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Discussion Starter #1
I discovered a few years ago that other people can actually see things in their head and I can't.

As far as I know the condition didn't have a name until 2015 when a team at the University of Exeter Medical School decided to call it 'aphantasia' (from the Greek, meaning "absence of fantasy").


Blake Ross (co-creator of Firefox) just discovered this fact about himself and did a nice write-up on it here:

Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind


I have never visualized anything in my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on ten minutes ago. I thought “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m 30 years old and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.
 

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What are your memories like? I know that one of the guys who was linked to in the other thread said that he has fewer distinct memories than everyone else and he thinks that has to do with not having a mind's eye.

Do you also lack the ability to 'sense' other things in your mind, like can you imagine the taste of pizza or hear the Star Wars theme song in your head right now?
 

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This is the first time I've heard of it. My first question was about if your dreams are different but I see it was already answered:

8. Do you dream?
No, or I don’t recall them. I’ve had a couple dreams but there was no visual or sensory component to them. When I woke up, I just knew a list of “plot points” about things that happened. This is also how I digest fiction.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
What are your memories like? I know that one of the guys who was linked to in the other thread said that he has fewer distinct memories than everyone else and he thinks that has to do with not having a mind's eye.

Do you also lack the ability to 'sense' other things in your mind, like can you imagine the taste of pizza or hear the Star Wars theme song in your head right now?
I'm finding it very difficult to answer that question.

In the world of sensory experience things are divided and distinct. Sight is one thing and hearing is another. Seeing is not hearing and hearing is not seeing.

Touch is one thing and smell is another. The feeling of my hand in water is not the same thing as the smell of spring.

In my day-to-day experience these things are all clearly distinguishable. I experience them as separate things and I have no trouble discerning one thing from another.

But in my memories everything is combined into a single thing. The memory may not necessarily include all the senses, but of the senses each memory includes they are somehow united into a single instantaneous and comprehensible feeling-meaning object.

By 'instantaneous' I mean if I had a red-hot skillet and I dropped the tiniest droplet of water into the skillet, the memory would evaporate more quickly than the droplet of water.

The memories, as experienced, have the invisibleness of a feeling but the content of the feeling can include things like facial expressions, bodily movements, vocal tonality, sounds, internal bodily 'energetic' patterns, and what 'feels like' imagery. It's difficult to describe.

Most of the memories are situations where someone's heart felt off-balance. Either my own heart or somebody else's. A small percentage of the memories are instances where someone's heart shined particularly brightly.

I've been sitting here for the last hour and I haven't found one memory that isn't feeling-centered. The feeling content is the primary element in the memory.

I cannot imagine or remember the taste of pizza but I can experience cravings for pizza. I can feel like I'm in the mood for a pizza.

I can hear the Star Wars theme but it's only clear for a second or two. After that it runs off the rails and things become very vague or difficult to 'hear' in my mind's ear. It's clear enough that I could peck out the notes on a piano and you'd recognize it as the Star Wars theme.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This is the first time I've heard of it. My first question was about if your dreams are different but I see it was already answered:
I do dream and I remember a lot of dreams. Sometimes the dreams are vivid and full color and sometimes I'm blind in the dream or I'm wandering in the dark. I don't know if that's an aphantasia thing though.

I keep a dream log. If I read one of the entries from 10 years ago I feel like I have access to the feeling and memory of the dream as if I just woke up from the dream 10 seconds ago. It's right there. Very near.

Sometimes immediately after waking I can 'scan' my visual field and 'pull' extra dream content through into this world. It's like I'm struggling to remember a dream I know I had and if I can locate the right region in my field of awareness I can make it so more of the dream material flows into my conscious awareness. Again, I don't know if that has anything to do with the aphantasia.

He says in the comments:

Yeah, a bunch of people have pointed this out. I don't know why I assumed that that part of the experience was universal even as I was discovering that other parts were not.
 

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This part also made me laugh:

10. How do you masturbate?
Welp, I just learned a lot about how you masturbate.
--------------------
Anyways, thanks for answering my question. It's interesting to see how your experience (like with dreaming) is still different than others.
 

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But in my memories everything is combined into a single thing. The memory may not necessarily include all the senses, but of the senses each memory includes they are somehow united into a single instantaneous and comprehensible feeling-meaning object.

By 'instantaneous' I mean if I had a red-hot skillet and I dropped the tiniest droplet of water into the skillet, the memory would evaporate more quickly than the droplet of water.
Interesting. I was surprised by the memory thing, because blind people have just as good memories while obviously not being visual. So its not like visual imagery should be essential to memory.

Have you ever had any reason to think your memories were poorer than other peoples'?
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Whoa! What do you do in your brain all day? And is reading a fiction book the same for you as for the writer of the article?
What do I do in my brain all day? To some extent I feel like the world is my mind. What comes to me through my eyes is what my mind is.

One of the benefits of my condition, as I see it, is that I am to some degree locked into the present moment.

I've never been able to daydream or escape into a fantasy land. I have no mind's eye images which can distract my attention from the moment.

