Theoretically, the study places mental images inside Lefebvre's triad of social space (Lefebvre, 1991, p. 31). The triad implies that the space is produced all at once in how it is conceived, perceived, and lived. The conceived space is constructed by planners, engineers and architects through designs, maps and policies. The perceived space is the space of institutional practices and daily experiences (Simonsen, 2005). Mental images are a manifestation of the third component of the triad, the lived space which includes alternative imaginations, symbolic values and appropriations of space (ibid).
From the perspective of Lefebvre, lived space plays an active role in the production of space. It represents everyday life, where creative diversions and new socio-spatial practices emerge:
Contrary to the dominant space is the lived space (representational space), the space of the everyday, the dominated and hence passively experienced space which the imagination of its ‘inhabitants’ and ‘users’ seeks to appropriate and change (Ng, Tang, Lee et al., 2010, p. 414).
Read as manifestations of the lived space, mental images can uncover more than how we remember and navigate space. They can demonstrate how imagination subverts the dominant order of the conceived space and gives rise to new meanings that guide actions and change behaviours.