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Thread: Aphantasia

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    Aphantasia

    I would be interested in responses on this forum about aphantasia. It is the condition where a person does not generate literal images in mindís eye. As opposed to hyperphantasia. I seem to be aphantasic. There is an article about it in WP and an article in this weekís New Scientist. Itís a surprise that the range of vivid images is so wide and has not been reported until recent years.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    I don't know what to make of that.

    When I "picture" things in my mind's eye, visual information is only a tiny part. For example, if I think "wave" I feel what an ocean wave feels like, not what it looks like. "Door" is another fairly fixed object, but it is more like the quality of light in the morning coming through the opening and not a physical door. It's not always the same light and dark high contrast image, but it is consistently about the opening and not the "door".

    The images can get pretty complex, such as "derivative of trig functions". To me to it looks like a theta symbol with the inner bar being made up of the letters "sin(x)=cos(x), cos(x)=-sin(x)" and the oval around it made up of the other for functions arrayed down the left side and all of the derivatives on the right side. Tan and sec are on the top, while cot and csc are on the bottom so that negative sign seems to indicate motion to the left and upwards. Pretty strange stuff, even though it's happening in my own head. Space, sizing, relationships, etc are all highly variable, but still understandable.

    Some concepts I can not even verbally describe imagery or sensation, like what happens when I think "reasonable", "happy" or some other such word.

    I would think that many people experience equally strange sensory images, but as near as I can tell, the "many" that think like I do is very small while the people that visualize relatively static images is much larger, and those who hear or pictorially form words are in the majority. The articles on aphantasia seem to ignore other senses entirely. I am not sure how or why that would be reasonable, ignoring the fact that I know nothing about the data collected.

    I am also equally baffled by the concept of inner monologue. Don't have that either. If I force the issue, I hear all kinds of words, often spoken by others.
    Solfe

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    I find it a bit puzzling. It says that people with this condition still have normal dreams, and they can find their way around and still recognize things. I wonder if it might be more of a question of habit, or how you think of things, and that once we get to be adults we have fixed ways of organizing our thoughts and can no longer easily change them?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I find it a bit puzzling. It says that people with this condition still have normal dreams, and they can find their way around and still recognize things. I wonder if it might be more of a question of habit, or how you think of things, and that once we get to be adults we have fixed ways of organizing our thoughts and can no longer easily change them?
    I have found out that I seem to be fairly aphantasic. When people talked about "seeing things with the minds eye" I didn't realise they could actually see them. Certainly not as clearly as some people claim. (I am rather sceptical that people literally see things like that!)

    But when I studied chemistry, I had no problem manipulating 3D molecular structures in my head to work out if they were stereoisomers, etc. (Even weirder, because I can't tell left from right.) And when buying furniture or paint, I know what it will look like in-situ, even though I can't see it. So it may be that the images are there, but I just don't have conscious access to them. (A bit like blindsight?)

    And I now what friends and family look like. But I can't bring up a picture of them in my mind. (Maybe a vague image of the shape of a beard, or something.)
    Last edited by Strange; 2019-Jun-09 at 02:38 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    When I "picture" things in my mind's eye, visual information is only a tiny part. For example, if I think "wave" I feel what an ocean wave feels like, not what it looks like. "Door" is another fairly fixed object, but it is more like the quality of light in the morning coming through the opening and not a physical door. It's not always the same light and dark high contrast image, but it is consistently about the opening and not the "door".
    What you describe sounds a bit more like "synesthesia of the imagination" (if there is any such thing).

    I am also equally baffled by the concept of inner monologue.
    Same here. There was a radio program a few years ago about someone trying to get away from the noises that surround us. In one segment he talked about this. He talked to people who were constantly bombarded by their inner voice as they walked down the street ("hey look at that shop ... lovely shoes ... I wonder how much they cost ..."). I never hear a voice when I am thinking to myself or even reading a book, so that all seems weird to me as well.

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    Yeah, self-reported tests like the VVIQ don't just test a person's visualization, but also their metacognition and their willingness to believe that they're special in some way. My own response to the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire is just one of exasperation - "Demonstrate to me what you mean by 'dim' and 'vivid' imagery, and then I might be able to compare that to my own experience." So I have no idea of my score on that test.
    What's remarkable to me, then, is that there actually are reasonable neural correlates to a person's results from this questionnaire - people whose response lies in the aphantasia range have a different (and more widespread) pattern of brain activation on functional imaging when asked to visualize, compared to those who have "normal" questionnaire scores. And you can demonstrate the difference functionally, too, with things like binocular rivalry priming.

