The Inner Working of Dynamic Visuo-Spatial Imagery as Revealed by Spontaneous Eye Movements

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the hypothesis that spontaneous eye movements can disclose the inner working of mental processes in different kinds of mental rotation tasks. In a visuo-spatial variant of mental rotation, sequences of saccades repeatedly and spontaneously reproduced the circular trajectory that was supposed to be mentally covered. The average gaze rotation had an ordered angular progression, with an asymmetrical angular velocity profile whose peak and mean velocity increased with the number of rotations, as in goal-directed movements. Spontaneous saccades during instructed rotary motion imagery revealed a considerable capability of the eyes to reproduce the imagined motion without introducing important distortions. Thus, the recording of spontaneous eye movements can be a valuable tool to objectively measure the time course of visuo-spatial dynamic thinking. This eye movement-based approach allows testing of a number of hypotheses concerning limits and flexibility of motion imagery. By taking advantage of systematic sequences of spontaneous saccades during motion imagery and considering that in smooth pursuit eye movements, the saccadic component and not the smooth component is clearly modulated by the motion law of the target, even when it does not follow the two-thirds power law, it can be ascertained whether in mentally "tracking" such unnatural motions, the saccade sequences follow the two-thirds power law or are driven by an unconstrained motion imagery process.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Mind's Eye: Cognitive and Applied Aspects of Eye Movement Research
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780080518923, 9780444510204
Publication statusPublished - Jun 5 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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