Visual or all senses?

Aphantasia isn’t limited to just visual imagination; it can impact all sensory imagery in the mind.

For example, when most people go to a restaurant and see something on the menu they enjoy, they can (kind of) smell and taste it. Or if you think of your favourite song, you can hear the sounds of the instrument in your mind. Think of ‘famous words’ one of your parents or teachers said to you growing up. Can you hear these words in their voice?

A study on the cognitive profile of people with aphantasia conducted by the UNSW Future Minds Lab found that most aphantasics report decreased imagery in all other sensory domains – sound, smell, taste – although not all will experience a complete lack of multi-sensory imagery.

What’s your imaginative experience like? Visual or all senses?

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My experience is exactly the same Tom. There’s just nothing. I feel like a computer just spitting out data. I have the idea of something or know the facts of something and can just recall that. There’s no visual analysis – it’s like it gets done subconciously. When people describe more context around a memory or situation, sometimes that helps me retireve more facts.

I can recognize a tune like it’s nobody’s business, but songs don’t get stuck in my head. At least not the way it would with a mind’s ear. It’s more like my inner monolgue, the one that does the thinking and constant narration, will hum or sing the tune. This is hard to describe. Basically my inner monolgue can carry a tune, but I don’t experience the tune in any auditory sense. I just "know" that my inner voice is hitting the different notes. More often than not, a line or two will occupy my mind on repeat, especially if there isn’t a lot of sensory input or cognition required in the present moment.

Smell. Never had it. Don’t have anything remotely like it. I wonder if they’ve linked this to the emotional detachment.

The closest I would say I get to anything is a kinesthetic sense. If I think about my arm crossing my body to hit a backhand shot in tennis, I can feel my heart rate change and my breath shorten. But that’s about it. It’s like I am motor planning, but the only feedback I get that anything is happening is from my major two organs, and that’s a stretch at best.

this sounds very familiar, i appreciate the clear verbalization of your experience. im a total blank and your narrator description is exactly what is happening in my head. constant verbal dialogue to take the place of those other senses. eye opening.

that is pretty close to me. none of the 5 senses, especially not smell, which so many people is a strong trigger.
im very good at kinestetics, can remember where things are just by position. my sister has poor eyesight and will open the fridge to find something and i can say “middle shelf on the right”, which ive remembered by “feel” and then translate that into a description. Can be tricky as i might not remember how many shelves, but can imagine how much i need to bend and position my hand to get it. Also excellent at navigation, especially good at backtracking. Most people seem to struggle as things can look quite different driving out than in. But i remember a sense of position and turns and can just reverse that. Even if i get it wrong, I can adjust and just know where i am and where i need to be. So my spacial strengths is not just body feedback.
I get tunes stuck in my head, usually me saying the lyrics and some vague amount of rhythm and melody. Like you my recognising skills are great.

If you lack a sense of smell you may be deficient in zinc. You can get zinc tablets or buy herbal tea with zinc. It can take a couple of months but your sense of smell should come back.

I would say not all of my sense are affected. I can "hear" in my head but I can’t taste, or smell and for sure see. I also have emotional responses. I wish that I could not have the emotional response.

Partial aphantasia

I have a physical imagination, like having a hundred tiny hands touching a thing. Or I can imagine what it feels like to be a cat, or a palm tree blowing in the wind.

I can imagine my voice in my head, but no other sounds.

No visuals, tastes, or smells.

For me, it extends to all five senses. I think there’s a spectrum, so for some it might only be some of the senses.

I can get vague, subtle impressions in all five senses. What I don’t have is an alternate dimension in which to put them. I don’t have inner space or inner type. All of my impressions seem to be non-linear and non-spatial, or minimally spatial, like drawings on a piece of paper. If I try to visualize a place, I can’t actually go inside it, because it isn’t three dimensional, stable, or self-existent. It’s just like a little drawing that I make instantaneously.

I lack a mind’s ear, tongue, or nose as well. The idea of touch in my mind is totally alien.

I am very good with maps and directions but I don’t make a mind map. The concept of “landmark” based directions has always been difficult for me and I really need exit numbers or routes or street names to know where I am going. Once I’ve been to somewhere once I can usually get back there.

