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NYT: Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All
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From the New York Times science section:

Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All

Scientists are finding new ways to probe two not-so-rare conditions to better understand the links between vision, perception and memory.

By Carl Zimmer
June 8, 2021

Dr. Adam Zeman didn’t give much thought to the mind’s eye until he met someone who didn’t have one. In 2005, the British neurologist saw a patient who said that a minor surgical procedure had taken away his ability to conjure images.

Over the 16 years since that first patient, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues have heard from more than 12,000 people who say they don’t have any such mental camera. The scientists estimate that tens of millions of people share the condition, which they’ve named aphantasia,

For example, a scientist who had been a grad student under the famous psychologist Leon Kamin, co-author with Richard Lewontin and Steven Rose of the anti-hereditarian book Not In Our Genes, told me that Kamin couldn’t see anything in his mind’s eye and suspected that nobody else could either and that the whole concept of a mental imagery was a hoax. On the other hand, Kamin had prodigious gifts at kabbalah-like skills involving remembering words and numbers.

and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery, called hyperphantasia.

… “This is not a disorder as far as I can see,” said Dr. Zeman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Exeter in Britain. “It’s an intriguing variation in human experience.”

The patient who first made Dr. Zeman aware of aphantasia was a retired building surveyor who lost his mind’s eye after minor heart surgery. To protect the patient’s privacy, Dr. Zeman refers to him as M.X. …

The vast majority of people who reported a lack of a mind’s eye had no memory of ever having had one, suggesting that they had been born without it. Yet, like M.X., they had little trouble recalling things they had seen. When asked whether grass or pine tree needles are a darker shade of green, for example, they correctly answered that the needles are.

On the other hand, people with aphantasia don’t do as well as others at remembering details of their own lives. It’s possible that recalling our own experiences — known as episodic memory — depends more on the mind’s eye than does remembering facts about the world.

To their surprise, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues were also contacted by people who seemed to be the opposite of M.X.: They had intensely strong visions, a condition the scientists named hyperphantasia.

Joel Pearson, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of New South Wales who has studied mental imagery since 2005, said hyperphantasia could go far beyond just having an active imagination. “It’s like having a very vivid dream and not being sure if it was real or not,” he said. “People watch a movie, and then they can watch it again in their mind, and it’s indistinguishable.”

Based on their surveys, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues estimate that 2.6 percent of people have hyperphantasia and that 0.7 percent have aphantasia.

We need a general phantasia scale where, say, Kamin is at 1, Philip Roth at 90, and John Updike at 99. Scientists could rank volunteers and then see what correlates with what, such as in occupational orientation.

For example, golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. criticized his rival Jack Nicklaus for lacking the ability to visualize golf course shapes. Jones said Nicklaus was the world’s best critic of existing golf courses, but he cost his clients a lot of extra money when creating his golf courses by changing his mind after tons of dirt had been shoved around and he could finally see what his would look like, at which point he’d often tell his bulldozer drivers to completely change it because he’s not good at projecting an imaginary visual landscape.

On the other hand, I bet Nicklaus can recollect with great precision existent 3-d shapes he’s seen in his head, such as the greens at Augusta National:

I’ve met golf course architecture aficionados who can describe in detail the 3-d topography of all the greens on a famous golf course that they played years ago.

I could draw a decent map of each fairway of, say, the National Golf Links of America, which I’ve played five times, showing the general ups and downs.

But I’m drawing a blank on the putting surfaces, other than general memories like the Redan 4th hole “slopes left” and the huge green on the Short 6th hole: “it’s complicated.” (In this photo of the front yard of Charles Blair Macdonald’s mansion in the Hamptons, which is now owned by Michael Bloomberg, the Redan is reproduced on the left and the Short on the right.)

I would guess that I am mediocre to poor at conjuring visual imagery, okay at 2-d imagery, bad at 3-d imagery.

For instance, I can call up a picture of Babe Ruth in my mind, but I doubt if it’s more detailed and above average than most people’s (although who knows what the inside of other people’s minds is really like). What I am sure I am above average at instead is remembering verbal and statistical facts about Babe Ruth.

