Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Aphantasia: 'My mind's eye is blind' (bbc.co.uk)
276 points by headalgorithm 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 422 comments



This has been nagging me for weeks since I 'discovered' that almost everyone around me can visualize things in their mind. Frankly, it helps explain a lot about my life. The inability to picture the face of friends, family, places I've visited, all contribute to a sense of isolation and distance that I feel daily. My strong preference for non-fiction, too, is likely an artifact of reading fiction word by word but 'seeing' nothing interesting. My failed attempts at all sort sorts of meditation and mindfulness exercises are also now suspect. The anecdotes about being unable to understand the concept of 'counting sheep' also resonate strongly with me. That face-blindness is also commonly co-morbid also helps me understand that aspect of myself better.

All in all, while I don't feel 'robbed' of this ability to visualize things, it does seem to lob off a chunk of things which are particularly joyful to the human experience. I can't really visualize a future life for myself, let alone my current life. To discover all of this after decades of being alive is quite mind-blowing, and I'm glad it's getting the wave of media attention that it is now (or else I would not have known).

But then, perhaps, in this case, ignorance would be a bit more blissful.


I've got aphantasia too. When I first heard about it about a year ago I was surprised to learn that others can actually see things in their mind's eye. Had to confirm with friends and family, with questions like 'so you can actually see a ball if you think about it?'. Their answers blew me away.

So far I've boiled the side effects down to:

1. A complete and utter lack of direction. I literally get lost in suburbs surrounding my home (i'll very often take an extremely sub optimal route home from a store that is just 10 minutes from my home - a bit embarrassing tbh, gives my wife a laugh though). These are streets I've travelled for over 30 years. Apparently quite common with aphantasia.

2. An almost superhuman ability to put bad experiences behind me. People with aphantasia don't have the tendency to ruminate. I've had some traumatic experiences in my life and within a few months it's as if the experience never happened. I can recall details of it but the recollection is as if the experience happened to someone else.

Regarding no.2, photos are super important. There was a period of 10 years or so where I didn't take many photos, and that period feels like a black hole.


I'm not sure I connect either of those side effects. I discovered I have aphantasia a couple of years ago from a chance encounter with a previous news discussion of it.

My sense of direction is fine to good, and as far as I can establish, it's common to visualise "metaphorically". So I'd visualise a route or 3d model as another might visualise honesty - I know what it is, I can precisely express it, but I can't picture it in technicolour. It seems to work well enough that hobbies over the years have included model engineering - including design, fell walking and geocaching. I never needed a 3d model to "see" a plan, even while drawing it, even though I cannot "see" it. Saying "I just know" seems completely inadequate, but that feels like how it works. I can pick up on potential problems where a) might interfere with b). Language gets difficult for this!

I can juggle a model but again metaphorically. I can do it quite easily and it never occurred to me in 50 years that images were an optional component for others. :)

The only other I've encountered with a similar lack of images among my friends reports just the same ability to do direction, map reading and spatial interrelation just fine, without seeing it. Just knowing seems to be enough to do the rest.

Rumination and regret is perfectly possible too - the feelings, the consequences is plenty enough to get that going. The pictures are better on radio also applies - not a literal picture but the feelings and the metaphorical. :)


>I'm not sure I connect either of those side effects. I discovered I have aphantasia a couple of years ago from a chance encounter with a previous news discussion of it.

Don't people misdiagnose things all the time? Unless not diagnosed, you could just not have it, and e.g. expect something super special/realistic when people talk about "seeing images" in their minds eye, which is not the case, and comparing with that.

E.g. even for us, without aphantasia it's not like what we envision with our "mind's eye" has the same richness, texture, reality etc to it as things we actually see (else, I guess, we'd had trouble knowing if we really did something or just imagined it).


Perhaps - as a discovery that has attracted no research in a century and a half, diagnosis seems unlikely. When I came across it a few years back it was a news piece about some university research into an unexamined phenomenon. That must have been Essex uni in 2015.

It was only after that news piece I realised literally seeing images was even possible! I always just assumed anyone who spoke of "seeing" was just using a poor visual metaphor to describe something far vaguer. When I speak of visualising there is nothing I could call visual in proceedings, it's a feeling, a concept, a sensation. "I just know", and can sense and explore without seeing.

Like the commenter I replied to, having heard of this thing I had to ask a selection of friends similar questions "so you actually see a ball?". Oh. Wow. Really? So then I wanted to know how vivid, how often, how controllable etc. It also blew my mind somewhat as I just assumed visual was entirely metaphoric.

For me, it's not having a vague or ephemeral image and expecting something special or super realistic. It is being in a basement or coal mine during a power cut. Nothing. The mental cinema screen is firmly off. For all of my life.

I have never once been aware of any visual aspect to any of my imaginings or dreams. Not even a sense of light or dark, colour or even some vague, blurry outline. The sense of 3d and spatial awareness and modelling isn't - for me at least - connected with an ability to create images. I seem able to do the former just fine, and the latter not at all. Yes, it does seem strange to be able to do the spatial without any visual whatsoever, yet it's consistently worked quite easily. Describing it adequately is far, far harder... :)


Perhaps this whole visualisation process is related to hallucinations. Do people with aphantasia ever experience these?

When I had my couple of acid experiments a few decades ago, yes, I saw hallucinations just fine.

This opens an interesting can of worms. :)


Yes, but hallucinations can be visual artifacts (imposed on our live view through our eyes).

Whereas aphantasia concerns visual representation inside the mind alone.


As someone who also has aphantasia, I have a very good sense of direction. For me I think I feel a sense of direction in my body the same way you might feel a blanket on a side of my body. And am also good at recognizing objects and feeling their location in relation to my transit around it...

If that makes any sense.


> I can't picture it in technicolour

The article mentions varying ability to picture things. You may have good spatial reasoning but less visual imagination. I know that when I picture something in my mind it isn't always a clear image, often just a shadow of the thing I'm imagining. I find spatial reasoning has a different quality, it's like sensing the position of your arm but you can apply it to objects that aren't a part of you.


Yes, spatial reasoning and visualisation seem like two separate unconnected subsystems, even though it seems like they should be related.

I seem able to do the spatial just fine, and the visualisation not at all.

> it's like sensing the position of your arm

Very good, yes it's exactly like this. I know, but I don't need to see. I can explore the model or plan, and know how the result will be, and still don't need to see!


Have you ever noticed a similar effect with sounds? Or does it feel like a purely visual/spatial thing?

For example, once I've heard a song enough, I can just replay it in my head, and it feels the same as actually listening to it. Is that just as weird for you as being able to see a ball?


> For example, once I've heard a song enough, I can just replay it in my head

sigh you've got to be kidding me. You can actually replay a sound in your head??

well, i'll add that to the list of things my brain can't do :(

I've also never been able to sing along with songs. It always blows me away when my wife can just start singing along with a song she's heard a few times.

I'm starting to think I might be brain damaged.


Some people are able to do a lot more than that, once I was sitting on a plane next to a guy who turned out to be an orchestra conductor - he was silently reading an orchestra score like a book. I mean that was a dense score, some modern symphony for dozens of instruments, and the way he described it to me was he simply hears it in his mind just like if he listened to an orchestra recording. Most incredibly, he said he has never heard this particular music performed before!

That comes from training - you spend enough time hearing clarinets and violas and timpanis, and after a while you can imagine what new combinations sounds like. Traditional orchestral composition involves developing this practice (I speak from experience, having been trained as a composer and sat through these classes).

that anecdote fills me with an insatiable sense of envy.

I think these skills are to some degree learnable.

That orchestra conductor probably spent a large part of their life studying music. Part of learning music is ear training: the ability to name/write chords by hearing them, and conversely to "hear" them in one's imagination given the name (or from written music). No different than the way many people "hear" words in their head when reading.


They are, indeed, learnable. Even a mediocre amateur musician like myself learned to 'hear' the music when reading simple scores. Took a while though. But it's useful. I can look through score music and pick the ones I like, without having to actually play from the score first. Pros and orchestra conductors are on an entirely different level of course.

It's not that hard at all. After some years studying music as a kid I can read piano sheets. He with 10+ years of experience can definitely cope with much more complex ones.

Ha, don't feel bad. That skill is important for maybe less than a thousand people in the whole world to have. And it can be done with computer programs anyway.

Actually, this is not true. Find me a program that can extract the scores from a complex piece of music and attribute the right notes to the right instrument/voice. I haven't found one yet. But maybe that's because I am not versed in the music analysis software available. Never needed it. Now I think of it, it would be really handy for my job though. If you know of one, please let me know. Especially one that can analyse the music live and then transposes it to midi notes/OSC without a hefty lag.

Took me 5 seconds of Googling, first result: https://www.playscore.co/

There's Sibelius AudioScore http://www.sibelius.com/products/audioscore/ultimate.html

I haven't used it personally, but from what I heard a few years ago it wasn't very accurate.


Are you just asking for a software capable of playing the right notes from a written piece?

Well, composers, conductors and improvisers (e.g. jazz, folk) need to have it, so that would put it to several hundred thousands, not "less than a thousand".

Maybe, but I think improvisers wouldn’t even have to be able to read music at all. Just imagine sounds that go with the current tune and then play them. You don’t have to picture a score in your head to do that. Whenever I’ve jammed with other people that’s how it’s worked.

Yes, I think that is common to be able to replay music you've heard in your head. I feel confident this is another thing that is a spectrum, not binary. So some people just need to hear something once and have it perfectly, others need to hear it a lot and still don't remember it well.

My favorite thing about sound memory is echoic memory[1], a very specific type of memory that is basically like a buffer or a cache. Basically perfect audio memory of the last few seconds. You can replay the sound in your mind and analyze it for that brief moment in time.

I speculate that this is almost entirely to help you properly react to things that woke you up. You were sleeping, now you are awake. But why? You still hear the sound in your head, was it something falling, or a glass window breaking, or your dog barking, or a gunshot, or just thunder? It could be very important to know.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echoic_memory


> My favorite thing about sound memory is echoic memory[1], a very specific type of memory that is basically like a buffer or a cache. Basically perfect audio memory of the last few seconds. You can replay the sound in your mind and analyze it for that brief moment in time.

Interestingly, I've found it super valuable when learning music by ear, especially given that I find myself able to slow down the "replay" of the sounds to better hear the individual notes, although it is also mildly entertaining to be able to hear a long sequence of sounds (e.g a car outside my window beeping repeatedly) and slow it down in my head to count the number of individual beeps.


I sometimes have the experience that there is one word in a sentence that I did not get (often prompting me to say 'huh'), and that after some pondering, I suddenly get it and 'hear' the word being replayed in my head, and it suddenly becomes perfectly clear what word the person said (often prompting me to say 'okay').

It's cool to find that echoic memory has a name - the number of times it has saved my bacon in class when I'm not paying attention and the teacher asks me what they just said to call me out....

Echoic memory is also very useful when someone says something, but you haven't understood them right away. There is also iconic memory, which stores the things you see and lasts less than a second.

I have echoic memory for audio, and that's indeed very useful.

But I don't have 'playback' memory for anything else, definitely not for visuals or touch. So if something is said around me and I didn't listen, I can replay the last couple of seconds or so, and that's usually enough. Helps with languages you're not fluent in too. But if I suddenly notice that I'm now touching something that I shouldn't, say, for example with my arm, in a crowded pub, there's just no way I can 'replay' history, not even the last moments, to figure out how that happened. Unless I actually paid attention when it happened. Same with visuals. If I didn't recognize what passed before my eyes there's no way to replay that to take a better look. Unlike with audio, where I can do precisely that.


Can you have imaginary discussion inside your head? For example, before you are meeting someone can you plan the discussions inside your head?

Do you have verbal thoughts?

> I'm starting to think I might be brain damaged.

You are probably just neuroatypical. You should try to discover if your neuroatypicality gives you an edge over neurotypicals in some areas and exploit it.

You might enjoy reading experiences of someone who is neuroatypical in opposite way. "Thinking the Way Animals Do: Unique insights from a person with a singular understanding". By Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

https://www.grandin.com/references/thinking.animals.html

alternate link: http://web.archive.org/web/20170219035332/https://www.grandi...


>Can you have imaginary discussion inside your head? For example, before you are meeting someone can you plan the discussions inside your head?

>Do you have verbal thoughts?

Not the OP, but my mind's ear is deaf just as my mind's eye is blind. I can plan a discussion in my head. I don't really hear it, I just think of what word I'm going to use, in a similar fashion to how I can think of a sphere but not actually see it. I think more about the points I'm going to make sure to make, though, than the actual phrasing. When I'm practicing a speech or something, I can feel my jaw and mouth muscles trying to move, so I think I'm sub-vocalizing it or something. That realization makes me very careful around others when I'm having private thoughts.

When I'm thinking about a solution to a programming problem, or any problem really, I sometimes "disappear" for a while and when I come back I have an idea about how to best proceed. People have commented in the past about my becoming completely still and zoning out for a period of time.

The inside of my head is a pretty quiet place usually. I just noticed that my jaw was making the movements I would use were I to speak the end of that last sentence. Weird.


Interesting. In your daily activities, you cite your mind as 'clear' -- is it just of visual imagery/sounds, or in general? Do you 'feel' thoughts some other way? What is going on when you 'zone out' in your mind? Say for a programming problem, If you don't see code in your mind, do you still 'feel' it some other way?