I can conceptualise just fine. I can’t experience though. I can’t smell, taste, feel, hear, or see. My internal voice is different for others though. I can "hear" it singing or imitating an accent (even if I can’t do it aloud). I know how angry feels, I know when I am angry. But only epically large emotional upsets will stay relevant enough to inspire that all consuming emotion (grief, rage, love) in any given moment.

I can do maps and the rotational puzzles – to me it’s like seeing the horse upside-down. I think of the image reflected, turned, etc. I don’t often do it easily, I have to concentrate but I can do it. I used to have to turn the map around but I got better at that.

I’m actually pretty good with sense of direction and orientation. I think i’m partially imagination deaf, as I can’t vividly recall a voice, I can’t recall notes (I’ve been a guitarist) in my brain, but if I move my tongue, I can recall a song. But I think that I actually have to move my tongue and throat for my brain to sort of "hear" the song.

Eh the only thing I have partial of would be sound and even then its really "hearing" it with my internal voice, that being said there is always some tune I’m internally humming to myself.

I think all senses. Certainly no sound, I’ve never had a song in my head, can’t hear my wife or kids voices, in choir I can’t hear a pitch before I sing it, and I can’t hear a song in my head.

No sense of smell from imagery.

Is it possible for you to sing from memory?
Or say somebody says a phrase like “You’re beautiful,” “Never say never,” or a phrase from a song you are familiar with, do you recognize that there’s a song you know with that phrase and can sing it out if you want?

When I ask, it’s about when people say it, but also I’m curious about if you read a phrase and would be also connect with the song.

When I hear or think about the phrase “ain’t nobody got time for that,” I think of a sound clip and how people might use it as part of a meme.

I have an inner monologue and that’s it. I don’t think it’s even an "audio monologue", it’s just ‘words’… that’s a terribly description but it’s all I can figure out.
This is complete internally, however I do suffer from loops of thought – getting a song stuck in your head and not actually hearing anything is beyond annoying; I think it’s a fairly normal method of release but I have to let it out, singing or humming or listening to the song, stopping what I’m doing and writing out an equation or code snippet that’s come to mind, anything to settle the thought. Addititonally I’m usually humming, mumbling, or listening to something; it’s the only single break from my inner monologue and I take it gleefully.
When trying to recall a memory I generally don’t even get specifics, ask me my favourite song and it’s like a hot spring of songs with a possitive mass of "impressions" attached, then I pick out the ones with the most before trying to recall specific impressions attached to the song – these are recalled as ‘word’, or descriptions, or perhaps a single verse or two I really liked but always in that same monologue. Taste is very similar – chicken is a generally pleasant blandness, steak is rich, juicy, and possibly a hint of smothering from the nice pepper gravy I’ve had the last few times, brocoli is a fresh crispness. Ask me to picture a colour, imagine a sound, taste, or touch? I can’t, I can remember experiencing it, but I can’t bring it to mind.

Huh, reading about you gives me a better idea on how to describe my abilities. You articulate your experience well.

Audio for me is best described as “vague” kind of like how “vague” is an option on the VVIQ test. It’s enough to resemble a song but does not sound like the song. I also can get songs stuck in my head and sing them out for stress relief, however the last few years, I haven’t listened to music as often so I rarely do it nowadays. I do utter sounds for stress relief, to distract myself from a thought, or in attempt to “banish” a thought.

If I was up to practice, I could use a muscial instrument I’m familiar with to replicate a tone I’m imagining. If I’m not familiar with making that tone on an instrument, I can figure out if what is playing on the instrument is close or not.

Just visual, I think. I have a way of coping with maps that is rather odd. I go over the entire route and I actually feel the trip from beginning to end. I memorize highway and street names as well as turns, and that way, I can navigate either without the map (if the area is more familar) or with GPS backing me up (if it isn’t).

Music — I can play almost anything by ear but cannot sing it correctly. I played in orchestras and bands for years and it is the physical act of playing and feeling the specific vibrations of the instrument and the hand positions that help me memorize music. I do get "earworms" often, songs stuck in my head, but even with extensive musical training, cannot hum or sing them well.

I’ve not thought about taste or hearing being affected. I will have to think on those!

All senses, but is like someone in my brain is smelling, visualizing, tasting and feeling; because I can somehow anticipate where and how something is gonna fit in a space; how should I put my furniture to look more appealing to me; what I want to eat and listen, this "internal guy" just give me the answers, doesn’t let me see, hear, etc.

Is there a buffer time to decide?

