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Words provide management of images

Words manage and direct the imagination process. It would be hard to go through a sequence of thinking about one or multiple things simply by visualizing their occurrences. Here (Paivio, 1979) talks about the two processes of images and words and how they relate:

  • One important hypothesis concerning the interaction of the processes is that imags are particularly effective in promoting rapid associations while verbal processes give them direction. something of this kind has been suggested, for example, by Rugg in connection with the requisites of the creative act, which are said to include "a well filled storehouse of imagery to guarantee richness and freedom of association, and of ordered key concepts to guarantee organization of thought" (1963, p. 311). Imagery is characteristic of autistic thinking in general and in that context is free of logical restraints; verbal processes superimposed on such imagery presumably contribute order and direction. These hypothesized, mutually supportive functions of images and words can be viewed as a consequence of the relative weighing of parallel processing and sequential processing features in the two systems: Imagery having both spatially and operationally parallel properties, is likely to be characterized by freedom and speed of association, whereas the sequentially organized verbal system is capable of providing organization to the associative process.

    Some questions about representations, images and abstraction

  • Are there different levels of the complexity of mental images?
  • Can an image be thought about more by making a more complex or sequentially next image of it?
  • If one image fits one representation, then it could be said that there are 'images' and 'meta- images (or visualizations)' and that those are comparable to representations and meta-representations.
  • How do visualizations and images relate to the concreteness or abstractness of mental concepts?
  • Would an abstract concept be harder to visualize or easier than a concrete concept?
  • For instance, visualizing numbers might be simple but visualizing an abstract concept might be challenging if its symbol is difficult to understand (but it might be 'understood' unconsciously.
  • So visions or images can take on a simple, unconscious form perhaps like in dreams with dream symbols and images.
  • I guess that unconscious image processing is more simple than conscious processing - like how the images in dreams are more simple than images people have when they are conscious.


Images are used to compare and contrast conceptual information. People think about their experiences with these unconscious images and thoughts. A concept could be a summary or example of a certain type of experience, and using images would probably create more detail for the concept. Words obviously trigger and direct conceptual thinking, however the content of conceptual thinking comes from feelings or visualizations. Visualizations might be tied in with fast thinking or slow, emotional thinking. Doing math doesn't require emotional processes but would require complex visual processes but not necessarily complex conceptual thought - since most advanced thought is actually emotionally based and might or might not use emotional processes when thinking.

The question then would be when is an emotional process used in thinking. I mentioned that math doesn't require emotional processes and was just visual. Many concepts are just visual even if they are emotional concepts, however - so this could be difficult to figure out.


Heil, J. (2003) 'Mental Causation'. In Stich, S and Warfield, T. (Eds) The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell publishing

Paivio, A (1979) Imagery and Verbal Processes. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Questions & Answers

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The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
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Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
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Source:  OpenStax, How is emotion and cognition experienced, processed, and related?. OpenStax CNX. Jul 11, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11919/1.7
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