Can you describe what you experience when recalling something?

For me, (it of course varies by the object of recall) it is most times imagery, although sometimes it can be emotions, sounds, etc. (I use the imagery as an 'address' after which other related memories are linked to and emerge).


I can't stop music from running in my head, as a background to the constant noise of my thoughts. They coexist.

It's interesting how different our experiences are. I do not think you are brain damaged, just specialized in a different way.


It's just as likely that you are the "brain damaged" one and he is the normal one. ;)

I like to imagine it as if we're all CPU's that has come out of a lab that organically grows them. But as a result of that they're all a little different.

Unfortunately sometimes they're heavily different with extra or missing depth in certain areas, which makes the generic software that we're trying to install on them struggle to adapt (in various different ways).


I try to avoid listening to the music. Because then it plays all the time in my head afterwards, especially when I'm a bit tired.

Maybe your Brain-VCR is missing the Rewind button. :)

It's super interesting how memory works. Like, I can remember the content of songs because they have rhyme and rhythm and pleasantness, but I can't remember anything else word-for-word. I'm the king of paraphrasing jokes and quotes, because I can never remember how they originally went.

edit to add: I'm just kidding about the brain damage thing, but seriously, I very much don't like the idea of presenting this as "aphantasia" as though it is a lack of something. I think it's (probably) just a different system that's optimized for different kinds of behaviors.

I do also suspect that the mental visualization could be learned. I feel like when I played Legos as a kid I was incidentally practicing my visualization, perhaps the only reason I'm good at it now is an aggregate of those kind of coincidences.


>Maybe your Brain-VCR is missing the Rewind button

hehe sure sounds like it :)


In my case, songs or melodies are nearly always playing. If I'm awake, chances are that something is on in my mind's radio. Conversation and writing seem to be the only activities that consistently quiet the music, though there are other times during the day when it's less noticeable.

This isn't always pleasant, to be honest, and since I first noticed it a few years ago I've wondered how common it is and whether training can stop it. No luck so far.


I’m much the same. I think that’s part of the reason I’m quite a good musician and can play by ear really well. I can visualise auditory/musical things far more vividly than I can images, and correspondingly I find visual art quite difficult. I can still imagine images to a reasonable extent but I suspect that people who can draw and paint well probably can do it more to the extent I can hear music!

Interesting. I wonder if the musical practice led to the mental music. I am also a musician, but I'm not certain whether the mental music began before or after I started playing (I started playing more than ten years ago as a teen).

Wow. I don't have this, and I don't think I can.

I have an almost pathological hatred of silence on the outside - because when there is, there's also silence on the inside. Unless I actively think about a tune, or decide to hum or whistle a song, there's no radio. So I'll only hum/whistle or sing a few bars or a chorus and distract to thinking about something else.

So sitting in silence quickly becomes wearing. I have to keep thinking of stuff, and music, to fill it.

Now if I go fell walking or find myself in a forest or on a deserted beach, there's always enough sounds of nature that it doesn't feel silent. Not like a house, class or exam room or office can. It's only that which quickly gets oppressive.


You've never had an earworm?? E.g. where a song is stuck in your head and you can't get it out?

I can hear/imagine a human voice singing, (similar to the way my internal voice 'talks' when thinking) but i usually can't imagine instruments, because they always end up sounding as if they are performed by a human voice.

Several times i did listen the sound of instruments as if real, but it happened only before falling into sleep, and just thinking about that would wake me up enough to bring the human voice back.


Do you / have you ever played any instruments before? Maybe it's just case of associating something else with the sound the instrument makes - for example perhaps you need direct experience of producing say, a guitar sound, in order to associate the 'performance' of the act, with the actual sound it produces.

Interesting suggestion, I have tried to learn piano as a child, but only for a few months so didn't learn anything beyond several simple melodies.

> a song is stuck in your head and you can't get it out?

never. although that sounds like a blessing :)


For anyone that remembers late 80s/early 90s hits/earworms:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFuGRBAKM2I


As someone who is prone to earworms... I would be genuinely happy if I never had to experience them again. Not joking at all.

> well, i'll add that to the list of things my brain can't do :(

I see it more as tradeoffs that make us different. For example you may have noticed that you are better than average at folding paper in your head and other spatial tasks. You have your aphantasia to thank for that.


I would separate visual and spatial. They are not the same thing.

Part of the reason why I didn't realise that others are literal about being able to 'see' with their eyes closed is that I can tell you spatial relationships more precisely than most people I know.

I know and can recall where things are in relation to each other with ease.

E.g if you asked me to sketch rooms in my house, I would be able to reproduce it in a huge amount of detail even though I can't 'see' them,by walking through what is where in relation to what and plot it out.

If I draw from memory rather than from sight or imagination, however, - something I learned as a child without connecting the dots - was that I do tend to draw in a much more 'sanitized' style. Clean lines etc. As if I'm drawing a diagram.


Interesting - I think that matches up with my experience. As I said in a response to another comment in this thread, I don’t have anywhere near as strong visual visualisation as I do auditory, but thinking about this third axis I think I do have quite good spatial visualisation. I’ve always been way better at diagramming, planning layout of things (part of my job is designing circuit boards and I used to do web design back in the day), etc. than artistic drawing.

For some reason I can do more artistic drawings if drawing from fantasy (I still don't "see it") or sight than from memory. I think that is largely because when drawing from fantasy I don't need to painstakingly recall the spatial relationships as much, even if there's an extent of recalling an archetype of what I'm drawing...

And the closest I get to auditory recall is internally humming the music - I can recall e.g. operatic arias that I have no hope in hell of reproducing with any accuracy out loud, but I can hum them out internally with a lot greater precision, but I can't hear them in any other voice than my own (and I can sense muscles around my mouth twitching as if I'm vocalizing while doing so)


Second this. I'm aphantasic, but when I think about 3d space, it's like there's an invisible grid in my mind that helps me keep track of relative positions, and my sense of direction is possibly even a bit above average. Conversely, I'm often surprised by common it seems to be for strongly visually minded people to have a terrible sense of direction.

I have enjoyed exploring and comparing my inner experience with other people since I discovered I was aphantasic (my ex was an artist and very visual, and first I thought she was the odd one). Now I usually do a little informal psychometric test session with people when the subject comes up. Asking them to imagine standing outside the house where they grew up, then walking to the kitchen and pouring a glass of milk. I have them rate their inner experience on a hand-to-hand scale for: color, sharpness, detail, focus area size, opacity/transparency. It's interesting how much people vary

My inner experience as aphantasic is:

Visuals: - Closing my eyes I generally see black. Sometimes I can see vague, morphing images, blurry and colorless, if I'm falling asleep into a dream. On high doses of marijuana or normal-to-high doses of LSD I get some stronger visuals, but it still seems a far cry from many others sober-state visual imagination

Sound: - This was my next surprise after discovering I had visual aphantasia. That other people apparently hear themselves talking in their head. I have an inner monologue (and dialogues), but there is no real sound quality to it. Same thing if I imagine a song or a melody. I know how it goes, I can sing along in my head. I'm a songwriter, so I also make up melodies all the time, but I don't 'hear' anything in my head. This is a more confusing concept to convey than the abstract spatial awareness.

Taste / Smell: - Again, apparently it's common to be able to imagine eating this or that food, and actually smelling and tasting it. I lack this ability too. I can get an idea of whether something will taste good with something else, but there's no sensation of taste

Dreams: - My dreams are actually very vivid, and after experimenting with lucid dreaming before, my dream recall is generally good too (though dream recall works like other memories, so it's all abstracted into spatial positions, dialogues and knowledge about location and details)

Also agree with some other things that some people have written here:

- I've always found it hard to pursuse long-term goals or imagined futures. I tend to gravitate to what I find most interesting at the moment and follow that impulse

- I find it fairly easy to get over bad experiences

- I don't 'miss' people much, even if I really like it when I spend time with someone close. I imagine getting over a breakup would be a lot harder if you kept having vivid memories of times you spent with them. My memories are a lot more abstract and vague.

- Photos are a memory aid. Should take more of them - I'm bad at recognizing faces, especially if it's someone I don't know well and they've changed their hairstyle, or they look similar to someone else. I easily mix up characters in films/series, or fail to notice that some character is played by [famous actor I know] until the credits roll

- I generally enjoy reading non-fiction much more than fiction. Though I have read a lot of fiction books in my life. Knowing what my experience of reading fiction is, and comparing that with what it can be for people who are not aphantasic, I do feel a bit envious

Since I discovered aphantasia, I've at times felt like I'm lacking something, and missing out on part of the human experience. However, after talking to people at the other end of the scale, I actually appreciate that I can close my eyes and all I see is black, and that silence is actually silence. If you have no control over the images and sounds that appear in your mind, I feel that it could be both exhausting and anxiety-inducing depending on the content and intensity


Thanks, I was about to ask about reading fiction. You answered that for me. I'm an avid reader (I could read all the time if I didn't have anything else to do), and I've always been in the "books have better images" (than movies) camp. Well, radio has better images too, for me. I still think fondly about the stories I listened to on radio when I was a child. That would be called audiobooks today I guess. Fantastic images is what I remember.

On the other hand my mind is not graphical. I'm a programmer but I'm utterly useless with graphical/diagram design tools. My mind is actually very visual when I think about program design, it's just different in some way. It's not pictures. It can't be drawn on a piece of paper, or a computer screen.. very hard to explain. But still it feels visual, just in some other kind of dimension.


I'm not sure this one is actually directly connected. I can visualize things in my head, but I rarely do that when reading fiction books, despite enjoying them immensely, and far more than movies. If you asked me to, say, sketch any of the characters from the last book I read for pleasure ("The Left Hand of Darkness", for umpteenth time at that), I wouldn't be able to do so; it's all abstract.

Listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (The Celtic Holocaust) last night, I wished I had that ability

The graphics bit is interesting. I was into drawing comic strips when I was a kid, and in my teens I got really into making cars for the first Grand Theft Auto game. My early attempts looked terrible, but towards the end of that period, I was rated as one of the best in that little scene. I've worked a bit with graphic design in other periods, and I still enjoy some UI design, though I'm mainly focused on coding (mobile apps/games) now. Now, having worked with some great designers & illustrators, I know they're in a completely different league than I could ever hope to be. Thinking about the creative process is interesting though, as I clearly have some idea of what I want the end result to be, without being able to mentally picture it in any way that would make sense to non-aphantasiacs

Any chance that someone from the old GTA scene is hanging about here btw? :D


This resonates _a lot_ with me. I've always had an awful episodic memory but quite good conceptual memory. In other words, I experience almost everything but the present (and maybe sometimes even the present) in the abstract. For a long time I thought this was a "deficiency", but I am actually quite happy with it now and often see it as a strength.

Can a mind really focus equally well on the forest and the trees? I have my doubts.

But I will never see the tree - that's for sure. Fortunately I've found beauty in forests.


> Asking them to imagine standing outside the house where they grew up, then walking to the kitchen and pouring a glass of milk. I have them rate their inner experience on a hand-to-hand scale for: color, sharpness, detail, focus area size, opacity/transparency.

A suggestion: Add in motion.

I'm decent enough at most of your list, but am almost entirely unable to visualize motion or (I believe related to that) living beings. In your example scenario, I had a point of view but no limbs - my visualization jumped between fridge -> gallon of milk -> poured glass, with almost no fluidity between the steps.


Thanks, I hadn't thought of that, but it makes perfect sense!

For that visual part, I think that that is the case for most people, including those without aphantasia. From what I have gathered from personal experience and by talking to other people, this so-called mind's eye is (somewhat unintuitively) not really related to your actual eyes, so closing them would not necessarily lead to you seeing things. When I personally know something strongly enough to "see" it without it being in front of me, it feels more like I begin to momentarily stop focusing on the input from my eyes and instead prioritize that thing. It is not like overlaying some images over what I am seeing with my eyes (although some people are apparently able to do this also), but rather I temporarily ignore my eyes and am more interested or focused on this alternative source. This is an entirely* voluntary process and can in fact require some effort on my part depending on how corrupted the data is, but I could not say how it is for others. The images are not at all intense or of high fidelity, and failing to focus on them is sufficient to stop seeing them for me. I might just have relatively weak image visualization though.

I am not sure if I have any meaningful anecdotes regarding reading fiction. I do not believe I have seen or otherwise visually imagined the events in either fiction or non-fiction most of the time unless reading it made me recall something that I remember. It might be possible if I were actively trying to do that, but I can say that whatever experience I am extracting from reading fiction is not primarily due to being able to see it. If people are really imagining that sort of thing automatically, I feel pretty envious of that myself.

When it comes to sounds though, I am something of a captive in my own mind. For the majority of the period that I am awake and not highly focused, my mind is using approximately 98% of its resources to replay, construct, combine, and modify music. This is usually much more interesting than what I am hearing and what most people have to say to me, and it can require conscious effort to hear the latter. Unlike the images, this sound is of high quality and is not at all consensual. I have been told that this is not quite normal. In hindsight, this could have been a useful trait had I worked with it instead of worked through it.

*Assuming that these memories are not brought on through involuntary means, such as some drugs and trauma-induced flashbacks.


