The Rate of Mental Rotation of Images: A Test of a Holistic Analogue Hypothesis

This experiment is based on the following paper:

Pylyshyn, Z. (1979). The Rate of mental rotation of images: A test of a holistic analogue hypothesis. Memory and Cognition, 7, 19-28. Reprinted by permission of the Psychonomic Society, Inc.


Many studies have found evidence that the mind organizes information into propositional representations. A proposition, in this sense, is the simplest unit of thought which could be true or false. For example, John loves Mary is a proposition, but John or loves are incomplete thoughts.

Some researchers have argued that visual imagery cannot be reduced to a propositional framework and operates using a different analogue structure in which the visual display is mentally reconstructed and manipulated in the mind. For example, if you are asked how many pennies make a dime, you don’t need to imagine what a dime looks like to answer “ten.” However, you probably will picture a dime in your mind if you are asked to describe in detail what the two sides of a dime actually look like.

Pylyshyn has argued that many of the phenomena that support analogue processing show “cognitive penetration”; that is, a subject’s beliefs can influence their performance on these analogue tasks, suggesting that the phenomena under study can be affected by propositional cognitive operations as well. In this study he shows that mental rotation of objects, a phenomena which some believed was a pure analogue operation, can be affected by subjects’ judgments.


The full text describing the experiment is available here.

The experiments are available below. (246 KB) (297 KB)