Cognition and Visual Imagery vs. Reality

Topic: Challenges of Psychology
Words: 2905 Pages: 10


Among the most remarkable capacities of man is his ability to form visualizations without external stimuli. This skill reaches the highest level of comprehensibility in the depictions of visions and fantasies and symbolic characterization in the less remarkable depictions of the mind’s eye in everyday thoughts and emotions. In contrast to cognitive noise, which is a constituent of the default mode network (DMN), while we sleep, a significant piece of this neural circuitry is switched off. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) acts as a logic detector for an individual. Once deactivated, apparently ludicrous images can be perceived with the same degree of realism as real ones. Schizophrenic patients regularly report experiencing imagined voices condemning them, observing their behavior, instructing them to perform chores, or alerting them of impending disaster. Narcolepsy’s distinctive hypnagogic illusions are fleeting visions related to the present circumstances, which patients immediately recognize as illusory upon waking.


The capacity of man to construct visual representations in the absence of external things is one of his most fascinating abilities. This talent achieves great concreteness in the pictorializations of visions and delusions and figurative portrayal in the less spectacular pictorializations of the mind’s eye in daily emotions and experiences. The following is a conceptual description of perception in which the fundamental component of cognition is visual imagery rather than verbal interpretations. Dreams, hypnagogic and hypnopompic perspectives, mental confusion, distortions, and various cognitive functions are just a few of the numerous impulsive and subjective occurrences. This paper aims to provide a deeper insight into visual imagery (VI) and the similarities of VI to the actual processing of objects. Additionally, the research analyzes the ability of individuals to distinguish imagery from reality and how patients with disorders such as hypnagogic hallucinations in narcolepsy and schizophrenia differentiate imagery and reality.

Reality is regularly stated as a single psychological phenomenon, and numerous processes must be absorbed under reality. For example, the quality of the sensory perception determines whether it occurs internally or externally. Even if the interior picture appears to be exterior, a quick judgment of its reality may follow if portrayed as occurring in the external environment (Roldan, 2017). When the immediate evaluation system announces ostensible actuality, there appears to be a second, delayed mechanism for reviewing dubious conceptions that employ the technique of seeking to eliminate the cognize (Roldan, 2017). Thus, this strategy of visual inspection may be solely mental or may include physical modes such as the common endeavor to blink away an imaginary sensation.

When a portrayal of the form generated during the preliminary interpretation stages is prevalent, but the input signal is not being recognized, a psychological image is formed. Such depictions safeguard the stimulus’s detectable attributes and eventually give ascent to the conscious experience of awareness (Roldan, 2017). This principle highlights two characteristics of visual images that are critical for comprehending and assessing subjective imagery’s function in learning and memory. First, imagery is intrinsically linked to sensory systems; therefore, this alludes to the central nervous system selecting the vision information to build and sustain a mental picture in visual imagery (Roldan, 2017). Second, images are defined by their cognitive communications to the physical phenomena they depict. These imagery characteristics set it apart from other modes of expression, which are recommended to be amodal, unrelated to any specific visual receptors, and lacking any requisite similarity to the images or functions they symbolize.

Visual Imagery (VI)

Mental images are formed by subjective perceptions constructed from previously encoded data, not from details now received by the modalities. Therefore, visual imaging generates or recreates a sensory perception devoid of retinal information (Xie et al., 2020). According to Xie et al. (2020), such images occur when a description of the input produced during the earliest stages of awareness is maintained, but the information is not seen. Visual perception frequently incorporates information about emotions and fantasies not conveyed to the mind via spoken interpretations. In psychiatric consultations, patients who draw or articulate visual imagery can convey feelings and thoughts that could not be expressed verbally. The consequences of a single visual picture or a succession of visual cognitive images for attitude, imagination, or inhibited recollection are best explored during insight psychotherapies. Visual imaging experiences of varying types occur on these occasions.

Numerous spontaneous and intuitive visual phenomena are hypnagogic and hypnopompic encounters, delusions, fancies, sleep scintillations, memorization imagery, flickering shadows, and thought representations. These forms of VI can be classified and distinguished by the concreteness or severity with which they are mentally registered. Moreover, they still are categorized by the manner and amount to which they are subjected to self-observation and validity assessment, their longevity, and their seriatim structure. Visual imagery occurrences exist on a spectrum of different attributes and are not neatly classified into any particular typology.