I'm here. It is now. I am real-time.

The moment has this pristine, ultra-clarity that I feel a lot of people miss because they're always looking at imagery in their mind.

Visualizers seem to 'go blind' to portions of their field of experience while they are visualizing. To my eyes they experience a kind of 'blindness to the moment' while they are in the activity of imagination. But I could be mistaken about that. That's just how it seems from my point of view, looking from the outside.

My experience of reading fiction is not quite so sterile as Blake Ross' description but a lot of fiction is pretty boring for me due to the lack of visualization ability. Mostly I see the intentions and feelings of the author and most fiction writers feel uninspired in their writing to me. Reading Lord of the Rings was still a great experience for me. Dune is still awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Interesting. I was surprised by the memory thing, because blind people have just as good memories while obviously not being visual. So its not like visual imagery should be essential to memory.

Have you ever had any reason to think your memories were poorer than other peoples'?
I'm quite bad at remembering names and which names goes with which face, but other than that, I rarely feel like my memory is poor or limited.

I can see how my memory might seem poor to someone operating on a visualizer paradigm but I generally don't find myself limited by it.

I'll remember the emotional character of everyone in the room at an event but I won't remember their names.

I'll remember the words and the subtle shifts in vocal tonality that went with the words. I'll remember the facial expressions.

I'll remember the particular ways people move their hands when they talk, down to the finger. I'll remember the patterns of tension in their faces. I'll remember the asymmetries in their eyeballs and how those asymmetries were modified when certain combinations of words were spoken.

I'll remember which side of their mouth they favor when they speak and the asymmetries in the curvature of their lips. I'll remember what perturbs them emotionally. I'll remember where they are vulnerable. I'll remember what they love and I'll remember what made them light up.

But I won't remember any of their names. Who was at the event? "I have no idea. Some people."
 

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Sometimes I wonder what that must be like. There are days that will slip by where I can't get out of my head, lol.
 

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This is all very interesting. Do you remember the moment in which you discovered that others could visualize and you couldn't? What was that like for you? And how did you come to this realization?

I have learned that some people think in words, some in symbols or pictures, and others in both. What goes on in your mind when you think? For example, my own inner musings are formed of images and symbols, not words. At times, this can make verbal communication difficult for me because these symbols and organization of images have meaning to me but cannot be readily translated into speech.
 

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You wrote a very interesting description of your cognitive processes. It made me think.

But that diagnostic of “aphantasia” seems to me confusing because, after all, what you describe it’s imagery, albeit manifested as an evanescent synthesis of images (and by images I mean not only visual images, but auditive, olfactive etc.). I suppose that the difference is that yours are fugacious and you can’t have them as an object of contemplation.

It intrigued me particularly what you said about your memories related to felt off balance hearts! I'd like that you told more about that

By the way, time ago I also thought that my own faculty of imagining was very weak or even blocked at all. Now I know that I can ease an unblock for that capacity. For example, conditions that unvoice my senses do the trick. I practised in between sleeping, noticing hypnagogyc/hypnopompic images and trying to modulate them

I’m inclined to think that, like me, you couldn’t be completely unable of imagining in the sense that you think you lack. I guess there could be ways to de-comprime that chunks of memory. That could demand practice (if you are interested at all).
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
This is all very interesting. Do you remember the moment in which you discovered that others could visualize and you couldn't? What was that like for you? And how did you come to this realization?

I have learned that some people think in words, some in symbols or pictures, and others in both. What goes on in your mind when you think? For example, my own inner musings are formed of images and symbols, not words. At times, this can make verbal communication difficult for me because these symbols and organization of images have meaning to me but cannot be readily translated into speech.
I took psychedelics (psilocybin and N,N-DMT) in my 20s with the intent of experiencing visions and I never saw anything. That was my first major clue that something was off.

Later on I stumbled across this website and that's when I had the "holy shit" realization.

What goes on in my mind when I think? It's difficult for me to describe and feel like I'm doing it justice. I don't feel very satisfied with the descriptions I'm giving.

From a previous post of mine:

"Spin. Flow. Rotation. Spheres. Organic machinery. Floating. Porcelain-like. Mercury-like. Reflective. Light.

A garden of light designed by Peter Carl Fabergé where the plants and animals inhabiting the garden are made out of living feeling.

It is imbued with emotion and meaning as it moves so it's an alive sphere, it's an alive porcelain space-toy. It's not simply an image."
It's very fluid and mercurial. This post may help shed some light on the subject.
 

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What do I do in my brain all day? To some extent I feel like the world is my mind. What comes to me through my eyes is what my mind is.

One of the benefits of my condition, as I see it, is that I am to some degree locked into the present moment.

I've never been able to daydream or escape into a fantasy land. I have no mind's eye images which can distract my attention from the moment.

I'm here. It is now. I am real-time.

The moment has this pristine, ultra-clarity that I feel a lot of people miss because they're always looking at imagery in their mind.

Visualizers seem to 'go blind' to portions of their field of experience while they are visualizing. To my eyes they experience a kind of 'blindness to the moment' while they are in the activity of imagination. But I could be mistaken about that. That's just how it seems from my point of view, looking from the outside.