… The study suggests that the mind’s eye acts as an emotional amplifier, strengthening both the positive and negative feelings produced by our experiences. People with aphantasia can have those same feelings from their experiences, but they don’t amplify them later through mental imagery.

… The strength of the mind’s eye may exert a subtle influence over the course of people’s lives. Dr. Zeman’s questionnaires revealed that people with aphantasia were more likely than average to have a job that involved science or math. The genome pioneer Craig Venter even asserted that aphantasia had helped him as a scientist by eliminating distractions.

But that’s far from a hard and fast rule. Charles Darwin left behind writings hinting at hyperphantasia: When he was once asked to recall the objects that had been on his breakfast table that morning, he said they were “as distinct as if I had photos before me.”

Darwin was an analog scientist (e.g., distinguishing among 13 subspecies of finches on the Galapagos Islands). Venter operated in today’s much more digital scientific world that Mendel rather than Darwin ushered in.

Likewise, people with vivid mental pictures don’t have a monopoly on creative work. Ed Catmull, the former president of Pixar, announced he had aphantasia in 2019.

… Hyperphantasia creates images that seem so real that it may open the way to false memories. Similarly, people with no mind’s eye may escape some of the burdens caused by reliving traumatic experiences, because they don’t have to visually replay them.

I don’t conjure up horrifying images in my mind’s eye very often — I can do it, but I don’t very often — which perhaps contributes to my rather sunny, placid disposition. In contrast, life was probably an emotional rollercoaster for, say, Edgar Allan Poe. On the other hand, Updike and Nabokov probably had the most pleasant combination to go through life with: super strong visual imagination combined with a predilection for beauty rather than horror.

 
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  1. I might I have hyperphantasia, but it is hard to compare with other people.

    If I close my eyes and relax in a certain way, it can even include touch, taste and sound. This means that I prefer to see my thoughts and then describe them, rather than engage in a laborious process of putting them together.

    I actually don’t know if I was always like this, nor if it is like everyone else.

    • Replies: @anon
  2. Anonymous[437] • Disclaimer says:

    I’m skeptical of these sorts of subjective impressions and claims by otherwise normal adults. Unless you’ve been brain damaged or use drugs or are ill, I don’t see how an otherwise normal person totally lacks the ability to visualize or has hallucinatory like visualization spells that interfere with normal consciousness.

    But that’s far from a hard and fast rule. Charles Darwin left behind writings hinting at hyperphantasia: When he was once asked to recall the objects that had been on his breakfast table that morning, he said they were “as distinct as if I had photos before me.”

    How does that qualify as evidence of “hyperphantasia”? Ordinary people have these sorts of experiences all the time. Other times, like when driving on the highway, people zone out and don’t remember driving for miles. Moreover, people speak metaphorically like this all the time e.g. “as if I had photos…” It tells us nothing about what the actual subjective experience really was like objectively.

    • LOL: Bruno
    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  3. Do people lacking a “mind’s eye” have dreams when they sleep?

    ‘Darwin was an analog scientist (e.g., distinguishing among 13 subspecies of finches on the Galapagos Islands).’

    Bullshit. DNA analysis proves the finches are different races of the same species. Evolution is a hoax.

  4. Anon[151] • Disclaimer says:

    This, along with synethesia, color blindness, and tetrachromacy, are examples of what I think are misconnections in the brain, where I use “mis-” not with a derogatory sense, but simply because English tends to bundle simple meanings with judgments in the same word.

    When I read Kevin Mitchell’s Innate I realized for the first time how important embryonic, fetal, and neonatal development is. The genome holds a general map, but the physical body depends on all kinds of chance circumstances as it is being constructed. Small glitches in the brain have important consequences, and not just to IQ. A lot of these other conditions, I think, are simply rogue axons connecting up parts of the brain that were not intended by evolution to be connected up.

