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Do You Have a "Mind's Eye?"

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#1 TVCasualty


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Posted 08 June 2021 - 09:11 AM

Apparently some people do not.


I didn't realize that that was even a valid question until reading out about aphantasia and hyperphantasia this morning.


I was under the impression that everyone thinks in pictures. That may not be the case. Or perhaps the conception of what constitutes "imagery" needs to be updated.


The implications for psychedelics could be significant.


This phenomenon might explain some major subjective differences in reported experiences (among other things, like why some people just never liked reading fiction). It might explain a lot about your life in general (read the linked article for how). It might explain why some people are prone to difficult experiences, or why some people think tripping is the best thing ever and others can take it or leave it.



On the other hand, I'm still skeptical that people with aphantasia don't actually experience ANY internal visual imagery at all since it could be the case that they are interpreting what's going on in there as a tactile sensation (or olfactory, or aural) in addition to a visual one since anecdotes from people reporting aphantasia include comments like "feeling the shape of an apple in the dark" (when asked to imagine an apple) or like it was “thinking only in radio.” Well how did they know it was "dark?"


"Thinking in radio" is intriguing, though.


How would someone keep track of an audio "field" of memories in their "mind's ear" (I guess)? My real or imagined visual field in front of me is populated by objects located in real or imagined space and their relationships are partly a function of where they are located in that space. I'd be very curious to know how that might be accomplished without the use of any imagery.


Synesthesia comes to mind (so to speak) as a possible explanation for how that might work. Maybe some people experience synesthesia that's dominated by imagery and others experience it dominated by other senses? In that case there would still be a visual element, but it would be subtle and easily assumed to be missing. I suspect that most of our mental imagery is abstract and so doesn't "look" like a conventional picture, so either we all think in images at some level or else we need to reevaluate our assumptions about what a "thought" or a "memory" are, or are made of, or something.



Hyperphantasia seems like what someone like Alex Gray would have, and might explain why some people can "bring back" psychedelic/dream/visionary imagery from tripping or deep contemplation or just letting their imagination go wild to the degree that they can reproduce it in fine detail. I always wondered how some artists could do that; I can recognize psychedelic-inspired imagery but I can't draw it for shit.


I guess I'm somewhere in the middle of the mental imagery bell curve. I'd be curious to know where y'all fall on the spectrum; do you see vivid images in your mind's eye? Or do you perceive thoughts and memories some other way?



This NY Time article is fascinating (and is the source of the quotes above), and the comments are no less so so be sure to read those too: https://www.nytimes....mmentsContainer

Edited by TVCasualty, 08 June 2021 - 09:12 AM.

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Posted 08 June 2021 - 01:23 PM


Words Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia derive from the Anchient Greek words: ΑΦΑΝΤΑΣΙΑ  and ΥΠΕΡΦΑΝΤΑΣΙΑ as stated by the scientist Aristotle.
considered Phantasia (ΦΑΝΤΑΣΙΑ) to be the greatest of all human virtues and capabilities as it enables us to create something new by combining previously known data.

Phantasia refers to abstract mathematic conceptions as well as conceptions relating to all sensual stimuli (not only visual).
Beyond Dr. Zeman's stated pathological malfuncions, Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia are subject to heredity, education, environment and will power.

The evolution from Phantasia to Hyperphantasia (always based on a certain driving NEED) is not solely dependent on the individual, but it goes beyond, reaching all side inputs of consciousness and subconsciousness.

Cubes, Dreams, Hypnagogia and Hypnopombia are immensly contributing to creative Phantasia.

Also Food and Drugs, cultural environment and spiritual freedom are basic requirements to evolve.


In comparison with previous centuries today's humanity has lost considerable capacities of Phantasia.

The current phenomenon is due to our cataclysmic overfeeding by all media.


Reading a book you have to visualise the described scenario. This process evolves us.

If you watch a film based on the same book you are losing considerable amounts of creative Phantasia as you diminish the need to visualise.


