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Author Topic: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.  (Read 3279 times)

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Offline Mr QuixoticTopic starter

Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« on: August 17, 2015, 09:49:06 PM »
Hi all,

Ever since I can recall, I've lacked the ability to generate or maintain an image in my mind. Up until a few years ago, I thought those who said they 'could see things in their head' were speaking metaphorically, and that they didn't actually see real images as if they were watching a movie or looking at a picture. Then, I discovered they actually could, and trying to comprehend how that works, to me, is like attempting to interpreting a foreign language.

It's only recently that Scientist's have discovered that not all people have a 'working mind's eye' - up until then it was assumed  everyone did -, and that any research has been undertaken. A couple of months ago, it was given a name, "Aphantasia."

Aphantasia - New York Times article

I'm intrigued to as to how common, or rare this is. And to know how much those who do possess a functioning mind's eye rely on mental imagery, and/or if it's just something which is taken for granted, and not really thought about.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2015, 06:57:26 PM by Mr Quixotic »

Offline TaintedAndDelish

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2015, 06:33:17 PM »
Interesting, though some of this is based on self reporting and some hinges on verbal communication. The phrase "conjure an image of x in your mind" could mean different things to different people. One person might say "no" because they cannot command a "photographic" image to their mind while another might say "yes" if their mind is briefly visited by a distorted, vague image that might seem more like a memory than a persistent, visual image that they can look at and examine without it changing on them.

I've often wondered myself what people really mean when they say they are "seeing" something in their mind - if they are talking about a memory, an image that's as clear as sight, or something somewhere in between or perhaps slightly different.







Offline Mr QuixoticTopic starter

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2015, 11:35:49 PM »
That's true, when I did some google-ing on it, well before I came across the article I linked, people all described their own experiences in different ways. I think there's probably a large spectrum.

I'm the same, it's difficult to know exactly what people mean, or what they see. When it comes to me, 'nothingness' is the best way that I can describe it. No shapes, vague images or impressions, just gray.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2015, 11:37:04 PM by Mr Quixotic »

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Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2015, 03:50:22 PM »
My own personal experience of visualization is usually best described as translucent outlines, which at times can be frustrating but it's also something I use when creating visual art. I have also discovered that regular yoga actually dramatically enhances my ability to visualize and makes the imagery crisper, clearer and more stable. It may not work for everyone but it might be worth experimenting with if you're a curious person!

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Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2016, 09:27:55 PM »
This is an older thread now but I want to reply here anyway. I think there is a spectrum and some people think visually more than others. It raises the question too of whether some people tend toward visual thinking more as they develop visualisation skills or whether they think throughout their lives in much the same way. It feels to me that I think in concepts, emotions, or visually, and not really in words except for when I'm trying to word something. Thoughts that get to the heart of the meaning happen more quickly and easily than words.

When I think visually, I usually get a hazy 2 or 3 dimensional diagram or image, or sometimes a video. For instance, I can visualise a house with grass on the ground outside of it, trees around it (green and golden brown, like the colours of autumn), fences, and walk through the yard toward the house, and into the house, and my mind fills in the blanks as I go if I will it to. But it's more hazy with occasional flashes of clarity, than persistent. I can leave the thought, return to the thought, etc. I can also think of the concept of a horse and wait for my mind to give me a flash of one, and it might be vague, and I tell myself that's not good enough, and it might give me a picture of a horse almost like a photograph.. only of a photograph I don't recall ever seeing before, and then it's gone. But recalling a visual image of a horse I saw sometime ago isn't something I can easily do.

I think if you don't think visually then your mind compensates by thinking in other ways that serve your needs.

Offline Jojomo

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2016, 02:23:08 AM »
You know what this makes me think about?  Friends or associates who tell me music doesn't move them.  At least, not in the same way that I have seen it move the masses.  They do not actively search out music, but will accept it (So to speak) if it's playing around their place of being.  They hear things in a different way even, it seems.  It's not about the various components of the music.  It's not about say...the lyrics.  It's about the entire body of the music.  I'd say though that there's all kinds in this world.  I'm glad that things are (Well facts/science/research) there to help.  You know, make you feel more of a part of things.  That you're not so crazy after all, for being of a different form.  Not that that's the truth, but lies can alienate others easily.

