Friday, April 22, 2005

Visual Perception, Visual Imagination, and Cognitive Control

Imagery and imagination, fantasy, and magical thinking are powerful influences for many people throughout the life cycle, but among children, they may be particularly rampant, and not limited to storytime, planned imaginary exercises, or periods of creative play. We frequently underestimate these forces at work when children try to make sense of events, make decisions, and have strong emotional feelings. There are some interesting readings here on imagination - both its biology and its influences among children.

In the figure below, we share reduced figures from Kosslyn's group - to show you how much brain is activated with visual imagination and perception (largely overlapping, but some differences)- which means a lot of work and potential for exhaustion. It's also interesting to see that when imagination is activated in adults, it is not just a passive reviewing of previously seen images, but rather an active process managed by cognitive control areas (frontal). Check out the full length report at the link below.



Vivid imagination and personal imagery can lead to all sort of good things for creative processes and decision-making, but they may also lead to confused reality (false memories), distraction, and isolation. In hospitals, clinical groups have used visualization approaches and self-hypnosis to alleviate fear of painful or uncomfortable procedures. Maybe we should think about how to encouraged 'controlled' or 'focused' imagination so children reap more benefits than harm?

Children's emotional and mood disorders are receiving a great deal of attention from pharmaceutical companies, but we would like to see more imagery work and cognitive therapy to teach children more cognitive control. Biofeedback does tend to be more effective in children than adults - perhaps children's rich imaginative lives can help fuel positive and calming imagery?

Imagination Benefits
HGSE News: Who Needs Imagination? Paul Harris
Visual Perception and Visual Imagination

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