Measuring Aphantasia

How can aphantasia be measured? Joel Pearson talks about measuring aphantasia objectively and reliably in this presentation from the 2021 Extreme Imagination Conference.
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Measuring Aphantasia and Its Impact With Joel Pearson

How can aphantasia be measured? Historically research into mental imagery and aphantasia, has suffered criticism and lacked scientific traction due to a lack of objective methods of measurement and an over-reliance on questionnaires. We now have more than three different methods to measure visual imagery objectively, cheaply, and easily, without needing to rely on someone’s opinion about the vividness of their imagery.

Joel Pearson talks about these three methods for measuring aphantasia objectively and reliably in this presentation from the 2021 Extreme Imagination Conference and Exhibition. He also covers the cognitive implications of having aphantasia, how it affects short-term and life-long memory, and control of thoughts, emotions, and creativity. The emerging picture is that an activity involving mental simulation is likely done differently in aphantasia.

About the Extreme Imagination Conference

Extreme Imagination conference and exhibition is a gathering of the world’s foremost thinkers, scientists and creatives challenging long-held beliefs about what it means to imagine and create. The first event was brought to life by Dr. Adam Zeman and the Eye’s Mind team at the University of Exeter in 2019. In 2021, the second conference was hosted virtually by the Aphantasia Network.

About the Researcher

Joel Pearson is a National Health and Medical Research Council fellow and Prof. of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia. He is the founder and Director of Future Minds Lab (UNSW), a multidisciplinary agile Cognitive Neuroscience research group that does fundamental research, and consults with companies, artists and designers on brain science. The Future Minds Lab takes an innovative, agile, first-principles approach to develop new methods to measure dimensions of human experience previously thought to be immeasurable. A few examples are the group’s novel methods to measure the human imagination, intuition and hallucinations, using objective, reliable, neuroscientific methods. This work spans from fundamental science to helping individuals in the clinic – translational cognitive neuroscience.


Kay, L., Keogh, R., Andrillon, T., & Pearson, J. (2022). The pupillary light response as a physiological index of aphantasia, sensory and phenomenological imagery strength. ELife, 11. doi:10.7554/eLife.72484
Wicken, M., Keogh, R., & Pearson, J. (2021). The critical role of mental imagery in human emotion: insights from fear-based imagery and aphantasia. Proceedings. Biological Sciences, 288(1946), 20210267. doi:10.1098/rspb.2021.0267
Pearson, J. (2014). New directions in mental-imagery research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(3), 178–183. doi:10.1177/0963721414532287