Evaluating the mind's eye: the metacognition of visual imagery

J. Pearson*, R.L. Rademaker, F. Tong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Can people evaluate phenomenal qualities of internally generated experiences, such as whether a mental image is vivid or detailed? This question exemplifies a problem of metacognition: How well do people know their own thoughts? In the study reported here, participants were instructed to imagine a specific visual pattern and rate its vividness, after which they were presented with an ambiguous rivalry display that consisted of the previously imagined pattern plus an orthogonal pattern. On individual trials, higher ratings of vividness predicted a greater likelihood that the imagined pattern would appear dominant when the participant was subsequently presented with the binocular rivalry display. Off-line self-report questionnaires measuring imagery vividness also predicted individual differences in the strength of imagery bias over the entire study. Perceptual bias due to mental imagery could not be attributed to demand characteristics, as no bias was observed on catch-trial presentations of mock rivalry displays. Our findings provide novel evidence that people have a good metacognitive understanding of their own mental imagery and can reliably evaluate the vividness of single episodes of imagination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1535-1542
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

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