approach to explaining spatial cognition does not rely on visual imagery, it explains why we often have the feeling that we think with our “mind’s eye”. It also explains why some people get lost more often than others while way finding in real or virtual environments, and even when surgeons navigate through their patients’ bodies.
Markus Knauff is a professor at the renowned Psychology Department at the University of Giessen. His research focuses on two topics, human rationality and spatial cognition. In his research, Knauff combines psychological experiments, computer simulations to model mental processes, and neuroimaging to understand the underlying brain structures and processes of cognition and behavior. He has been President of the German Cognitive Science Society, Associate Editor of Cognitive Science, and Chair of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Berlin. Knauff’s most recent publications include: Space to Reason: A Spatial Theory of Human Thought (2013) and The Handbook of Rationality (in press, together with the Philosopher W. Spohn), both with MIT Press.