Q&A with Alexander Sulfaro [Member Exclusive]

Researcher Alexander Sulfaro answers the community’s questions about 'Why Don't We Hallucinate Our Mental Images' in this live Q&A. Hosted by Tom Ebeyer.

Unlocks on April 20, 2025

Want to watch this video now ad-free?

Mental Images vs Hallucinations

In the presentation ‘Why Don’t We Hallucinate Our Mental Images?‘, researcher Alexander Sulfaro presents an interesting model for the aphantasia and hyperphantasia spectrum as a competition between visual perception and mental imagery.

Sulfaro answers the community’s questions in this live Q&A. Hosted by Tom Ebeyer.

List of Questions

  • Many aphantasics don’t experience imagery even when dreaming. In cases where there are no visual stimuli to compete with visual perception, as in dreams, how do you explain this phenomenon?
  • Do you distinguish between voluntary and involuntary imagery?
  • How does the idea of involuntary imagery fit into this model of ‘competition’?
  • Is it possible to ‘block’ mental images?
  • For non-visualizers, when you say camel, we are still at the abstract level of a camel. Whereas visualizers, they may be thinking of a particular instance of a camel. Likely from memory. How does memory play into this model?
  • Does familiarity with a concept increase the vividness of the internally-generated experience?
  • If visualizers close their eyes, do they see mental images more clearly?
  • Is it fair to assume that mental imagery would weaken if you were in a dark room for weeks?
  • How did you stimulate mental imagery in the model? How did you quantify the competition between imagined and sensory input?
  • What is a “real image” in this context, and how does it relate to how we perceive objects in our visual field?
  • What are the implications of your findings for our understanding of mental imagery, hallucinations, and perception?
  • What are the practical applications? How could it inform the development of therapies or interventions for individuals with hallucinations or other perceptual disturbances?
Sulfaro, A. A., Robinson, A. K., & Carlson, T. A. (2022). Perception as a hierarchical competition: a model that differentiates imagined, veridical, and hallucinated percepts. doi:10.1101/2022.09.02.506121