Do people actually project an image over their mind when their eyes are closed?


Hi everyone,

So, I’ve been strugling a lot these past few months about the idea of Aphantasia. I’ve done a bunch of tests and read articles about this, but I can’t seem to spot a concise criteria of what it is to “create a visual image”.

My my question for all of you is the following: Do people without Aphantasia, close their eyes and see an image instead of blackness? Why do I ask this? I’m unsure whether I have Aphantasia. When I close my eyes and try to imagine something all I see is blackness, but I can somewhat recall the idea of the image. I cannot see that image in my mind, but I can “remember” it, if that makes any sense to you at all.

It feels as if I can create an image but in the backend of my mind, and I’m unable to bring it to the frontend (sorry, I’ve been working on development for some time and this analogy helps me).

Anyway, I hope someone there has found itself in the same situation as I have and can guide me on the correct path.

Thank you,

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I can’t answer your question, because I have basically the same question myself. I’m not sure I understand what “create a visual image” means. Like, literally see an image? What happens when your eyes are open? Something like a heads-up display? I know when I was in Lassen Volcanic National Park I was looking down on a lake. In the foreground there are rocks, then some dead pine trees. In the background there are mountains. I can “picture” it in the sense that I remember what I saw, and it was very beautiful. But I cannot, in any way, create an image of it, somehow magically (to me) in front of me, even with my eyes closed. But maybe I misunderstand what picturing something in the mind’s eye means?

It’s not as literal as that. People who visualize still see black when they close their eyes because mental imagery has nothing to do with the physical eyes. When they close their eyes, they see black because their eyes are closed. The imagery is created and “viewed” in the mind’s eye. My husband describes it as feeling like it’s more behind his eyeballs rather than like watching images on the eyelids like they’re screens. He also says it feels more like it’s on a separate plane from reality. So when his eyes are closed, he can focus on the imagery in his mind, but it doesn’t feel like he’s actually watching it in front of his actual field of vision. He’s knows it’s 100% being “seen” by his mind only. It sounds like if you are creating “backend” images, then you are creating normal imagery. I think people get really hung up on this projection thing, but it’s not as literal as it sounds.

If I ask you to imagine a dessert, does a specific one come to mind? Can you imagine colors to it, a shape, a size? Are you imagining it in a bowl or on a plate? Can you put it on a table in your imagination? Can you imagine yourself eating it? If so, then you are likely creating imagery. I know what the word “dessert” means, but if you ask me to think of a dessert, I wouldn’t have anything specific like that. I would bring to mind something I’ve had before or make something up in my head, I just know the abstract concept dessert. So since there’s no dessert imagery in my head, it’s not a certain type, there is no color or shape. I can’t put it in the bowl because there is no imagery there to put in or on anything. Definitely can’t imagine myself eating it because I can’t imagine myself in my head either. I just don’t have representations of my thoughts in my head.


Hi Nicolas,

I believe I fall into the Hyperphantasic and my partner falls into the Aphantasic parts of the spectrum, so we have had a lot of conversations about this.

The way we have managed to get on the same page about ‘seeing on the eyelids’ bit is through this analogy (the irony of describing a picture is not lost on me here):
When we see things with our physical eyes, it’s just the eye looking at a tree for example.

When we see things with our minds eye, our mind becomes a cinema of sorts. Our imagination is ‘Directing’ a ‘film’ and the minds eye is ‘watching’ it. My partner asked me, so which bit is the screen? where is the film being projected onto? My answer is that, some people project it onto their eyelids (metaphorically speaking I guess, but it still seems real) and others project the image onto their forehead (That’s how I do it so there’s more space – I think I started doing the forehead as a kid because then it’s easier to incorporate the other senses).

I hope you find this helpful!

This is the same for me.

I liken it to seeing a play you know very very well and suddenly the curtain comes down. You can’t see or hear it anymore but you KNOW what is happening.

So when I close my eyes it is only blackness.

But when I sleep and dream I “feel” like I see images.

Since discovering Aphantasia, when I first wake up I try to visualize something from my dream and I think I can actually see something, but as soon as I am fully awake, its like a black curtain comes down  and then I can’t see anything.

Try this and see if you get the same?

That might help you identify if you have it?


You’re describing exactly what I see when I close my eyes and think of an object, face, landscape or any form. I see nothing – no image or picture; just darkness, or the reddish light that comes through my eyelids. However, while sleeping I dream in full colour with vivid, accurate images.

My meditation teacher thought that by practice I could improve my ability, and advised me to gaze at a simple shape – a solid circle, square or star – and then close my eyes and attempt to see it. I had no success at this.

I read that Aldous Huxley was unable to see pictures in his mind, so I feel I’m in good company.

It seems that not having the ability to see mental pictures is no more abnormal than being “tone-deaf” is abnormal. And, by the way, I have exceptional musical ability. I wonder if the mind specializes in one ability over another?

What do you mean by “the correct path”?


