Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the frequently asked questions we get asked about aphantasia.
People have taken tests in a lab like binocular rivalry and other experiments. Researchers have observed, that people who are claiming to have vivid imagery have very different responses to these tests than aphantasics. Although this doesn’t let us know positively that they’re vividly seeing an image, it all points to the fact that something is truly different between people who claim to see vividly and those who don’t. We can also see activation in the visual cortex, the area in the brain that processes images from the eyes, which further suggests actual visualization. For more about the known differences in imagery vividness, check out these shocking insights.
It can, but not always. Some people with visual aphantasia experience imagery in other senses, they can imagine sounds, smells or tastes in their mind for example. ~50% of aphantasics will report aphantasia in all senses. What’s your sensory imagination like? Discover your unique Imagery Profile.
The great majority of people have aphantasia since birth, called “congenital” or “lifelong aphantasia.” Rarely, can it result from a stroke or head injury. It may also occur as a result of an episode of depression. So if someone who has previously had imagery loses it suddenly, it’s reasonable to ask and attempt to learn why.
Must read is a Case of Apahantasia, a piece of soft science fiction about a man who’s aphantasia is cured in therapy with a fictional technology but that cure comes at a deep cost.
Aphantasia isn’t a disability, disorder, nor defect. It’s a variation in human experience, and an intriguing one. Aphantasia reminds us that there are major invisible differences between people’s inner lives. Variations that can impact how we learn, create, remember, dream, think about the future and so much more!
There are objective ways to measure aphantasia. The most reliable that we know of so far is using a method called Binocular Rivalry, paired with a technique called perceptual priming. Binocular Rivalry is a phenomenon of visual perception in which perception alternates between different images presented to each eye, and vividness of visual imagery has been shown to affect these outcomes. Learn more about BR here.
The opposite of aphantasia is known as hyperphantasia, or extremely vivid sensory imagery. For someone with visual hyperphantasia, visualizing can look as vivid as real seeing. Think you might have hyperphantasia? Discover Your Unique Imagery Profile.
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Aphantasia is not a barrier to leading a rich, creative and fulfilling life. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar with Steve Jobs and former president of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Craig Venter, biologist who first sequenced the Human Genome. Blake Ross, creator of Mozilla Firefox. Glen Keane, Disney Animator and Creator of The Little Mermaid. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller. All have aphantasia.
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