> For example, once I've heard a song enough, I can just replay it in my head, and it feels the same as actually listening to it.

It's terribly easy for me to acquire earworms (aka "stuck song syndrome"), and I have to avoid listening to certain kinds of music too late in the afternoon/evening - otherwise I can't sleep for music turning in my mind.

I actually ripped out the stereo from my car years ago. I don't need it. If I want to listen to some music I just let the head play it. Same thing.

Which leads me to the surprise my wife gave me one day - she told me that the daughter said a strange thing to her, she (my wife) had asked what she was doing - she was just sitting there - and the reply was "I'm listening to music in my mind". That was astonishing for my wife because she didn't know it was possible to replay music in the mind. She had never heard about such a thing. Which sounds awfully like aphantasia for audio - although I think it would be limited to just music. It's hard to imagine not being able to 'hear' a sentence in your mind.

The funny thing is that my wife is an amateur musician, and her ear is very good. Better than mine, I think.


Sounds are the easiest to reproduce for me, perhaps even more so than images.

But I have experienced other things as well. Since I was a kid I play this game when I'm bored... let's call it "visualising". But not for images, for other sensory input. For example, I try to imagine really hard the taste and texture of a cake, the smell of coffee or a perfume, touching something fluffy with my hand, feeling hot or cold... It works, although I don't feel it physically in my body per se, it's just like... a very vivid memory of it. As if an invisible limb was experiencing this feeling again.


I'm still a bit skeptical as I can't really confirm by visiting someone else's mind.

What if they just define their thoughts differently? When I say "I can't see a ball", I mean that while I can reproduce how it would vaguely feel like to see a ball (like the difference between tasting something and recalling a taste), and kind of trace its outline, I can't have a picture in my mind with a similar accuracy as actually looking at a ball.

Someone else might say "I can see a ball" even if internally they experience the same as me, because they might set their bar lower. Could it be that people with aphantasia are just more demanding for what they count as "seeing"?


After speaking with enough people about this topic, I can assure you it's not just a difference of language.

It's incredible what friends, family and coworkers have told me they're able to do with visual imagery. A large portion of them could overlay imaginary objects over the real world. My wife, who may be hyperphantasic, can spend hours watching TV shows/cartoons she's created in her head. She has no idea what it's like to think without visualization.

I'm extremely jealous of their abilities to replay memories, old or contemporary, as films in their head. I can tell you basic facts about what happened in my life, I can't re-see those experiences.


>because they might set their bar lower. Could it be that people with aphantasia are just more demanding for what they count as "seeing"?

Yeah maybe. How could we ever really know though? I guess we have to take them at their word. I would like to be able to visualise my son's face while I'm at work, but I get nothing just black, thank goodness for photos :)


Even though you can't visualize his face, can you just describe it?

I have aphantasia too as I said in another comment, but I have an excellent sense of direction. I'm excellent at learning maps in computer games too.

I also wouldn't describe myself as able to let go of things easily. When I remember traumatic experiences I don't visualize them, I remember the feeling, the shame or the guilt or the embarrassment.

I completely agree with the photo thing though.


I believe that I have aphantasia, this is all coming on very quickly right now, but after talking to my wife for about 30 minutes I'm certain of it. She highlighted the fact that I don't have any ability to recall my dreams outside of exceptionally rare instances.

I, too, have a good sense of direction and am often relied upon to be the guide on hikes or backpacking trips in places that we've never been before. I know how to read maps and use a compass and orient myself but that is less visualize than it is analytical, IMO.

But! I also have the black hole effect that the GP described. I have an almost uncanny ability to just get beyond trauma and bad experiences and I'm seeing now that that is probably due to this black hole memory effect. I don't carry memories with me the way that other people do, but I've known that about myself for a while. It's caused some strife in my life, and it continues to do so, but I've taken to keeping a physical journal and making frequent notes about things that happen throughout each day. The act of writing this stuff down seems to force these things into my memory. I learned recently that my father operated similarly in his career, using a single sheet of A12 folded into quarters where he'd divide each quarter into an hour of work, with 8 folds in total representing the average day. When he worked 12/16 hour shifts, he'd add additional folds.

And, so... I guess that in light of this, I've always wondered if I'll have dementia or Alzheimer's late in my life. My paternal great grandmother lived well into her 90s, but my paternal grandmother succumbed to dementia in her mid 80s. My maternal family has some folks in their 90s, as well, and everyone there seems to have their memory in tact. But, my father has had his struggles and I've personally noticed that my mother is starting to struggle with conversational memory recall today.


Were you always this way?

I can still picture things in my head, but with huge gaps and difficulty; when I was a kid, I used to replay a 17km road to my grandparents with exquisite details in my head: the bus, the driver, walking down the isle, seating myself, the initial jolt, watching the road turn, every unique house, porch,bench, tree, telephone wires and so on and all without a conscious efort "what happens next" .

If I try real hard and ask myself questions like "ok, so now picture grandpa's mustache, now his hair, now his neck" then maybe I get a glimpse of his whole face.

My sister and I used to play a game as teenagers: one of us would closd his eyes, the other would narate a scene, it was pretty great.

In the 7th grade I was a 6/10 student at math, then trigonometry came and I was a 10/10 at trigonometry and 6/10 at algebra, because trigonometry made absolute sense because I could draw everything in my head; I needed tutoring with algebra, but never with trigonometry.

I also almost never remember any dreams; my rem and deep sleep are toast anyway, according to fitbit.

As opposed to my childhood when I woke up exactly once per night to drink water from the cup my grandma left beside the bed -- the rest of the night I had great adventures, I'd be chased my demons, fly across the clouds, escape some trap my grandfather told stories about.

Nowadays I get about 1 hour of tossing and turning througout the night, and depending on my anxiety I sometimes get completely wake for 1-2 hours at about 4AM; only about 1h of rem and 1h of deep sleep, the rest is just light sleep according to fitbit.


I'm not parent, but yes, I've always been this way.

Just like he says in the article, and other posters are saying, for decades I didn't even realize because I didn't think people were being literal about "seeing pictures" in their head. I thought it was simply a label for remembering.

It was only when doing the course "Learning how to Learn" and getting frustrated with the memory techniques that I found out that people really do see with their mind's eye.


Your math anecdote resonated with me, but with Chemistry instead. I was a Chemistry/CompSci major. I only did a Bachelors degree, but for Chemistry I never really had to study or memorize much because I could generally figure out just by imagining the structure of molecules and feeling how they might interact (this was for organic, materials science and inorganic chem wasn’t so intuitive).

Same with algorithms on data structures- I would imagine a toy data structure and play around with how algorithm would interact with it.

The compulsory first year Math papers on the other hand were impossibly hard to follow, even with a lecturer who happened to specialize in mathematics education I was always lost about 20 mins into a lecture and always struggling to catch up.

I don’t feel like I can picture things as clearly as some people describe in this thread, but it’s not a total blackout either. Something in between.


Everything you've described rings 100% true with me as well (great with directions, can only recall dreaming every few years, no issues moving part traumatic events, etc).

I have not yet tried journalling as a coping mechanism; I may have to give that a go.


Similar here. I can reconstruct spatial relationships from memory in great detail, to the extent that before I realised people are literal about being able to see things, I considered myself to be a very visual thinker.

E.g an example I often used is that I remember pieces of code by how they look on screen to the extent that the syntax and formatting is something I'm unusually obsessed with because it affects my recall, and that I remember pages from papers I read 25+ years ago by visual appearance and layout.

But I can't see them, even though I can recall them to the point that I know what they would have looked like had I been able to see them.


> have an excellent sense of direction. I'm excellent at learning maps in computer games.

That's interesting. I wonder how your mind has learned to compensate. Maps are such visual things, you must be tapping into some other brain areas to store/retrieve this information.

> When I remember traumatic experiences I don't visualize them, I remember the feeling, the shame or the guilt or the embarrassment.

hmm, interesting. Maybe this part of my personality isn't related to the aphantasia.


There's actually already a study on spatial reasoning and aphantasia: https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=...

Basically, aphantasiacs tend to do just as well at spatial reasoning tasks as people with imagery, but tend to be somewhat slower and do not exhibit the gender gap that has been identified in the broader population.

I'm aphantasiac as well, and can identify with some of the experiences you've mentioned in this thread, and not at all with others. My spatial reasoning is great, and I'm a singer who has no problem at all with singing along to songs - if they're sufficiently regularly structured, even singing along with the chorus the second time it happens in a song I've never heard before. However, like you, I cannot replay sounds in my head. Memories are easily put behind me.

We're clearly very early in understanding what impact aphantasia has on people. It's a fascinating topic, and always interesting to teach people about.


A map is just a visual representation of spatial relationships, and often a poor one because it's from a fixed vantage point that is certainly not well suited to visual translation into what you see at a street level.

When I look at a map, I rarely try to remember what it looks like (I couldn't visualise it anyway) - I remember directions and distances relative to other places.


I used to think I had aphantasia and an uncanny ability to let go of bad experiences. Then, I hit a wall after a particularly rough time in my life which forced me to “look back” at my life, and I realized that I was pushing down extremely traumatic memories. Recognizing that, it was almost as if those events caused me to get really good at blocking out images in my head, and the reason I felt that I could get past bad experiences was because nothing really added up to the things I faced in my younger years. Also, the traumatic events caused me to kind of disassociate, never really being present enough to experience things on a deep emotional level - good or bad.

Dealing with the trauma has opened up a richness inside my head that I didn’t realize I had. I can visualize almost anything I imagine, and I’ve began drawing. I’ve always had very good spatial reasoning, sense of direction and audible memory.

I’m still working on being fully present, though.


> 2. An almost superhuman ability to put bad experiences behind me. People with aphantasia don't have the tendency to ruminate. I've had some traumatic experiences in my life and within a few months it's as if the experience never happened. I can recall details of it but the recollection is as if the experience happened to someone else.

Are you sure? I am not a psych(atr|olog)ist, but that sounds consistent with some sort of dissociation. People can even be impacted by traumas that they do not remember at all.


> I am not a psych(atr|olog)ist

I think psychiatrologist is my new favourite word.

Edit: Or maybe psycologiatrist.


> Are you sure?

* shrug * no idea tbh. others with aphantasia don't seem to share the same effect, so maybe it's some kind of other dysfunction.


I'm not purely aphantasiac (occasionally have momentary flashes of fuzzy, vague imagery), but I'm still in the category, and I identify strongly with the "superhuman ability" to get over traumatic experiences.

I've had very few traumatic events in my life, but when I hear people talk about flashbacks or reliving trauma, it confuses me utterly. I understand theoretically how it could happen, now that I finally know about visual memory, but the practical effect is still completely outside my experience.

My wife had long been envious of my "superhuman ability" to stay in the present, neither lingering in the past nor staring off towards the future. Once we realized I was aphantasiac it made more sense, as memory and fantasy simply don't exist for me in remotely compelling or seductive ways. It's all just abstract word-forms (and occasionally sounds).

As a programmer, writer, musician, and occasional photographer/painter, I've long insisted that when making art "There is only implementation."

I still think there's a lot of truth in that, but I do now realize that most people can meaningfully "see" their work before incarnating it.


I also have aphantasia, and my wife has hyperphantasia. makes for interesting conversations.

1.While I do not experience visual images in my mind, I do 'form' what I can only explain as proprioceptive relationships between things. I can mentally rotate objects or my environment, but have no visual experience of it. This is a long-winded way of saying I have very good spacial understanding, direction and concept of how things relate to each other - I'm a hang glider pilot, motorcyclist, loves driving and hiking around, and never get lost.

2. I do relate with having a superhuman ability to put bad experiences behind me. I don't dwell on the bad for long, and tend to forget the bad experiences pretty quickly. My memory of accidents are also more proprioception and relation to things in my environment than visual.


I also "have" aphantasia. (Am aphantasic?)

No 1 I never connected it to this, but yes, I have terrible sense of direction. I do okay if there are physical landmarks (Like lake to the west or hills to the east) and numbered streets help too, but I still regularly make wrong turns and don't realize it in cities I've lived for a long time.

No 2 I don't feel. I ruminate a lot. My memory is weak, but I still manage to ruminate on things.


Ask me to dive deep into software architecture and I'm all good. Ask me to "visualise" re-arranging the office furniture or think up a children's fantasy story with magic animals - and I'm totally, utterly lost. I have found my "creative outlet" is actually music - DJing. The repetitive logical arrangement of electronic music still gives opportunity to also be creative.

I can relate to the lack of interest in fiction books others have written on this thread. I struggle to visualise what's going on with the characters/scenes so get bored (and frustrated) very quickly.

Oddly I can relate strongly to your point 2. My father is the same - emotions get switched off and practical mode kicks in. He's working on a solution to one of the problems as a result of whatever's happening around us, be it financial, logistical, or anything which could "help" in his eyes. It's not so much put bad experiences behind me, but rather put them in a mental box (ironically, I can't imagine) and not worrying about it.


I don't think either of those are necessarily aphantasia. I'm an excellent navigator, and in general I know the spatial arrangement of things well. Likewise, though I'm pretty stoic about stuff, I can feel shame or other emotions about past events long past.

Have you tried Rubik's cube or similar puzzles? Does this condition have any effect on solving those?

