You can download the content of this factsheet as a PDF here.
‘’Aphantasia is the inability to visualize mental imagery. Otherwise known as blind imagination.’’
‘’If you are like the estimated 1—3% of the population with Aphantasia, you may be unable to visualize any type of image in your head.’’
What Is Aphantasia?
Aphantasia is the inability to visualize mental images, that is, not being able to picture something in one’s mind. Many people with Aphantasia are also unable to recall sounds, smells, or sensations of touch. Some also report prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize faces. (Wiki)
Aphantasia was first named in 2015 by Prof Adam Zeman, a cognitive and behavioural neurologist at the University of Exeter. Zeman first became aware of the phenomenon when he was referred to a patient who had ‘lost’ his visual imagery after a heart operation.
Aphantasia was first described by Sir Francis Galton in 1880 but remained largely neglected until, Dr. Adam Zeman began his work in the early 2000s and coined the name from the Greek word “phantasia,” which means “imagination.
There is further research into this contention as it is largely unstudied at this time and is poorly understood. There have been long debates by researchers into the mind’s ability to visualize and how it relates to the brain’s memory functionality. Currently researchers have no indications that the impact of Aphantasia is negatively affecting memory. As many people are born with Aphantasia they do not realise that their experience of thinking about an item or person is different to how others experience. This means that there are people around the world that are living with Aphantasia without knowing.
“When asked to visualise a sunset, for example, people with aphantasia are unable to conjure any kind of image to mind and will often have assumed that terms like the ‘mind’s eye’ are purely metaphorical. At the other end of the spectrum, people with hyperphantasia describe imagery so vivid that they can find it difficult to be sure whether an image was perceived or imagined
Some people are born with Aphantasia, whereas others can acquire it through traumatic incidents such as brain injury or periods of psychosis
Spatial imagery (e.g., the ability to recognise the distance between two places or mentally rotate and object) are unaffected by Aphantasia
There is some evidence to suggest autistic people are far more likely to have Aphantasia
Many Aphants also report having Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM), and most Aphants report reduced ability to remember the past or project into the future
Aphants appear more likely to have prosopagnosia (face blindness), a condition characterised by a reduced ability to recognise faces
Some people with Aphantasia dream visually, whereas some others report more having a sense of what is happening in the dream
Many do not discover that their experience is any different from that of others until their late teens or early 20s. It might be while reminiscing about the past and realizing they are having a different experience with memory than their friends or family. It is not that they do not notice that they do not visualize. They just do not know that other people do.
- Unable to conjure a clear image of a family member,
- Difficulty pictures their characteristic movements and gestures?
- Unable to remember or visualize
- No image at all, only “know” they are thinking of the object
If you feel like you might have aphantasia there is a VVIQ test you can do here on the Aphantasia website.