A framework for understanding mental imagery in design cognition research

MacFie, Rebecca Louise and Hay, Laura Anne and Rodgers, Paul (2023) A framework for understanding mental imagery in design cognition research. Proceedings of the Design Society, 3. pp. 171-180. ISSN 2732-527X (https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.18)

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Mental imagery is the experience of perceiving an object within one's own mind and is a subjective experience, leading to difficulties in the research and understanding of the phenomenon. This paper documents the development and verification of a framework for researching the elements of mental imagery. The framework was developed following a review of both psychology and design literature which signified three fundamental conceptual viewpoints of mental imagery: imagery modalities, dimensions of imagery ability, and imagery processes. The aim of this framework is to allow for structured research on mental imagery in any given research field. This is verified through discussion for the product design engineering discipline and provides a base for future work on this topic. The conclusions made in this paper reveal that mental imagery, and particularly visual mental imagery, is largely considered to be integral in design overlooking the different realities of designers and confirming a greater need to understand mental imagery experiences in product design engineering.