Factors that Enhance Occurrence of Visual Imagery

The primary factors that promote the onset of visual imagery perceptions can be classified into five broad categories: directionless intellect, purposive imagination or sensory outcome expectations, and an increment in comparatively amorphous visual sensations. Other elements that enhance VI are word-blocking and changes in consciousness levels or their neurocognitive precursors. These components will be addressed independently, although they interact intricately in real-world situations.

Directionless Mind

The term “purposeless mind” alludes to a decrease in mental or physical energy than an attainable state. It is attempted through sensory deprivation tests, muscle relaxation, rigidity, and dismissing motivations to execute specific mental skills. Thus, this is similar to the goal of numerous religiophilosophical organizations’ contemplative procedures, psychoanalysis’s complementary methodology, and certain forms of hypnotic induction and sleep-inducing procedures. Specific individuals possess cognitive control that enables them to switch cognitive representations between verbal and sensory features at will. However, others are quite constrained in this skill, and some people exhibit significant anxiety when attempting aimless thought.

Purposive Fantasy

Purposeful imagination thinking, most notably daydreaming, amplifies sensorial, mental representations. As a result, this is most likely due to imagery’s unique aptitude for depicting need-satisfying actions, settings, and items, as well as the subjective arousal supplied by sensory-quality memory representations. Visual expectation also increases the likelihood of encountering visual mental representations. A good illustration of this occurs in a variety of discerning search settings. Indeed, the appearance of inner thoughts and the subsequent misunderstanding of what one anticipates seeing outwardly is a standard professional concern for watchtowers, aviation crews, radar technicians, and participants in subconscious perception research.

Improvement in Amorphous Visual Sensations

Reducing significant outward visual inputs and increasing amorphous sensory input improves mental imagery. While blindfolding lowers external stimulation, the retinae produce distinctive phosphenes or idioretinal brightness sensations. Complete darkness appears to induce excessive tiredness and results in the proportional deafferentation of mental perception pathways. It is possible to eliminate visual features and stimuli in research conditions by providing participants with a diffuse, lit, uniform visual cortex.

As a result, this can be accomplished by wearing ground sunglasses, halving plastic balls over the eyes, or projecting a lit curvilinear area outside the recipient’s peripheral vision. These methods provide a complete explanation of visual vision encounters in study participants experiencing hypnagogic daydreaming than obscurity or brightness through shut eyelids. Likewise, flickering brightness in quick on-off patterns creates a vague but stimulating visual sense without a great deal of object-meaningfulness.

Interruption of Cognition in Speech

Occasionally, during psychoanalytic treatment, a patient will not construct ideas in phrases and will experience powerful visual impressions on the awareness monitor. Occasionally, it appears as though highly emotional recollections or concepts are being searched for in the conceptual flow, which can only reach initial awareness manifestation in this mode. This type of conversion of the subsurface of thought from vocabulary to visual representations occurs in daily cognition and is driven by emotional thinking patterns. Subjects usually report a transition in subjective consciousness from language to imagery perception during this period.

Changes in Consciousness Levels

Every person experiences a modified state of awareness consistently in the manner of cyclic episodes of rapid eye movement (REM) associated with an activated electroencephalogram. These REM sleep cycles have been found to correspond to the conscious perception of dreaming, which is primarily a visual hallucination occurrence in most people. During waking, hallucinogenic substances have been proven to induce highly visual states. Additionally, direct activation of the cerebral cortex region produces isotropic visual information, such as mathematical objects and flashing lights that are hallucinatory. Thus, this enables assumptions about the anatomical, physiological, and psychological processes involved in the hallucination’s formation. However, most direct electrical activation investigations are conducted on patients with neurological dysfunction and do not always apply to regular brain activity.

Similarities of VI to the Actual Processing of an Object

One of the main objectives of object recognition analysis is to discover how a cognitive model constructed from the stimuli of processed and altered sensory data promotes appropriate viewer conduct. Given how closely mental imagery parallels perceptual processing in cortices and subjective visual attributes, one would reasonably ask if VI aids understanding in the same way that sensory gazing does: detecting and recognizing distinctive aspects. To operate dynamically and with improved functioning, biological creatures must have a capacity for cognition that extends beyond an instantaneous response to a practically input signal.

