Visual imagery has been examined over the past few years with focus on general visual images in contrast to specific visual images. A general visual image is the most primitive image, a prototype of an image that represents characteristics of an object. In comparison, specific visual images are attributed to one of the categories of the prototype and they are richer in detail. In this article we propose a theoretical and experimental extension of these two categories into a third category defined as: “abstract visual image.” This is an image created when subjects form a visual image of symbolic pictures of abstract concepts. The study analyzed the characteristics of these three visual images and their efficiency of transfer of learning physics. The findings show: 1) specific visual imagery was employed with a noticeable low frequency in comparison to general and abstract imageries which were engaged with a high frequency; 2) general and abstract imagery were jointly employed by means of a mental process which can be characterized by four styles of a combination of concrete and abstract images; and 3) intensive employment of abstract imagery leads to high study achievements in contrast to intensive employment of general visual imagery which involves more concrete images. Nonetheless, if general visual imagery is combined with intensive abstract imagery, the joint processing leads to high study achievements. The findings are explained by a theory that abstract imagery reduces cognitive load and leads to more efficient learning.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2011 SAGE Publications.