How does a memory differ from a visual image? And – how do aphants tackle therapy?

Hi all. Before I share my story of how I happened upon this community, I have questions relating to how I should answer the VVIQ test.

In thinking about a friend or relative, I have a concept of what the person looks like based on recalling a memory of that person, to the extent that when I see them again I know it’s them based on my memory of them. Does this mean I visualise them? I don’t have any image of them in my mind in situations or wearing anything in particular, I just “know” what they look like, and so then would recognise them when I saw them. But it feels less like an image and more like a concept.

Linked to this, I read an interesting article that many of those with aphantasia can still answer questions such as which is the darker green- the colour of grass, or the colour of pine needles. And they can do this because they can recall a memory of those objects. I can relate to this in terms of answering the questions on the test – so, how do you know if you’re seeing something with your mind’s eye, or recalling a memory? Are these different things? How should I answer the test if I “know” what something looks like based on a memory? Is that an image in my mind’s eye? This is the concept I’m probably most struggling with! I don’t think I “see” anything to be able to answer how well I see it, but I know what my memory says it has looked like when I’ve come across it.

As you can probably tell, I’m new to this and figuring out what it means, so it would be great to share stories with others. To share a bit of my own story… I’ve come across this network via an unusual route. I was casually reading something recently about “inner conversational monologues”, which I have, and was surprised to learn only 30-50% of people have that. So I was curious how people “think" if they don’t have this monologue, and then read that those people usually think in images, or concepts. I thought – that's weird, how do you “think” with images. And then read that only about 5% of the population don’t have mental imagery. Which was the moment I went Wait… WHAT?!?

I started reading more about it, and asking people I knew. And suddenly I realised my experiences with thinking were different from others. Never really had an inkling others thought in a fundamentally different way. My daydreams are me getting lost in internal conversations about concepts – so I was actually really surprised talking to multiple friends who say they see images.

As well as help on how to answer the test questions, I have another question about having therapy as an aphant. I have had therapy in the past, and have been trying to recreate situations in my mind, only to the frustration of both me and the therapist when I repeatedly insist I can’t. When so much of therapy is about visualisation techniques, how should aphants then approach therapy? Has anyone found a different way to tackle therapy if you can’t visualise?

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There’s a really good article by Rebecca McHale, just published on this site ( that would be a great starting point for your questions about aphants approaching therapy.

With regard to your questions about how to answer the VVIQ, I think it’s best to remember that it is a completely subjective questionnaire. Your description of how you remember people what people look like sounds a lot like a “1” on the VVIQ, in that you “know” how they look but don’t have a picture in your mind. Or maybe a “2” if there is some vaguely visual thing going on in your mind. Either way, you seem to be low on the visualization scale. But really, the VVIQ is just a tool for starting to think about how your mind works with respect to visualization. A 5-point scale can hardly cover the diversity in how different people’s minds work.