It is an utter irony that this important thread was intiated by a... TVCasualty...

Thank you indeed TVCasualty for the gift!


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Posted 08 June 2021 - 03:44 PM

Well that is something I have never really pondered. It is hard to separate it into categories, like trying to to figure out ingredients to the soup you are eating.


Guessing right now my mind is a mixture of image's and internal dialogue.  It might depend on the type of thoughts though. Memories seem like they are more visual but I think there is more to it than that. Like how music can trigger a memory, a feeling of something, not necessarily a time or place.


Anytime I think of a fantasy book those are almost entirely images, funny to think I never actually witnessed any of them. Complete fabrications 


Then sometimes It feels like I am only talking to myself. No real shapes or images just thinking about the internal dialogue.


As well what if something has no shape, like an idea


hmmm, I got some thinking to do on that one




edit: Pro tip, if your over your NYT monthly free articles, use duck duck go or clear your history. Presto artico


Okay just remembered the part about how people that do those memory competitions engage in visual imagery to strengthen their memory. One person described it as their mind palace. And to remember they take a mental walk through the mind palace, noticing the images they placed on the way. So they would envision a routine in their life. Like say the walk to work every day. And then place things they wanted to remember along that route.


There is something to that visual imagery and memory for sure. It creates a story board of sorts that your mind can easily recall. A rough outline of the memory in visual form. Once the memory has taken center stage then your creative side kicks in and fills in the unimportant blanks, like what colour shirt someone was wearing or what exact day it was on. I think it works this way for efficiency reasons, that being we really don't need to remember all the fine details.


The idea of a memory without any visual imagery is foreign to me



“People watch a movie, and then they can watch it again in their mind, and it’s indistinguishable.”


I don't know about indistinguishable but I would say sometimes pretty close, coupled with a great soundtrack that is ingrained in my memory, it seems to strengthen the visuals.

Edited by FLASHINGROOSTER, 08 June 2021 - 04:10 PM.

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#4 ElPirana



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Posted 08 June 2021 - 04:49 PM

There's definitely a spectrum of how people experience.  When it comes to trips, I don't have visuals very much, although that changes as I get to higher doses.  It's been interesting to me to be able to compare myself with my wife when we take equal doses from the same shrooms.  My wife has highly visual trips, everything is colorful, rainbows everywhere, fractals, etc. to the point where she almost cannot focus on anything.  I can take an equal dose and have no OEV at all, even the typical tryptamine wavy look is sometimes not there for me.  But I am not aphantasic...since I do have visuals.  When I started taking mushrooms 5 years ago it was much more visual and has definitely dropped off since.  LSD is not visual for me either, almost no effect...actually doesn't even feel psychedelic to me.


I do have a hard time visualizing things.  For example, if I try a meditation technique that calls for visualizing an object, I cannot do it.  I just cannot produce a visual picture in my head.  I can think visually of memories, but they are not strong visuals.


I wonder if these things can naturally increase or decrease.  For example, I have started have more memories of feelings, like feelings that I had as a child and that I had grown out of but now can reconnect to them. 

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#5 Skywatcher


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Posted 08 June 2021 - 05:56 PM

I honestly had no idea that there were people who do not visualize.

I am totally oriented myself, to visualization, and remember the picture over any other sense, not to say that I do not have sense memory as well. I definitely link visual memory and emotion. Strong emotional responses like fear, elation, strong anger, and sexual arousal make the remembered images much more detailed and intense.


When meditating or focusing intent, I am so oriented to visualization that I can't quite comprehend how I could do any of that without the ability to see with the minds eye......


I am an artist, and can see the picture in my mind before a single line is drawn. I wonder if most artists who create a see-able creation are in the group that visualize in their mind?

