The Vividness of Visual Imagery questionnaire (VVIQ) is the go-to psychometric measurement for researchers studying aphantasia. It has been proven to be an accurate test of the intensity with which you can visualize settings, people and objects. VVIQ can be used to identify aphantasia, albeit suggestive not conclusive.
The VVIQ gives specific scenarios and asks you to rank how vividly you can visualize them on a scale of one to five. It presents four groups of four questions. Each group asks you to consider a specific scene and each question asks about the vividness of details within the scene (with prompts). It was developed by British scientist David Marks during his research on consciousness in the 1973, when research on aphantasia was still infrequent.
At the time, aphantasia didn’t even have a name and people who took the VVIQ were classified as either ‘good visual imagers’ or ‘poor visual imagers’. The study was conducted in order to compare vividness of visual imagery with mental discrimination tasks like spotting the difference between two nearly-identical images, with the VVIQ being designed to identify those with weaker or stronger visual imagery.
The results of these early studies showed, as predicted, that those who scored higher on the visual imagery test were likely to have an easier time completing mental discrimination tasks.
In 1995, Marks published a second version of the VVIQ with more questions. Both the VVIQ and the VVIQ2 are regarded as accurate tools for identifying those with weaker mental imagery skills. A low score of 30 or less on the VVIQ (or a high score on the VVIQ2 since the scale is flipped) is characteristic of aphantasia.
Since the VVIQ was first published, it has been referenced in over 1200 studies. As with any test that relies on subjective reporting, there can be some questions about the validity and accuracy of results. For example, it can be hard to classify the vividness of a mental image on a scale from 1-5 when you have nothing to use as a reference point. It is difficult to rank your vividness of mental imagery when you can’t know how strongly other people visualize. The test asks you to compare the vision in your head with how you know it looks in real life in order to reconcile this somewhat: is the scenario you are being asked to visualize equally vivid to its real world counterpart, a little less vivid, or not vivid at all/non-existent?
Further, any test that relies on self-reporting will always be subject to some bias due to the fact that you are more likely to subconsciously (or consciously) choose answers that will give you the result that you want.
The test is often correct, but not always.
You may find after taking the test that you are more biased about your visualization skills based on what results the test gives you. This is why the VVIQ is usually recommended as an initial evaluation but is not conclusive.
Make sure to back up the questionnaire’s results with a second measurement that is more objective and based on data outside of self-reporting. We recommend using the VVIQ alongside a binocular rivalry test.