Humans accomplish this through visual memory, the skill to contrive a realistic subjective experience from the recollection that substitutes the stimulus’s perception. Intuitively though, elements resemble perceived ones, implying that imagery and perception use similar neural circuits. Xie et al. (2020) examined the rhythmic time courses of visual imagery and image awareness using multivariate trend assessment on human electroencephalography (EEG) information. They discovered that concepts common to vision and perception formed exclusively in the alpha wavelength region.

These projections were detected in downstream neurons but not upstream sensors, implying a parieto-occipital cortical origin. Comparing the shared representations to mathematical methods via symbolic correlation analyses connected later layers of deep neural networks instructed on object variants but not auditory configurations. Therefore, implying that the shared representations are based on approaches to sophisticated visual features. Together, their findings establish and quantify alpha rhythms as a cerebral characteristic of associated visual mental picture and perception concepts.

Saccades are consistent across subjective gazing and mental imagining states, reflecting critical cognitive functions. While saccadic eye patterns in either circumstance may emphasize a specific position more than on particular components, this link may be utilized to assist analytic feature research (Roldan, 2017). For example, image functionality can be satisfactorily associated with different geographical locations without altering the object’s efficient mechanism. In that case, saccadic eye motions may provide a more precise recognition indicator to salient object characteristics than a reference frame, which can then be evaluated for categorization.

Additionally, such a strategy may avert any confounds associated with covert concentration by demanding explicit visual stimuli to fixate specific features. This strategy might be used to investigate sensory visual recognition activities, the outcomes of which could be used to direct and correlate similar mental imagery experiments (Roldan, 2017). A simple comparison of diagnostic traits across perception and imagery situations may provide additional insight into the more extensive relationships between object attributes, sensory cognition, and visual imagery.

The most recognized science stream into internal visual representations is the brain’s electrical measurements collected via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). This method generates a direct assessment of the substance of visual memory without the difficulties inherent in visual interpretation of private mental encounters. Categorizations attained using blood-oxygen-level reliant variations as assessed by fMRI strongly suggest the availability of diagnostic component information in mental representations and its manifestation via brain activity (Roldan, 2017). Furthermore, distinct engagement patterns have been established related to specific types of imagined things and have been established to be stable across people.

Individuals’ Ability to Differentiate between Imagery and Reality

As it seems, actuality and fantasy are inextricably entwined in people’s brains. Their interior and outside worlds are not as distinct as they might believe. If individuals’ imaginations are vibrant enough, they will believe it is genuine and will use their creativity to develop their vision of reality, which implies they will view things differently than they are. When people perceive information through their senses, the way the brain interprets it is substantially different than when the brain generates material on its own. Afferent input is what the brain gets from people’s senses; it simply refers to data traveling towards the cortex.

The brain can self-generate or picture what is now occurring; this is referred to as an efference duplicate. When there is a disagreement between afferent and efferent signals, individuals are surprised (Roldan, 2017). Voluntary imaginations are distinct from delusions or mind-wondering, which are types of automatic continuing brain function that contribute to the visual cortex ambient noise. For some, this psychological cacophony or mental confusion can be quite intense, interfering with their ability to concentrate. On the other hand, hallucinations occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep period (Roldan, 2017). Unlike cognitive noise, which happens as a component of the default mode network (DMN), while we sleep, a critical section of this brain network is turned off. The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is an individual’s reason filter (Roldan, 2017). Once disabled, seemingly absurd images can be viewed with the same vividness as if they were genuine. Occasionally, this enables people to correlate connections they cannot make when awake.

How the ability to differentiate Imagery and Reality Differs in Disorders

Mechanisms of imagery and reality tracking are required to distinguish between data derived internally and insights collected from the external world. They assist people in distinguishing their ideas, emotions, and fantasies from occurrences they may have witnessed or heard about from others. Misunderstandings between imagined and real encounters, which are natural results of ordinary cognition, to delusions are indicators of psychiatric conditions. Under this subtopic, the paper analyzes the ability of schizophrenia and hypnagogic hallucination in narcolepsy patients’ to differentiate between image and reality.


