Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 181–196 | Cite as

A New Imagery Debate: Enactive and Sensorimotor Accounts

  • Lucia FogliaEmail author
  • J. Kevin O’Regan


Traditionally, the “Imagery Debate” has opposed two main camps: depictivism and descriptivism. This debate has essentially focused on the nature of the internal representations thought to be involved in imagery, without addressing at all the question of action. More recently, a third, “embodied” view is moving the debate into a new phase. The embodied approach focuses on the interdependence of perception, cognition and action, and in its more radical line this approach promotes the idea that perception is not a process involving internal world-models (representations). The anti-representationalist version of the embodied paradigm covers, among others that we shall not discuss here, two quite different positions, namely the enactive approach and sensorimotor theory. Up to now these two anti-representationalist accounts have generally been confounded. In this paper we will argue that despite some important commonalities, enactive and sensorimotor accounts come with distinctive theoretical traits with regard to their approach to imagery. These become manifest when critically examining the role they assign to sensorimotor engagements with the world. We shall argue that enactive and sensorimotor approaches are different in their understanding of the role of embodied action, and these different notions of embodiment lead to different explanatory accounts of perception and imagery. We propose that, due to existing ambiguities in enactivism, the sensorimotor theory is a better framework for a skill-based approach to imagery.


Perceptual Experience Mental Imagery Mental Rotation Task Enactive Approach Sensorimotor Contingency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors acknowledge the support of Advanced grant ERC FEEL number 323674. ​The Authors also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Psychologie de la PerceptionCNRS - Université Paris DescartesParisFrance

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