FAQs About Aphantasia

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the frequently asked questions about aphantasia.

Give this a shot… close your eyes and think of a horse.  Does some kind of visual representation of a horse come to mind?  Learn more about evaluating your mind’s eye

VVIQ, the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire, is the most widely used measure. It’s proven to be an accurate test of the vividness for which you can imagine people, objects, or settings in your mind – and as such, is a useful starting point. Take the VVIQ.

When you think of a horse can you hear the horse neigh or imagine what it might be like to ride off on horseback into the sunset? Take the Imagination Spectrum to discover your Full-Spectrum Imagery Profile.

No. There is no known conclusive aphantasia assessment yet. The above mentioned “aphantasia tests” are intended to serve as one possible indicator, they are not a “diagnosis” for whether you experience aphantasia or not. 

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

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.

Aphantasia is both a congenital and developmental condition.  For those with congenital aphantasia, there is no known “cure”. Some people with acquired aphantasia, however, have described experiences of regaining imagery abilities. Important to recognize, aphantasia is not a disability but rather a unique variation in human experience with its own pluses and minuses. Many people with aphantasia don’t want “a cure”.

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.

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. ~26% of aphantasics will report aphantasia in all senses. What’s your sensory imagination like? Take the Imagination Spectrum to discover your Full-Spectrum Imagery Profile

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.

People with aphantasia often get asked this question. Majority of aphantasics dream visually but are unable to do so while awake. Others dream with the knowledge they’re experiencing something, but without mental pictures or sound. What are your dreams like? Join the discussion.

Want to participate in new aphantasia research? Learn more about becoming a citizen scientist for aphantasia research and participate in new studies here. Make sure to opt-in to our newsletter to receive updates when new research opportunities become available. 

An estimated 3-5% of people have visual aphantasia, and 13-15% experience extremely vivid sensory imagery, or hyperphantasia. Although researchers haven’t yet established broad consensus on this figure. The estimates for full multi-sensory aphantasia and hyperphantasia are unknown.

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.