    So it's a neurocognitive entity, not just a difference in the way people understand and report their own experiences.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I am assuming this is an observable effect, here is an example. I seem to be unable to literally see images in my mind but I can sightread music. If you take the sheet away I cannot even remember the key or the first note unless I deliberately use a different memory route. However i have a relative who says she can see and read a page by deliberate recall and has these images clear and in colour. The difference does not seem to affect creativity but does seem to be a factor in dealing with distressing images. I have experimented with lucid dream experiences sometimes called hypnogogic states where i find a lose an image completely as i wake up. I cannot conjure a simple image with my eyes closed but now I find i know people who can and we all assume everyone is the same as us.
    Last edited by profloater; 2019-Jun-09 at 09:14 AM.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Yeah, self-reported tests like the VVIQ don't just test a person's visualization, but also their metacognition and their willingness to believe that they're special in some way. My own response to the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire is just one of exasperation - "Demonstrate to me what you mean by 'dim' and 'vivid' imagery, and then I might be able to compare that to my own experience." So I have no idea of my score on that test.
    That was an obvious problem to me too. Also, how well I can visualise things is very variable. It is never like looking at a photo, for example. But it varies from nothing at all to vague, fleeting shapes and colours.

    So it's a neurocognitive entity, not just a difference in the way people understand and report their own experiences.
    Interesting. I almost expected the opposite from your opening comments!

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    However i have a relative who says she can see and read a page by deliberate recall and has these images clear and in colour. .
    I remember an actress (Joanna Lumley?) saying that she used to have this ability. She never had to learn lines, because she could just visualise the page and read them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    That was an obvious problem to me too. Also, how well I can visualise things is very variable. It is never like looking at a photo, for example. But it varies from nothing at all to vague, fleeting shapes and colours.
    Yes - I have very little visual imagery of faces, despite being unusually good at recognizing faces I've seen before. But I have a pretty much 3D virtual-reality recall of hills I've climbed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Interesting. I almost expected the opposite from your opening comments!
    No-one could be more surprised than me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I remember an actress (Joanna Lumley?) saying that she used to have this ability. She never had to learn lines, because she could just visualise the page and read them.
    When I was a medical student, I had a slightly out-of-focus "photographic memory". I once spent a week alone but for the company of a cat and Muir's Textbook of Pathology (a tome with which you could choke an elephant). I managed to commit a surprising amount of the text to memory, but an interesting side-effect was that I could also recall the layout of the pages on which the text appeared. I would have a mental image of where the photographs, diagrams and tables were - but couldn't visualize more than that.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I too used to recall the layout of textbook pages and where particular bits of information lay within those pages. So if there was some detail I wanted to quickly review, I would flip through the chapter until I saw the relevant layout, and know where to look on the page for the info.

    I spent a good portion of my career solving road layout problems. This meant walking all over forested terrain, and correlating what I was seeing with a stereo-photo model. A mental model of the terrain was built in my mind, and it included important features such as the location of rock outcrops, boulders, benches that could accommodate a switchback, seepage areas, etc. I could then imagine the most efficient location for the road, including the likely grades required. I don't know how people without that ability could do the work, but I did see the results sometimes. I usually attributed poor layout to a lack of legwork.

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    As a highly visual person, I am struggling to imagine what the rest of you are describing.

    If I ask you to imagine, say, Trump, do you not see his visage in your mind? Can you imagine him smiling, frowning, etc.?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    As a highly visual person, I am struggling to imagine what the rest of you are describing.

    If I ask you to imagine, say, Trump, do you not see his visage in your mind? Can you imagine him smiling, frowning, etc.?
    Somewhat. It seems easier to me to visualize objects than faces, and to remember static images (like a photo) than visualizing particular faces. I can sort of see Trump because I have seen photos of him, but it is difficult and hard to hold. It's easier for me to visualize, say, my house or car, and I can mentally rotate them and identify features as I "turn" them. I can also visualize a generic face easily and do the same mental rotation. It feels more difficult to visualize things with changing or dynamic features, faces especially. It's the same with family and friends - if there are photos, I can sort of visualize those, not so much their everyday faces - that seems hard to hold.

    Recognition is another matter. I have typical ability to identify people when I see them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    I am also equally baffled by the concept of inner monologue. Don't have that either. If I force the issue, I hear all kinds of words, often spoken by others.
    It would be hard for me to imagine not having an inner voice. When I write a post like this, I speak it mentally to myself before or as I am writing. Writing feels like internal dictation of what my voice is saying. It isn't all that unusual for me to type homophones and then go back to correct them. At a store, I will be thinking "I need to buy x" and have to watch myself to avoid saying it out loud.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    It would be hard for me to imagine not having an inner voice. When I write a post like this, I speak it mentally to myself before or as I am writing. Writing feels like internal dictation of what my voice is saying. It isn't all that unusual for me to type homophones and then go back to correct them. At a store, I will be thinking "I need to buy x" and have to watch myself to avoid saying it out loud.
    I identify almost completely on both visual and voice counts. I also totally dictate posts in my head as if I were talking to a secretary. I think itís a habit. And I canít picture faces as well as I can objects. I think it may be because a face is associated with lots of other things, and the differences are subtle so I think I tend to remember the features as part of a larger package.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    As a highly visual person, I am struggling to imagine what the rest of you are describing.

