Aphantasia Research

Evolving library of aphantasia research. Discover the science behind extreme imagination, aphantasia and hyperphantasia. Share the latest knowledge.

Dissociating mental imagery and mental simulation: Evidence from aphantasia
Speed, Laura J, McRae, Ken (2024). Dissociating mental imagery and mental simulation: Evidence from aphantasia. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.
Researchers examined how people use visual imagery and mental simulation to understand language and verify information. Visual imagery is the ability to create pictures in your mind, and mental simulation involves activating brain regions related to the senses when understanding language. The study aimed to see if these two processes overlap or are distinct by comparing people with aphantasia, who can't create mental images, with those who can. Participants performed a property verification task where they were asked if a specific feature was part of an object (e.g., lion-tail). False trials were designed with pairs of words that were either related but not forming an object-part (monkey-banana) or completely unrelated (apple-cloud). Previous research suggested that when words were unrelated, responses were influenced by word association, while related words relied more on mental simulation. In this study, both aphantasics and control participants showed similar patterns of using mental simulation and word association, regardless of their ability to form visual images. This indicates that visual imagery and mental simulation are somewhat separate processes. The findings suggest that even without the ability to create mental images, people can still effectively use mental simulation for understanding and verifying information.
Visual imagery vividness appears to be independent of perceptual and memory precision
Thorudottir, S., Asgeirsson, A. G., & Sigurdardottir, H. M. (2024). Visual imagery vividness appears to be independent of perceptual and memory precision. doi:10.31234/osf.io/ahtsd
Visual mental imagery, or the ability to see with the mind’s eye, varies between individuals. The vividness of visual imagery ranges from people with aphantasia who experience no mental image at all, to those with hyperphantasia who experience very clear and vivid mental imagery. In this study the researchers investigated the possible connection between the vividness of visual mental imagery and precision of information retrieval from visual memory. The researchers predicted that people experiencing weak or no mental imagery are poorer at retrieving information with great details from memory, such as the color of objects, than those experiencing strong and vivid mental imagery. This was tested in three experiments: a visual perception task, a visual working memory task, and a long-term visual memory task. The Vividness of Visual Imagery (VVIQ) questionnaire was used to assess imagery vividness. The perception task served as a control. A colored sample object and a grayscale test object were presented simultaneously. In the working memory and long-term memory tasks, a delay was added between the presentation of colored sample objects and grayscale test objects. Participants were asked to adjust the test object’s color until it matched that of the corresponding sample object. The findings indicate no association between mental imagery vividness and memory precision.