Say you’re figuring out where in the room to put a couch and what direction it should face, do you need to pause for a bit or does the answer just come?

Do you have to ask yourself “where would I put the couch?,” or say “hmmmm in your head?

I cannot for the life of me picture anything in my head and until a few months ago I thought that was normal. I can, although, remember smells and sounds very well. Sounds especailly. I can hear something once or twice and I can remember it for a very long time. Like this one show that my mom and I used to watch a lot I can remember the intro by heart without fail. My mom thinks I’m wierd for that but I like to assume that it makes up for me not being able to picture stuff. I have actually gotten in trouble for not being able to picture stuff but that is a story for another time.

I can hear music in full detail but I’m a DJ pictures I just get a black

im the same i have nothing, it wasnt till recently that i realises people can actually taste food and smell smells…

I have long known that I am unable to access visual imagery in my mind, however I am a prolific photographer. I take yearly two-week solo drive abouts, which I have joked is like fishing for images. Interesting in talking to my wife about this that I realized, from her questions, that I also can’t call up tastes or smells.

I just found out about aphantasia 2 days ago.
Visual: None. Maybe maybe maybe I can imagine a vague shape of something but this might actually be my physical imagination instead (see below)
Auditory: Comparing myself to other’s descriptions, I think I don’t have it to the level of detail that non-aphants have. However I can remember a tone and replicate it with my voice, have songs stuck in my head ALL the time, start singing songs immediately after people say distinct phrases associated with those songs in casual conversation. Through practice I also learned to tune a cello by ear, it’s just the fine tuning I have trouble with. I’m good at tuning guitars the way I want.
Gustatory: Just learned 30 minutes ago that I don’t have this, BUT similar to Luc below who talked about about a tennis backhand and its affect on heart rate, my mouth/throat/tongue react to me trying to imagine a random sweetness/sour taste/bittermelon. It affects which areas relax/tense, curl, or move. If I imagine them with intensity, I actually move my tongue/mouth/throat in reaction.
Olfactory: Nothing but my guess is I’ll get some reactions like gustatory if I try.
Tactile/Motor/Physical: I can imagine being in a different body position and my orientation to objects. I can learn by the combination of moving my arms, gesturing, and associating different spaces in the air to parts of something, e.g. the four chambers of the heart and its bloodflow directions. I can kind if imagine texture. I can apply motor learning to dance classes if I want.
Emotional: Certain things people say can trigger emotions. Also I can repeat memories over and over and imagine how I felt about something. [Edited to remove personal story here.]
Also for the most part I recognize faces fine.

I have Aphantasia and also lack the auditory sense in that I cannot fully hear a song I’m thinking of. My sense of smell is quite diminished and I cannot mentally taste or smell a dish I might be going to order in a restaurant.

All five senses. Until I saw this post it never occured to me that other people could conjure smells or tastes. I understood that some people could hear music in their heads, but I wasn’t sure what that meant.

In my 30s when I was rebuilding my life after a nervous breakdown I had to discuss with my first wife all sorts of inner thoughts. Suddenly I discovered that my mind didnt work like hers. She could conjure up images in her mind but I never had or even known anyone could. It was very difficult to come to terms with, because my mind was already unstable, and for a few weeks I desperately tried to look inside to find the images – but it just remained black.

Now in my late 60s I have just found the Aphantasia network and that has shown me I lack the ability to conjure up all the other sense too. Until yesterday I didnt realise anyone really heard music or voices, could taste or smell or even touch in their mind. My wife it seems is the exact opposite and has all the abilities to a high degree. Now we think we know why we so often have difficulty explaining complex concepts to each other.

I cant yet come to terms with these new omissions in my abilities, but I have tried to explain to my wife how my visual memory works. The best I can come ip with is that its how I imagine a blind person ‘sees’ the world through touch. I know the forms in a scene are there somewhere but I have to explore them bit by bit with my mind and can never grasp the whole at once or in detail. The one context where I feel there is a whole images hidden but only just out of view is when I think of a photograph I have seen of a place or person. Its almost as though that representation has lodged in my mind more forcefully than any other visual experience.

I think I have missed out on a valuable form of experience. However to make up for this I believe that the clarity of focus in thought that seems to come with aphantasia has allowed me to achieve far more in my research than I might otherwise have managed. If I could start from the beginning again I dont think I would want to give up the mental focus just to have the images.

