Though it is difficult to put into words how visual imagery is used in thought, there is not much doubt that it is. Among memory researchers, debate progresses largely over whether working memory (that refers to the collection of processes involved in thinking: immediate memory, attention, retrieval from long-term knowledge) must include a specialized module for holding image-based thoughts in mind. This is the crux of what interests me: I want to know how impressions from the external world get into the mind, and how to predict the tenacity with which they remain there. While it seems evident that this process differs for verbal and visual things, I do not think theories adequately explain why this should be, and I’m intent on finding the simplest working explanation. In this space, I highlight issues from the scientific literature on memory and attention that apply to this question:
- Findings from dual-task research designs
- Study of associations between verbal and visual features
- How visual information is reactivated/refreshed/rehearsed (i.e., thought about when not immediately perceived) and how this process may be observed and measured
I also comment about implications of memory theory for society, and broader professional topics in science, like the adventures of sustaining a dual-career marriage.