My experience of reading fiction is not quite so sterile as Blake Ross' description but a lot of fiction is pretty boring for me due to the lack of visualization ability. Mostly I see the intentions and feelings of the author and most fiction writers feel uninspired in their writing to me. Reading Lord of the Rings was still a great experience for me. Dune is still awesome.
That's true in the sense that too much imagination is bad and most people fantasize too much, but no imagination is not the optimal vantage point. Having the adequate amount of fantasizing is very good and helpful.

5 ways daydreaming is good for you | MNN - Mother Nature Network
The Importance of Daydreaming

So at least try not to completely dismiss trying to regain your minds eye. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
It intrigued me particularly what you said about your memories related to felt off balance hearts! I'd like that you told more about that
I have not yet found a memory without a noticeable feeling component.

It's like driving a car and every time the car hits a bump in the road a memory is formed. The 'bumps' are instances where my heart felt affected.

When the road is smooth no memories are formed. I have no recollection of driving on a smooth road. The memories are all experiences of bumpy roads.

I'll continue to pay special attention to my memories but in the last couple hours I haven't found any memories where the emotional component is not the strongest aspect of the memory.


By the way, time ago I also thought that my own faculty of imagining was very weak or even blocked at all. Now I know that I can ease an unblock for that capacity. For example, conditions that unvoice my senses do the trick. I practised in between sleeping, noticing hypnagogyc/hypnopompic images and trying to modulate them

I’m inclined to think that, like me, you couldn’t be completely unable of imagining in the sense that you think you lack. I guess there could be ways to de-comprime that chunks of memory. That could demand practice (if you are interested at all).
I don't know how I would even go about trying to get an image to form.

There's no screen. It's not a black screen. It's an absence of a screen.

I put serious effort into doing visualization exercises a few years ago with no results.

If you have any suggestions I haven't tried then I'll try them but as of yet I've been unable to get any kind of imagery happening.
 

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I don't think I can "regain" it since I don't recall ever having the ability in the first place. I would like it very much if I could acquire the ability.
Yeah I spent a good minute questioning whether I should really use the word 'regain' but I don't know, it felt appropriate.

EDIT: Perhaps I chose it because it sounded more comforting, like if you were to 'regain' rather than 'aquire' it would sort of make you feel that something was rightfully yours
 
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I can relate to some extent. I guess I have a canvas, but the images are hazy and don't linger for long.

I loved LOTR growing up but it never occurred to me to imagine what the characters look like. I only realised in my 30s that people generally experience fiction visually. In his "assassin" example, my mind would focus on the sound of the words and the flow of the language but it wouldn't picture an actual assassin; the experience would be more musical than visual. I also virtually never remember my dreams, and the few times I do, the memory isn't visual.

Interesting. There probably is a spectrum of experiences, with most people being relatively visual (humans are a very visual species). I guess you and the author are at the other extreme, i.e. no visuals. Ni probably makes it even more fun.

Edit: I just re-read the Dune a week ago. I really like the sound of "aquiline", and I sat in my bed, repeating "aquiline, aquiline, aquiline..." in my mind. Such a woody kind of word. I never pictured Paul Atreides though, and even now I struggle to imagine what an "aquiline" face actually looks like (and I haven't formed any imagery of Dune or its characters while thoroughly enjoying the book). Googling it only helps while I'm looking at an actual picture; as soon as it's gone, so's the image in my mind.
 
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I'd heard about this... but wow, so interesting to hear from an INFJ who's mind works this way.
My first thought was, "Wow, Ni is so visual, how does it work?!" and then it's very interesting to see your explanations.

Dario Nardi in his book, Neuroscience of Personality... says INFJ's and INTJ's are the most internally visual of all types.

It would be neat if you could talk to him about participating in one of his studies, and see what your brain is doing instead when you're using Ni !!


What do I do in my brain all day? To some extent I feel like the world is my mind. What comes to me through my eyes is what my mind is.

One of the benefits of my condition, as I see it, is that I am to some degree locked into the present moment.

I've never been able to daydream or escape into a fantasy land. I have no mind's eye images which can distract my attention from the moment.

I'm here. It is now. I am real-time.

The moment has this pristine, ultra-clarity that I feel a lot of people miss because they're always looking at imagery in their mind.

Wow. That's amazing.

I can only be "here" present in the exact sensing moment, when my Se kicks in.


Visualizers seem to 'go blind' to portions of their field of experience while they are visualizing. To my eyes they experience a kind of 'blindness to the moment' while they are in the activity of imagination. But I could be mistaken about that. That's just how it seems from my point of view, looking from the outside.

That's exactly how it is for me.
I am very, very, "not really there" and live out of my head.
Ni is always churning around producing stuff... so even while writing these few sentences, my eyes unfocused several times and the world faded out as images came to me while I'm writing.


It's one of the reasons I've always loved a good fiction novel, but I can imagine that you'd get a lot more out of movies than I would, since I don't concentrate on them enough :O
 
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