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Consciousness, Mental Imagery, and Action

D. F. Marks
British Journal of Psychology, 1999, 90 (4): 567-585.


This article is founded on the bold claim that mental imagery is a basic building block of all consciousness. Conscious mental imagery is reported in association with waking, dreaming and intermediate states of consciousness. Meta-cognitive theory claims that the individual may be treated as an imperfect measuring device of his or her own consciousness. This is supported by the evidence on the psychological correlates of imagery vividness reported using the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ) (Marks, 1973). Meta-analysis of 150 studies has demonstrated high levels of reliability, content validity and criterion validity (McKelvie, 1995 a, b). This analysis demonstrates that under controlled conditions, verbal reports provide reliable and valid measures of conscious experience. The activity cycle theory of conscious imagery claims that a primary function of consciousness is the mental rehearsal of adaptive, goal-directed action through the experimental manipulation of perceptual-motor imagery. As predicted by this theory, the meta-analysis shows that the vividness of conscious mental imagery is strongly associated with precisely those performances most likely to benefit from the use of perceptual-motor imagery and mental practice. The theory helps to explain the existence and function of conscious experience.