    • Replies: @Bruno
  5. UNIT472 says:

    I think artists are better at this than others. I can visualize, for example, the Empire State Building, but being able to draw it with any real proportion would be beyond me. 86 floors to the observation deck I know. A Zeppelin docking mast above that I know too but how to scale it accurately in a drawing I could not do.

    OTOH, there are idiot savants who can accurately carve a running horse with no picture or model to guide them. They can see it in their ‘minds eye’.

    Odd that we have a ‘brain’ to think with that is beyond our ability to understand.

  6. If the “mind’s eye” wasn’t capable of subjectivity and distortion there would be no such things as cartoons or caricatures.

  7. Wow, it never occurred to me that there were people incapable of imagining or reimagining an object, event, or location.

    I find it unlikely, though, that such people would be highly successful scientists or mathematicians- I would guess a Venter would be an extreme outlier, and I would question the validity of his claim. My career was as a synthetic organic chemist, and a mind’s eye seems almost essential to doing it successfully. I also studied tons of math and physics earlier in my life, and I can’t imagine learning either discipline with aphantasia other than the ability to do just rudimentary stuff.

    • Disagree: Bruno
  8. Bill P says:

    Sometimes when I’m relaxed with my eyes closed the things I imagine are sharper and more detailed than what I see with open eyes in broad daylight. They can also move in harmony with all components. Sometimes my memories are incredibly sharp and textured, almost as though I see them better than I did at the time they happened. It can be emotionally overwhelming, sometimes bringing on deep melancholy. Alcohol blunts this effect significantly, but it’s a kind of double-edged medicine in that regard.

    I don’t know what use this is, but on some occasions I have been able to perform extraordinary feats of memory to the point where people suspected me of spying on them (they couldn’t believe I could recall some private detail from years ago). Overall, however, it’s pretty uncomfortable. It’s often better to forget.

    • Replies: @Red Pill Angel
    , @Old Prude
  9. Mike Tre says:

    This clip is kinda like a metaphor for this post:

  10. I remember once drawing a simple three dimension sketch for a friend of mine. He looked at it and said..”How’d you do that?” Apparently some people don’t see in three d. On the other hand, I think the ability to hear and compose music, with the orchestration, is a phenomenal gift.

  11. It bothers me that it is difficult to remember the image of my little puppy dog or any of the ones before him, but I can recall some tragic images. I guess there has to be a strong emotional component.

    On the other hand, my mind’s eye is doing well, thank you, and there’s even a small dose of synesthsesia let over from childhood when it was a bit overwhelming.

    In general, things I want to remember consciously are difficult to access, but recall comes easily when I’m on autopilot. In other words, to remember something, It helps if I’m engaged in some activity that requires the memory.

  12. Anonymous[332] • Disclaimer says:

    See Galton on individual differences in imagery, see Kosslyn on experimental demonstrations of imagery influence on RT and other measures.

  13. @Buffalo Joe

    I can do both, with animation. Quite weird, except considering the toys I had to play with as a pre-schooler, not unusual for people who had the same toys.

  14. UNIT472 says:
    @Yancey Ward

    I have no idea of what you ‘see’ or imagine you see in your CONSCIOUS brain but it doesn’t always
    work like that. I can remember to this day a vivid dream from my childhood where I had a new bicycle. I awoke the next day with a vivid memory of just what it looked like and where I had left it. It took a few seconds after waking up before I realized it was just a ‘dream’.

    I suspect it works for a lot of people like that. Some can conjure a mental picture better in a conscious state than others but then others see better in an unconcious state and can remember their ‘dream’ better. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said he remembered the songs he composed from a ‘dream’ not from his conscious mind when he awoke.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  15. Luke Lea says:

    Updike at 99: Updike’s metaphorical imagination and powers of physical description have probably never been equaled. They reach their peak in The Witches of Eastwick.

    • Replies: @Peterike
  16. @Buffalo Joe

    I was about to comment on music too. Sometimes I can listen to a loved piece of music in my head almost as vividly as if I were really listening to it.

    • Agree: Je Suis Omar Mateen
  17. which they’ve named aphantasia…

    And were promptly sued by Disney.

