Eye movements disrupt spatial but not visual mental imagery


It has long been known that eye movements are functionally involved in the generation and maintenance of mental images. Indeed, a number of studies demonstrated that voluntary eye movements interfere with mental imagery tasks. However, mental imagery is conceived as a multifarious cognitive function with at least two components, a spatial component and a visual component. The present study investigated the question of whether eye movements disrupt mental imagery in general or only its spatial component. We present data on healthy young adults, who performed visual and spatial imagery tasks concurrently with a smooth pursuit. In line with previous literature, results revealed that eye movements had a strong disruptive effect on spatial imagery. Moreover, we crucially demonstrated that eye movements had no disruptive effect when participants visualized the depictive aspects of an object. Therefore, we suggest that eye movements serve to a greater extent the spatial than the visual component of mental imagery.

Cognitive Processing
JF Bonnefon
JF Bonnefon
Behavioral Scientist