Topic: Hyperphantasia

Hyperphantasia is characterized by having extremely vivid mental imagery. It is the opposite of aphantasia, where mental imagery is absent. Hyperphantasics, or people with hyperphantasia, often describe their internal experience as being “as vivid as real seeing or sensing,” making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and imagined. Discover and learn about hyperphantasia.

What do typical visualizers experience? How vivid is the hyperphantasic experience? Designer Melanie Scheer introduces a new way to visualize the visual imagination spectrum.
My journey understanding the cognitive profiles of aphantasia and hyperphantasia started when I learned at age 30 that most of you have a superpower I don’t.
Does aphantasia imply an absence of imagination? Dr. Adam Zeman answers three common questions in discussions of extreme imagination.
Why might your mind's eye be blind while your friend can picture crystal-clear images? Shocking insights into the known neurodifferences in imagery vividness.
Knowledge of our invisible differences dates back to 340 BC. Aristotle stands at the beginning of this history when imagination was not an established topic of discussion yet.
January 14, 2023
There are a lot of videos of aphantasics describing their experience of no visual imagery, but I want to know how hyperphantasics experience visual imagery. ...
Discovering that your imagination works differently than most other people; That your inner world of imaginative experiences is not, in fact, the norm; can c...
January 4, 2021
I realize that when I listen to a non-visual narrative (someone talking, audiobook, TV but not looking at the screen) I see a series of images that correspon...
Discover how individuals with aphantasia engage in imaginative processes using language and how this experience differs from visualizers.
June 28, 2023
What do typical visualizers experience? How do hyperphantasics experience visual imagery? Melanie Scheer presents a new way to depict the visual imagination spectrum.
May 25, 2022
Adam Zeman shares the rediscovery of aphantasia, a blind mind's eye, in this presentation from the 2021 Extreme Imagination Conference and Exhibition.
October 21, 2021
How did you discover aphantasia and hyperphantasia? Adam Zeman joins the Founder of Aphantasia Network, Tom Ebeyer, for a live Ask Me Anything event to answer the community's questions.
February 21, 2021
Measuring imagery strength in schizophrenia: no evidence of enhanced mental imagery priming
Wagner, S., & Monzel, M. (2023). Measuring imagery strength in schizophrenia: no evidence of enhanced mental imagery priming. Brain and Behavior, e3146. doi:10.1002/brb3.3146
This study aimed to explore the relationship between visual imagery, schizophrenia, and the occurrence of hallucinations. The researchers compared a group of 16 individuals with schizophrenia to a group of 44 individuals without the condition. They used questionnaires and a visual imagery task to measure the vividness of visual imagery, and the Launay-Slade Hallucination Scale to assess the occurrence of hallucinations.The results revealed that participants with schizophrenia reported more hallucinatory experiences compared to those without schizophrenia. However, surprisingly, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of the vividness of visual imagery as measured by both the questionnaire and the visual imagery task. Interestingly, a positive correlation was found between the vividness of visual imagery measured by the questionnaire and the visual imagery task. This indicates that the measurement tools used were reliable in assessing visual imagery. These findings suggest that the association between mental imagery vividness and schizophrenia may be more complex than previously thought. While individuals with schizophrenia experience more hallucinations, their visual imagery vividness does not appear to be enhanced. This suggests that other aspects of mental imagery may be more relevant in understanding the relationship between mental imagery and schizophrenia.
Subjective signal strength distinguishes reality from imagination
Dijkstra, N., & Fleming, S. M. (2023). Subjective signal strength distinguishes reality from imagination. Nature Communications, 14(1), 1627. doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37322-1
This research explores how our brain distinguishes between real and imagined experiences. The study shows that the line between reality and imagination is blurred, with imagined and perceived signals get mixed together. The researchers used a combination of psychophysics, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to investigate this phenomenon. They found that judgments of reality are based on whether the mixed signal, which includes both imagined and perceived elements, is strong enough to cross a reality threshold. Interestingly, when the virtual or imagined signals are strong enough, they become subjectively indistinguishable from reality. The study also suggests that the frontal cortex, responsible for emotions and memories, may play a role in regulating the strength of the mental image signal. Further research is needed to understand the factors that determine the vividness of mental imagery and the distinction between the imagery signal and the reality threshold. In future studies, it would be intriguing to investigate the reality thresholds of individuals with hyperphantasia, an extremely vivid imagination and the experiences of individuals with aphantasia, who have difficulty consciously conjuring mental images. It could shed light on how visual imagery impacts our perception of reality.
