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Do you have physical imagination?

DiscussionsCategory: QuestionsDo you have physical imagination?
Aimee SeaverAimee Seaver asked 6 months ago

There’s a wide range of ways we can have aphantasia. Some people have total aphantasia, no visual, auditory, olfactory, or motor imagery, and some of us have partial aphantasia (one or two of these senses but still no visual).

I have a physical imagination and I can hear my own voice in my head (though no other sounds).

For me, I can imagine what it’s like to be an object or creature. I can imagine what a texture would feel like if I were to touch it. Lastly, and most strongly, I can imagine moving my body in various ways. Like a particular dance move or a stretch.

Anyone else have a physical imagination? How does it work for you?

Jennifer McDougallJennifer McDougall Staff replied 6 months ago

Very interesting experience, Amy. When you say physical memory, does this mean you can re-experience physical sensations that have happened to you before like a warm embrace from a loved one for example? Also, any history with dance or a profession that involves physical movement? Any particular reason why this might be more of a vivid sensory experience for you?

Aimee Seaver replied 6 months ago

“Warm embrace from a loved one” is a great example. A vivid childhood memory is running, tripping, and taking an accidental somersault through the grass in my front yard. It’s all physical sensation + emotions. It’s not as “real” as really experiencing it, but it’s definitely there.

My mom put me in dance class when I was 3 or 4, since then I’ve been doing dance classes or events pretty constantly. My profession is artist (2-d animation, illustration and user interface design)
I think physical memory came about simply b/c my visual one didn’t work and physical did. So all my imagination energy got pushed towards physical, emotional, and verbal.

Jennifer McDougallJennifer McDougall Staff replied 6 months ago

Interesting, that you have a history with dance Aimee*. I "imagine" this has helped strengthen and enhance your physical imagination abilities over the years. I also think you are on to something about how our brains make compensations when one sensory experience is lacking. This is true for people who are physically or legally blind, often they report greater physical auditory abilities and rely on human echo-location to navigate this world. Have you ever experimented with techniques for visualization? Could it be this sensory experience is under-developed or under-utilized but still existant? You're an artist/designer, could you tell me more about your creative process for creating original work? I am wondering because most aphants report how aphantasia impacts all their senses, meaning they would not be able to imagine physical movements like you can and may interpret your ability to do so as a superpower. All this to say, I do not claim to make any assertions about your inner experience – only you can – but am deeply curious by your discovery and what this could mean…

Aimee Seaver replied 6 months ago

Yea, that compensation thing sounds very likely, and it blows my mind people can learn to echo locate! I’ve tried to visualize, but haven’t been able to. I know I used to visualize at night sometimes as a child, but it was always horrifying stuff. I think it was hypnagogic imagery (a type of intense visualization that happens sometimes as people are falling asleep, it’s not usually always scary tho) It was so traumatizing that I eventually lost the ability to visualize at night. I have no recollection of ANY daytime visualizing at anytime in my life. My mom has aphantasia too, my bro can barely visualize. I might be able to get some rudimentary visualization abilities if I addressed my childhood trauma around it, but since that started when I was 2 or 3 and lasted till 22ish, it’s hard to imagine I’ll be able to unwind all the damage sufficiently.

7 Answers
Rachel CicconeRachel C answered 6 months ago

I know exactly what you’re talking about Aimee. I took dance lessons growing up as well, and a “physical” imagination was all I had to remember what we were doing. I could never visualize what the dance moves were, I just knew what they felt like in my head and body, and that’s how I rememebred them. I rely on physical memory a decent amount, but mostly for dance. I don’t do it anymore now because of school, but when I realized I had aphantasia almost a year ago, I realized a physical memory wasn’t “normal” for others.

When I write, sometimes instead of visualizing what characters are doing, I will ‘use’ my body instead. Like instead of visualizing a character vaulting over a fence, I’d use my own muscles to try to imitate that feeling to get a sense of what is going on in that scene.

Laura FlaniganLaura Flanigan answered 6 months ago

I lack visual, smell and taste visualization completely, but I have sound and feel. I can hear my voice as if I’m reading to myself, as well as play music in my mind. I can imagine physical feelings, such at the feel of an orange peel. The interesting thing is that I associate colours with a physical “feeling”. Not an emotional feeling, but a physical feeling not dissimilar to thinking of the feel of an object. I also associate people I know well with the feeling of certain colours (again not an emotional connection, but a physical “feeling”), and I feel pain in a range of blue to red. Not sure if everyone associates "physical feelings" this way, but that’s how it is for me!

Jennifer McDougallJennifer McDougall Staff answered 6 months ago

I am really enjoying this thread and where this conversation is going. Thanks for your contributions everyone!
I think the technical term for this is motor imagery, which involves imagining the physical movement without actually performing the physcial movement or tensing the muscles. It can be defined as a "dynamic state during which an individual mentally simulates a given action. This type of phenomenal experience implies that the subject feels themselves performing the action."
Apprently this type of motor-learning is often used in training athletes, as this "imagined behaviour" can actually produce similar effects on cognition and behavior as physically practising the movements in the present can. Super fascinating!
Does this accurately describe your experiences above?

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