    • LOL: Yancey Ward
  18. donut says:

    I wonder how much the ability to vividly visualize in the mind a landscape in 3d contributed to the success of the great military commanders of the past .

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  19. Peterike says:

    “It’s like having a very vivid dream and not being sure if it was real or not,” he said.

    If you want to have vivid dreams, mix a few tablespoons of potato starch in a glass of water or juice and drink it a few hours before bedtime. You’ll have vivid dreams like crazy.

    • Replies: @kaganovitch
    , @Old Prude
  20. Peterike says:
    @Luke Lea

    “Updike’s metaphorical imagination and powers of physical description have probably never been equaled. They reach their peak in The Witches of Eastwick.”

    Really? I read that and all I can remember is shaking my head with disbelief at how terrible it was, and the endless boredom of it. But ok.

  21. Bill P says:
    @Buffalo Joe

    My oldest son could draw in 3d when he was four. His sister, by far the more diligent student, can’t do it at all.

    He’s also much better with music, but she consistently gets better grades.

    I’m guiding him toward a career in skilled trades, while I think she’d make a very competent professional with an advanced degree.

    There’s an enormous amount of cognitive diversity within the human species. It’s a terrible shame when it’s wasted.

    • Replies: @photondancer
    , @Buffalo Joe
  22. @Bill P

    Why not direct your son toward engineering or computer graphics/animation?

    • Replies: @Bill P
  23. I was born in the late 1950s. My mind’s eye visual memory for places I’ve encountered (and things I’ve imagined) in the last two or three decades is poor, but I’m able to recall, in considerable detail, places and environments I lived in until about age 45 or so. And, for some reason, I’m able to recall 1964 in much more detail than any other year. I have no idea why.

  24. Anonymous[415] • Disclaimer says:

    I also recently ran across people with “no inner monolgue.” Which seems like another brain function being slightly off kilter.

    https://medium.datadriveninvestor.com/some-people-dont-have-an-inner-monologue-and-i-am-one-of-them-1c47a0e8b48a

    I personally have higher verbal skills. If I need to transcribe a long number I saw online or on another document onto paper I need to repeat it in my head, if not out loud to then write it down correctly. I cannot keep the picture of the exact number in my head.

    I have no such issues with transcribing words nor do I make spelling mistakes.

    Maybe it’s a form of dyscalculia.

  25. Li Feng says:

    I have no “mental pictures.” I usually explain it like this:

    Think of an apple.
    Is it green or red?

    If you have mental pictures/mind’s eye, you can answer that question, because you see the apple in your mind.

    If you don’t, you are taken aback by the question. Upon receiving the first instruction, you likely primed your thoughts to recall information about apples. Now, this specific color is being asked and you have to choose. You may struggle to choose because you don’t know what the significance or implications of the color are.

    Like Kamin, I grew up thinking that “mental picture” was a metaphor. In order to process or recall visual information, I generally have to convert it into words. I can reimagine things, but I do so by describing my memory of them to myself.

    I rately have dreams and I don’t think they are particularly vivid. I would expect them to have some visual component because my brain handles visual input, but my poor recollection is that they are more like hallucinatory emotional states (fear, pursuit, danger) combined with naration.

    • Agree: Bruno
  26. I image pretty well. I read a lot from an early age, and as I talk, or when I think in words, words and punctuation scroll in a single line in my mind’s eye. I’m a great speller too. Same for listening to someone, but only if I turn it on. I sometimes dream of reading imaginary books, either with familiar words, or strange writing that tantalize but are barely comprehensible.

    Anyone else have horizontally scrolling subtitles in their head?

    • Replies: @StAugustine
  27. There’s an enormous amount of cognitive diversity within the human species.

    There is also an enormous amount of cognitive diversity between visually identifiable groups within the human species. The principle practical, as well as moral or ethical, challenge that poses to an advanced industrial civilization is how to accommodate those differences, so that everyone lives with a modicum of dignity.

    The dominant approach to the problem today is to viciously deny or suppress any evidence of such diversity, and punish those who assert that it exists. This does not work well, at all.

