Received: 14 July 2023 / Revised: 25 September 2023 / Accepted: 11 October 2023 / Published: 20 October 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Visual Mental Imagery System: How We Image the World)
This article reviews historically significant phenomenological studies of visual mental imagery (VMI), starting with Fechner in 1860 and continuing to the present. This synthesis of diverse VMI phenomenological studies in healthy adults serves as a unique resource for investigators of individual differences, cognitive development and clinical and neurological conditions. The review focuses on two kinds of VMI, “memory imagery” and “eidetic imagery”. Ten primary studies are drawn from three periods of the scholarly literature: early (1860–1929), middle (1930–1999) and recent (2000–2023). It is concluded that memory and eidetic imagery are two forms of constructive imagery, varying along a continuum of intensity or vividness. Vividness is a combination of clarity, colourfulness and liveliness, where clarity is defined by brightness and sharpness, colourfulness by image saturation and liveliness by vivacity, animation, feeling, solidity, projection and metamorphosis. The findings are integrated in a template that specifies, as a tree-like structure, the 16 properties of VMI vividness in healthy adult humans. The template takes into account the weight of evidence drawn from the accounts and reveals an extraordinary degree of consistency in reported VMI characteristics, revealed by specialized studies of healthy adult humans across time, space and culture.