Not the OP, but I learned how to solve them not long after they came out. I solved one on my own, but it was more about learning a series of logical moves and applying them, along with some trial and error and some luck. I then learned a method of solving the cube from a book which I can still do to this day. But there's no visualization involved. I just look at the cube, notice that these particular faces are in this configuration, then apply the appropriate sequence of moves to get to the next step. Rinse and repeat.

Idk, I have aphantasia and I also ruminate quite a lot.

The picture we conjure up in our mind is also not the most detailed picture. It's not exact. It's a very blurry image but not in the same sense that an image is made blurry through a camera lens. It's also not an image, but a 3D model and it usually sits in some sort of relevant but made up setting.

For example. If I was told to imagine a barn, the first image to pop up is the barn. For no apparent reason, the barn is red.

How many windows does the barn have? No clue, didn't even realize that the barn had some windows. I can then sort of materialize the windows into a concrete amount (two for example). But do note that before I thought about the windows the 3D model of the barn existed in a state that can only be conjured by the imagination. The barn literally had an unknown amount of windows, not no windows or some windows, but I just wasn't thinking about the windows. The other weird part of this is that we don't consciously realize that the model is incomplete, yet if we took this incomplete model of the barn and put it in the real world we can then instantly identify this inconsistency and weirdness.

Also for no apparent reason the barn is sitting on a grass field and it's dusk.

If you can dream, the image is exactly the same as your dream. Blurry three dimensional objects that can materialize in greater detail as you focus.


This fits way more with my experience than the other comments so far. And as you say, the indistinct form of imagined things is the same in dreams.

There are some differences I can think of with my dreams. One is that of course it really does feel like you're there in a dream. When I imagine something while awake, it's more like a little model surrounded by nothingness in my head.

Another is that in dreams things are often strange, proportions all wrong, just general weirdness. Imagining while awake, you have control over the form.

There are people in this thread saying that they can essentially replace their reality with imagination while awake, "projecting" the scene in front of them. I can't do that, but I can imagine a scene well enough to get by. Maybe there's not so much Normal vs. Aphantasia at all, but a whole spectrum between the two extremes.


This describes my minds eye perfectly. For me it’s kinda like seeing only at the point of focus without any peripheral vision. My minds eye darts around picking up details as I imagine them.

I imagine like this, it always seemed to fit well with Bertrand Russel's conceptualisation of the "table" in his beginners treatise on philosophy ("Problems of Philosophy"). The barn in my mind is the concept of barn, it's not really solidified in to an image-able object.

In dreams I enjoy the contradictory nature of things/people, like someone in the dream is themselves fully and also someone else; or a barn say is painted red and made of wood whilst simultaneously being entirely constructed of windows, and the windows can't be looked out of ...


yes, this. “an unknown amount of windows”. i’d even say an “unknown unknown amount of windows” :)

Yeah, it's a bit like how your mind fills in the blanks for the blind spot in your vision where the optic nerve is. You don't even think about the fact that the data is missing until you go looking for something in that spot.

I have aphantasia, found out 9 months or so ago, but can meditate fine. The main point is to focus on nothing, the sound of your breath can be used instead of imagining a flame or sphere or whatever. Another technique is to tap everytime a thought comes into your head, and dismiss the thought.

I also voraciously read fiction, so I doubt you not liking it has anything to do with aphantasia, but find overly descriptive portions of text boring and will often skip them.

Also, you can almost certainly learn to visualize with your mind's eye, very few people have actual incurable aphantasia from what I've read. I did some exercises, image streaming, and it was starting to work. After a week or so I started seeing images. I had too much on my plate, so parked it for now.


Aphantasia gives you more control over your mind and makes meditation easier. As a person who does not have aphantasia I can tell you we have very limited control of the pictures that pop up in our heads.

If you told me to not picture a welsh corgi barking at a ball, my mind would instantly picture it. There is no control over this reflex. Literally if you had a mind reading machine and a gun pointed to my head and told me not to picture that corgi or you'd shoot me, it would be mind blowingly hard and near impossible. It's similar to the reflex that allows you to understand language. "Do not understand the words that are coming out of my mouth..." not possible.

Thus in knowing that we have limited control over it you should know that at least for some people the mind wanders... if we don't direct the mechanism to picture a flame or a sphere it will proceed to picture other things, it can't be turned off insomuch as your general ability to understand english can't be turned off. Therefore meditation is easier for you.

Also you can't get songs stuck in your head. Sometimes that part of your brain that builds these virtual scenes just decides to sing that one catchy song all the time.


'I also voraciously read fiction, so I doubt you not liking it has anything to do with aphantasia, but find overly descriptive portions of text boring and will often skip them.'

As should be clear from this thread, aphantasia is a highly varied condition. It manifests in people in different ways. The fact that you read a lot does not mean that there is no association between aphantasia and not liking fictional books.


Could you provide some resources?

I've only ever experienced visualization once on a drunken night and thought my drink had been spiked.


I started here:

https://photographyinsider.info/image-streaming-for-photogra...

Then moved on to image streaming but it didn't add that much more:

http://www.winwenger.com/imstream.htm

There's still a lot of mumbo-jumbo feeling to it and the videos and writing, but it does work. 10 minutes a day, a little over a week, and I started to see things. I found it a lot easier to do just as I was going to sleep, first time it happened I'd forgotten to do it in the scheduled slot so did it just after I went to bed without the recorder. The recorder is useful to begin with to remind you to carry on speaking out loud.

It is frustrating to begin with.


So I have been practicing various exercises over time, but no effect. You are right about meditation though, you have to pick the ones that require an abundance of nothing. However many techniques and classes emphasize the visual types of meditation, from which I do feel left out.

> Another technique is to tap everytime a thought comes into your head, and dismiss the thought.

A bit off-topic perhaps, but: how? When a thought comes into my head, that means I'm no longer thinking of tapping...


A bit off-topic perhaps, but: how? When a thought comes into my head, that means I'm no longer thinking of tapping...

That's true. But at some point, you realize you are thinking of x when you should just be focusing on the sound (or whatever object/idea you chose). When that happens, you tap. Even if you were daydreaming for 6 minutes, you eventually realize you were straying.

You can substitute physical tapping with mental notes or whatever as well.


That makes sense, thanks. Might give it another try soon using this method.

> My failed attempts at all sort sorts of meditation and mindfulness

There are forms of mindfulness and meditation practice that don't require visualization, and in fact are quite the opposite. A typical exercise is to pay focused attention to a particular body part, sensation, or environmental aspect.


If anything, I can't think of any aspect of mindfulness meditation that requires visualisation. You can do mindfulness meditation with open eyes - one of the popular introductory books (Mindfulness in Plain English) specifically describes mindfulness of breathing on the basis of focusing your vision towards the tip of your nose, and part of the reason is to maintain focus without being distracted by visual input.

Keeping the eyes half-open during meditation is a common way of preventing falling asleep.

I'm utterly unable to visualise for the most part except for one experience that was totally revelatory to me during meditation years ago, which I after learning about aphantasia realises must be what most people experience all the time.. But the inability to get my minds eye to work has never been a hindrance to my meditation as far as I can tell. If anything I do not get distracted by visuals, yet there are more than enough other distractions so I'm mostly happy about that during meditation.


you should try some of the exercises by Jan Fries in visual Magick. he gets you to use all senses and this actually helps to get to a very strong picture for me.

I'm curious why you were trying meditation and mindfulness. I would have theorized that those with the ability to visualize have a greater need to control the incessant waves of distractions running through their minds, where your mind would naturally be clearer. In essence, that this medication doesn't work on you because you are not sick. But since you sought it out, there must be a reason you felt you needed it.

Not the person you were responding to, but I've noticed that in certain circles (and here more than most) meditation and mindfulness are seen as some kind of magic bullet which work for anyone and can solve any kind of mental unease.

(I grew up with mediation, have tried many kinds many times and it does nothing for me so this kind of irks me. It's one of those real "if it doesn't work for you you're doing it wrong / not using enough of it" things.)


These are considered first-line defense for a variety of mental states, like anxiety, stress, depression, motivation, etc. In only once instance however were the practitioners able to offer me non-visual alternatives. This speaks to an unawareness on the other side that some people really can't do what they are asking. There are, in fact, many different styles of meditation that could be deployed instead. But being asked to 'visualize your thoughts as words floating away" or "find your happy place, like a beach, and place yourself there" are 100% ineffective when you can't see a darn thing.

Blake Ross, Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox co-creator and head of products at Uber, wrote about this a few years back: https://facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-feel... ( outlined: https://outline.com/VU4Mcg )

His experiences are very similar to yours. I want ask you about its advantages (if I may): Is it something about Aphantasia (absence of fantasy?) that could help with being better at HCI? Or, any other positives you see come out of it that helps you professionally?


Here is a Reddit thread that might be interesting:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Aphantasia/comments/4gy4tu/please_s...

Especially this comment:

> I had aphantasia starting at 17 years old that resolved recently by taking vitamins and supplements. Specifically, big doses of B12, B6, Vitamin C, and Omega oils.

(I found it by searching for "B6". I took this vitamin for a while in its P5P form, and noticed that, even though I don't have aphantasia, it made my dreams much more lively. When reading your story, I immediately made the connection. DISCLAIMER: Do your own research and don't take medical advice from strangers on the internet; B6 in high doses can have lasting side effects such as neuropathy; B12, vitamin C are relatively safe)


I cannot fathom not being able to picture my loved ones at any time. I know it gives many people the little motivation they need to push through hard times.

Do you happen to use photos and written word more than others to try and make up for it? Is that even a remedy?


Without mental imagery you can still just think about your loved ones. It's not like you have no memory or something.

My partner has aphantasia. If we didn't see each other for a couple of weeks, they used to say that they'd forgotten what I look like. I never thought they were serious until we realised they had aphantasia a few years ago. My partner also dreams in verbal narratives, which I find fascinating.

Not the GP, but... It used to bother me, many years ago when my wife and I first started dating. As a result, I've always kept a framed photo of us on my desk. At work at first, also in my car, and of course nowadays I have thousands available on my phone. Working from home full-time, I have one of our engagement photos in a frame on my desk. I guess I just never put together before why I was doing that.

Not The grandparent, but I’m also aphantasic. I think the question doesn’t make sense. Why would I seek to remedy the lack of something I never experienced having in the first place?

Aprantly the rest of the world goes around hallucinating 24/7. I find that frightening.


No, it is only a hallucination if the one experiencing it perceives it as part of reality.

Edit: here is the introductory paragraph of Hallucination from Wikipedia [1]:

A hallucination is a perception in the absence of external stimulus that has qualities of real perception. Hallucinations are vivid, substantial, and are perceived to be located in external objective space. They are distinguishable from several related phenomena, such as dreaming, which does not involve wakefulness; pseudohallucination, which does not mimic real perception, and is accurately perceived as unreal; illusion, which involves distorted or misinterpreted real perception; and imagery, which does not mimic real perception and is under voluntary control.[1] Hallucinations also differ from "delusional perceptions", in which a correctly sensed and interpreted stimulus (i.e., a real perception) is given some additional (and typically absurd) significance.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination


It's nothing like hallucinating, it's more like a blank canvas that you can paint whatever you want upon instantly.

A canvas which doesn’t exist upon which you “paint” imaginary imagery. As someone who has only ever experienced sight when my eyes are open, I don’t know how to relate to that other than hallucination.

It's not like seeing things that aren't there, it's like watching a movie, you know it's not real. It's kinda like two different visual channels, and perhaps hallucinations are what happens when people can no longer distinguish between the two...

You're missing the point. What if I told you I see an imaginary friend with me all day long. Everywhere I go, he is there doing his thing, making snide remarks and commentary that only I hear. I know he is not real, and I never get confused about that, but I see him nonetheless. You'd think that's weird, right?

I have the same opinion of people's purported "mind's eye" and visual imagination. Like, I'm able to recall things that I've seen, but they come back to me as grab-bag of feelings, abstract concepts, and an enumeration of qualities and characteristics. Not a reconstruction of a picture or anything like that, or a movie playing in my mind's eye or whatever.

This has never really been a handicap for me, except in art class which I was never any good at (Art teacher: "Just focus your mind on your subject while looking at the canvas, then just paint what you see. It's easy!" Me: "... wtf are you smoking?") Or when I went to pick up my fiancé from the airport after I first prolonged separation, and I got worried because I honestly couldn't remember what her face looked like.

But back to the analogy, it seems as if nearly everyone around me goes around life with an imaginary friend that only they can see, and I'm the only one who finds this weird. Like how can you even trust your senses if you're able to conjure up full sensual experiences in your imagination? I find this scary because it counteracts my own certainty: if my mind is seeing something or hearing something, IT'S REAL.


> Like how can you even trust your senses if you're able to conjure up full sensual experiences in your imagination?

Wow, this is fascinating, and it's incredibly hard to describe something you've just taken for granted!

When I'm writing this down, I can "hear" my own voice narrating what I'm writing, sometimes talking ahead as my typing catches up, sometimes the other way around. But I have no difficulty separating "real" sounds that have gone through my ears, from the sound of my mind's voice, if that makes sense. If I were to open my mouth and talk along with my mind's voice, it would become quiet, because there's now real sounds taking its place.