    • Agree: Dissident
  28. People who think very strongly in images tend to get easily confused by mixed metaphors, even if the metaphor is dead or cliched. They simply can’t unsee it.

    Telling one of them that if they “keep skating on thin ice then they’re going to get into hot water” will cause a brain lock in them. It’s kind of funny to play with them a bit like that.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  29. Anonymous[415] • Disclaimer says:

    What about gender and hormones here? I’d assume women have a lot more hyperphantasia than men. They can actually feel a moment emotionally and conjure that up in an argument years later.

    And what about false memories, enhanced to remember what the person wished or believe should have happened to them?

    I can see everything from Althea Bernatein or Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview comments falling into this category. They are even convinced it really happened. Are actresses and actors particularly afflicted by hyperphantasia?

  30. Oh man…iSteve posted an ’86 Master’s clip….dude clearly has an epic weekend lined up!

  31. Updike and Roth are interesting references, and thinking back the authors I enjoy the most are able to give vivid descriptions of ordinary occurrences as if they view the world in slow motion, fully appreciating everything that takes place and seeing in more dimensions than three.

    So my question: are there any good authors with aphantasia? Would Hemingway be lower on the 1-99 spectrum?

  32. “beauty rather than horror”

    Sometimes you work towards one and end up with the other.

  33. JMcG says:

    I was a county spelling bee champion. I could see a picture of the word in my mind and spell it as if I was reading it. Until that fateful day…

    • Replies: @StAugustine
  34. @Anonymous

    “How does that qualify as evidence of “hyperphantasia”?

    My grim granny called it an overactive imagination. Science is great and we must believe it will eventually quantify and catalog every mystery but sweet jesus you clowns are buzzkills.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
  35. @Bill P

    Bill, good for you. Skilled trades are just that, skilled tradesmen or women,

    • Agree: Old Prude, Old Prude
  36. Achilleus says:

    What concerns me more is that recent studies indicate that a considerable number of people do not have an inner voice. You know, that little “person” in your head – some might call it a conscience – that says, “No, Jaquavius, don’t clothesline that little old Chinese lady in the throat, it’s not right.”

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pristine-inner-experience/201110/not-everyone-conducts-inner-speech

    • Replies: @nobodyofnowhere
  37. @Yancey Ward

    I find it unlikely, though, that such people would be highly successful scientists or mathematicians- I would guess a Venter would be an extreme outlier, and I would question the validity of his claim.

    I know a mathematician who says he has no mind’s eye. I think he’s a dark-horse candidate for a Fields Medal. He probably won’t get a Fields Medal, but he has a publication record that’s astounding.

    • Agree: Bruno
    • Replies: @Yancey Ward
  38. I wish there were more discussion of the apparent independence of IQ and memory. I listen to a podcast of a man who has a phenomenal memory but is “not good “ at math. I’m sort of the opposite. I always understood things in school but had only a B plus memory. This is not verbal IQ. I scored 800 on the verbal gre. I’m not good at logical problems where you have to hold four or five variables in your head at one time. So it’s both STM and LTM.

  39. syonredux says:

    On the other hand, people with aphantasia don’t do as well as others at remembering details of their own lives. It’s possible that recalling our own experiences — known as episodic memory — depends more on the mind’s eye than does remembering facts about the world.

    Interesting. I’ve got a pretty good “mind’s eye,” and my episodic memories go back to approx age 3.5. In contrast, a friend of mine with “aphantasia” claims to not remember anything before he was 6-7.

  40. @Buffalo Joe

    “On the other hand, I think the ability to hear and compose music, with the orchestration, is a phenomenal gift.”

    Music is the darkest, most inscrutable art. People who never studied music usually believe the creation of music to be some sort of divinely-inspired gift. It is not – it is a skill. No more than is the ability to read music and hear it in your mind’s ear – with enough practice, most intelligent people can read music the same way they read a book.