    If I ask you to imagine, say, Trump, do you not see his visage in your mind? Can you imagine him smiling, frowning, etc.?
    Of course not. Don't be silly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    It would be hard for me to imagine not having an inner voice. When I write a post like this, I speak it mentally to myself before or as I am writing. Writing feels like internal dictation of what my voice is saying. It isn't all that unusual for me to type homophones and then go back to correct them.
    That is interesting. I very rarely confuse homophones(*) in writing because, to me, they are just completely different words. I wonder if threes any connection between having an inner voice and spelling ability?

    (*) Very occasionally, "there" and "their", but that feels more like a muscle-memory thing

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    For me, it explains why I like to use pencil and paper to visualise, I can draw what I am imagining quite well, but I do not literally see it until I draw it. eyes open. Since hearing about this I have tried the elementary meditation exercise of visualising a sphere in total darkness and I cannot do it. But now I can divide my acquaintances into cans and cannots!
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Another note: they associate hyperphantasia with day dreaming and I can see the logic but my very limited survey and my own experience suggests day dreaming is a separate vector but presumably comes with or without visuals. The analogy I suggest is being read a story. I like that experience and can enter the story in my imagination but I never get a visual until someone makes a film of the story. So my day dreaming is more like an inner monologue with descriptions in words. If you give me a description I can draw it on paper but that is first time I see it.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torsten View Post
    I too used to recall the layout of textbook pages and where particular bits of information lay within those pages. So if there was some detail I wanted to quickly review, I would flip through the chapter until I saw the relevant layout, and know where to look on the page for the info.

    I spent a good portion of my career solving road layout problems. This meant walking all over forested terrain, and correlating what I was seeing with a stereo-photo model. A mental model of the terrain was built in my mind, and it included important features such as the location of rock outcrops, boulders, benches that could accommodate a switchback, seepage areas, etc. I could then imagine the most efficient location for the road, including the likely grades required. I don't know how people without that ability could do the work, but I did see the results sometimes. I usually attributed poor layout to a lack of legwork.
    Wow I wish I could do that! I am good with maps but I need that open eyed feedback to relate the topography.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by profloater View Post
    Another note: they associate hyperphantasia with day dreaming and I can see the logic but my very limited survey and my own experience suggests day dreaming is a separate vector but presumably comes with or without visuals. The analogy I suggest is being read a story. I like that experience and can enter the story in my imagination but I never get a visual until someone makes a film of the story. So my day dreaming is more like an inner monologue with descriptions in words. If you give me a description I can draw it on paper but that is first time I see it.
    If I'm listening to a story being told, I have mental images of the scenes, regardless of how much detail the story teller is giving about the settings. That can be a problem, if later on that mental image does not match with subsequently revealed details. And like others have written, I hear an inner voice when I read, or as I'm typing a reply.

    And then there's the music that is always in my head. The tunes will change over the course of a day, but there is always a background of music. Sometimes I don't like the tune that is playing, and I have to consciously change it to a different one. At the moment, the tune is the old Beatles song "Fixing a Hole". I think it sprung into this morning's soundtrack because of the fact that it was raining and I am supposed to be meeting with a contractor to discuss replacing the roof on my home.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    What you describe sounds a bit more like "synesthesia of the imagination" (if there is any such thing).



    Same here. There was a radio program a few years ago about someone trying to get away from the noises that surround us. In one segment he talked about this. He talked to people who were constantly bombarded by their inner voice as they walked down the street ("hey look at that shop ... lovely shoes ... I wonder how much they cost ..."). I never hear a voice when I am thinking to myself or even reading a book, so that all seems weird to me as well.
    I actually have that issue. Sometimes I can't keep up with someone directly talking to me because my head voice won't shut up. I don't actually "hear" anything. To me it's similar to registering words, like when you are reading. Sometimes when I am reading, I try to hear what I am reading in another person's voice (usually when they have a really pleasing accent). It doesn't work very well, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by closetgeek View Post
    I actually have that issue. Sometimes I can't keep up with someone directly talking to me because my head voice won't shut up. I don't actually "hear" anything. To me it's similar to registering words, like when you are reading.
    I have done that. To me, there is a difference from speaking out loud, but it sort of feels like my voice as I hear it if I speak out loud. It's hard to describe - it's sort of like I hear it, but not the same either.

    Sometimes when I am reading, I try to hear what I am reading in another person's voice (usually when they have a really pleasing accent). It doesn't work very well, though.
    Sometimes when I read something where a character has been represented by an actor I've heard many times, I will (without trying) hear the lines in the actor's voice. It comes and goes, and doesn't happen too often. It has to be an actor I've heard a lot, it has to be an especially distinctive voice for me, and I don't read that many stories with characters that I identify with an actor.

    A board example: When the poster Zapp Brannigan writes something here, I tend to "hear" the post in Billy West's Zapp Brannigan voice.

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    I think I am very blessed, in that not only can I visualize objects---but when I read (say, fictional characters) I can hear the voice of Jeremy Brett as Holmes.

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