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Authors Need To Know About Aphantasia: Here’s Why

ROBERT WOOD, STANDOUT BOOKS PUBLISHING SERVICES

Writer and editor Robert Wood makes a compelling case for why authors need to know about aphantasia, explaining how the best writing advice deals with perception-– the ability to understand how someone else will process your art. In the article Authors Need To Know About Aphantasia: Here’s Why published by Standout Books Publishing Services, Wood explains to authors: “Even if only a few people with aphantasia read your book, it’s still worth knowing that their experience exists. Art is an act of communication, and we create it more successfully when we know about the hurdles between writer and reader.”

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Can you picture things in your head? Well, this guy can’t

PAUL AFLALO, CBC RADIO

Founder of The Aphantasia Network, Tom Ebeyer shares his story of discovery with aphantasia and how he sees his differentness as a source of strength in this CBC Radio podcast produced by Paul Aflalo. Ebeyer shares how it can be a difficult realization, knowing people can do something you can’t. But once he learned there is a name for the way his brain worked — aphantasia — he started to see the strengths. Dr. Adam Zeman, who gave the condition a name back in 2015, makes a guest appearance in an exclusive radio interview and aphantasic, Amanda Jacobs also joins in on the discussion.

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Some learners cannot visualise things in their mind’s eye

KATHRYN BATES, BOLD

Just because some learners cannot visualise in their mind’s eye doesn’t necessarily make them less successful. PhD student in Developmental Science at University College London, Kathryn Bates rationalizes that while learner’s ability to create images in their mind is linked to various improvements in learning, the absence of this ability may lead to alternative strategies that enhance rather than hinder learning. Bates artcile Some learners cannot visualise things in their mind’s eye posted in the Blog on Learning Development (BOLD) offers a critical perspective challenging earlier ideas and theories expressed in The Guardian article “If you can’t imagine things, how can you learn?”

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Blind mind and anxiety: might aphantasia protect against PTSD?

JOEL PEARSON & MARCUS WICKEN, NCBI

One of visual mental imagery’s proposed functions is to emotionally amplify thinking by lending a sensory, ‘as-if-real’ quality to otherwise verbally-based cognitive content. Cognitive neuroscientist, Joel Pearson and Marcus Wicken of the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, probe imagery’s emotional significance. In this study, 22 (self-reported) aphantasic and 24 non-aphantasic (normal imagery) control participants read a series of frightening fictitious scenarios, while investigators record their skin conductance level (SCL), an objective measure of fear response. The results? While control participant data monotonically rose, the aphantasic SCL flatlined, suggesting significantly less fear response to the frightening stories. These data suggest the emotional response to reading fictitious scenarios is contingent on visual mental imagery. This is strong and novel evidence for imagery’s emotional amplifier role, underpinning imagery’s significant in disorders, such as PTSD, and their treatment. It is also the basis for ongoing research into whether aphantasics may be naturally resilient to imagery-linked disorders, including PTSD.

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Why a Disney animator draws a blank on his own creations

DANIEL LAVELLE, THE GUARDIAN

Oscar-winner Glen Keane , who illustrated Ariel from The Little Mermaid, also has no visual imagery. Keane is among the 2% of the population with aphantasia, a little-known condition leaving them without mental imagery. Ed Catmull (Ex-Pixar Chief) told the BBC that aphantasia was not a barrier to creativity, pointing out that Keane’s work was proof that you do not have to be able to picture something to be able to draw it. Catmull explains; “He (Keane) is truly extraordinary, he’s one of the best animators in the history of hand-drawn animation.”

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Ex-Pixar chief Ed Catmull says ‘my mind’s eye is blind’

JAMES GALLAGHER, BBC NEWS

You don’t need mental imagery to be creative. Just ask Former President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios Ed Catmull who brought us Disney classics like Toy Story, Wall-e, Finding Nemo and Inside Out. Ed has aphantasia, but he is not alone. When Ed sent out the VVIQ quiz to a group of animators at Disney he was surprised to find that there are phenomenal artists on both ends of the spectrum from aphantasia, the inability to visualize in your mind’s eye to hyperphantasia, those who are extraordinarily good at it. Ed discovered, perhaps counter-intuitively, that some of the greatest talents in animation could not visualize either. The correlations are not what you would expect; “People have conflated visualization with creativity and imagination, they are not the same thing.”

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Could you have this memory disorder?

CLAUDIA HAMMOND, BBC NEWS

The BBC article Could you have this memory disorder? chronicals the experience of Susie McKinnon who has very few memories from her life and cannot remember special events nor “mentally time travel.” McKinnon first researched amnesia, but the stories of people who lost their memories as a result of illness or brain injuries didn’t seem to fit her experience. She could remember that events had happened; she just didn’t recall what it was like to be there. She sends an email to Brian Levine , a memory scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest in Toronto. The result of their communication was the identification of a new syndrome – Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory or SDAM for short. McKinnon also has aphantasia, which means she can’t picture images. Early findings suggest there may be a correlation between SDAM and aphantasia.

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The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia

JOEL PEARSON, RESEARCHGATE

For most people the use of mental imagery is pervasive in daily life, but for a small group of people, the experience of mental imagery is entirely unknown. Cognitive neuroscientist, Joel Pearson of the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, conducts a study with subjectively self-diagnosed aphantasics and publishes The blind mind: No sensory visual imagery in aphantasia. In the study techniques like the binocular rivalry, as well as measuring their self-rated object and spatial imagery with multiple questionnaires (VVIQ, SUIS and OSIQ) are used to explore sensory imagery. Unlike, the general population, aphantasics showed almost no imagery-based rivalry priming. Aphantasic participants’ self-rated visual object imagery was significantly below average, however their spatial imagery scores were above average. The findings suggest aphantasia is a condition involving a lack of sensory and phenomenal imagery and not a lack of metacognition.

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