Visual or all senses?

Tom Ebeyer Staff asked 2 years ago


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Aphantasia isn’t limited to just visual imagination, it can impact all sensory imagery in the mind.

For example, when most people go to the restaurant and they see something on the menu they enjoy, they can (kind of) smell and taste it. Or if you think of your favourite song, you can hear the sounds of the instrument in your mind. Think of ‘famous words’ one of your parents or teachers said to you growing up, can you hear these words in their voice?

According to new research, aphantasia can impact all sensory experience. A study on the cognitive profile of people with aphantasia was conducted by the UNSW Future Minds Lab and found that the majority of aphantasics report decreased imagery in all other sensory domains – auditory, olfactory, gustatory & more – although not all will experience a complete lack of multi-sensory imagery.

Tell us more about your unique imaginative experience. Visual or all senses?

Luc Jeanneau September 18, 2019 02:58 am

My experience is exactly the same Tom. There’s just nothing. I feel like a computer just spitting out data. I have the idea of something or know the facts of something and can just recall that. There’s no visual analysis – it’s like it gets done subconciously. When people describe more context around a memory or situation, sometimes that helps me retireve more facts.

I can recognize a tune like it’s nobody’s business, but songs don’t get stuck in my head. At least not the way it would with a mind’s ear. It’s more like my inner monolgue, the one that does the thinking and constant narration, will hum or sing the tune. This is hard to describe. Basically my inner monolgue can carry a tune, but I don’t experience the tune in any auditory sense. I just "know" that my inner voice is hitting the different notes. More often than not, a line or two will occupy my mind on repeat, especially if there isn’t a lot of sensory input or cognition required in the present moment.

Smell. Never had it. Don’t have anything remotely like it. I wonder if they’ve linked this to the emotional detachment.

The closest I would say I get to anything is a kinesthetic sense. If I think about my arm crossing my body to hit a backhand shot in tennis, I can feel my heart rate change and my breath shorten. But that’s about it. It’s like I am motor planning, but the only feedback I get that anything is happening is from my major two organs, and that’s a stretch at best.

Cherylturner1963 replied 1 month ago

this sounds very familiar, i appreciate the clear verbalization of your experience. im a total blank and your narrator description is exactly what is happening in my head. constant verbal dialogue to take the place of those other senses. eye opening.

Miranda Bass September 20, 2019 06:38 pm

I would say not all of my sense are affected. I can "hear" in my head but I can’t taste, or smell and for sure see. I also have emotional responses. I wish that I could not have the emotional response.

Aimee Seaver September 25, 2019 02:46 am

Partial aphantasia

I have a physical imagination, like having a hundred tiny hands touching a thing. Or I can imagine what it feels like to be a cat, or a palm tree blowing in the wind.

I can imagine my voice in my head, but no other sounds.

No visuals, tastes, or smells.

ANIKA BRKIC September 28, 2019 01:34 pm

For me, it extends to all five senses. I think there’s a spectrum, so for some it might only be some of the senses.

Space Anarchist replied 11 months ago

I can get vague, subtle impressions in all five senses. What I don’t have is an alternate dimension in which to put them. I don’t have inner space or inner type. All of my impressions seem to be non-linear and non-spatial, or minimally spatial, like drawings on a piece of paper. If I try to visualize a place, I can’t actually go inside it, because it isn’t three dimensional, stable, or self-existent. It’s just like a little drawing that I make instantaneously.

Laura Flanigan October 06, 2019 06:47 am

I lack a mind’s ear, tongue, or nose as well. The idea of touch in my mind is totally alien.

I am very good with maps and directions but I don’t make a mind map. The concept of “landmark” based directions has always been difficult for me and I really need exit numbers or routes or street names to know where I am going. Once I’ve been to somewhere once I can usually get back there.

Nicole Heyes November 13, 2019 01:20 pm

I can conceptualise just fine. I can’t experience though. I can’t smell, taste, feel, hear, or see. My internal voice is different for others though. I can "hear" it singing or imitating an accent (even if I can’t do it aloud). I know how angry feels, I know when I am angry. But only epically large emotional upsets will stay relevant enough to inspire that all consuming emotion (grief, rage, love) in any given moment.

I can do maps and the rotational puzzles – to me it’s like seeing the horse upside-down. I think of the image reflected, turned, etc. I don’t often do it easily, I have to concentrate but I can do it. I used to have to turn the map around but I got better at that.

