Data_Sheet_1_Sensorimotor Underpinnings of Mathematical Imagination: Qualitative Analysis.PDF (55.02 kB)
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Data_Sheet_1_Sensorimotor Underpinnings of Mathematical Imagination: Qualitative Analysis.PDF

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posted on 2022-01-18, 04:11 authored by Gin McCollum

Many mathematicians have a rich internal world of mental imagery. Using elementary mathematical skills, this study probes the mathematical imagination's sensorimotor foundations. Mental imagery is perturbed using body position: having the head and vestibular system in different positions with respect to gravity. No two mathematicians described the same imagery. Eight out of 11 habitually visualize, one uses sensorimotor imagery, and two do not habitually used mental imagery. Imagery was both intentional and partly autonomous. For example, coordinate planes rotated, drifted, wobbled, or slid down from vertical to horizontal. Parabolae slid into place or, on one side, a parabola arm reached upward in gravity. The sensorimotor foundation of imagery was evidenced in several ways. The imagery was placed with respect to the body. Further, the imagery had a variety of relationships to the body, such as the body being the coordinate system or the coordinate system being placed in front of the eyes for easy viewing by the mind's eye. The mind's eye, mind's arm, and awareness almost always obeyed the geometry of the real eye and arm. The imagery and body behaved as a dyad, so that the imagery moved or placed itself for the convenience of the mind's eye or arm, which in turn moved to follow the imagery. With eyes closed, participants created a peripersonal imagery space, along with the peripersonal space of the unseen environment. Although mathematics is fundamentally abstract, imagery was sometimes concrete or used a concrete substrate or was placed to avoid being inside concrete objects, such as furniture. Mathematicians varied in the numbers of components of mental imagery and the ways they interacted. The autonomy of the imagery was sometimes of mathematical interest, suggesting that the interaction of imagery habits and autonomy can be a source of mathematical creativity.