The Motor Theory of Voluntary Thinking

  • Barry H. Cohen


The theory proposed in this chapter—the motor theory of voluntary thinking (MTVT)—is not exactly new; its basic elements can be found in the motor theories of Bain (1888), Maudsley (1889), Ribot (1889), Pillsbury (1908), and Washburn (1916) to name just a few. Many of the ideas expressed below were commonplace at the beginning of this century, and the interested reader is encouraged to explore the original sources referenced within this chapter, which frequently contain detailed, anecdotal descriptions and lengthy logical arguments in support of these ideas. To maintain the clarity of my exposition, I will quote only a few examples from the early literature; it is not my intention to present a history of the theoretical formulations concerning the relation between the motor system and attention or thought (a brief history can be found in Smith, 1969). Rather, my purpose in writing the present chapter is to present some of these old ideas in the context of a cohesive theory that is as clear, plausible, and useful as possible.


Motor Activity Visual Image Motor Pattern Motor Theory Visual Imagery 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry H. Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityUSA

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