Do visual mental imagery and exteroceptive perception rely on the same mechanisms?

Poster Presentation 53.327: Tuesday, May 23, 2023, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Banyan Breezeway
Session: Face Perception: Neural mechanisms

Catherine Landry1, Jasper JF van den Bosch2, Ian Charest1,2, Frédéric Gosselin1, Vincent Taschereau-Dumouchel3,4; 1Cerebrum, Département de psychologie, Université de Montréal, 2Centre for Human Brain Health, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, 3Département de psychiatrie et d'addictologie, Université de Montréal, 4Centre de Recherche de l’Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal, Montréal

Subjective visual experience can be achieved with or without external stimuli. Previous work in neuroimaging suggests that exteroceptive visual perception and mental imagery activate similar brain areas within the ventral visual stream (e.g., Horikawa & Kamitani, 2017). It is still unclear to what extent visual mental imagery and exteroceptive visual perception rely on the same mechanisms. We tested a total of 98 individuals (60 men; age range 18-66 years; M = 34.22, SD = 13.65) recruited via Prolific. Mental imagery abilities were assessed using four self-report questionnaires: Object-spatial Imagery Questionnaire (OSIQ; Blajenkova et al., 2006), Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ; Marks, 1973), Spontaneous Use of Imagery Scale (SUIS; Kosslyn et al., 1998), and Questionnaire upon Mental Imagery (QMI; Sheehan, 1967). Face recognition ability was evaluated using the Cambridge Face Perception Test (CFPT; Duchaine et al., 2007) and the extended version of the Cambridge Face Memory test (CFMT+; Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006; Russell et al., 2009). All tests were conducted online using Meadows ( We computed a global imagery score for each participant as the sum of the z-scores of the four questionnaires. Similarly, the global perception score was computed as the sum of the z-scores of the accuracy of the CFMT+ and of the upright faces trials of the CFPT. No correlation was observed between the two global scores (r = -0.018, p = 0.85; and r = 0.081, p = 0.43, restricting the correlation to face items in the mental imagery questionnaires). We also examined the association between VVIQ and the CFMT+, both gold-standard in their fields. The lack of significant correlation (r = -0.035, p = 0.72) further suggests that visual mental imagery and face recognition stem from only partly overlapping mechanisms.