Visualizing things work sort of the same way, if someone says "think about a dog playing fetch!", I start seeing fragments/glimpses/moving images of my memories of dogs playing fetch, but it's more like having a movie screen in front of your eyes, I don't see the dog in the world as I see it, the mind's eye "sees" things on top of/in parallel to existing visual input. And staring at something that is visually boring, or closing your eyes, helps you see your mind's eye more clearly, since there's no overlap. The more visually interesting the real world is, the harder it is to clearly picture something in your mind. And just like with the mind's voice, you just know that what you're imagining isn't real.

So to answer your question: Actual hallucinations are what happens when you're unable to distinguish between the two, normally you have absolutely no problem doing so.


I figured since you'd never experienced it, I'd try to explain what it's like to you. For reasons I don't exactly understand, you keep trying to tell me what it's like instead! To compare it to a hallucination is a bad analogy, to compare it to an imaginary friend is an even worse one.

You have abstract thoughts, they just seem to lack a conscious visual component, but that's all the "mind's eye" is, thoughts. There's a distinct difference between your thinking and your physical experience.

>I'm able to recall things that I've seen, but they come back to me as grab-bag of feelings, abstract concepts, and an enumeration of qualities and characteristics.

Me too, and there's also "photographs" in there as well.


To me its almost like I have two separate canvases. One that my eyes render to and an 'offscreen' canvas my mind renders to. I can access both, but they don't overlap.

> As someone who has only ever experienced sight when my eyes are open

Can you experience/imagine music (or any sound) without hearing it? Like a song which is stuck in your ear. Or if I ask you to imagine the Star Wars melody, could you hum it in your mind?


More so than imagery, but not to the extent reported by others. I do have an internal voice and usually have better luck with songs that have vocals—I can make my internal voice “sing” the lyrics without instrumentation. I can get songs like Bohemian Rhapsody stick in my head, but not something that is more instrumental than lyrical.

>As someone who has only ever experienced sight when my eyes are open

Do you not dream?


Not without the use of medication, no, which may or may not be related. When I do, the character of the experience depends on the dream but typically is experienced through feeling and abstract form. It never had the character of photo real-ness, real or imagined, that others often describe when talking about their dreams or mental imagery.

I have no visual memory, but my tactile memory is excellent, so I remember my loved ones' arms, the texture of their hair, that sort of thing.

I'm absolutely curious, have you ever tried to draw something, in any way? When you were a kid or more recent? What did you/could you draw, and where does it seem like the image of the drawing came from?


I'm aphantastic and I'm very good at drawing. I come from a family of academically trained artists and almost ended up becoming one myself, actually.

Drawing from imagination is actually drawing from memory. In my case, even though I'm unable to visualize the object I'm about to draw, I can recall facts about its features, then rely on spatial and analytical thinking to "reason about" their forms, proportions, perspective, light, shade etc. From there, the visualization process happens and gets refined directly on the paper/canvas.


I'm aphantastic and have taught myself to draw fairly well over the past year. In fact, it was only in learning to draw that I learned what aphantasia was. Many lessons described "picturing" something in your mind's eye, and it slowly dawned on me that people actually "see" a picture in their mind -- I had assumed that was just an analogy.

I have tried some exercises that started helping me with mental visualizations. I've seen gotten quite busy with other stuff, but I think that if I had pursued those exercises, it had the potential to help. One exercise is called "image streaming", and although I'm skeptical it helps with general intelligence as some people claim, I have heard some fairly convincing stories of people with aphantasia learning to visualize: http://www.winwenger.com/ebooks/guaran4.htm

Edit: I'm now reading a lot of skeptical takes on the image streaming I describe above. So I'm no longer as optimistic that it would be helpful.


You saying that has flipped me over the edge, I think perhaps I'm somewhat aphantasic too.

I can picture things to some extent, like I can imagine the Mona Lisa, but not really the full image, just more like a sense of the painting, with a myriad of elements of the painting floating like words in a word cloud. I can't see it in the setting of the Louvre really, indeed it's struck me all my mental imagery is basically black, like an edge detect effect - I can imagine a bit of white wall if I try, so perhaps I just need to practice.

I've been painting for some time, but always use imagery to paint from - so many times I've said something like "when you try to think of a rabbit you just can't remember what one looks like" and no one has ever said "can't you just picture it?"; but it strikes me that I can't.

I do have a relatively good ability to make up stories, and have always loved fiction books. My memories aren't really pictorial though; so I guess I can fantasise about being in a situation in the same way as I can recall being in one.


> I can imagine the Mona Lisa, but not really the full image, just more like a sense of the painting

How do you think this compares to those who don't have aphantasia? How do they imagine the Mona Lisa?


Honestly, it feels like everyone here has aphantasia. Learning about aphantasia some weeks ago made me think I had it, but I honestly think it's just people overestimating how you visualise things in your mind.

People make it sound like they are able to see the same with their eyes closed as they can see with their eyes open. Like, I obviously can't see things as well in my mind as with my real eyes, it's very very "hazy" and I can't really imagine any colours. If I imagine a street right now, not a real one, just try to make up one in my mind, I can kind of feel/sense the outlines of the street and that there are houses around, but I don't actually see anything.

Compared to how some people describe them imagining things in their mind it sounds like I'm severely lacking. But the more I read about this, the more I think people are overestimating what other people see in their mind based on what they write. I think most people that claim to have aphantasia don't, while of course I believe some people really do.


I wasn't always aphantastic. I've already talked about it in another aphantasia thread here on HN, but when I was a child I was actually hyperphantastic: I would spend endless hours playing and directing vividly realistic (albeit silent) movies behind my closed eyelids. Sometimes (not always, but on a particularly good day), I was able to visualize things/creatures with my eyes open and have them interact with the real world.

If I wanted to see a rabbit, I didn't have to consciously recall facts about rabbit anatomy, behaviour and movement patterns like I would today (only to end up with most of them wrong); I just thought: "let there be rabbit" and with no effort at all there it was. Not a rabbit-like creature you would expect from a child's drawing, but an actual, realistic, anatomically correct rabbit hopping about the way rabbits do.

This ability started to gradually disappear around the time I went to school. I remember my frustration when I realized it was getting harder and harder to picture things and the quality of those pictures was getting lower and lower. Eventually I ended up not being able to visualize anything at all.

I've been wondering about this lost childhood superpower of mine for years, way before I even heard the term "aphantasia". When I say I'm aphantastic, I don't compare myself to some idea of how other people's minds work. I compare myself to what my own mind used to be capable of.


'People make it sound like they are able to see the same with their eyes closed as they can see with their eyes open.'

It's a spectrum of vividness. At one extreme, a few per cent of people are classified as aphantasics. At the other extreme, people have a photo realistic mind's eye. Most people sit somewhere inbetween.

I don't think people are necessarily overestimating. Some people just imagine the world very clearly.

I would say that I can see objects in my mind with something close to photo realism. The only time that things become hazy is if I imagine the entire city in which I live. I fly round imagining every street and I can see familiar areas very clearly, but if I stop and examine a street I don't know so well, I can't remember which exact shop is where. But that seems to be a problem of memory, not visualisation.


> and I can't really imagine any colours.

Think of a red circle. A green triangle? A blue square? Do those objects have colour to you?


Yeah they do actually. So I can imagine colours, I was confusing this with memories. I can't really recall colours in memories, unless I specifically made note of it.

I have four coworkers sitting behind me, they've been working around me for the past 5 hours and I can remember roughly how they're clothed, but I can't recall any colours of their clothes.

But yes, I can imagine colour, so my bad.


Drawing from imagination is actually drawing from memory.

It can be, but it isn't really. Most folks can do a landscape or a general person from memories of what earth and people look like, in general. Few people can put their mother in a surrealist scene working from memory, though.

The imaginative part does depend on memory and experience and a good knowledge base. But once you have the idea, you might want to actually do research and work from reference photos.

But you might want to look up what a snake looks like if you want to make it look like a realistic snake. Same for other animals - there is a limit to the details humans tend to remember. You'll remember more if you specialise.

For example, these are mine. The first used numerous reference photos, the second many different koi photos, and the last, an onion.

[1] https://www.deviantart.com/disgruntled-peon/art/Fortunate-Si... [2] https://www.deviantart.com/disgruntled-peon/art/Things-by-th... [3] https://www.deviantart.com/disgruntled-peon/art/Sour-Onion-6...


By "drawing from imagination" I meant drawing without a reference (live or otherwise). You point seems to be: "drawing a very realistic rendition of an object/subject without looking at it is hard". Which is true, but completely orthogonal to my thesis that "drawing from imagination == drawing from memory".

On a tangential note: there's more to creating believable art than accurate re-creation of proportions and details (which is why sites like deviantart are full of completely lifeless art that immediately reads as copies of photos). I'm aphantastic and only a have a very general idea of what a bear looks like, but I'm pretty sure I could draw a move convincing one "from my head" than someone untrained spending all day at the zoo would, because I have a good knowledge (or memory, if you will) of dogs and cats musculoskeletal anatomy I can extrapolate from, and I understand how forms in space and light work.


i’m also (seem apparently to be) aphantastic and draw quite well. it’s just like you say - i “reason” about a remembered shape and light based on facts and physics, not “observation”. i reconstruct how the thing should look based on what i know of it’s geometry, not what it looks like. interesting to hear someone else say this! i’ve never quite put it into words.

I can, and I draw with more mechanical precision from memory than from sight. I used to be quite good at drawing, but I'm out of practise.

However I know precisely where in relation to each other the window frames in my bedroom are, for example, and how they are shaped, and their colour, and how the panes are separated, and what colour the curtains are and how to reproduce the brushed appearance of the curtain rod, and so on.

I can't see it. But I know exactly where very small details are in relation to each other, so I can reconstruct it piece by piece mentally and put it to paper.

I've mentioned elsewhere that prior to realising most people are literal about seeing things in their mind, I saw myself as a very visual thinker because of that. My spatial recall is well above average.

Imagine a blind person knowing where everything around them in places they are familiar with, I guess, except I have the benefit of being able to learn the spatial relationships through sight, and can also recall e.g colours though I can't see them.


I'm now going through a process of realisation that is explaining my struggles with learning to draw! I sit down pencil ready, but no 'inspiration' comes and I can't think of what to draw.

I now realise I have not actually been able to visualise in my mind's eye (I can see vague shapes/colour but can't bring it into focus) and have to constantly measure or 'guess' at drawings. I've been wondering why many artists seems to be able to draw 'on the fly' or copy things so quickly where it takes me many checks and measures (which is improving in speed over time with practice).

It has left me feeling like I have no creativity or inspiration, but not being able to visualise explains a lot and gives me an avenue of focus to work on.

Can anyone provide good resources for developing visualisation capability? It appears from comments here it might be a condition that is treatable?


I can draw (from sight or imagination) things I can't "see in my mind's eye" just like I often compose music that doesn't play in my head. When drawing, my hands move to create the drawing on the paper that represents the concept I want to show, even though I am not seeing it; I "just know" how to move, even though I can't exactly visualize what to do, like you probably "just know" how to drive even though you couldn't make a full 3D model of your car and the surrounding space.

It actually gives me more reward from drawing than most people, because what I access when drawing (seeing what I imagine with my eye) most people can do without the hard part of learning how to draw. For me drawing is the only way, my sketches are the only existence of some of these things I've thought of.


Well I absolutely cannot draw, but one of the most interesting things about the recent talk about aphantasia is how many creative people are able to execute their craft with relative ease, even without seeing things. Some seem to fallback to tools like constant tracing and erasing to try and build the image in front of them rather than in their heads. That mental visualization does not seem to impede the visual arts is fascinating and inspiring to me.

But no, I can't draw or paint or sculpt anything, but that never bothered me, and has rarely impeded my career in computing.


>Frankly, it helps explain a lot about my life. The inability to picture the face of friends, family, places I've visited, all contribute to a sense of isolation and distance that I feel daily.

Maybe, or maybe not. It could be a post-fact explanation.

What I'm getting at is a huge numbers of us feel "isolation" and "distance" (perhaps close to a majority), with or without aphantasia, so it might not be it at all that's the cause...


This thread and TFA is blowing my mind. I've never been able to visualize things the way that others seemingly could but I never took the time to actually be conscious of that fact.

> But then, perhaps, in this case, ignorance would be a bit more blissful.

I'm not sure how I feel about this right now, but it's not going to be bothering me for a while...


Just to provide a counterpoint I have aphantasia too and I like fiction books a whole lot. About fifty-fifty split with nonfiction. Chanting and observational meditation don't seem to be affected in my case.

interesting connections you’re drawing here... from another person who seems to have a similar situation it’s giving me a lot of food for thought

Out of curiosity, do you dream?

I have aphantasia, and I am into lucid dreaming. I dream with amazing amounts of visual detail, but my dreams are silent (my mind's ear is also deaf). In fact, I can see better in a dream than I can in real life, because of my eyesight. No retinas to pass light through when I'm dreaming, I guess.

While working on lucid dreaming, I noticed that I could see hypnagogic images as I was falling asleep, or after I woke up. Not having this ability normally, I focused on it quite a bit and have had some really vivid images, some in motion. Not amazing to most of humanity, admittedly, but it was like magic to me.

If anyone is wondering, I use the SSILD method of inducing lucid dreams. I haven't been into it as much lately, but for a short while I was having three a week or so.