Offline Aethereal

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2016, 05:43:02 PM »
       I can visualize things in my mind with relative ease, have always been able to do so, and even more so since I started drawing and later roleplaying (I see all my roleplayed scenes as if a floating camera would, for the lack of a better description)... It's not all that different from your regular sight, or perhaps seeing anything in your dream. When conjuring an image while awake, I actually "see" both the real scenario and my mental image, but am only paying attention to one at a time. I can do the same with auditory input (so "hear" speech or music in my head), and (with a smidgen of more difficulty) even touch or taste.
       It actually took me some time to realize not all people can do that.

       As far as thinking goes - I actually think in none of those things (so mental visualization only happens when I consciously want to give something form, and I only hear/think in words when I'm actively trying to formulate my thoughts into something other people would comprehend). I'm overwhelmingly an abstract thinker.

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Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2016, 08:38:04 PM »
I think this whole new field of study is just grazing the surface.  After all, images are images, based on vision--just one of our senses.  I've always had an active imagination, but...my imagination is so much more vivid and creative if I am listening to music while creating.  Making it a multimedia experience, so to speak.  I'm sure that, just like gender, autism, and so many other things, there is a spectrum to our experiences of visualization.

Offline Mr QuixoticTopic starter

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2016, 06:57:05 PM »
Having just returned from a long hiatus, this is the first chance I've had to read the responses, to thanks to everyone for their comments.

Not long after I posted the original topic, subsequent to the condition being scientifically named, a website was created for those with Aphantasia   It's interesting to read everyone's different experiences, where they sit on the spectrum, and how many say it's affected their personal lives, which I can't say it has for me. The brain re-wires itself, and finds ways to compensate

I think it will generate further study, and what I'd be curious to discover is if it's what leads to visual aesthetics being relatively unimportant to me in any aspect of my life, and in turn, if that correlates to the reasons for some of my other preferences, such as considering myself sapio-sexual, and my attraction to in my own writing (including my intuitive style)  and all other fictional medium, stories which are more character internal driven and based than world-building, or those which rely on or contain a lot of imagery.   
« Last Edit: May 31, 2018, 09:01:57 PM by Mr Quixotic »

Offline DrFier

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2018, 08:58:02 PM »
I'm actually quite surprised that this is a thing.  I figured there was somewhat of a spectrum, but I didn't think not being able to conjure images at all was really a possibility.  I do relate a lot to what Aethereal said in this regard,  where like dreaming you can see both the real world and the "dream" world, the real world being much stronger while awake than while sleeping. 
Phantasia is a skill I purposely chose to hold on to, even since my childhood.  I always assumed the ability to conjure full scale hallucinations (for lack of a better word) with images, sounds textures and smells was likely a rare phenomenon, but figured everyone could do it to a certain extent.  I don't actually comprehend how memory can function without being able to recall sensations in the mind.
Something I find mildly strange is that it is actually more difficult to conjure a hallucination on top of reality than it is to create an entirely new plane of existence.  Hallucinations have more of an ethereal feel to them, almost as if they exist not in reality but a copy of reality superimposed onto real reality.  The 4D images imposed on reality contrast heavily with fully conjured worlds, which appear with the standard 6D clarity of a memory, seen alongside reality, even though I have never experienced them exactly as I see them before.
Aethereal speaks of his realms being viewed by a floating camera.  This seems to be the more default view for me as well, but it is not the only one possible.  Inhabiting a character or creature is trivial, even if it does have to be done manually.  Essentially, I find the abilities of visualization to be nearly identical to lucid dreaming, with the exception that lucid dreaming places you in a space where the dream world is much stronger, and reality is not nearly as strong, so any effect you want to create would be much simpler.  Unfortunately I find that your creativity is somewhat bounded here, as creating something of too great a complexity will cause you to awaken.

I have long wondered if the level of my ability was unique, but I never imagined that the ability itself wasn't available to everyone.

Offline Florence

Re: Mental Imagery and Aphantasia.
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2018, 03:02:36 PM »
Huh, I just saw this, and it got me thinking that I'm not really sure how well I can 'visualize' something, because I can't really see someone else's visualization to compare perceptions.

If other people are able to perceive imagined visual imagery exactly the same as they perceive real visual stimuli, that's not something I think I've ever been able to do, except maybe when I'm dreaming.

Still, I can imagine things, images even, and I can recall what things look like, but it's... a distinctly different experience from visually perceiving them.