Congenital lack and extraordinary ability in object and spatial imagery: An investigation on sub-types of aphantasia and hyperphantasia
Palermo, L., Boccia, M., Piccardi, L., & Nori, R. (2022). Congenital lack and extraordinary ability in object and spatial imagery: An investigation on sub-types of aphantasia and hyperphantasia. Consciousness and Cognition, 103(103360), 103360. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2022.103360
This study explores different subtypes of aphantasia and hyperphantasia, conditions related to variations in mental imagery. The study collected data on various aspects of mental imagery, including spatial and object imagery, as well as memory and face recognition abilities. Results showed a distinction between two subtypes of aphantasia/hyperphantasia, with spatial aphantasia associated with difficulties in spatial imagery and sense of direction, while object aphantasia was linked to difficulties in imaging single items and events. The opposite pattern was found in spatial and object hyperphantasia. The study also found that associative involuntary imagery can be preserved in aphantasia. This suggests that although individuals with aphantasia may have difficulties with visualizing objects or events, they are still able to experience involuntary imagery, such as images that come to mind without intentional effort. Evidently, more than one type of aphantasia and hyperphantasia exists and this study highlights the importance of considering multiple aspects when investigating these conditions.
Aphantasia: The science of visual imagery extremes
Keogh, R., Pearson, J., & Zeman, A. (2021). Aphantasia: The science of visual imagery extremes. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 178, 277–296. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-821377-3.00012-X
Visual imagery allows us to revisit the appearance of things in their absence and to test out virtual combinations of sensory experience. Visual imagery has been linked to many cognitive processes, such as autobiographical and visual working memory. Imagery also plays symptomatic and mechanistic roles in neurologic and mental disorders and is utilized in treatment. A large network of brain activity spanning frontal, parietal, temporal, and visual cortex is involved in generating and maintain images in mind. The ability to visualize has extreme variations, ranging from completely absent (aphantasia) to photo-like (hyperphantasia). The anatomy and functionality of visual cortex, including primary visual cortex, have been associated with individual differences in visual imagery ability, pointing to a potential correlate for both aphantasia and hyperphantasia. Preliminary evidence suggests that lifelong aphantasia is associated with prosopagnosia and reduction in autobiographical memory; hyperphantasia is associated with synesthesia. Aphantasic individuals can also be highly imaginative and are able to complete many tasks that were previously thought to rely on visual imagery, demonstrating that visualization is only one of many ways of representing things in their absence. The study of extreme imagination reminds us how easily invisible differences can escape detection.
Phantasia – the psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes
Zeman, A., Milton, F., Della Sala, S., Dewar, M., Frayling, T., Gaddum, J., … Winlove, C. (2020). Phantasia-The psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes. Cortex; a Journal Devoted to the Study of the Nervous System and Behavior, 130, 426–440. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.003
Visual imagery typically enables us to see absent items in the mind's eye. It plays a role in memory, day-dreaming and creativity. Since coining the terms aphantasia and hyperphantasia to describe the absence and abundance of visual imagery, Adam Zeman and his team have been contacted by many thousands of people with extreme imagery abilities. Through data collected from questionnaires filled by 2000 participants with aphantasia and 200 with hyperphantasia, the researchers have found some interesting patterns. Participants with aphantasia tend to work in scientific and mathematical fields and have difficulty with face recognition and autobiographical memory. On the other hand, those with hyperphantasia tend to work in creative fields and have a higher rate of synaesthesia. The study found that around half of the participants with aphantasia reported the absence of wakeful imagery in all sense modalities, but most of them dream visually. The researchers have also noted that aphantasia runs in families more frequently than expected. This study highlights the widespread but neglected features of human experience with informative psychological associations.