I used to at least have some minor visuals in my dreams, but not for about a decade. Now it's more like being aware of concepts and people and places but without actually seeing anything. When I awake I will sometimes retain a shopping-list like accounting of the dream, which is also how most of my memories are stored. "There was a schoolbus. Conor was there. I felt unease." When I remember something that happened to me it is often displayed in third person, built up incrementally from those lists of facts.

Do you see dreams at night?

Do you dream?

Are you even conscious? How do I know you are not a zombie?

Can anyone here give a good description of what it's like not to have Aphantasia? I'm having a very hard time believing this condition isn't the norm.

Edit. For a condition which supposedly affects only a few percent, the reaction to this article here and on Twitter contains a suspiciously high rate of people being surprised to find out they've got this and shocked that everyone else hasn't.

The more I read about this the more I feel that the variety in reported inner experience is more to do with the variety in reporting than of the experience itself.

I find myself able to relate to descriptions from both sufferers and non sufferers alike, but then again could often take extracts from each and be hard pressed to say who was claiming to be which.


I don't have aphantasia. With concentration, I can essentially override what I'm actually seeing with other imagery. For the most part, it's dimmer, duller, and less "present" than actual sensory input. It's much easier to do if there isn't a lot of actual visual input, because it's dark or my eyes are closed. I think many people can do this with great ease. For me, it depends on how hard I try, my mood, and maybe other factors I can't identify.

I can recall memories or visualize things that have never happened. I'm not sure if my recall is reproducing what I actual saw, or reimagining it from something more schematic. I suppose mostly the latter, maybe with a little of the former.

I can do the same thing with imaginary sound, far more easily. I'm not sure if people with aphantasia have difficulty here, too.

And with great difficulty the other senses.

Fairly often, these sensory reconstructions happen involuntarily. Which is basically what "daydreaming" is to me.


Does it really come into your eyesight? For me, I can imagine things and "see" them, but they don't mix with the signal from my eyes. It's like a separate sense

It does not mix, and does not obstruct my eyesight. I can read while 'seeing' the events in the book. It does not pass through the eyes, and it is as detailed and sharp as my sense of reality - obviously. It just does not come through the same channel and that's easy to notice.

As a side note, it can be really odd to read something like: 'She saw two doors in the room. She took the one on the left wall.' And my flow is broken and I have to stop and reimagine the room, because I saw the two doors on the wall ahead - what is the author going on about? Maybe they should not be so exact about a tiny detail.


At least I can completely override what I'm seeing in front of my eyes with my imagination, to the point where I take no notice of my surroundings anymore. It doesn't "mix", it just replaces.

No, it doesn't come into my eyesight. It's more like I have to disregard my eyesight to mentally visualize.

This is how it works for everyone.

I can override my eye sight in the right conditions (with various degree of how much I override it) with another whole world created by mind in front of me. Ofc is FAR far far easier when it's dark or I am alone or I am hearing music, but you get the point.

For example when doing some shadowboxing I actually put fantasized people in front of myself which fight me and react to my moves, and I can see them as I see a real person until I remain focused. I often change also the location and the background to suite better my fantasy.

It's like shutting partially your eye system and making your mind go in full control.

edit: I said this to explain how much I can push it. But to make a simpler example, I _Very_ often fantasized at night, before bad and with eyes closed, of having an adventure in a post apocalyptic world and I can see everything in first person in my mind like I am really there and everything is real


holy fucking shit seriously? this is so amazing and unfamiliar to me that i find it hard to believe you’re not lying. amazing

No lie. His description sounds like he's a better visualizer than I am, but not really different in kind, just intensity. I could probably do that if I practiced more often. When I was under 15 or so it was easier and closer to what he described. But still, if I'm reading the right book I essentially cannot see the page anymore because the visualization is so strong and intense that I'm in that other world, not in ours anymore.

I recently read Clarke's The City and the Stars. His description of the city of Diaspar is so strong that I feel like I have literally been there in exactly the same way as I have been to Yellowstone. I know I can't get on a plane to go back there, but if I open the book again I will be there again.

Another favorite book of mine is The Good Earth. I have experienced Wang Lung's life in almost the exact same way as Picard experienced another man's life in The Inner Light. I read that book in a single uninterrupted sitting because the experience of living someone else's life from beginning to end was so enthralling that I could not stop.

If you want to know why Harry Potter fans are so obsessive, it's because the books are very easy to visualize. Millions of people have a "lived experience" of being Harry throughout 7 years of wizard school and that experience leaves a mark on you. When I saw the movies it was a bit odd because I'd already seen a different set of "movies" in my mind and they got some details wrong.


I used to play soccer when I was young and I would always visualize the trajectory of the ball in my mind before I kicked it. This wasn't just muscle memory (though I don't doubt there's a strong connection between the two); I would describe it like being able to see 1 second into the future and having the ability to superimpose the trajectory of the ball on the scene in front of my eyes.

I now take portraits as a side business. When I schedule photoshoots with models and think of locations, I'm constantly visualizing in my head the scene, their poses, the lighting, etc. In my head these aren't still images or snapshots, but I'm on set with the model and I'm able to move around and interact with the model to try different angles and figure out the ones I like and don't like. I never take written notes about the shots I want to try and get, I just spend the few days leading up to the shoot mulling over ideas in my head and by the day of I know exactly what shots I want and how to get them.

I also noticed as a kid that when I would read fantasy books that I would sometimes get so engrossed in the imagery and descriptions of the scenes that I would stop processing the words on the page. When I would "break out of it" I would be able to remember exactly the movie scene that had been happening in my head, but I wouldn't be able to tell you the last few sentences I had read even though they perfectly described the scene I had been experiencing. This visualization of novels made me fall in love with reading as a kid.


I know you almost feel like 90% of the world got in on a huge psych joke a few years ago on a day we skipped class. Kinda of like that "dihydrogen monoxide found at 99% of crime scenes".

Idk if you know but Aphantasia technically covers all senses. For example I can hear music in my head. It's kinda faint and fuzzy but it's there and well defined. Meanwhile I can't imagine a simple green triangle. Maybe you have it in some ways and not others? You should think about it - kinda blew my mind.


Music definitely works differently in my imagination, but I notice that it also corresponds to very subtle breathing pattern changes. Like I'll be inhaling and exhaling with the beat and maybe very, very imperceptibly nano-humming. or perhaps I'm just _rationalizing_ the what-feels-like-nearly-physical music in my head by telling my lungs that they're helping to create it...

Maybe there's a similar vector I could explore for improved visualization. eye-movements or subtle pen-strokes with the hand or something.


Is this not hyperphantasia?

I often feel this way (as someone who has aphantasia). I tend to believe that I'm just describing the same thing in a different way.

Then I read a Reddit thread like this: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/b8eojm/when_some...

It's totally foreign to me to think about "picturing" something in that detail. I can describe the physical attributes of an object if I think about it, and most of the time I just equate that to "visualizing" or "picturing" it. The thing that stands out to me in that Reddit thread (and other descriptions of how "normal" people visualize things) is that there is extra context. That's not something I understand at all, and so I'm convinced there is actually a fundamental difference.


There is a fundamental difference. If I had a pair of VR goggles with me at all times that could play back short recordings of my life and if those VR goggles could also create helpful visuals that go along with my thoughts (sort of like a power point presentation with infographics and clipart), then it would be something like what I see when I "picture it". For a moment, I put on the "VR goggles" and the outside world is blocked out while I see an inner world.

If I write fiction I start to create the scenes and people in my mind as if I'm staging a play or building a level in a 3d engine. The words I write down are then a description of what I'm seeing, as if I'm writing a review of the play I just staged.

A further interesting line of thought: Can you re-hear sounds from memory? Can you re-feel touch? Re-smell? Re-taste? Can you re-experience emotions? With a bit of focus I can do all of those things, though it helps if the original memory is strong. My "inner ear" is especially strong, maybe even stronger than my "inner eye."


I can absolutely replay music in my mind at will. I often will wake up with a song "stuck" in my head. But, I cannot visualize things. I cannot re-hear the voice of loved ones. I have absolutely no idea what it means to be able to re-feel/smell/taste. That is well and truly beyond my ability to comprehend.

I can definitely hear songs in my head. I can go one step further, I can "visualize" how to play the melody of the song I'm hearing on a guitar neck. The rest of my "visualization" skills are very poor, though. People here describe the ability to superimpose things on their field of view, for me it's nothing like that. For me, it's more like having a separate, super low resolution renderbuffer with a blur shader on it. I don't visualize things in the same scene as I see. I can definitely feel the scratchy tongue of my cat on the back of my hand, though :)

Man... that sounds awesome... Your description is actually the first time I've been sad about what I'm missing.

I definitely can't re-feel, re-smell, or re-taste. That's not the least bit ambiguous in my brain, I just have no idea what that even means. Re-hearing? I'm not sure... I can think "words", but there's nothing especially "audible" about it.


My imagined hearing is bordering on hallucination, and by that I mean an imagined "un-real" experience that is so present and detailed that it can be hard to distinguish it from actual sound. I can distinguish it, but it's right on the line.

If I want to hear a guitar I'll hear it with all the clarity of a real guitar. I hear the echo of the vibration. The sound of phantom fingers moving along the frets. Tiny metallic sounds as dry calluses squeak across the strings. And my chest will swell in excitement at the rich sound that I heard but didn't hear.

To test this I played the first ~30 seconds of The General by Dispatch in my head, then compared it to a Youtube video. I haven't heard the song for about a month, but I'd say my memory of it was about 95% correct with only a few notes out of place and a small number of missing/added aural details. In fact the sound memory was even more emotionally intense than the recording, like the difference between hearing a song live vs. a recording.

I can only imagine how crazy this must sound from your perspective. I am a productive member of society and not some kind of crystal spiritualist.


> I can only imagine how crazy this must sound from your perspective.

Nah, just sounds like a thing I would love to be able to do.


When people talk about an "inner voice". Like when you did something bad and you berate yourself mentally for it. Don't you hear a voice? Or when thinking about an imaginary argument with someone? Don't you do that?

No, that sounds totally bizarre to me. I certainly can think "words", but there is no voice associated with them.

Wow, so cool, but so confusing. I can't figure how that would work. But I also can't figure how people can think of a cube by its properties instead of seeing it. This gives me lots of food for thought. I will probably try shutting up the inner voice and projector later to try to understand it better.

This is a very objective thing, probably some can do it more or differently than others but I don't think we are just describing the same thing differently.

For me, I can picture whatever you might think of, enough to be able to copy what I imagine on paper or sculpture. However, this does not overlay with what I am seeing with my eyes as other people have described happens to them. What I see with my eyes, and what I imagine in my mind are in two different places. When I dream it can be very very realistic, as high detail as real life, and I can think it is real life (if you cannot visualize in your mind, what are your dreams like?). But when I wake up and open my eyes, there is no longer confusion. This is real life.

I also very very frequently can remember someone's face, how they act, what they do, and not remember their name. I can remember a whole conversation with them in video and not remember their name. But it feels like this type of visualization is different than picturing a sphere or some imaginary thing. It is a memory, a memory that I can manipulate, but based on reality.

Something I have always wondered about others, when you speak, is it just your thoughts in your language that you voice? Like, is your thought in language? I must translate my thoughts into language, and it is sometimes very difficult even though I am good at expressing myself. I do not usually think in language, unless it is some basic thing I am repeating to myself. It feels like some other people actually think with words.


While I wouldn't say my thought is strictly verbal, I often form understanding by letting my verbal stream of consciousness ruminate. I starts off as a technical almost schizophrenic rambling. Over time, as my stream of consciousness passes over the same ideas, they become coarser grained and easier to express to other people. Unfortunately easier != easy since I still need to translate from my idiosyncratic vocabulary to normal human speak.

Oh man I'm the same way, If I have a minds eye, it's strong. I've also been terrible with language, like I have difficulty speaking in real-time. I'm much better now but I actually used to wonder how people can talk the way they do.

For me imaginary input has less details and exists in a separate plane, and it never mixed up with real senses, in the sence that I always know which is which and to my knowledge I've never mixed them up when awake (only in sleep).

Visualizations are "ghostly", have few details, like 0.1 - 10% of what I usually see. Detail level depends on amount of attention allocated to internal imagery. Picture is always moving, changing, in flow. It takes considerable effort to pin a scene and stabilize it though it increases resolution. I've asked around and some people report having sequence of static, very high-resolution, almost real life quality pictures, either from real experience or synthesized. And images flip, replacing one another. Other people say that they have very fast low-res flowing "movies" like me, often consisting of several independent streams in different "parts" of awareness, typically with only one if focus. It's not that imaginary stream is overlayed on real sensory stream, it's more like they are different kinds of perception, like seeing and hearing is, though visual imagery is closer to seeing because objects it deals with have similar perceptive qualities, like having spatial component and colors.

In my case imagined sounds are more detailed. When I'm remembering or simulating a conversation, voices are rather close to that of real people. Music can be recalled quite well too, maybe up to 20% detail level of original. On several occasions a had some excerpts playing unvoluntary playing in my head with like 90% detail level of original. Quite often I got some music stuck in my head. When I'm underslept it's usually some bad quality pop music from 80s-90s that I haven't heard since my childhood.

