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Kleeman, J.A. (1973). Mental Imagery in the Child. A Study of the Development of Imaginal Representation: By Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1971. 396 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 42:294-295.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:294-295

Mental Imagery in the Child. A Study of the Development of Imaginal Representation: By Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1971. 396 pp.

Review by:
James A. Kleeman

Modern psychology has paid scant attention to the field of the image. Piaget and Inhelder in this volume make significant amends for this omission. This is not an easy book to read; for the material to be alive and flowing, the reader must be familiar with Piaget's terms—e.g., mental operations, preoperational thought, conservation, assimilation—and his special definitions of imitation, intelligence, and image. The authors' definition of 'image' in this study is limited to geometrical and spatial imagery in childhood and does not deal with other aspects of imagination and fantasy in the child. The extensive experiments used to develop his conclusions about images are the hallmark of Piaget's genius. The experiments are detailed and numerous but become exciting if the reader tries some of them on six and eight year olds.

The complexity of the material subsumed under the headings—static and kinetic reproductive images, kinetic anticipatory images, reproductive images of transformations, anticipatory transformation images—is rendered considerably more comprehensible by the Conclusion section of each chapter, and the whole work is pulled together by the General Conclusion at the end. Though a few pithy sentences cannot do justice to the richness of experiment and carefully worked-out conclusions of this volume, I shall enumerate a few of their key points.

The mental image is considered an internalized active imitation, not merely a direct derivative from perception. The kinetic reproductive image, formed only by virtue of a reconstruction involving anticipation, is not attained until the level of concrete operations has been reached (seven to eight years). This is because these images are a function of the intellectual complexity of the relations in question, and not of the degree to which the child is perceptually familiar with them (which was not self-evident before Piaget and his collaborators undertook this work). Therefore the nature of the image is an initiatory symbolization representing notions, not a direct prolongation of perception. The image constitutes a symbolism vital to thought.

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