Say we have a sentence like, "Yesterday, I saw a giant mammal." Or, "The monkey ate a piece of fruit".

These things are impossible to visualise. Because, for example, a mammal could be a big yellow giraffe, or a small grey mouse. A fruit, likewise could be a yellow banana, or a purple grape.

Have there been any experiements to see what people visualise when the sentence is generic like this?

I think the alternatives are:

  1. No visualisation, the brain just hears the words.
  2. The brain visualises some sort of blurry combination of all mammal types.
  3. The brain jumps between visualisations of different mammal types.
  4. The brain chooses a random mammal type and sticks with it until further notice.

Or something else.

I think for me "mammal" conjures up some sort of medium sized furry creature much like a giant wombat. For fruit it conjures up a round, juicy object, with no specific colour. (I don't think I can imagine colours). Probably closest to a plum.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This may be a duplicate of psychology.stackexchange.com/q/15536/7001, or at least, closely related. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jun 14 '19 at 6:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not an exact duplicate, but the question and especially the answer to it should allow you to start reading more about this and possibly ask a follow-up question later in case you encounter something which is unclear. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Jun 14 '19 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's a duplicate. For example, when I think of "mammal" I don't think of an example, like a mouse, I think of some general furry animal type thing which doesn't actually exist. Well I suppose this is sort of the "Examplar vs Prototype" argument. Interesting. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – zooby
    Jun 15 '19 at 21:42