Depictive Gestures and Other Case Study Evidence for Use of Imagery by Experts and Students

Chapters 12 and 13 deal with issues concerning imagery and intuition in scientific thinking. The chapters attempt to identify new types of evidence from think-aloud protocols that can be used to identify places where scientists appear to be using various types of imagery in their thinking, including during mental simulations. Since think-aloud protocols have rarely been used for the purpose of studying imagery it is worth considering this in detail. In this chapter I will first examine the potential of depictive hand motions to provide such evidence. I discuss two case studies and examine evidence for the use and importance of imagery in each one, building toward the conclusion in Chapter 13 that the subjects are not only using static images, but are using perceptual/motor schemas to generate dynamic, imagistic, mental simulations to make predictions. In case study 1 of an expert solution I argue that some hand motions are direct reflection of the thinking process, rather than an indirect translation from verbal conclusions. In case study 2 of a student solution I examine evidence for the use of perceptual/motor imagery as a direct source of observed hand motions. I will conclude that certain protocol observations can be used to provide evidence for fruitful imagery use in higher-order thinking tasks. Chapter 13 provides more imagery indicators and evidence on the “presence and importance of imagery” question but also attempts to go beyond it by asking what generates the imagery. The answer proposed there is that perceptual/motor schemas can generate dynamic imagery in what amounts to a mental simulation. What people normally call physical intuitions are one example of such perceptual/ motor schemas. This will lead to discussions in Chapter 13 of the active nature of knowledge, the role of implicit knowledge, and evidence that experts can use concrete physical intuitions in addition to abstract principles in higher-order thinking.


Hand Motion Motor Imagery Mental Simulation Partial Reflection Imagery Process 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008

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