Creative Imagery: Discoveries and Inventions in Visualization

Creative Imagery: Discoveries and Inventions in Visualization

Creative Imagery: Discoveries and Inventions in Visualization

Creative Imagery: Discoveries and Inventions in Visualization


Bringing together the results of experiments on discovery and invention in visualization conducted by the author over a three year period, this book reports new findings on the generation of creative inventions and concepts using mental imagery, and proposes a reconceptualization of the creative process.

Creative Imagery introduces the concept of "preinventive forms" and describes an approach to creative invention differing from those typically used in problem-solving studies. There are two unique features of this book. First, it combines the experimental methods of cognitive science with the opportunity to explore and discover creative inventions in imagination. Second, it provides readers with numerous opportunities to use the creative imagery techniques to develop their own inventions and conceptual discoveries.

This text is of particular interest to scientists working in the fields of experimental psychology, cognitive psychology, and cognitive science. The techniques for generating creative inventions will also be of interest to people working in engineering, architectural design, and the visual arts.


Every person has the potential to make creative discoveries in their imagery. Moreover, it is possible to demonstrate this experimentally for many types of creative discoveries. The experiments I report will show, in fact, that certain techniques are remarkably effective in stimulating the discovery of unexpected patterns, new inventions, and creative concepts--all within imagination. And these are techniques that anyone can learn to use.

A unique feature of this book is that it combines the experimental method and creative exploration. Most experimental studies on imagination constrain how the images are to be formed (e.g., Finke, 1989; Kosslyn, 1980; Shepard & Cooper, 1982). In contrast, previous books on how to engage in creative visualization have not been extensively based on experimental techniques (e.g., Adams, 1974; Arnheim, 1969; Edwards, 1986; McKim, 1980). This book attempts to do both.

I begin by considering examples of famous anecdotes in which mental images evidently led to creative insights and discoveries.


Roger Shepard (1978, 1988) has compiled a remarkable collection of anecdotes, mostly from eminent scientists and mathematicians, regarding the use of mental imagery in scientific and conceptual discovery. The interesting feature of these accounts is how the insights often arose spontaneously, as one considered the implications of the visualized forms and structures. These insights were typically . . .

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