Integration of Perceptual Input and Visual Imagery in Chess Players: Evidence From Eye Movements
AbstractThis multiple-case study addresses the question of how information from the environment is integrated with mental images. Chess players ( = 4) of different skill levels were submitted to a visual imagery task with familiar stimuli (chess positions) and unfamiliar stimuli (boards containing shapes). A position that remained unchanged and a grid in which moves were displayed using a standard chess notation familiar to the participants were visually presented. The participants’ task was to mentally reproduce a sequence of moves from the original position. Retention of updated positions was assessed with a memory task. Eye movements were recorded during the entire experiment. We found that (a) players performed better with familiar than with unfamiliar stimuli; (b) there was a strong correlation between skill level and performance in the familiar, but not the unfamiliar condition; (c) players used the external board as an external memory store; but (d) there was no difference in the extent to which players of different skill levels shifted their attention to the external board. Using control tasks unrelated to chess, we established that the skilled and unskilled players did not differ with respect to general cognitive abilities. These results emphasize the role of long-term memory in expertise and suggest that players use processes that enable them to smoothly combine information from the environment with mental images.