Does aphantasia effect empathy?

Though I score extremely low on the empathy dimension of personality/psycopathy tests, I actually can and do empathize. Rather than being an emotional response, it’s more of a calculated answer. My ability to empathize seems to flow through a logical narrative and may borrow “problem-solving” from my mental tool kit to supplement the emotional lack. I’m curious if my inability to visualize what others experience has any effect on my ability (or lack thereof) “feel” what their situation communicates. Can anyone relate? 

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I am very interested in this as well.   Thank you Zach for asking the question.  I hadn’t thought this way before, but when I read the question, it hit home.

With myself it feels like cognitive empathy, I can put myself in peoples shoes and know that their situation is bad and but it doesn’t change anything inside me, I know how to comfort them from learnt behavior.

I like “cognitive empathy.” But my cognitive empathy can be accompanied by a visceral empathy. 

I have high aphantasia and low empathy. 

Similarly, I have to make some sort of internal logic process of “person seems to be doing ____, thus, I think I need to _______.” 

I have taken a LOT of classes on dealing with people, EQ, and empathy. 

I believe I can relate. 


Sounds like my own experience exactly

I believe I am a total aphantasic, but am highly empathic and intuitive, and can also feel a great deal of sympathy for animals and a more qualified sympathy for people (as in, how much digging did they do to create the hole they find themselves in). People IRL will jokingly call me a witch (some not so jokingly) because I can “see” their patterns and read their emotions.



I have the same problem. It’s hard to help with showing emotions rather than giving advice.

I think your empathy comes from an abstract understanding of the source of the others emotional state. I can relate. Early training led me to treat others as I would want to be treated so, if in xyz situation I would want abc, then that would be my response. Most often it works out well, but not always! I had a mother-in-law whom I would not shame by deep cleaning that more which I would be ashamed to leave to discover she would rather I had done the deep cleaning:). These days, while I keep the notion of ‘doing as one would be done by’ close, I tend to ask first if this that or the other would be of any help.

Why try to ‘visualise’ someone else’s experience? It is impossible. The experience belongs to them. what belongs to the by-stander is the effect or consequence of the experience and it is this which elicits empathy.

Remember that, at some stage, everything goes through the brain as it receives and responds to reports from within the body. When responding to a situation/person requiring empathy, the brain is being economical with energy by responding as you describe. It would be both a waste and a dishonest effort for your brain to attempt an emotional response to create empathy. The energy and effort in an emotional response is best reserved for situations when you are in need of empathy from another. 

Once I had a lot to say

until I learned what not to say

in order not to give offence

to avoid  battering against the fence

of deeply held belief.

So it was with relief

that I broke the habit

and no longer grabbed at


Then I found it all too quiet

and decided to break the verbal diet

the initial obstacle to cross

was the discovery of total loss

of patterned words for conversation

and worse, I found in consternation

were the same trite truths

from predicted angle

the same nowhere threads

left in the air to dangle


So to silence I again retired

serene in knowledge late acquired

of a truth never heard but often told

that speech is silver, silence gold.

Wrapped in the knowledge I now find

conversation from mind to mind

more accurately expressed by touch

as hands and kisses dies lie – as much –

as words.

Ive always considered the very concept of empathy to be very….egotistical…and presumptive, honestly.

Its not a popular or common view point i know! 

But Ive always thought that you can actually  never completely understand, let alone feel, EXACTLY what something is like for another person. Your understanding and knowledge of ‘that something’ is  unavoidably and irrevocably coloured by who you are, you experiences, your background etc etc etc; meaning it is actually physically impossible for you to feel what another is.

However you can, in most general cases,  make a good approximation it, but an approximation means it isnt really feeling what another is, it is just sympathy and compassion…