Aphantasia Research

Evolving library of aphantasia research. Explore imagery extremes, aphantasia and hyperphantasia. Share some of the latest knowledge. 

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Journal article

Memories with a blind mind: Remembering the past and imagining the future with aphantasia

Alexei J.Dawes, Rebecca Keogh, Sarah Robucka, Joel Pearson in ScienceDirect
Individuals with aphantasia were assessed on the capacity to re-experience the past and simulate the future. The findings suggest that aphantasia is associated with a diminished ability to re-experience the past and simulate the future, indicating that visual imagery is an important cognitive tool for the dynamic retrieval and recombination of episodic details during mental simulation.
Journal article

Plural imagination: diversity in mind and making

MacKisack, M; Aldworth, S; MacPherson, F; et al. in Art Journal
The experience of visual mental imagery—seeing in the mind’s eye—varies widely between individuals, but perhaps because we tend to assume our own way of thinking to be everyone’s, how this crucial variation impacts art practice, and indeed art history, has barely been addressed. We seek to correct this omission by pursuing the implications of how artists with aphantasia (the absence of mental imagery) and hyperphantasia (imagery of extreme vividness) describe their working processes. The findings remind us of the need to challenge normative, universalizing models of art making and art maker.
Journal article

Memory without imagery: no evidence of visual working memory impairment in people with aphantasia

Knight, KN; Milton, FN; Zeman, A in Cognitive Science Society
Visual working memory and visual mental imagery both involve the use of internal visual representations, and they likely have overlapping neural substrates. However, research on people with “aphantasia,” or a lack of visual imagery, has not found any evidence that aphantasics are impaired on visual working memory tasks, possibly because they can use nonvisual strategies.
Journal article

Congenital lack and extraordinary ability in object and spatial imagery: An investigation on sub-types of aphantasia and hyperphantasia

Liana Palermo, Maddalena Boccia, Laura Piccardi, Raffaella Nori in Consciousness and Cognition
Studies that have shown a distinction between object and spatial imagery suggest more than one type of aphantasia and hyperphantasia, yet this has not been systematically investigated in studies on imagery ability extremes. Also, if the involuntary imagery is preserved in aphantasia and how this condition affects other skills is not fully clear.
Journal article

The mnemonic basis of subjective experience

Hakwan Lau , Matthias Michel, Joseph E. LeDoux and Stephen M. Fleming in Perspectives
Conscious experiences involve subjective qualities, such as colours, sounds, smells and emotions. In this Perspective, we argue that these subjective qualities can be understood in terms of their similarity to other experiences. This account highlights the role of memory in conscious experience, even for simple percepts.
Journal article

Do You See What I See? Exploring Vividness of Visual Mental Imagery in Product Design Ideation

E. Hart and L. Hay in International Design Conference - Design 2022
This paper explores vividness of visual mental imagery in product design ideation. A significant, strong positive relationship was found between vividness and creativity. Most participants reported using imagery always or sometimes, except one who has difficulties forming mental images. The results have several implications, including the possibility of other ‘ways of imagining’ not captured by visual reasoning models of design.
Journal article

Diversity of aphantasia revealed by multiple assessments of the capability for multi-sensory imagery

Takahashi, J., Saito, G., … Gyoba, J. et al. in PsyArXiv
In this study conducted by a team of researchers in Japan with a large sample size (n=2,885) and using various measures of mental imagery revealed that some participants showed the absence of all sensory imagery, while others showed specifically an absence of visual imagery. This study indicates that visual criteria are not sufficient to define multiple types of aphantasia and proposes that evaluations with multi-sensory imagery may help further characterize aphantasia for other types of sensory modality.
Journal article

The pupillary light response as a physiological index of aphantasia, sensory and phenomenological imagery strength

Lachlan Kay, Rebecca Keogh, Thomas Andrillon, Joel Pearson in eLife
The pupillary light response is an important automatic physiological response which optimizes light reaching the retina. Recent work has shown that the pupil also adjusts in response to illusory brightness and a range of cognitive functions, however, it remains unclear what exactly drives these endogenous changes. Here, we show that the imagery pupillary light response correlates with objective measures of sensory imagery strength. Further, the trial-by-trial phenomenological vividness of visual imagery is tracked by the imagery pupillary light response. We also demonstrated that a group of individuals without visual imagery (aphantasia) do not show any significant evidence of an imagery pupillary light response, however they do show perceptual pupil light responses and pupil dilation with larger cognitive load. Our results provide evidence that the pupillary light response indexes the sensory strength of visual imagery. This work also provides the first physiological validation of aphantasia.
Journal article

Aphantasia, dysikonesia, anauralia: call for a single term for the lack of mental imagery – Commentary on Dance et al. (2021) and Hinwar and Lambert (2021)

Merlin Monzel, David Mitchell, Fiona Macpherson, Joel Pearson, Adam Zeman in ScienceDirect
Recently, the term ‘aphantasia’ has become current in scientific and public discourse to denote the absence of mental imagery. However, new terms for aphantasia or its subgroups have recently been proposed, e.g. ‘dysikonesia’ or ‘anauralia’, which complicates the literature, research communication and understanding for the general public. Before further terms emerge, we advocate the consistent use of the term ‘aphantasia’ as it can be used flexibly and precisely, and is already widely known in the scientific community and among the general public.
Journal article

Only minimal differences between individuals with congenital aphantasia and those with typical imagery on neuropsychological tasks that involve imagery

Zoë Pounder, Jane Jacob, Samuel Evansa, Catherine Lovedaya, Alison F. Eardleya, Juha Silvantoc in ScienceDirect
It is not yet known whether individuals with aphantasia show deficits in cognitive and neuropsychological tasks thought to relate to aspects of visual imagery. Twenty individuals with congenital aphantasia (VVIQ 35). A group difference was found in One Touch Stocking of Cambridge task for response time, but not accuracy, when the number of imagined moves that participants had to hold in their heads to complete the task increased. Similarly, a group difference in response time was apparent in the mental rotation task, but only in the subgroup of aphantasic participants who reported a severe deficit in visual imagery (VVIQ score of 16). Overall, this study raises questions about whether or not aphantasia represents a difference in cognitive function or in conscious experience.
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