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The Cultivation Of Imagery

IMAGES DEPEND ON SENSORY STIMULI.--The power of imaging can be
cultivated the same as any other ability.

In the first place, we may put down as an absolute requisite such an
environment of sensory stimuli as will tempt every sense to be awake and
at its best, that we may be led into a large acquaintance with the
objects of our material environment. No one's stock of sensory images is
greater than the sum total of his sensory experiences. No one ever has
images of sights, or sounds, or tastes, or smells which he has never

Likewise, he must have had the fullest and freest possible liberty in
motor activities. For not only is the motor act itself made possible
through the office of imagery, but the motor act clarifies and makes
useful the images. The boy who has actually made a table, or a desk, or
a box has ever afterward a different and a better image of one of these
objects than before; so also when he has owned and ridden a bicycle, his
image of this machine will have a different significance from that of
the image founded upon the visual perception alone of the wheel he
longingly looked at through the store window or in the other boy's

THE INFLUENCE OF FREQUENT RECALL.--But sensory experiences and motor
responses alone are not enough, though they are the basis of good
imagery. There must be frequent recall. The sunset may have been never
so brilliant, and the music never so entrancing; but if they are never
thought of and dwelt upon after they were first experienced, little will
remain of them after a very short time. It is by repeating them often in
experience through imagery that they become fixed, so that they stand
ready to do our bidding when we need next to use them.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF OUR IMAGES.--To richness of experience and
frequency of the recall of our images we must add one more factor;
namely, that of their reconstruction or working over. Few if any
images are exact recalls of former percepts of objects. Indeed, such
would be neither possible nor desirable. The images which we recall are
recalled for a purpose, or in view of some future activity, and hence
must be selective, or made up of the elements of several or many
former related images.

Thus the boy who wishes to construct a box without a pattern to follow
recalls the images of numerous boxes he may have seen, and from them all
he has a new image made over from many former percepts and images, and
this new image serves him as a working model. In this way he not only
gets a copy which he can follow to make his box, but he also secures a
new product in the form of an image different from any he ever had
before, and is therefore by so much the richer. It is this working over
of our stock of old images into new and richer and more suggestive ones
that constitutes the essence of constructive imagination.

The more types of imagery into which we can put our thought, the more
fully is it ours and the better our images. The spelling lesson needs
not only to be taken in through the eye, that we may retain a visual
image of the words, but also to be recited orally, so that the ear may
furnish an auditory image, and the organs of speech a motor image of the
correct forms. It needs also to be written, and thus given into the
keeping of the hand, which finally needs most of all to know and retain

The reading lesson should be taken in through both the eye and the ear,
and then expressed by means of voice and gesture in as full and complete
a way as possible, that it may be associated with motor images. The
geography lesson needs not only to be read, but to be drawn, or molded,
or constructed. The history lesson should be made to appeal to every
possible form of imagery. The arithmetic lesson must be not only
computed, but measured, weighed, and pressed into actual service.

Thus we might carry the illustration into every line of education and
experience, and the same truth holds. What we desire to comprehend
completely and retain well, we must apprehend through all available
senses and conserve in every possible type of image and form of

Next: Problems In Introspection And Observation

Previous: The Function Of Images

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