One of the most remarkable capacities of the mind is its ability to simulate sensations, actions and other types of experience. As Crisp, Birtel, and Meleady (2011) proclaimed recently, “the ability to envisage a world different from that which we know is one of the defining characteristics of human experience” (p. 261). To illustrate a mundane application of this process, if you close your eyes, you should be able to “see” yourself throwing a bright yellow tennis ball up in the air (a visual mental image) and then “feel” yourself bouncing it (a kinaesthetic or “feeling-oriented” mental image). For over a century, researchers have investigated the construct of mental imagery or the cognitive simulation process by which we can represent perceptual information in our minds in the absence of appropriate sensory input (Munzert, Lorey, & Zentgraf, 2009). More recently, another mental simulation process that has attracted attention from cognitive neuroscientists and sport psychologists is “motor imagery” (sometimes called “movement imagery”; Holmes, Cumming, & Edwards, 2010) or the mental rehearsal of actions without any overt motor output (see review by Moran, Guillot, MacIntyre, & Collet, in press). Research on motor imagery is important in psychology because it provides an empirical window on consciousness and movement planning, rectifies a relative neglect of non-visual types of mental imagery, and has practical implications for skill learning and skilled performance in special populations (e.g., elite athletes).
Hodges, N.J., Williams, A.M.