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Aphantasia and memory

DiscussionsCategory: QuestionsAphantasia and memory
Michele DohertyMichele Doherty asked 6 months ago

I’ve just learned that there is a name for my inability to form a visual picture in my head, and am learning about the full impact of what that means regarding all of my senses. I haven’t read any mention of aphantasia affecting one’s ability to remember how to do things if you haven’t done them in a while. For example, in my job, there are tasks that I don’t do every day but maybe biweekly, and if I don’t look at my notes for a reminder I don’t remember the details, just the general idea. I definitely don’t remember past events in any kind of detail, and lots of times not even the event itself. Does this sound familiar? Do you experience challenges remembering past events and factual information about yourself?

Rachel C replied 6 months ago

There is speculation about whether bad memory and aphantasia are connected. I know some aphants have SDAM, which is Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory. It means that you cannot relive vivid memories from a first person perspective. There are visualizing people that have SDAM, so it isn’t just an aphantasia thing, but I think having aphantasia can make SDAM worse in some ways because you already can’t visualize.

You may have SDAM without knowing it. I’d look into it, because I think I have it too. I get the feeling of just not remembering how to do stuff that you don’t do very often.

8 Answers
Aimee SeaverAimee Seaver answered 6 months ago

My memory seems about average. I learn and remember best by doing the thing. If I’ve done something a few times then it’s easy to remember, feels like it gets put in a permanent storage place in my brain. I can remember visual details of things if I put purposeful effort into it. The details are kept in a list of attributes like “Red shirt, short sleeves, fits loose” and such.

I do have trouble recognizing people, it’s not face blindness… it’s just hard to remember someone unelss we had a particularly interesting conversation or dance (I go tango dancing a lot) or they happen to have a really really unique appearence that’s easy to log in words in my head.

Remembering first person events in my life tends to take the shape of words spoken + words describing the event, what I was feeling emotionally (if anything), and sometimes physical memory (I have a physical sense in my memory/imagination instead of visual, so not full aphantasia)

Jennifer McDougallJennifer McDougall Staff answered 6 months ago

This is a very interesting question. Rachel C is correct. There are some very early findings/evidence that suggests aphantasia might be linked to another phenomenon known as Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory or SDAM for short.
Autobiographical memory is defined as both the recollection of personal past events (i.e. special events from your past) and factual knowledge about oneself (i.e. your favourite food as a kid).
People with SDAM can remember details about an event from their past because they’ve either seen a photo or deliberately learnt a story about what happened but they cannot "picture" being there.
This means that while they cannot experience the nostalgia of reliving the best times in life, the upside is that they can’t recall the pain associated with the bad things either making them far less likely to hold grudges as they can’t conjure up the emotion that made them feel bad in the first place. Pretty neat! Wish I was this way…
Some aphants have reported having both conditions present. You can read more about Susie McKinnon’s experience here.
Does this experience sound familiar? Do you think you might also have SDAM? Why do you think that is?

Nachum PereferkovichNachum Pereferkovich replied 5 months ago

The issue of nostalgia is an interesting point. Could it be that a complete lack of nostalgia is a symptom  SDAM ? I left my native country at 26, and have been living in another place for 48 years; but never experienced nostalgia. Also, at the age of 10, I almost drowned in an industrial pool; I always remember this situation, and even see something; but never experienced a sense of horror.

Fenella KennedyFenella Kennedy answered 5 months ago

I have an exceptionally good memory, especially for text and conversation. I can remember vivid emotional and verbal details of past events, especailly if I’m in the same location again.

I don’t have a strong experience of nostalgia – but then I don’t have a lot of good past to miss!

Space AnarchistSpace Anarchist replied 5 months ago

I don’t have the ability to relive or re-experience memories, but in my case it doesn’t seem to impair my ability to recall the details. My memory does seem to be more non-linear than average; it takes a conscious effort to sort things into sequential order. I also have a poor memory for specific sensory details like people’s faces and voices. But I have no problem with the general components of narrative memory: who, where, when, what, why and how. Oddly enough, I do have nostalgia even though I don’t relive memories. In my case, it’s because I form emotional attachments to places. I think I’m one of the lucky ones — I don’t need mental time travel in order to have a strong sense of personal history and identity. To me, actually reliving a memory sounds like a bizarre oddity.

Iblis BaneIblis Bane replied 5 months ago

Same for me. My memory for text etc. is very good. Can recite reams of poetry etc. if called upon to do so. (Happens surprisingly rarely. 😉 ) Faces I have a problem with, until I have met the person many times and “learned” the combination of features that comprises their self. I experience memories as if I were reading myself a page of printed text with the details of the memory.

I do have a problem with the passage of time though. I tend to greatly underestimate how long ago personal memories were…if I say “recently” I mean some time within the past year or so. “The other day” is within 3 months usually. 😀

Reg ForsaithReg Forsaith answered 5 months ago

I was worried about my memory well before I found out I was Aphantasiac.

I’d put my name down for a university study to get trhings checked out.

The waiting list was long.

I then had my epiphany and realised that I wasn’t visualising.

I wondereded if this was connected too.

I recently got the call and spent 4 gruelling sessions getting tested.

Some things were easy, some nigh on impossible.

I got the results back on Tuesday and found to my surprise that I’m rather bright ( top 98percentile)and top 99.5 percentile for a couple of task types) and my memory was above average, but not as good ( 77percentile and 82 percentile) for the two types of memory tested.

So I don’t have early onset dementia, but the things that worried my might be explained, I was told, by trauma, stress, andopiod pain killers.

So no link between lost time, missing memories and Aphantasia for me.

Maybe you could contact your local universities and see if they can check you out too?

Might give you a deeper insight.

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