Imagine These Experiments Inwards Aphantasia

When you lot hear the give-and-take “apple”, create you lot pic a Red Delicious apple tree or a greenish Granny Smith? Or neither, because you lot can't conjure upwards a visual epitome of an apple tree (or of anything else, for that matter)?
Aphantasia is the inability to generate visual images, which tin plough over notice endure a congenital condition or acquired later encephalon injury (Farah, 1984). The most smasher aspect of this variation inwards mental life is that those of us alongside imagery assume that everyone else has it, piece those without are flabbergasted when they larn that other people tin plough over notice “see” pictures inwards their head.

Programming prodigy Blake Ross created a sensation latterly alongside his eloquent essay on what's it's similar to let on that all your friends aren't speaking metaphorically when they say, “I meet a beach alongside waves in addition to sand.”

Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind

I simply learned something almost you lot in addition to it is blowing my goddamned mind.
. . .

Here it is: You tin plough over notice visualize things inwards your mind.

If I tell you lot to imagine a beach, you lot tin plough over notice pic the golden sand in addition to turquoise waves. If I inquire for a ruby triangle, your hear gets to drawing. And mom’s face? Of course.
. . .

I don’t. I receive got never visualized anything inwards my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s human face upwards or a bouncing bluish ball, my childhood chamber or the run I went on 10 minutes ago. I idea “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m xxx years onetime in addition to I never knew a human could create whatever of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.

It's worth reading Ross's trouble organisation human relationship inwards its entirety to hit insight into the vast private variation inwards our internal mental lives.

Although the term aphantasia is novel (coined past times Zeman et al., 2015), the status isn't; Francis Galton published a newspaper on the Statistics of Mental Imagery inwards 1880. Similar to Ross, many of Galton's sec friends (male scientists) were shocked to larn that others had imagery:1 
To my astonishment, I industrial plant life that the neat bulk of the men of scientific discipline to whom I kickoff applied, protested that mental imagery was unknown to them, in addition to they looked on me equally fanciful in addition to fantastic inwards supposing that the words 'mental imagery' actually expressed what I believed everybody supposed them to mean. They had no to a greater extent than notion of its truthful nature than a colour-blind human being who has non discerned his defect has of the nature of colour. They had a mental deficiency of which they were unaware, in addition to naturally plenty supposed that those who were usually endowed, were romancing.

The nature of mental images has been a topic of philosophical debate inwards cognitive scientific discipline since the 1970s. Are mental images quasi-perceptual representations that activate visual areas of the encephalon (Kosslyn in addition to colleagues), or non-pictorial, abstract, symbolic descriptions (Zenon Pylyshyn)? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Mental Imagery provides an indispensable background on the philosophical, theoretical, in addition to empirical debates inwards the field. As well, extensive enquiry on private differences inwards mental imagery (e.g., Kosslyn et al., 1984) tin plough over notice inform novel studies on aphantasics.

Aphantasia in addition to Paivio's Dual Coding Theory

To investigate the purpose of imagery inwards verbal memory, I advise a render to classic cognitive psychology experiments of the 1970s. Alan Paivio's Dual Coding Theory specifies 2 types of mental representations, or codes, for words in addition to mental images (Paivio, 1971). The verbal code in addition to imagery code are both activated past times pictures, which tin plough over notice trouble organisation human relationship for the picture superiority effect: pictures are meliorate remembered than their verbal referents (i.e., words). The pic superiority resultant should endure abolished inwards those who cannot generate visual images.2

Even more interestingly, words that are highly imageable (concrete nouns similar elephant) are meliorate remembered than words that are rated depression inwards imageability (abstract nouns similar criterion). The master copy ratings from 1968 in addition to the expanded 2004 version (concreteness, imageability, meaningfulness, familiarity) are available online: Clark in addition to Paivio (2004) Norms. Lists of high in addition to depression imageable nouns that are carefully matched on other lexical factors (e.g., issue of letters, give-and-take frequency, complexity) tin plough over notice endure presented inwards a retention test. The recognition retention (or gratis recall) wages for concrete, highly imageable words should endure diminished or abolished inwards relation to self-reported imagery abilities.

I believe this experiment would address the objection of blog comments, joined Facebook groups in addition to other communities, taken surveys, in addition to of course of teaching contacted Dr. Zeman, the sample size powerfulness endure quite respectable.


1 Aphantasia seems bizarrely overrepresented inwards Galton's cronies. Here's his explanation:
My ain determination is, that an over-readiness to perceive clear mental pictures is antagonistic to the acquirement of habits of highly generalised in addition to abstract thought, in addition to that if the faculty of producing them was e'er possessed past times men who think hard, it is really apt to endure lost past times disuse. The highest minds are in all likelihood those inwards which it is non lost, but subordinated, in addition to is laid upwards for utilisation on suitable occasions. 
2 Of banking concern annotation here, closed to alongside aphantasia study severe deficits inwards autobiographical memory.

ADDENDUM (May sixteen 2016): meet this website on Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM) - enquiry conducted past times medico Brian Levine.


Farah MJ. (1984). The neurological footing of mental imagery: H5N1 componential analysis. Cognition 18:245-72.

GALTON, F. (1880). I.--STATISTICS OF MENTAL IMAGERY Mind, os-V (19), 301-318 DOI: 10.1093/mind/os-V.19.301

Kosslyn SM, Brunn J, Cave KR, Wallach RW. (1984). Individual differences inwards mental imagery ability: a computational analysis. Cognition 18:195-243.

Paivio A. (1969). Mental imagery inwards associative learning in addition to memory. Psychological Review 76: 241-263.

Paivio A. (1971, 2013). Imagery in addition to verbal processes. Holt, Rinehart & Winston / Psychology Press.

Zeman, A., Dewar, M., & Della Sala, S. (2015). Lives without imagery – Congenital aphantasia Cortex, 73, 378-380 DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.05.019

ADDENDUM (May 7 2016): via @vaughanbell, a novel review article past times the University of Exeter grouping (part of their project, The Eye's Mind):

MacKisack M, Aldworth S, Macpherson F, Onians J, Winlove C, Zeman A. (2016). On Picturing a Candle: The Prehistory of Imagery Science. Front Psychol. 7:515.

Not alone Galton, Paivio, Kosslyn, in addition to Pylyshyn but likewise Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, in addition to more.

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