  41. Anonymous[369] • Disclaimer says:

    The conditions called aphantasia and hyperphantasia by Zeman are involved in whether or not an individual will suffer from PTSD and related disorders not connected to discernable brain damage.
    That’s one reason why some deny the condition exists and others have no doubt that it does.
    Of course, it doesn’t help that such disorders can be faked, along with much mental illness.

  42. syonredux says:
    @syonredux

    Strictly defined, my friend doesn’t have “aphantasia”; he simply has a very poor mind’s eye. He can conjure images, just not very easily. Also interesting to note that he has no little interest in fantasy-SF-horror. Again, in contrast, I have a very strong interest in those genres.

    • Replies: @syonredux
  43. On the other hand, Updike and Nabokov

    On the other hand, indeed: An article in Psychology Today surmised their respective ‘spank banks’ alone each contained 50-100 petabytes of visual data. Outstanding.

    Here’s a song about birds:

  44. jon says:

    I can live with the idea that someone has no mind’s eye, it’s the people who claim to have no inner monologue that need to be burned at the stake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RB7fstrbJSA

    • LOL: Bruno
    • Replies: @Jenner Ickham Errican
  45. @Buffalo Joe

    I think the ability to hear and compose music, with the orchestration, is a phenomenal gift.

    Perfect pitch is like 20/20 vision. Some are born with it, but after a certain age, nobody keeps it. Those with perfect pitch can be somewhat disoriented after they lose it. The rest of us don’t notice a thing. Aging out of 20/20 was disturbing for me. My bespectacled friends had been there all along.

    A lot of compositional skill is the result of training and hard work. The best texts for popular composition I’ve come across are by a Buffalonian, Daniel A Ricigliano. He’s testified at many a copyright trial.

    I remember once drawing a simple three dimension sketch for a friend of mine. He looked at it and said..”How’d you do that?” Apparently some people don’t see in three d.

    • Replies: @Alden
  46. prosa123 says:

    I’m not sure if this is what the mind’s eye concept encompasses, but I have always had a great deal of difficult in judging peoples’ ages. Once a person reaches adulthood it’s very hard for me to judge his or her age within five or even ten years. In a few cases I’ve been even farther off the mark; for instance, a few years back I thought a co-worker was in her early to mid 40’s, and she actually was 60.

    • Replies: @Yancey Ward
    , @Known Fact
  47. anon[285] • Disclaimer says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    I might I have hyperphantasia

    Which one of you?

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  48. A writer with an untiresomely big mind’s eye was Jean Paul (contemporary of Goethe 18th/ early 19th century, novelist, philosopher, satirist, essayist, aphorist). His vocabulary was considerably larger than that of James Joyce (90 000 vs. 60 000). He found/created tens of thousands of metaphors, – and, that’s very astonishing since he did that over a stretch of six decades, he hardly ever repeated one (Jean Paul specialists say, that there’d be three he did repeat). Given the sheer number of them is one thing, the other is, that his drive to create these mental images led him in a vast variety of contexts (chemistry, astronomy, history, physics, meteorology, phrenology, sociology (avant la lettre), anthropology, medicine, geology… ). Seen from outside, an unpenetrable and a-systemical optical jungle, he nevertheless seemed to pretty much any time steer clear in.

  49. I remember basically all geographic environments, routes traveled, room/house/building layouts (down to random decorations), and landmarks I’ve visited from late childhood onwards. If I’ve been somewhere once I generally know it for life (so far at least). Can easily make up places and scenes in my head, too.

    However, despite my decent visual memory everything is still more 2-D instead of 3-D in my mind’s eye. A bit flat like medieval or Eastern artwork.

  50. Alden says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    I could never draw something like that unless I had very clear simple instructions with pictures. Maybe even connect the dots. My mind’s eye or whatever it is just can’t get my mind and hands to coordinate to draw anything. Or visualize something like that. To me, what you did is magic.

    I can see things in my mind but can’t put them on paper. But I can make things I see in my mind without instructions if they’re simple. Like a book case, not shelves , or a coffee table I doubt I could draw making even a simple book case. Or even putting up shelves and brackets

  51. @prosa123

    Well, it could be far worse for you socially if you judged her to be in her 60s and she was only in her 40s.

