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nichii

Aphantasia: Inability to see mental images

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nichii

I saw a post on Facebook about this and thought I should share since it seems like something some of us might have. Alphantasia is a neurological condition that recently was given a name. There seems to be barely any information on it, but I found an article about it that I'll link below. Basically, Aphantasia is the inability to picture an image in your head. Like if someone showed someone with Aphantasia a banana and asked them to close their eyes and picture it, they wouldn't be able to.

 

I've had this problem for a long time, but I had no idea there was a name for it. If I close my eyes and try to picture anything, I can't do it. I can get a sense of how something will look, but my mind can't fully picture it. Even though I have this problem, I still spend a lot of time fantasizing about lots of different stuff, but my fantasies are never very detailed. They're sort of distorted. I can only picture parts of something or what I'm picturing is sort of faded or hard to visualize. I have to really strain my brain just to picture anything. Does anyone else have this problem? 

 

 

Here's the article about Aphantasia: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/science/aphantasia-minds-eye-blind.html?_r=0

 

 

EDIT: Here's the picture I found on Facebook about this.

 

aphantasia.jpg

Edited by nichii

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(deleted)

Aspies have always had a reputation of being good visual thinkers and having a good ability to picture stuff in their minds, but now that you mention this it does make sense as well. I think I might experience this issue as well now that you mention it, in two forms:

 

1. Most similar to what you have described, often my mental images are kind of blurred or faint ina  way. It's difficult to describe, but the best description that I've come out for it is a mixture between blurred and low resolution - like looking at something on a very old and small computer monitor.

 

2. I also find that my mental images get "corrupted" easily - I always assumed by stray distracting thoughts and sensory input. Using your example of a bana, the bana that I'm picturing might suddenly turn red, or become a bird. Or maybe it's astill a bana, but it's flying through the air with a weird kind of jumping motion even though I'm trying to picture it lying on a table.

 

It's kind of difficult to describe these experiences, but they definitely seem like what you are describing. I find that it is necessary to concentrate very hard on the picture to make it "stay correct" (as it were) or to make it "high resolution" (in that there's enough detail for it to be useful, and for me to not feel like I'm squinting through the viewfinder on an old film camera). I have always found this mental energy quite tiring, and thought I was an odd one out because of how aspies are always supposed to be good at these things.

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Whoknows

I do not have aphantasia.  :)  I have FANTASIA or toofantasia, and I don't need to close my eyes. :lol:

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Nesf

No, I don't have this problem - I have a good visual memory. I have difficulty remembering faces, though.

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CrohnicallyAwkward

I struggle with faces, but otherwise have a pretty good visual memory.

After looking at the article though, it seems that the researchers have made a few assumptions about what constitutes a 'visual' problem to solve. For example, the windows problem, I wouldn't solve it at all by imagining my house, I would go through the rooms in my house in a sort of checklist, knowing that each has 1 window. So a facts based approach.

I remember one experiment that I did in psychology, that involved an image of the letter 'R' in different rotations (so sideways and upside down) and you had to decide if it was the right way round or a mirror image. The results suggested that people mentally rotated the letter back to upright before deciding if it was the correct way, as when the 'R' was rotated further from upright, people took longer to answer (so if it was only rotated by 10 degrees people were really quick, they took longer when it was rotated 180 degrees, ie upside down). I would like to see how people with aphantasia did on this task.

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Auletes

I don't have that as well. I "see" emotions very clear.

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RiRi

I don't think I have this, my images are never like seeing a tv or a screen, but I can picture and imagine things. This just made me wonder how people picture things in their minds, like what it is exactly that they see, whether it's a low resolution picture or high resolution. It's just a weird thought, never thought of it. 

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CrohnicallyAwkward

If something pops into my mind of its own accord, it tends to be a high def image, almost photographic (at least the part I was focusing on at the time is, things around the edge are harder to see clearly).

However, if I consciously try to picture something, it tends to be much lower resolution, more like an old video tape, the edges are blurred and colours aren't so vivid. Like I said, faces particularly are bad, I mean I could describe my husband to you but I can't really see him in my mind (and we've been together over a decade). I probably couldn't picture my parents' or brothers' faces either BUT I can picture some photos- those that are on display in our homes so I see them regularly- in high def.

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(deleted)

I actually wonder sometimes if this has anything to do with my desire to be blind...

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SeanS

I have this. Like CrohnicallyAwkward if a memory pops into my head on its own I can picture it clearly. If I try to focus on the memory it loses its clarity and the harder I try to 'see' it the 'darker' it gets. If I deliberately try recall a memory I see it as though from a distance and through a dirty window.

 

Trying to visualise something requires a huge mental effort. When I was a child I had problems with insomnia and the advice I got from my parents was to imagine sheep jumping a fence. I had to create the scene in my head piece by piece. I had to think about where I had seen a fence that would fit the scene and I sort of transplanted that fence from a memory into the scene I was building in my head. With the sheep I had to recall the image of the sheep running into the scene each time I needed a new sheep to jump the fence. While this was exhausting it didn't help me sleep at all. As I think about it now the scene looks exactly the same as it during childhood, as do each of the sheep.

 

More recently I was trying to draw a sequence of moves from Brazilian Jujitsu ( a wrestling martial art that I used to train) and I tried to visualise in my head two people performing the techniques. I literally had to 'draw' the people into a scene in my mind. To create the scene I looked at the patio I was sitting in and tried to record every detail. I closed my eyes and recalled the image of the patio. Next I had to create each of the people's heads right down to their hair, eyes, etc. I then visualised their necks shoulders, arms and torsos. It looked similar to drawing something in Microsoft Paint. I never got as far as their legs, they look sort of like the ghosts in the movie Casper. As I recall the images now they look like childlike caricatures. Interestingly I only had to create them once, now whenever I want to visualise two people doing Brazilian JuJitsu techniques I am able to use that same scene, it as though I run a software program in my mind. I can make parts of the figures more detailed if I want, but the mental effort required doesn't seem worth it as the images are good enough to do the job. I used to think it must be like that for everyone.

 

I also have prosopagnosia. I can only recall the faces of people I have spent a lot of time with, and even then if I focus on the image becomes blurry and grey and then vanishes.

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