Just no visuals. I can use tactile and kinesthetic memory and language/concepts to compensate, but memory will never come up visually. Actually, I forgot to mention also I can remember code (like html) because it is tied kinesthetically/tactilely to speech, to writing/typing, and to language. No smells, but I can hear music in my head — but not in layers — just the themes, because, again, it is a tactile/kinesthetic modality. Visuals just seem like ungraspable things, like not being able to grasp the mist in the air.

I have no mental senses, neither awake nor in dreams. My memory of events in my own life is terrible, though I am able to commit poems to memory reasonably well. I can have difficulty recognizing or remembering the names of people I’ve met multiple times.

Aphantasia has not held me back professionally. In my career, I worked as an individual contributor in quant finance, and led a team of about 25 software engineers and data scientists at a tech company.

I have very poor recall of my own life, both the recent and distant past. The recent past isn’t wholly lost, but takes time and effort to recall. To not be stumped when people ask me what I did yesterday or over the weekend, I made a point of committing it to memory before going into the office (pre-Covid).

I don’t hear, see, feel or smell anything but my internal monologue is rather loud.

Ditto!  All I have going on in my head in my inner voice. That is all!

i dont see hear smell feel anything in my memory ir imagination. smells in the real world can trigger memories or emotions, songs can being up feelings of times i asdociate with them, but jnside my own head, nothing.

i tet songs stuck in my head, iften just shirt riffs or phrases, but, while "know" what it sounds like, i can only hear my own internal voice trying to sing.

if i try and recall how a person looks, theres just a person shaped hole in my mind – in the dark.

i cant recall names, sometimes dont recall faces. i ince introduced myself to my bosses boss at a function. he had hired me a couple of months prior – Very embarrasing!

I have tried imagining my favourite foods and songs and, just like the visual side of things, I "know" them but don’t get any kind of sensory experience of them at all.

For me I have all my senses inside my mind too.

Visual: I can see things in detail and can change and manipulate the images in my mind.

Auditory: My inner monologue is LOUD and clear, there is a main voice but also other sounds and layers of voices. I hear music constantly and clearly. I wake up from a dream in the middle of the night and my brain is halfway through a song already, its like its always there even when sleeping. I can manipulate the sounds too; I can make the narrator have any voice that I know and say anything I choose. So I could hear a clear sentence in my head and change it to my friends or a famous persons voice. I can start and stop the music, take it apart, focus on one instrument or aspect, slow it down, speed it up. I can remix songs together in my head and fade in from one song into another. If I stop the music it only lasts a few second before a new song starts up involuntarily.

Taste: I get the same as others have described that I can think of something salty or bitter and feel a response in my mouth e.g the thought of salty crisps makes my mouth water. I can also taste other foods too, I can imagine bread or sausages and taste them. Its not as vivid as the sounds but pretty clear still.

Smell: I can conjure up a very limited smell of something strong like vanilla or a rubbish bin. I have to try though, its not automatic like the others. My mum says are her memories are linked with a smell.

Tactile: I feel textures when I think of them so when I imagine eating bread I can feel the texture of the crispy crust and the soft centre in my mouth. I can think of a soft blanket rubbing on my arm and feel it.

Emotional: I feel EVERYTHING, all the time. If I think of any memory a very strong emotion fills my body, often the feeling of the memory has a more intense version than how I felt ar the time I experienced it. If I remember something feeling bad, the memory feels REALLY bad. If I remember a loving moment, it fills me up with a warm happy feeling. I also feel everyone else’s feelings around me all the time. I am really effected by the vibe of a room of people, by their micro actions and the tone of their voices. If I feel someone is sad, it plunges me into heartbreaking sadness for them. If I think of someone feeling lonely my chest aches, like it physically aches. I have to be so careful what I watch on TV cause high drama makes me so stresses and emotional its too hard to watch. Sad scenes and trauma are painful to watch. If someone is tortured or attacked on TV I feel like its happening in real life in front of me and my whole body responds and its physically unbearable to watch.

From reading this post I see a lot of people here don’t have these sensations in their minds and some think it would be nice to have them. So, I thought explaining the difficulties that come with this may be helpful.

  1. I FEEL EVERYTHING. As I’ve said above, if I see someone bang their head its like I have too. If I see heartbreak on TV my heart aches. If I think of a bad taste, I taste it. If I remember a time that was anything but happy I feel it soooo much. Every embarrassing, awkward, sad, stressful thing I’ve ever experienced is in my head and thinking of it caused strong and overwhelming emotions.

