We higher mammals have a gift that we call visualization.It is a cognitive function in conjunction with our senses that allows us to form a mental image of objects of our interest. We usually see, feel, touch,smell or taste something then using cues or previous experience form a model in our minds that we use for the various purposes we see fit. In this obvious statement, we see a profound truth in that we need a basic level of comprehension for visualization.
This implies many things. For one, Visualization is not immediate or universal. If two people see the same thing, one person might visualize it very different from the other person. If for example, two people see a dolphin; one person might be disgusted by the slick skin, one might not; one person might find its prehensile penis scary and the other person might be completely uncaring about the matter. The two people see the dolphin, put the dolphin label on, and then begin to visualize it each in their own way with imagery, sensations, and emotions . The visualization process also relies on understanding. Underlying concepts, ideas, philosophies form this understanding that is used in our mental image. For example, The dolphin has a flipper that moves up and down. Since most fish have anal fins that move side to side, Most people assume that all other aquatic animals have the same underlying structure. However dolphins are not fish and evolved from land mammals. Not knowing these facts can make people picture dolphins with fins and gills instead of how they are in real life. This shows that knowledge makes a big difference in the visualization of an object.
Visualization is seemingly an ethereal process. However as science continues to reveal the inner workings of the mind, We get a glimpse of how the brain visualizes stuff. The visual data gotten from the eye is processed in the occipital lobe. This is unsurprisingly the biggest data cachet that any living thing has and in complex animals like human beings, it is unsuprising that there is a whole lobe in our minds dedicated to processing for sight. The data goes through the various stages of processing before being sent to the parietal lobe through the dorsal stream. The parential lobe is then tasked with integrating all the information from the different modalities to form mainly the spatial and navigational models of reality but also seems to helps with understanding. The Frontal lobe is the other lobe crucial to visualization. "It is the part of each hemisphere of the brain located behind the forehead that serves to regulate and mediate the higher intellectual functions. The frontal lobes have intricate connections to other areas of the brain. In the frontal lobes, we meld emotions, cognition, error detection, volition, a sense of self, and more to create our social brain." It is also important for reward, attention, long-term memory, planning, and drive, however one of the bigger functions it seems to be related to is understanding.In a sense, Creating models ,maps of structures or in other words mental images from data. That is why people injured in this region have problems in problem solving, perceptions of results of actions in relation to systems and structures, mental flexibility e.t.c. This is also partially why teenagers have problems with accurate assesment of risks and regulations of their social,economic and judicial systems, due to immature frontal lobes. Scientist liken the mind to a computer, " It able to decompose any mental representations into its underlying mathematical propositions." We have to keep in mind though that all this processing would be greatly hampered without an sound underlying framework of information about the particular humans enviroment.
In this essay, I make no differentiation in this essay between imagination and visualization. The only real difference i see is that while the imagination term is restricted to mostly imaginary scenarios, we use the word visualization in both real and imaginary mind scenarios. As a matter of fact if you really think about it, humans live a sort of conceptualistic existance. All the structures one thinks he or she visualizes are copies of reality. You guys might think i'm being all Matrix like and doubting reality or i am being all descartes like and doubting existence but it is a fact that what we think we know of reality is just an imperfect copy. We all have to synthesize the data we get from our senses into an image, a copy, a visualization of the reality we see.
Visualization is not only useful in abstract philosophy. It has a great many applications in other fields. Plain simulation, scientific visualization, geo-visualization, information visualization, creative visualization, visualization in information graphics all require this mind skill. We need to remember though that all visualization relies on a proper understanding of the subject matter.