Tactile, smell and taste sensations can be and are emulated too.

I wonder, do people with aphantasia have dreams? Dreams are fully emulated sensory input, though I feel like they come from a bit different place then imagined input does.

Edit: actually mind's eye is not restricted with field of vision of real sight, it can encompass say 1km sphere around me with very very low level of detail. I think that kind of capacity is used automatically in daily life when you walk somewhere and you have automatically constructed knowledge of what's behind your back.


So just to be clear, I didn't know people were not like me, but writing this I realized it explains a lot.

I rarely forget a face, and routinely remember random people on the subway. I don't say anything but I'm almost always the person who remembers the other person first, and it almost offends me that someone doesn't recognize/remember seeing me when I remember them. I can usually tell who people are based only on gait and body proportions. I recognized a girl once just from her hair color, and it wasn't something noticeable, just a very muted blonde almost brown/gray hair, but I only knew one person with her height and hair type.

I have incredibly powerful imagery. I woke up once after realizing in my dream after breaking a window that the glass shattered with incredible physical accuracy, both material properties, and physics. It's in dreams that I notice certain things, like how did I know water/smoke/fire/cloth reacts like that? how did I know light bounces in that way? how did I know that subway tracks looked precisely like that? Like I never took the time to study any of it, but the real world accuracy and a high level of detail is there. I can visually take objects and rotate them in my head, I think someone mentioned this and I can confirm. And I always found it suspicious people couldn't rotate something they see in a 2D picture in their head (or at least they would say something that implies they have no idea what it looks like from another angle).

Having said that, I think there are parts of my brain that is so stunted I sometimes wonder how the hell I got to where I am. I feel like I have several streams of information coming into my head, and I have to process them asynchronously. I zone out all the time because I'm having a "Doug" moment (if anyone remembers the cartoon), where I'm vividly daydreaming. The images are so strong, it seems to black out what I'm really seeing (but not really, its more like getting extreme tunnel vision and being hyper focused on your imagination). Traumatic memories are terrible. I see and pretty much re-live bad experiences over and over again. I can sit still, not move physically and play movies in my head for hours. To be fair though, I'm probably closer to the other extreme, and to me the benefits outweigh the cons.


One of the students in my middle school put it into beautiful terms. One day, they say "You know, the TV in your forehead?" as they put 3/4 a square with their fingers onto their brow (like a "C" shape) I still get chills thinking of the phrase sometimes, it just was so understandable and approachable for us 6th graders.

(Edit: word choice)


Mine defaults to a TV in my forehead, but with a little nudge, I can move it out it into it's own 3D space that I can view from inside or out. The level of detail is still the same, weak in my case.

I have very weak visualization but I have some (4-5) images I can render in my head (stills I've seen plus one from imagination), which I think aphantasics can't do, and if I'm reading specific descriptions and take enough time, I can call up a still or part of a still as well. (It's never several frames and it doesn't feel like seeing from the eyes, but I can do it.)

My other senses are not as affected, I have perfect tactile recall, I can recall and imagine plenty of smells and tastes as well. I have elaborate tactile fantasies when I want to distract myself. No visuals.

I don't think it's actually different from aphantasics but I've had vivid dream-visuals (including being able to literally read in a dream, seeing every character, hearing every word in the low subvocalized reading-voice, being caught up in the story) and visual hallucinations.


> The more I read about this the more I feel that the variety in reported inner experience is more to do with the variety in reporting than of the experience itself.

I think there is very strong truth to this. Words get in the way when trying to share internal experiences. Also, by reporting and discussing your experiences, you affect them. Memories of past experiences, and expectations for future experiences, are both affected.

For that reason, and without having digested the scientific literature, I would recommend against labeling oneself as having (or not having) aphantasia.

But then, I feel that way about pretty much all labels, especially ones related to cognition. They're fine for communication, but not for your internal perception of self.


I believe I've got the opposite of Aphantasia. I do a lot of improv comedy and I credit my success ar the form in large part because of my ability to believe that what we are creating in the moment is real. I can almost see it in the moment. Thinking back on specific scenes I don't see an empty stage with two+ people on it. I see some version of whatever we were supposedly doing in that scene.

I've got an incredible sense of direction too and I tell people it's because I've got a little google maps in my head.


I too find myself skeptical of this condition. I think we probably aren't so different, we just have trouble describing our subjective experiences in an objective way.

Imaging something is clearly not the same thing as actually seeing something. And yet I can imagine shape, 3D positioning, color, texture, movement, etc.. all the while NOT seeing it (and NOT hallucinating it). So do I have the condition or not?


I cannot do any of the things you just listed.

You don't have it.


OK I think by now we need to accept that everything in humans is a spectrum. I think most people don't have the level of internal visual detail that they can describe an artists rendering. Meanwhile very few have no detail. Plus it covers all senses.

So for me as example: I listen to metal and while I don't have super high quality sound in my mind, I can for the most part play a whole song in my head even the very intricate solos. If I knew the instruments and could play that we'll I could play it off the track in my head. However I can't imagine anything visual at all. No simple geometric Shape, no colors, not even a dot on a white backdrop.

I think most people are just shocked this is a thing and theyre too quick to say they have nothing when they probably have something. I'd give detailed tests like asking to imagine a tree and ask how many branches it has or what kind it is.

Any rate in sure in a couple years well have some nice professional tests to take for a more precise understanding.


Well, not having it would allow you to think visually, I guess.

I don't think visually most of the time, but I can picture things if I want to. I can even build whole "scenarios" in my mind and play them out, visually.

It's a bit like lucid dreaming, I think.


I don't have Aphantasia but I think the concept is wrongly described as the possibility of overlaying imaginary images on top of what you are seeing. If that was the case, then I have Aphantasia too.

In my case of not having Aphantasia is to be able to mentally reproduce an image with eyes open. If this image requires too much effort or has my interest for some reason, I still can see, but I am distracted by what I am visualizing at that moment.

That distraction is like when playing a videogame or watching a movie: you never see (or remember) what is around the monitor or TV because you are focused in playing/watching.


I do not have Aphantasia. The other day I was reading a problem book and after I would read the problem, I would look up (looking up makes it easier to think I guess?) and visualize the problem and work it while looking at it. You don’t have to close your eyes or anything, you can still see it fine.

I guess it feels like being able to project holograms internally.


My experience is similar to what others have mentioned so I will just add a bit not mentioned yet - the imagery I fantasize is sometimes erotic in nature. For example when I see an attractive woman on a bus, I can visualize her naked, taking shower or whatever - you get the point.

It's a spectrum. 5% of people have aphantasia, 10% of people have a very weak visual imagination, another 10% have a weak visual imagination, etc.

That's what accounts for so many people wondering if they have aphantasia.


I can "see" a playback of a drive to a certain location in my mind. Like a dashcam video.

But I can also "move the camera" off the dash and to 3rd person over-the-shoulder like in a racing game, and continue the drive.


I can imagine a cube in my head and rotate it around and such. It's a sort of voluntary daydream. I'm not literally overriding vision, but rather I can hold a limited imaginary scene in my head.

I have trouble with the opposite. Can you not imagine something ahead of time?

For example, can't you picture yourself on your commute home? Like if a camera was filming you going home today?

How do you forsee things?


You don't have to visualize something to "think" it.

I can plan my whole day perfectly without getting one image in my mind.

Thinking visually is simply too slow, so I only do it when I consciously try it.


Is this one of those things like how some people read by speaking to themselves in their head, but you can read without doing the speaking part. Some people create the imagery, others have a meta-view of the situation?

I think so, yes.

But I wouldn't call it meta. I'm not smarter or have more overview than other people.

It's more like a different datatype, one that can't be definied by my external senses.

It feels like some amorph entity that just carries meaning.


I can see how thinking visually can be inefficient... I guess having this condition is a "gift" in cretain ways

Think about blind people. They can still know where things are, and project forward in time that if X, Y will likely happen. Neither spatial reasoning or causal reasoning are tied to visualisation. That's what it's like for me to think both about the past and the future. I can't even imagine why you'd need to visualise something to knowing where it is - it's such a total foreign idea to me.

Good point

I think crimsonalucard's description of what it's like to picture things with the mind's eye is spot on.

Often when I hear people describing their experience with visualization, I wonder if I have a mild form of this. I am able to visualize things, think of visual scenes, manipulate objects in my mind, etc. But it's never at a level of fidelity I would consider 'looking at an image in my mind'. It's more of a nebulous, hazy thing, impermanent and lacking in detail. Faces in particular are very difficult to visualize; I don't have any real difficulty remembering what people look like or recognizing them, but summoning a complete mental picture of a particular face is usually elusive.

Yeah, threads like this make me wonder similar things. Lots of people here are using terms like overlay and superimpose that seem foreign to me.

For those in the thread that can work on imagery in a visual manner, does it feel like the images are taking the same path as ones that actually hit the retina? To be more precise, could your visualizations be roughly matched by an idealized Augmented Reality headset? If that sounds close to most people's experiences thats weird to me because my vague visualizations seem to never interfere with my actual visual plane, but rather a more abstract in-brain space.

Love discussions like these, subjective experience is crazy.


Chiming in as someone with fairly strong visual imagery (I think...)

I think there are generally a variety of ways things can "appear". However it's never the same as true AR. For example, with true AR, you could be fooled into seeing something that's not there. But I can't fool myself (deliberately) with my own mental images.

Having said that, it subjectively feels like the stimulus originates in a different part of the brain at a low level, but eventually both "mental visual" and "true visual" stimulus are unified to some degree.

Like yes, I can visualize a ball in my hand, but it'll always be in a different layer from my actual visual input of my hand. Like two different layers in Photoshop.

Also, beyond the AR concept, one of my favored types of visualizations is what I call "playing myself a movie". It's pretty much what you would imagine, basically watching a movie with my mind's eye. I can watch the movie and look at "real things" at the same time. Works great for falling asleep as well.

I agree, it's a super fascinating discussion.


I've never had strong visual imagery, but recently I've been practicing visualizing mental images as well as attempting (and failing) to overlay those images over my vision.

Whenever I do visualize images, they feel as if they are positioned behind just my forehead or at the top of my head. Sometimes I imagine this as a sort of "canvas" on which I can imagine or draw images. With your example of visualizing a ball, the ball and my hand can be on the same "layer" on this canvas, but do not affect my vision at all.

What I find interesting is that I can actually move this canvas around spatially or create new ones. On each canvas for example, I can imagine a different rotating object. As well, each canvas retains its image as a form of short-term memory. So I can switch focus between different imagined images or compositions.

I'm curious - with more practice - how mental imagery can aid in memory. Recently I learned a song in a language I do not understand, and the words of the song would appear on my mind's "canvas" almost like karaoke or like reading off imaginary flashcards...

It's always interesting to read about how other people's experiences are similar or different to my own. The minds eye is endlessly interesting.


I have a very similar experience as you.

I like your description using multiple canvases.

Similarly, I described them as PIPs (Picture In Picture) but off screen canvases may be a better analogy.


> Like yes, I can visualize a ball in my hand, but it'll always be in a different layer from my actual visual input of my hand. Like two different layers in Photoshop.

This blows me away. It's absolutely stunning to me.

Really? That's so freakin' cool!


Yeah, differences are astounding. I, for example, can imagine a ball in my hand, but there's just, er, an idea of a ball in my hand, no colors, no textures, no outline, just a feeling where it is and vague imaginary weight.

I have to distract from looking at my hand, if I try to imagine the ball in more details.


That’s until you hit trance states of consciousness. Then perception of “reality” changes quite a bit.

My strongest experience of something like this was always when half-asleep on public transit, commuting home in the evening. Those rare times, I was indeed "tricked" by what amounted to a lucid dream.

I knew I was on a bus, because the sounds and feelings maintained continuity with reality. But the details I saw were completely made up. My eyes were closed, I think, but it didn't feel like that was connected to my ability to see. Because of the swaying motion of the bus, I knew where we were, and the scene I was "watching" was based on that. I was able to move, and think normally about my day, and did not notice that I had fallen asleep.

Of course, I eventually woke up. Reality was significantly less pleasant than my dream. The dream bus had been much less crowded, and clean, and generally more atmospheric and warm-toned, even the sunlight.

Does that sound similar to what you meant by trance consciousness?


Yeah it's weird; I have a fairly vivid recollection of a picture of page 606 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", in a blurry photograph taken against a carpet (this is where Snape kills Dumbledore); I can generally remember where on a page I read a passage in a book; but there's no way I "see" the page.

Ditto for other "visualized" things; I just have no idea whether the qualitative experience I have of "visualizing" things is anything like what other people do.

Whenever I read about this phenomenon, there doesn't seem to be a good quasi-objective metric of this subjective capability to visualize -- there's no test or questionnaire I can use to see how my abilities rate against others'.

I think there's room for some experimentation / science here and probably a viral online quiz that would get some lucky content creator a solid stream of interest for years.


> Whenever I read about this phenomenon, there doesn't seem to be a good quasi-objective metric of this subjective capability to visualize -- there's no test or questionnaire I can use to see how my abilities rate against others'.

There certainly is. The Vividness of Visual Imagery questionnaire, or VVIQ [1]. It's been referenced in most of the recent aphantasia research I've looked at.