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#6 rockyfungus



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Posted 08 June 2021 - 06:21 PM

I don't visualize and always wondered what everyone else was checking out in guided mediations... I guess I'm auditory in nature?
Even driving places, I have amazing sense of direction. It's based on timing and the general flow of buildings. Even faces are hard to tell apart...I'm slowly learning I'm not very neurotypical. 

I tried improving my "mind's eye" through various art disciplines. Ink, water color, pencils, acrylics. My wife on the other hand has a form of synesthesia and can just draw with out any practice. 

Being unable to detect minor changes in a very homogenous background has led to much discomfort in my personal career, which I assume is associated with the ability to visualize. I never realized why my home's brick was called wormhole till a strong trip...

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#7 TVCasualty


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Posted 09 June 2021 - 09:42 AM

Beyond Dr. Zeman's stated pathological malfuncions, Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia are subject to heredity, education, environment and will power.


It might be premature to classify aphantasia as a pathology.


An equally valid argument could be made that hyperphantasia is just as pathological, at least judging by some of the comments I've read in exchanges between people with aphantasia and hyperphantasia (some in the NY Times comments). A few framed themselves as almost "suffering" from hyperphantasia and expressed a sincere desire to spend a day in a dark, quiet mind as a break from the constant noise.


There's also the issue of potential overlap with schizophrenia; where do we draw the line between a very vivid imagination and a mental health issue that calls for treatment? And some with hyperphantasia report that they can't always tell the difference between their imagination and their memories, which is obviously not ideal.


It's like with the glasses that let color blind people see a few colors they never could before; suddenly being able to visualize might be an amazing, mind-blowing novelty to someone with aphantasia while a moment of internal peace and quiet might be just as amazing to someone whose mental television never shuts off or mutes.



I honestly had no idea that there were people who do not visualize.


Me neither.


I was still skeptical even as I posted this thread, but the more I read the more it seems like it's actually the case and not just interpreting visual stimuli as something else. Apparently fMRI scans of brains of people with aphantasia don't light up in the visual cortex when they try to imagine an object like happens in the brains of people who can visualize things. That's pretty compelling evidence IMO.


One disturbing fact about the phenomenon is that it's an ability we can lose. But that might only be disturbing because it would be unfamiliar. We'd adapt.



I'm slowly learning I'm not very neurotypical. 



I'm starting to suspect that there's no such thing as neuro-"typical."

Edited by TVCasualty, 09 June 2021 - 09:44 AM.

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#8 Cuboid



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Posted 09 June 2021 - 10:43 AM

I cannot visualise anything in my mind consciously. I regularly have vivid dreams though. Go figure. It's very frustrating as so many relaxation techniques and guided meditations are based around visualising things. And so many other 'self improvement' techniques too. I don't recall ever having the ability either. Some people lose it through trauma of some sort or another (physical injury, mental / psychological injury or illness etc.. ) I am very interested in gaining this ability. It's one of the reasons I am interested in psychedelics. Kind of hoping that one day when I'm ready and the opportunity arises that a heroic dose could open the 3rd eye for me and that it'll stay open. (I don't mean leave me permanently tripping ballz, wouldn't wish HPPD on anyone) Whilst finding the threshold dose for figuring out a microdose I had a number of light trips with some vague closed eye visuals. Might also add, i'm not 'neuro typical' (ASD & ADD) and suffer a moderate degree of face blindness too.

Edited by Cuboid, 09 June 2021 - 11:05 AM.

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Posted 09 June 2021 - 04:00 PM

I am the guy who will forget your name five seconds after you told me, but can remember peoples faces that I have not seen in decades


It is interesting to hear how we all interpret the world in different ways.


I push for the idea of social intelligence, the same way some can focus and whiz through mathematics. Others can whiz through social situations by picking up on all the little ques that others fail to recognize. They can see the pieces of the puzzle and where they fit together.


For some reason people with strong observation ability often become comedians, pointing out the stupid shit the rest of us walk right by

Edited by FLASHINGROOSTER, 09 June 2021 - 04:02 PM.

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