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Authors Need To Know About Aphantasia: Here’s Why


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


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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The critical role of mental imagery in human emotion: insights from Aphantasia


One proposed function of imagery is to make thoughts more emotionally evocative through sensory simulations, but what if you cannot visualize in the mind? A study was conducted with 22 participants with aphantasia – identified using VVIQ self-report instrument and Binocular Rivalry. To test how image-based thoughts might amplify emotions, participants read a series of fictitious fearful scenarios, while their skin conductance level (SCL) was continuously recorded. The results of the study showed that aphantasic individuals show a reduced fear response to the frightening scenarios when compared to controls. Therefore, supporting consistent evidence for imagery’s theorized role as an emotional amplifier.

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Some learners cannot visualise things in their mind’s eye


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?


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


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’


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?


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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