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Mental images and hypnagogic images


Mental images can be defined as images of the mind or visual representations in the absence of environmental inputs. In other words, mental images are mental representations of physical objects or events that are no longer present.

According to Francis Galton, not all individuals can conjure up mental images at will. Galton conducted an investigation in 1883 , in which he asked 100 people (including scientists) to form a picture of his breakfast table that morning; The result obtained showed that some people had detailed images of their breakfast table and reported in detail what it contained, and others did not report anything.

According to brain scan research , it shows that mental imagination activates the same areas of the brain as normal perception . For example, “thinking of a telephone activates some of the same brain areas as seeing a telephone.” (Posner, 1993)

Mental images according to Jean Piaget

In  cognitive development  from the  Piagetian theory  of knowledge, the mental image is one of the functions that develops in a special way in the  pre-operative period  (from 2 to 6 years) and that gives rise to  the symbolic function.

In this period, static images predominate , that is, they do not have movement, there is no transformation, so if we vary a certain aspect of the thing, the image that it perceives says to be something else, because it can not see the process , it remains stuck to the beginning and to the The end, in other words, goes from the particular to the particular, it cannot generalize .

Piaget says that they are like slides, pictures that are passed one by one but that a coordination is observed .

Can mental images be controlled?

Every individual has mental images during dreams , including people who are blind. Some individuals are capable of reaching deep levels of hypnosis, therefore they may have visual hallucinations of dream clarity, but this is quite unusual.

For most of us, mental images during waking states are weak, difficult to control, maintain, and manipulate . The best way to reinforce these images is by mimicking the conditions of sleep. When you are relaxed or falling asleep, mental images can be very vivid.

Hypnagogic images

Hypnagogic images are images perceived in the first state of the sleep cycle (hypnagogic state). The hypnagogic state is a small fragment of the sleep cycle that occurs in the first few minutes of drowsiness.

Hypnagogic imagery occurs when thoughts start to drift as you slowly lose control of reality. Although they can be defined as part of sleep, this is still debated, since some scientists consider that as they occur in the first stage of the sleep cycle, where we are not yet completely asleep and we are awake enough to perceive them, we do not they would be considered part of dreams.

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Effects of hypnagogic images

An interesting effect that can take place in the hypnagogic state is called the “Tetris effect . ” This effect is what helps us to consolidate and reaffirm the skills learned during the day. The same occurs when before going to sleep or during the day, we have performed a repetitive task repeatedly.

A clear example of this effect is the game of Tetris, since if we play the game Tetris repeatedly during the day or a long period before sleeping, then it is possible that we see pieces of Tetris falling in front of our eyes when we begin to enter. the light sleep phase.

The paralysis of the dream is another effect that we experience in the hypnagogic state. This effect is considered a sleep disorder and can occur in the first or last phase of sleep. Said sleep disorder consists of immobility, active sensory perception, and waking state. In other words, we can say that sleep paralysis occurs when we are partially awake, perceiving auditory and sensory stimuli, but we feel that we cannot speak or move. Some scientists indicate that this disorder occurs because the individual is in a state between sleep and wakefulness, but is not yet fully awake.

Auditory hallucinations also take place in the hypnagogic stage. These are auditory inventions created by the brain. They can include puns, sounds, and made-up names. It can also include the presence of music, and sound can sometimes be manifested from the individual’s own “inner voice.”

Research on the hypnagogic state

Thore Nielsen (a psychologist at the Hospital du Sacre-Coeur in Montreal) was fervently interested in the hypnagogic state. And after conducting a series of experiments without successful results, he set out to fall asleep himself at his computer so that he could wake up when he had a hypnagogic image and immediately record its contents.

The experiment was successfully achieved, since it recorded 240 hypagogic images that it had perceived. Most of the images were involved with movement. This is because in the phase of sleep in which hypnagonic images occur (light sleep phase), people still have perceptions of the outside, for example sounds, and as the muscles begin to relax and the muscle tone decreases, it is normal. muscle spasms occur, which can give us the sensation of falling. For this reason, the most common recurring image that Nielsen presented was that of falling into the void, because by going to sleep in front of his computer, Nielsen was in constant danger of losing muscle tone and falling to the ground, therefore some of the muscle spasms perceived by the researcher could explain the repeated images of falling into space.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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