  2. When I recall a memory, I am back at that time. I see it all clearly, feel it all, I hear it all, the lot. There are lots of memories that you don’t want to relive.

  3. My inner world is LOUD and overwhelming. I gey stuck in my head and in day dreams for hours on end. My head is so loud its hard to think straight some times (I know that’s confusing but that’s the only way I can explain in).

  4. I cannot make decisions. When I make a decision I imagine all of the options and feel them. For example; do I want pasta or pizza for dinner? So I imagine each, taste them, smell them, feel the texture in my mouth. Sometimes this is an easy choice but more often than not I get stuck at that stage, everything tastes nice or equally OK and I try each out over and over and over again and struggle to decide.

    I used to stand in the sweet shop for an hour each weekend with my pocket money as a kid, the shop keeper knew me and just ignored it. I was tasting every single option of choc or crisps and unable to choose.

  5. Its exhausting. I love aspects of my vivid inner world for sure but I would love some respite from it too! To turn down the volume of my thoughts would be really, really nice.

I wonder how much of this is linked with my ADHD. Someone described ADHD as having ’20 TVs on in your head, all playing different channels and all turned up to max’ and thats a really good description of my mind.

I have absolutely no sensory imagery in my mind. I can hear no voices, neither my own, nor anybody elses. I can hear no music either

I cannot recall an image in my head to any degree at all, and the idea that anybody can sense a familiar smell just by thought is astounding to me. Even my dreams, the very few I recall by awakening amidst them, just feel like things I remember happening simply because I was there. Much the same as my concious life experience I cannot recall any audible or visual aspects. I cannot describe people by facial characteristic, even if I know them well. I may remember they are tall, or have a small nose, simply because I know these things but I cannot picture it in my mind whatsoever.

I csn only describe my mental experience as purely instinctive. I can complete a Rubiks cube by memory instinctively, without ever picturing any sequence.

I can experience hearing a song in my memory (ear-worm) but it’s rare and doesn’t apply to any other sounds or voices.

I can’t visualise in pictures or experience a taste or feeling memory.

I do however spend a lot of time counting to myself in my head – I’m not sure if it’s a reaction to what I subconciously knew was ‘missing’ – to fill the void?

I just discovered this applies to me. I never knew people could actually see things in their head, not to mention smell and hear things too! I always thought this blackness in my head was how everyone was, and when someone told me to imagine something in my head, I thought they we simply telling me to think about it. Because that’s what I can do. When I tried to explain to my husband how he is different than me in this aspect he pretty much summed it up with “sounds made up, but okay”.  I had no idea you can see the face of your mother in you head, hear her voice, and smell her cooking!! I am now panicking and trying to gather images, videos, and recipes of loved ones so I can have something of them when they are gone, since it never occurred to me I wont have the same ability as others to remember loved ones that are gone. 

I got super sad when I realized I won’t be able to picture my baby as a baby after she grows up 

My mother passed 4 years ago and I’m devastated to learn people have this ability. I have to search for a video w her voice, I’ve been unsuccessful but hopefully I’ll stumble upon one soon.

I have absolutely no senses.  Only just found out during a weekend visual compassion meditation that people could really see things in their mind and then hear , smell and touch blew my mind. 

Doesn’t stop ne making art 

I’m also an artist! Part of me is surprised that I’m not more disrupted by aphantasia. Kind of wild to me that I can’t visualize anything but can draw lots of things from memory with a pretty high degree of accuracy.

I have no visual imagination. I also don’t have visual dreams.

I think I can conjure up sound, but it’s hard for me to tell if its my own internal voice sort of doing an impression of the voice in question, as though I’m preparing to perform it, or if it’s actually closer to the “true” audio. I think I have an inner monologue more often than most, but I also wonder if some of that has to do with being an only child and/or living alone.

Taste, like lots of others in this thread, is sort of vague — I can make my mouth water, but much like my “visualization” attempts I’m moreso thinking of the concept of a food and perhaps how I would describe it to someone else rather than actually sensing it. 

Smell and touch I could only think of in words. I can remember what jumping into a swimming pool smells and feels like, but I can’t give myself that sensation, I’m just sort of describing it to myself like some sort of bizarre guided meditation.