One implementation of the research to characterize the neural circuitry behind reality surveillance has improved the understanding of cognitive impairment exhibited in clinical diseases such as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia patients almost invariably have hallucinations or illusory experiences that happen without an actual impulse or are extreme abnormalities of a natural sensation (Simons et al., 2017). The most prevalent type of hallucination is auditory disturbances, which are experienced by the majority of patients (Simons et al., 2017). Schizophrenic clients frequently report encountering imagined voices cursing them, making observations about their conduct, commanding them to perform tasks, or warning them of catastrophe.

In healthy individuals who do not suffer from illusions, such perceptual action is characterized as being produced inwardly by reality monitoring systems mediated by the anterior and middle prefrontal cortex and interpreted as an imagined speech. Schizophrenia patients who encounter intrusive thoughts and sudden visual impulsiveness may be more assertive, supplemented by hypoactivation of proximal areas, culminating in a reality monitoring deficit that results in an inability to acknowledge the function as self-generated (Simons et al., 2017). In schizophrenia, delusions are caused by sensory integration area overstimulation and reality tracking impairment; hence, abnormal functional connections between downstream sensory cortical areas and the upstream prefrontal cortex should be evaluated.

Hypnagogic Hallucination in Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a brain disorder marked by numerous daytime sleepiness and tiredness, hallucinations, decreased focus, and a dysfunctional mind’s capacity to regulate sleep-wake cycles. These symptoms can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s capacity to work and overall quality of life. Narcolepsy has been linked to rapid eye movement (REM) rest and the visual cortex’s management of this stage of sleep. Therefore, differentiating complicated connections between the brain and peripheral areas is critical for evaluating and comprehending narcolepsy relationships.

The hallmark hypnagogic and hypnopompic delusions associated with narcolepsy are transient sights and feelings associated with the current surroundings, and patients instantly recognize the encounter as hallucinatory upon awakening. Son et al. (2021) highlighted an overlooked aspect of narcolepsy’s memory dysfunction, in which patients are prone to delude themselves into believing that envisioned occurrences happened. These dream hallucinations are a subtype of recollection source misunderstanding, a well-characterized condition in which the basis of a specific memory is incorrectly attributed.


Visual imaging encompasses a spectrum of experiences ranging from spectacular and seemingly genuine illusions to imprecise and transitory cognitive pictorializations. Differences in severity, cognitive distortions, length, and sequential structure explain the spectrum’s distribution of visual imagery encounters. Each of these characteristics is a composite of other aspects; for example, reality testing does not refer to a single activity but rather a collection of procedures.

Visual imagery’s prevalence and psychological applications suggest that there are systems of imagery cognition in which visual imagery serves as the essential component of cognition rather than verbal interpretations. Hypnagogic and hypnopompic viewpoints, mental confusion, distortions, and various cognitive functions are just some of the numerous impulsive and subjective events. In addition, the reality is frequently used to refer to a single psychological phenomenon, and numerous processes must be absorbed under the rubric of reality. For instance, the sensory perception’s quality dictates whether it occurs inside or externally.

Subjective impressions produce mental images based on previously encoded material, not the modalities’ specifics. As a result, visual imaging develops or recreates sensory perceptions that are empty of retinal information. Voluntary fantasies are separate from delusions or mind-wandering, both of which are continuous brain activation that leads to the visual cortex’s ambient noise. Imagery and reality monitoring techniques are necessary to discern between information generated internally and ideas gleaned from the external environment.


Roldan, S. M. (2017). Object recognition in mental representations: Directions for exploring diagnostic features through visual mental imagery. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 1-15. Web.

Simons, J. S., Garrison, J. R., & Johnson, M. K. (2017). Brain mechanisms of reality monitoring. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 21(6), 462-473. Web.

Son, D. Y., Kwon, H. B., Lee, D. S., Jin, H. W., Jeong, J. H., Kim, J., Choi, S. H., Yoon, H., Lee, M. H., Lee, Y. J., & Park, K. S. (2021). Changes in physiological network connectivity of body system in narcolepsy during REM sleep. Computers in Biology and Medicine, 136, 1-13. Web.

Xie, S., Kaiser, D., & Cichy, R. M. (2020). Visual imagery and perception share neural representations in the alpha frequency band. Current Biology, 30(13), 2621-2627. Web.

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