  52. Bruno says:

    You are – very cleverly – mixing 2 faculties wich are correlated but quite distinct :

    – phantasia wich is the ability to conjure mental senses : not only images but sounds, movement, touch, smell. The 5 senses. People go from 0 to 1 in each of those 5 imagined perceptions

    – episodic memory : the ability to conjure the past or to project onself in the future. For most people this is the epicenter of the identity. People who don’t have that have SDAM : severe deficit in episodic memory

    – there is also a third faculty : familiarity. This is the building by the neuronal network of feelings who are attached to people and places . People who lose it have a feeling that their familiar people or places have been changed

    I have discovered I miss all three . That was hard to find because it’s very difficult to discover what you don’t have , each one being locked in his own mind.

    Galton was the first one to discover aphantasia. He discovered it was very frequent among eminent scientists. He said many academy of science members denied imagination existed . When myself I discovered it, I thought normal people were like schizophrenics full of sounds and chaotic images.

    One third of UK math Olympiad team have Aphantasia. Pixar founder and his most important engineer (who invented the little mermaid drawing has aphantasia).

    People with aphantasia/Sdam/familiarity live in a mental space close to the Nirvana looked for by Buddhist. There is a catch : because it’s not a choice, it has not the same value.

    If I could have images and above all memories, I don’t know if I would take them because I would probably be overwhelmed

    At the same times, it’s quite sad to have the same outlook on ones own past than on a history book or even more a handbook of science. I have facts about my past but no details and not one emotion or living memories

    Since I discovered that I am not that interested into travelling because I know that I don’t keep anything in my mind compared to others …

    • Thanks: Calvin Hobbes, Dissident
  53. jamie b. says:
    @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    “DNA analysis proves the finches are different races of the same species”

    How do you define ‘species’?

  54. lanskrim says:

    Supposedly it’s common for those with aphantasia to be unable to recall tastes and smells. They’ll remember not liking a certain food, but since they can’t relive the bad experience mentally, they’ll be more likely to try it again.

  55. Bruno says:
    @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    Most Aphants have dreams. It’s the voluntarily imagination they lack. But a minority like me have never had a dream. That’s why I didn’t know that imagination was not a metaphor for creativity and it meant having images in ones mind . I still struggle to understand where those images are. I ve been questioning a lot people with imagination to understand where they see those images and if it’s in first person or third person.

    I be noticed it’s a test on open mindedness . Lots of people are very uneasy with those question.

    Many Aphants are also very intolerant to the imagination thing. They think it’s a myth or hallucination and people are just too emotion or just crazy. I ve heard images are with the eyes. There is no third eyes.

    • Replies: @Je Suis Omar Mateen
  56. jamie b. says:

    I’ve always been puzzled by the need to memorize the sequence of colors in the rainbow with the ROY G. BIV acronym. People can’t just simply see the sequence? In college organic chemistry classes I learned to my surprise that most other people couldn’t eg. rotate a tetrahedron in their mind’s eye.

    Oddly enough, I seem to suffer from mild face blindness.

  57. Bruno says:
    @Anon

    There are two many people with this same pattern and two much variability in phantasia for your conjecture to be true.

    It’s like colour discrimination. On average people 100 to the 3d power colors : 1 million. But it goes from 10k to 100M (that is a 10k times difference) between top 3% (with four cones) and people with two cones, not counting variability in each cone wich goes from 70 to 130 colours each (and your brain multiply ! )

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @res
  58. @donut

    Did Alexander, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar have maps? In Anthony Burgess’s “Napoleon Symphony,” Bonaparte is constantly calling up maps he has studied into his mind’s eye and determining where they’ll take their defensive stand.

    My impression of Roman times is that they had lots of linear verbal itineraries: follow the left bank of the river until you reach the big rock that looks like a turtle, then …

    I think I once read somebody speculating learnedly on what ancient military commanders could do in their heads, but I can’t remember it.

