Tactile memory and language based memory?


I recently recognized that I have aphantasia with visuals. I realized that this is why I could never remember how to light a backpacking stove, read a map, or remember how to make a figure 8 knot for tying into a climbing harness for rock-climbing – all kinds of things.

Interestingly though, I have always had excellent spatial, kinesthetic, and tactile abilities. For example, if I think about what is in my desk drawer, I can tactilely remember what is in my desk drawer.

The other day, it dawned on me that if my tactile memory is so accurate, maybe I can “see” through touch. I experimented with this by closing my eyes and feeling the parts of my MSR Dragonfly camping stove. I found amazing, and I mean amazing!, success with this technique.

I finally had a breakthrough, and I can absolutely and completely remember how my stove works now! I became very encouraged and have been trying this tactile memory technique with everything! I now understand and remember how my Katadyn water filter for backpacking works too. I could never, ever remember things before like this. Never.

Before, all my visuals were like mental blobs. I knew that there was a chair or a stove or whatever in a room, but it was just a vague blob of a visual concept. (Also, weirdly, I can draw what I see very, very well, like many artists with aphantasia. But no memory. I just can’t call up a visual in that way).

I did also realize that if I use language that my understanding of a visual also becomes more accurate. If I label and describe things, I can conceptualize them, so I can say, regarding my camping stove, “The wick is at the base of the burner cup.” The language has to be very accurate and specific for me to really see clearly through language descriptions.

Anyway, I discovered that if I combine tactile memory and language that I can absolutely compensate for my lack of visual memory. I am very excited because now I feel so much more secure about taking backpacking trips — and, of course, to do many different activities that I felt unable to manage before — like remembering how to change a flat tire — all kinds of things!

The last thing I would like to say is that I could probably orient myself while backpacking if I had a 3d map of the trip to understand the layout of the area I plan to visit. I discovered that there are places that print 3d maps.

I am very excited about using 3d technology for learning about science and about all kinds of things, and I am also excited about haptic technologies as well. I know these are being developed for people with blindness and low vision. I wonder if there are others in the aphantasia community that would benefit from this?

I know aphantasia can affect many modalities, so I know that there will be people unable to use tactile memory to compensate either. I just wonder how many other compensatory techniques might be out there that I have not even thought of. I know I need to spend time reading the discussion panels to find out. But this is my direct question.

My question to others is to ask if any of you have discovered compensatory techniques such as tactile, language, whatever that compensate for visual aphantasia memory issues? Do you find your techniques to be so good that you can actually become excellent at remembering things you could not manage remembering before?

Thanks for listening.




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Personally I have noticed having very good spacial recall, to the point where my family has me navigate when we travel as I’m always able to retrace my steps, and often optimise a return path. I don’t have tactile memory though, but do have good proprioceptive (body position and movement) imagination and memory, which lets me learn physical tasks quickly.

My best guess as to why I’m good in these areas are from video games for spacial learning (started very young), and martial arts for proprioceptive (started at 9).

One other coping mechanism I’ve learned more involves training your friends/family to descibe things differently when giving information, for example instead of saying "Turn at the 3rd light", which uses a visual indicator, say "Take the (xth) turn", which uses spacial indicators. The hardest part of doing this is when you have someone who cannot wrap their head around what language works and doesn’t so it takes some practice to get them comfortable with what they could be saying differently to better help you understand.

The memory techniques I only began to understand my need for after I learned about aphantasia, even though I was doing them for years before, but the language change was something I worked out with a friend of mine who I described aphantasia to, and in trying to better understand it, worked with me to find language and concepts that were easier for me to retain.

One tip I have if you have a hard time reading a map is ignore the visual indicators listed on the map. Instead count turns and imagine yourself moving through the space (which if you’re like me with spacial and proprioceptive imagination), more than makes up for the lack of visual indicators. Personally to make this easier I do things like never look at the satilite view of a digital map, instead I always use the bland map view because theres little to no visual noise.

Hope this is intersting to you, and maybe even gives you or someone else some ideas,


I never though of counting turns and such and changing the language descriptors. That is excellent advice! I will start using that. I am thinking that will actually translate well to using a computer and to doing repairs also. I can think of a lot of uses for that concept, so, yes, many ideas are surfacing from your advice. Thank you very much!

I also have very good proprioceptive ability. I am very adept at climbing and things like that. I am thinking that trying to "walk" or climb through a memory might help too. Thanks for mentioning proprioceptive as a concept as well!

Also, your use of the "bland map" is interesting because I often turn my computer screen to the grayscale screen setting because all of the color is visual noise and I can learn much better without all that color. I am going to look up the bland map view. I have never heard of that. Interesting!

I’ve never considered my lack of pictorial mental image a disadvantage, simply because I don’t compare with others! From a child I was so different that I hate to compare! It’s just a all trade off, not disadvantage. 

Muli-sensory: I’m good at kinesthetic (tactile, movement), connective & abstract thinking. I’m bad at verbal but good at musical thinking! 😀

See more at my post: Thinking: Visual vs Abstract vs Verbal vs Logic vs Connective vs Kinesthetic etc.