Iblis Bane November 21, 2019 07:37 pm

All senses.

Giovanni Spinotti November 25, 2019 10:30 am

I’m actually pretty good with sense of direction and orientation. I think i’m partially imagination deaf, as I can’t vividly recall a voice, I can’t recall notes (I’ve been a guitarist) in my brain, but if I move my tongue, I can recall a song. But I think that I actually have to move my tongue and throat for my brain to sort of "hear" the song.

Jeremy Holmes January 30, 2020 10:46 pm

Eh the only thing I have partial of would be sound and even then its really "hearing" it with my internal voice, that being said there is always some tune I’m internally humming to myself.

DAVID WALKER February 08, 2020 12:44 pm

I think all senses. Certainly no sound, I’ve never had a song in my head, can’t hear my wife or kids voices, in choir I can’t hear a pitch before I sing it, and I can’t hear a song in my head.

No sense of smell from imagery.

Dorena Nagel February 09, 2020 04:12 pm

I can only hear stuff in my head, also with the real voices of people or songs stuck in my head. But no taste or smell and only very blury images that are maybe more like a concept of the thing than the real thing (if i try really hard to think of my partners or mums face i know they have brown hear, this and this long…) maybe that is also the reason i can’t remember people I met. surprisingly, i have a quite good orientation

Matthew Davis February 16, 2020 12:08 am

I have an inner monologue and that’s it. I don’t think it’s even an "audio monologue", it’s just ‘words’… that’s a terribly description but it’s all I can figure out.
This is complete internally, however I do suffer from loops of thought – getting a song stuck in your head and not actually hearing anything is beyond annoying; I think it’s a fairly normal method of release but I have to let it out, singing or humming or listening to the song, stopping what I’m doing and writing out an equation or code snippet that’s come to mind, anything to settle the thought. Addititonally I’m usually humming, mumbling, or listening to something; it’s the only single break from my inner monologue and I take it gleefully.
When trying to recall a memory I generally don’t even get specifics, ask me my favourite song and it’s like a hot spring of songs with a possitive mass of "impressions" attached, then I pick out the ones with the most before trying to recall specific impressions attached to the song – these are recalled as ‘word’, or descriptions, or perhaps a single verse or two I really liked but always in that same monologue. Taste is very similar – chicken is a generally pleasant blandness, steak is rich, juicy, and possibly a hint of smothering from the nice pepper gravy I’ve had the last few times, brocoli is a fresh crispness. Ask me to picture a colour, imagine a sound, taste, or touch? I can’t, I can remember experiencing it, but I can’t bring it to mind.

A Dishinger February 18, 2020 08:27 pm

Just visual, I think. I have a way of coping with maps that is rather odd. I go over the entire route and I actually feel the trip from beginning to end. I memorize highway and street names as well as turns, and that way, I can navigate either without the map (if the area is more familar) or with GPS backing me up (if it isn’t).

Music — I can play almost anything by ear but cannot sing it correctly. I played in orchestras and bands for years and it is the physical act of playing and feeling the specific vibrations of the instrument and the hand positions that help me memorize music. I do get "earworms" often, songs stuck in my head, but even with extensive musical training, cannot hum or sing them well.

I’ve not thought about taste or hearing being affected. I will have to think on those!

Roberto Rojas February 25, 2020 02:51 am

All senses, but is like someone in my brain is smelling, visualizing, tasting and feeling; because I can somehow anticipate where and how something is gonna fit in a space; how should I put my furniture to look more appealing to me; what I want to eat and listen, this "internal guy" just give me the answers, doesn’t let me see, hear, etc.

Madeline Lipke October 06, 2020 12:39 am

I cannot for the life of me picture anything in my head and until a few months ago I thought that was normal. I can, although, remember smells and sounds very well. Sounds especailly. I can hear something once or twice and I can remember it for a very long time. Like this one show that my mom and I used to watch a lot I can remember the intro by heart without fail. My mom thinks I’m wierd for that but I like to assume that it makes up for me not being able to picture stuff. I have actually gotten in trouble for not being able to picture stuff but that is a story for another time.

johnchevin41 October 18, 2020 10:32 am

I can hear music in full detail but I’m a DJ pictures I just get a black

Lou October 20, 2020 05:21 pm

im the same i have nothing, it wasnt till recently that i realises people can actually taste food and smell smells…

Lou October 20, 2020 05:22 pm

im the same i have nothing, it wasnt till recently that i realises people can actually taste food and smell smells…

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