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?