[1] https://wh.snapsurveys.com/s.asp?k=148940557153


It looks like a good try, but I wouldn't call that "quasi-objective". The answers are highly subjective in my view. I just don't know how vivid the so-called mind images are supposed to be, so I don't know what the "scale" of the answers is.

This is interesting, thanks!

This describes my experience too. I remember books in general, as well as source code, by visual appearance of the pages of text and any illustrations, but without being able to 'see' them.

What I find doubly crazy is that this is an aspect of subjective experience that's relatively easy to describe, compared to others, and we're still only now realizing how much variation there is. I strongly suspect that the entire structure of thought varies greatly from person to person, but we're largely unaware of the differences because we've all implemented the same interface, so to speak.

Obviously subjective but I feel I have very strong mind's eye visualization.

For me it is not like AR.

It is kinda like PIP. Picture in Picture.

If my eyes are open while while visualizing the more deeper I go into the visualization the less my true visual field is apparent. If I get really deep into a visualization my true vision fades to almost nothing unless I am jerked back to visual reality by a loud sound or if the visualization exercise is over.

It seems more like working directly with the visual models that exist in my brain.

For example when you see a ball you see the object and it's light rays hit your eye then it goes to your brain. Your brain says, "that's a ball".

To know it's a ball the brain compares the object with it's model of ball. If it matches it must be a ball.

When visualizing it's like working with the basic model of what a ball is. I can slowly increase the detail of the visualization but there is an upper bound where other details start to disappear.

Honestly, after writing this I feel "simulation" is perhaps a better description than "visualization".


This is shockingly similar to my own mind's eye. In fact, I rely on it quite heavily in my day to day life. I need to visualize things in my mind in order to understand them -- whether if be a code structure, a system design, or a friend discussing their day.

It's so intense that I have to exert conscious effort in order to not get locked in a reverie. If I'm too deep in thought, I literally can't see anything. Not to confuse this with some AR type overlay, just that my focus in purely on the mental imagery to the exclusion of the outside world. Come to think of it, I wonder if this is something my brain developed as a coping mechanism, as I routinely sleep with my eyes open.

I also have absurdly vivid dreams that sometimes span multiple waking sessions; I liken them to movies.

On the other hand, and I believe a direct consequence this: I am absolutely horrible with directions -- and let's not even get started on my attention span.

I can only imagine how people with aphantasia experience the world. I wonder if they are more "present" than those without it.


Every time aphantasia comes up, I'm totally blown away by what people describe as their minds eye being.

It's sounds...so freakin' interesting, and it's always shocking to me that I went nearly 30 years before I found out that most people have this...cool superpower I never knew about.


the way you describe your experience matches mine. i often suspect that people who seem to describe the “augmented reality” version are just using the wrong words to describe what you and i are experiencing... seems impossible to imagine visualizations actually overlaying my visual field like AR!! are they for real?

> does it feel like the images are taking the same path as ones that actually hit the retina?

I can remember or imagine voices like they're really hitting my eardrums. The more familiar I am with the voice and especially with what it says (like phrases the person commonly says), the easier it is. I used to routinely say goodbye to my mother before leaving home every day, and on the days after she passed away I would remember her voice on leaving like she was really speaking to me. As time's passed though, my memory of her voice has faded somewhat, so I can't really do that now.

I have been able to imagine visualizations like I can really see them, but for that I need to be on the brink of sleeping. Right on the point that you can dream while still being aware of reality.


I’m the same with music. I can “hear” music played back in my head with every detail as though I’m listening to a recording. I can get the same rush as I do when listening to the actual recording, and I assume this massive reward I get from music has something to do with why I can remember it in such detail. No surprise that I’m also a musician.

I find that visualisation is unconscious. I can decide to focus on something and I have the feeling of a picture, rather than the picture itself. I can answer questions and gain an impression of where features of a picture are, but an image that I see somehow, not really. And if I shut my eyes, things are just black.

Agree. I can sort of apply algorithmic visual processes on images in my memory. Edge detection, object identification, primary color identification, etc.

Anything more than that seems to be primarily the domain of my actual visual system. I can observe things like light, shading, fine details when I'm actually looking at something but those are almost never present in "minds eye" visualization.

Maybe its because I've trained my minds eye to be a more abstract interface over the years. And by getting better at holding a complex system in spatial memory, the ties to the actual visual system are weaker.


I can certainly see imagery, but never to the level it becomes hallucinatory.

Instead, it feels more like a background process. The more I focus on a mental image the less I "see" the visual input to my retinas. I've attempted to figure out how many visual streams I can see at the same time and I struggle to imagine more than three. If I focus very intently on all of them it seems I don't see any of them in great detail.

Certainly if I block out my visual input or focus on some unchanging imagery it becomes far easier to make my mental imagery more intense and detailed, but they can also be disrupted quite easily again by some new visual stimuli or an errant thought.


I've got a similar issue visualising faces. Recognition is ok most of the time but it often feels like I'm using other cues more to differentiate between people. I can visualise things but like you it's hazy and never fully formed. I've often wondered if this might be affecting my dev work - people describe so much of what we do in terms of how we visualise things.

Blake Ross (co-founder of Mozilla) has a great post about his journey with Aphantasia here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-...



^^^ This is an excellent and very funny read.

I used to know a girl who I suspect might have some kind of "hyper-phantasia." She said that when she thought back on memories it was literally like hitting the rewind button on a VCR.


My ex made me realize I had this a few years ago. It was like everyone here says, the literallity of seeing things in my mind escaped me. I'd always assumed sayings like counting sheep were just metaphorical.

It kind of goes to show you how moritifyingly behind we are in understanding and articulating our cognition. Autism was right up there until a few years ago. I believe there's a lot we still have to open up to ourselves. I'm not religious, but maybe exploration of the self and mind is more warranted than our society currently expresses. Of course, it's easy to slip into quackery, but I almost wonder if it'd be worth a few more nut jobs if we collectively self analyzed more deeply. Maybe there's a lot out there to our happiness and evolution were missing out on if it's taken this long to realize there's a sizeable number of people who can't sense internally.

Funny side note - despite having Aphantasia I have two degrees in physics. I could never follow in class (literally couldn't imagine what the prof was trying to hand model) and animated gifs made everything instantly understandable. The agony I felt in those programs seemed a little more justified after I was told about Aphantasia. A little.


This reminded me that when I try to imagine things while almost sleeping the imagination will be actively sabotaged unless I focus very hard to wressle back control.

If I'm thinking of a plane flying it will spin out of control, if I'm thinking of sheep jumping over a fence they will stop moving or the fence will fall over.


I always wondered why people would suggest "counting sheep" as it seemed like something that'd keep me awake rather than feel sleepy. I seem to have some form of aphantasia as I can only conjure up very disjointed and foggy images with no real details.

So imagining not only one sheep but a number of sheep on a field jumping over a fence is something I can only just barely approximate with such considerable mental effort that it even makes me feel slightly anxious. This seems entirely unlike what the exercise apparently is meant to accomplish.


If you’re willing to share, what are your dreams like?

That's a super interesting question to me.

I would describe myself as having essentially no mind's eye. I don't "visualize" anything, ever. If I imagine a tree (or someone asks me to visualize one) I mostly have descriptive words, but no "images".

But I can dream, and that definitely is a distinctively visual experience. Does that mean, when someone asks you to "visualize" something, you have an visual experience akin to dreaming?


Not the parent commenter, but I also have very limited visual imagery. It is extremely rare for me to be aware of having had a dream (maybe once a year or so). When I do though, I certainly remember 'seeing' things.

For the most part I don't dream :/ Though I can sometimes experience a flash of a scene in my dreams. Or at least it feels that way - I think there's a distinction on that that this science is still missing.

> I'm not religious, but maybe exploration of the self and mind is more warranted than our society currently expresses. Of course, it's easy to slip into quackery, but I almost wonder if it'd be worth a few more nut jobs if we collectively self analyzed more deeply.

I think I get what you're saying, but I'm bewildered why recommending more philosophy within society warrants insulting people who are religious, grouping religion with quackery, and grouping philosophy with quackery. I'm not religious either but this was a weird direction to go with your point.


I'm more saying religion has been the traditional way we explored the mind and "spirit" or whatever but as we move out of religion we now have a void. Most people just aren't purely philosophical, so what I usually see these days is hippie shit like how crystals heals your mind. I'd recommend more philosophy but I'm also a realist and a lifetime of trying to convince ppl to engage philosophy has left me to believe it's a lost cause. So instead maybe Wed make it simpler than philosophy and do more exploration inwards.

I find the terminology around this to be so vague as to be meaningless. Rather than using the words "image", "visualize", or "see" I'd rather use the more specific term "hallucinate", or to "see something that is not actually there". To those in this thread that do not consider themselves to be aphantasic I would propose this question: in your mind's eye, whatever that means to you, imagine a sphere or a barn or whatever physical object is easiest between you and your screen. What are its qualities? Is it opaque, translucent, transparent? Does it obscure the text on the screen? Or can you only hallucinate the object with your eyes closed? Or do you not hallucinate it at all?

Personally, I can imagine my apartment in detail down to the relative placements of most objects, proportions, the colors, the way the wind enters if the window is opened. I can do similar for past apartments going back 8 years as well as my parent's home. Hell, I can imagine the Reno's steakhouse from my hometown that I haven't been to in over 13 years in much the same way.

I do not consider myself to have aphantasia, however none of the "visualizations" I mentioned are hallucinations as some comments in this thread imply. I do not perceive them with any of my senses, including visual, as if I was there now. Rather it is more of a complex conceptualization in my mind.


While I understand the desire to use less vague terminology, to hallucinate usually implies that it is done involuntarily.

Based on your description of your abilities, have you considered that what you're describing is spatial thinking, rather than visual imagery? It is common for people with aphantasia to retain strong spatial cognition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29175093

https://scholarscompass.vcu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=...


I get what OP means by bringing up the term though. I'd love to ask the visual thinkers in the thread if they have voluntary hallucinations.

It's why I tried the Augmented Reality methaphor in another comment. Something that your visual system is processing but isn't actually there.


Point taken. Merriam-Webster says "usually arising from disorder of the nervous system or in response to drugs (such as LSD)" so I take "usually" to mean not always.

Regardless I hope the distinction I was drawing comes across clearly.

Regarding spacial thinking, yes it seems fairly accurate however where I would expect it to break down would be recollection of colors, touch, sounds, tastes, or smells. But I don't feel I experience such a breakdown in ability to recall those either albeit in the same conceptualized not-connected-to-my-realtime-senses way.

Out of the examples given in this thread I would say faces are the most challenging object to recall. Though, depending on the distinction of the features I can also do that without much difficulty.


> where I would expect it to break down would be recollection of colors...

Could that not be explained by simply storing that information as "textual" data? As in: using spatial imagery to recall the layout of a room, and basic knowledge to recall the color of the walls.

> ...touch, sounds, tastes, or smells.

These other senses are considered separate from the topic of Aphantasia. It seems there are many people with good visual imagery, but none of the other senses... as well as people with zero visual imagery, but some or all of the other senses.

I have zero across the board, unfortunately.

Could you explain your taste or smell imagery? My recollection only goes as far as "I remember liking this dish more than most things".


Perhaps I have overblown the ability to recall taste or smell, or at least it was incorrect to say there isn't some level of breakdown in comparison to the spatial/visual recollection we were discussing.

In general, I think of it in the terms you might hear someone on the food network describe a dish. "High notes", "low notes", "mellow", "pungent". On Sunday I made biscuits and sawmill gravy (good southern boy that I am). Sawmill gravy has a distinct profile, it's a base of nutty/earthy from the roux and peppery. I start describing the constituent parts, however if you asked me to describe "peppery" now it's getting more difficult. The only way I would have to describe it would be how your tongue and throat burns when you taste it.

You can see I'm getting more vague and conceptual.

It's entirely possible that as you say this is just "textual" data, however that feels like a drab description of what feels to me like a more vivid experience. It feels as if there "more to it" than just recalling information.

Unrelated, but I also think it's interesting how as we start talking about other senses how entangled memory is. We aren't talking about a nondescript sphere hallucination in my visual field anymore, but rather a memory of my Sunday brunch. When I imagine the smell of beer I inevitably will recall the last time I was at the bar with some mates and the spatial/visual memory of that space as well as my emotional state, etc.


I have posted this further up already and hate to repost it but this comment warrants a proper response because the use of the term hallucination is seriously misguided.

A hallucination is a perception in the absence of external stimulus that has qualities of real perception. Hallucinations are vivid, substantial, and are perceived to be located in external objective space. They are distinguishable from several related phenomena, such as dreaming, which does not involve wakefulness; pseudohallucination, which does not mimic real perception, and is accurately perceived as unreal; illusion, which involves distorted or misinterpreted real perception; and imagery, which does not mimic real perception and is under voluntary control.[1] Hallucinations also differ from "delusional perceptions", in which a correctly sensed and interpreted stimulus (i.e., a real perception) is given some additional (and typically absurd) significance. , from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucination


That sounds very similar to my experience. Memories in my head can be made up of visual data, but once that data is encoded it doesn't seem to have any interaction with the sensory system.

Imagination lets me recreate the scene, object or face in my mind in order to probe and ask questions, but it no longer seems linked to my senses.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: