Curious what aphantasia means? Ask questions, share perspectives. Connect with many minds.
I only discovered my aphantasia a few years ago (81 now) but was always aware that I didn’t think like others and was vaguely aware than many seemed to have a richer internal life than me. Though my IQ is around 135 I am hopeless at chess and many other types of puzzles. I suspect these require a mind’s eye to be successful. I am hopeless at some things but other things which are dead obvious to me are not so for others.
Lacking a mind’s eye many literary descriptive works mean nothing to me – take away the descriptions and what’s left? I assume I could never have PTSD as I cannot remember anything visual.
I suspect it stretches beyond the lack of the visual for me as I cannot recount smells or tastes either. I wonder how far the effects reach for others?
It strikes me that the amazing/wonderful variety of cognitive processes that we seem to experience are of enormous value. If a group of early humans had that sort of variety of cognition its prospects for survival would have been greatly enhanced: whatever the challenge, some of them would have the solution. I’ll go so far as to speculate that the emergence of the aphantasic-to-hyperphantasic spectrum may be why homo sapiens is still around, and homo neanerthalensis isn’t.
It would be interesting to see some research into genetic markers for variants in the spectrum, and to look for those markers in other species.
Hey guys, I’m writing a literature review on visual imagery and I’m looking for a term for those of us who have aphantasia. Basically, the APA 7e manual suggests using person-first language or identity-first language, depending on the preferences of the group. However, there isn’t a well-defined aphantasia community since the general public only recently became aware of the phenomenon. In other words, we’re sort of pioneers.
I have been using the term “aphantasic”, as I have seen several other researchers do. I prefer this term because it’s short and to the point. Some aphantasics use “aphantasiac” or “aphant”.
Politically correct person-first language would look like “person with aphantasia” or “individual with aphantasia”.
Identity-first language would look like “aphantasic person”.
I’m not personally hung up on political correctness because, well, “aphantasic” would be a pretty weird insult, and I consider aphantasia more of a variation in human cognition than a disability.
They say that aphantasics can’t achieve a state of hypnosis because we can’t visualize. Invariably, the hypnotherapist begins with an instruction that involves visual imagery.
I’m curious if there are any aphants who have had successful hypnotherapy.
A friend who was moving to a new apartment was looking for a black TV/storage unit for his living room. I accompanied him to Ikea, where we saw a white one on display that fitted his requirements perfectly, and I said “Here’s exactly what you’re looking for.” He replied, “No, you know I want a black one.” I pointed out that the item was “also available in black,” but he insisted that he had to actually see a black one.
I really didn’t understand what he was saying, and became a bit annoyed until I finally grasped the fact that he was unable to visualize a piece of furniture in a color different from what he was seeing. I’m 80 years old and this is the only experience I’ve ever had with this problem. I was very happy to see the NYT article of 6/8/21 and learn that his disability was real.
He didn’t buy the item.
My girlfriend has hyperphantasia for all mental senses. It blew my mind when I learned some time ago she can accurately taste in her mind what a dish will taste like prior to adding a new ingredient (very useful for cooking). But her mental tastebuds just blew my mind again.
Get this: When reading a restaurant menu, she tastes each item before deciding what to order! 🤯
Now I understand why it takes her longer to decide, and why she likes to read all the details about the ingredients when they’re listed.
I’m curious to know other surprising facts you’ve learned or realizations you’ve had after learning about aphantasia. What was non-obvious that people around you were doing in their heads? How did your perspective change more generally?
More than 50 percent of the brain is devoted to visual processing visual information. “The Mind’s Eye,” Rochester Review, Susan Hagen, March-April 2012, https://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V74N4/0402_brainscience.html
I’m aphantasia. Some see out of one eye at a time from birth. Does that affect the weight or how much the brain is devoted to visual processing?
Nice to find the NYTimes article.
To start I want to mention that I have absolutely no imagination. Instead what I have noticed is that my entire mind works like a relational database. As an example for food I can’t remember what food tastes like but I remember that I like X more than Y.
This extends further into my memory in the form of how I know something, for a basic example since I’m an engineer I’ll use how I learned to draw zeta and capital zeta. To draw either of these symbols for the longest time I would have to look them up because I could not remember what they looked like. After about 3 months of this I could finally write it without looking it up. How this happened is that the pattern became engrained in me. In example I know how to right a 7 because I’ve seen it enough and I consider 7 common knowledge. However when I went back to my old high school, I applied the same logic to capacitors and inductors. My logic was that they have taken physics therefor they know how these work.
To wrap this point up my memory is actually very good but I have to have the initial relational pointer to remember it. Without that relational pointer I can’t remember what I did yesterday or years ago.