Mental Rotation is Not Easily Cognitively Penetrable

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Mental Rotation is Not Easily Cognitively Penetrable

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Title: Mental Rotation is Not Easily Cognitively Penetrable
Author: Borst, Grégoire; Kievit, Rogier A.; Thompson, William L.; Kosslyn, Stephen Michael

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Citation: Borst, Grégoire, Rogier A. Kievit, William L. Thompson, and Stephen M. Kosslyn. Forthcoming. Mental rotation is not easily cognitively penetrable. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology.
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Abstract: When participants take part in mental imagery experiments, are they using their "tacit knowledge" of perception to mimic what they believe should occur in the corresponding perceptual task? Two experiments were conducted to examine whether such an account can be applied to mental imagery in general. These experiments both examined tasks that required participants to "mentally rotate" stimuli. In Experiment 1, instructions led participants to believe that they could re-orient shapes in one step or avoid re-orienting the shapes altogether. Regardless of instruction type, response times increased linearly with increasing rotation angles. In Experiment 2, participants first observed novel objects rotating at different speeds, and then performed a mental rotation task with those objects. The speed of perceptually demonstrated rotation did not affect the speed of mental rotation. We argue that tacit knowledge cannot explain mental imagery results in general, and that in particular the mental rotation effect reflects the nature of the underlying internal representation and processes that transform it, rather than participants’ pre-existing knowledge.
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