Hi Nicolas,

I recently decided to take up meditation and it was going well until day 4 when I was asked to visualise a Dragon Fly in flight. There I am, eyes closed and in complete darkness trying to recall an image of a Dragon Fly in flight. I’m then asked to imagine the Dragon Fly slowing down and landing on a large green leaf and to use this image to guide my attention. Well, I totally lost focus at this point thinking to myself, there is no image, what is she going on about! Anyway, after talking to other people it turns out that they could see a picture of a Dragon Fly!

I went home confused and turned to my friend Google. This is the point at which I realised I’ve been on this earth for 50 years and had no idea that when my mother told me to count sheep when I was a child, people do actually see sheep! or when you were asked to picture a sunset, people actually see a sunset!

If I close my eyes and think of an Apple, I don’t see an image of an Apple, I see darkness, but I can recall what an Apple looks like. I asked my wife to do this and she could conjure up an image of an Apple! It then dawned on me that this may be why I can only draw/paint pictures from a reference.

Anyway, I’m pretty darn confused and not sure what to make of this revelation.



Do people without Aphantasia, close their eyes and see an image instead of blackness?  Yes! The majority of people close their eyes and see images in their mind. Many can see those images with eyes open as well.

I’m very new to this. So I have no idea what I’m talking about. But after I found out about aphantasia (which seems to describe me accurately, I see blackness that’s it) I’ve been asking my family to detail what they see when they see something in their mind. My husband is a creative person and enjoys art. So he gave me the most understandable explanation that I could process. He says it’s like seeing a photograph in his mind. He says it’s not like there’s an apple floating in front of him that he can reach out and touch. But he can think of an image of an apple in his head. It may not be as detailed as an actual apple but he sees an image. From what I’ve gathered this is what most people see although some people are capable of seeing highly detailed life like images. I see black.

Hi Nicolas,

People who are good at visualizing don’t have to close their eyes to do it. As an example, a lady I knew was once giving me directions about how to find a certain shop on the high street. We were elsewhere and indoors. She listed every shop along the street in such a way that it was clear she was ‘walking’ there with her mind’s eye, seeing everything, – she was there except that her feet were inside a building. Of course, her excellent directions were of no use to me, but it was a fascinating insight into someone else’s mind – and an impressive performance!

A friend on a course once, was able to reproduce diagrams in an exam from her mind’s eye, without understanding them, but she was stumped if the paper required the drawing to be a different way around!  I had to understand them to reproduce them, but because I thoroughly understood I could draw them whatever was asked for.

I think I know what you mean about the backend and frontend of the mind!

Hi Nicolas,

I have always known that I was unable to visualize the way others could. However, when I first started taking the various Aphantasia tests, I did answer some of the questions and getting a vague image, but mostly none at all. over time, I began to struggle to figure out whether I was really seeing a vague image in my mind or just having the idea of what the image would look like. I was confused about this for awhile, I spent a lot of time trying to visualize things and figure out if I was really seeing an image in my mind or not. For example: an apple. I could think about the top of the apple with a stem sticking out and the light reflecting off the top rounded part on one side. But eventually I realized I was thinking about these facts that I knew about, but as soon as I tried to see it, it was gone. Not sure if I am explaining it very well, but I am very sure now that I cannot see anything at all, I just know what I would see if there was an apple in front of me. I can construct what I would see by thinking of all the details that I do know about, but I never actually have an image in my mind. I don’t know if that is the same thing you are struggling with, but it kind of sounded like it so I thought I would share my experience so you could compare and see if it might be the same for you or not.

Hello Nicolas!

To start I will say that I have what is currently termed as “Total Aphanatasia,” meaning I have no imaginative sensory experience at all, no visualizations, sounds, smells, tastes, etc.  When I first learned about Aphantasia I called my parents and asked them if they could literally create images in their minds.  My dad replied in the negative and my mother replied in the positive.  After absorbing the shock of this revelation I asked my mom what her experience was and she described it as like having a polaroid image in her head, she even described the location of the image as being “forward” like right between her physical eyes.  Later I asked my sister, and she leans more towards the hypervisual in that she describes her internal imagery as being like a movie playing out, but with all the other senses involved to some degree (for clarification, I had not asked my parents about the other sensory experiences, just visual).

The way you describe your experience is very similar to how my dad and I both experience it, all I “see” is blackness (or the back of my eyelids) however it is as if the image is there somewhere in the back of my head but it just won’t come forward.  In regards to the other senses, I do not have that feeling that they are anywhere in my head.
I hope that helps answer your question.


Thank you for your description!

I recently found out about aphantasia through a interview on YouTube (Anthony Padilla, very good interview!) So I started to read about it. I was always struggling as to know if I have aphantasia. Your description and the comments below made it clearer that I apparently do have aphantasia…

It was always hard for me to explain how I don’t see the images, but kinda do or know about how stuff looks without seeing them?! Your description totally fits as I experience it. Thanks for finding words for me!!

I always annoy my friends with questions like, “how does it look in your mind” and “does the image in your head get darker when you lie in the dark or do you get dazzled by it” the answers are amazing to me!!

I am happy to have found this community and am interested in more information or even studies. I am an art therapist and wondering if this affects my work or my view of the pictures at all

Greetings from Germany






Very relatable to my experience and way of thinking. I don’t really know what “seeing” a picture means