    Speaking of the ability to think in terms of landscapes from maps, recently a lady in Los Angeles went drove up Angeles Crest Highway for a solo hike. She snapped a selfie of herself high up in the rugged mountains and sent it to a friend, but then her phone battery died. And then she didn’t come home that night. The friend called 911 but didn’t have a clue within about a 100 square mile area where she had been. So the Search and Rescue squad put the selfie on the Internet hoping somebody who’d been to the same spot would recognize. Instead, a guy whose hobby was studying topographic maps looked at the photo and matched up the complex 3-D background to a part of a topo map and calculated she’d been about a mile down the trail from the peak of Mt. Baden-Powell (or something like that). The Rescue guys went to the spot and quickly found her nearby down at the bottom of a ravine into which she’d fallen and maybe broke her leg.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @prosa123
  59. @New Dealer

    I’ve heard of that, also vertically for numbers. Not me though.

    One thing I’ve had as a pet interest for some years is the minds eye while reading a book. It came up in a discussion of the Nero Wolfe detective stories and the layout of the detectives house. My father was amused that his minds eye had the layout symmetrically reversed left and right (office on the left instead of the right etc) and was surprised to find that I had no mental image when reading. I have no specific voices for characters and reading anything evokes no scenery, unless perhaps I stop and make an effort to imagine, but even then I think my brain pirates actual memories of scenery etc.

    • Replies: @Fjkkkkku
    , @Known Fact
  60. @JMcG

    I remember doing that as well. It worked as well for remembering sentences or paragraphs in books – I can remember where on the page to find a given line in a book I’ve read, usually.

    It was very useful for memorizing mathematical formulas for tests.

  61. jamie b. says:
    @Buffalo Joe

    I homeschool my kids, and their education includes art. Contour lines or contour shading seems to be something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. My kids absolutely don’t get it, yet I was spontaneously able to master such things on my own when I was their age…

  62. syonredux says:

    Interesting bit of Anglophobia…..

    Noah Smith

    As an American who has an overly idealistic and rosy image of Canada, I always find it disconcerting to see the paint of that country scratched, and to catch a glimpse of the rusted metal of British North America that lies below.

  63. @UNIT472

    1965 was a good year for composing in your sleep: Keith Richards came up with the “Satisfaction” guitar riff and Paul McCartney with the melody for “Yesterday” (although he may have been dozing more than deep sleeping — he was riding in a car).

  64. Anonymous[108] • Disclaimer says:
    @UNIT472

    Your example of a galloping horse is quite interesting
    In the 18th century horses were depicted in paintings in a very unnatural running position.
    Both front legs would be forward at the same time and both rear legs would be pointing backwards at the same time.
    Obviously painters had seen horses running but they had not managed to capture the natural galloping pose.
    Not until photography was developed in the late 19th century was anybody able to get an accurate depiction of a true horse gallop. Once artists had seen the photographs of horses galloping they were able to reproduce it in paintings.
    This suggests that the minds eye phenomenon may be influenced by access to improvements in technology such as still photography Cinema and TV.
    Many people of my age who grew up as children with black and white television will often say that their childhood dreams appeared in black and white.
    Not until we’ve been watching color TVs for several years did our dreams start to appear in color.

    • Replies: @Calvin Hobbes
  65. syonredux says:
    @syonredux

    Strictly defined, my friend doesn’t have “aphantasia”; he simply has a very poor mind’s eye. He can conjure images, just not very easily. Also interesting to note that he has little-to-no* interest in fantasy-SF-horror. Again, in contrast, I have a very strong interest in those genres.

    *Corrected a typo

  66. Bruno says:

    I am a bit disappointed that the scientific studies on aphantasia is so poor. For example, at MIT lab, people are moving objects with their imagination. Nobody has tried to see if it works with Aphants. That would mean that images are coded in their mind (wich is obvious else Aphants couldn’t recognize anything except with verbal clues) but if they can conjure them to control an artifact.

    There are a lot of quantitative and biological studies that could be done. You don’t see even minor data collection.

    Zenan from Exeter seems to be a very nice person but he doesn’t have a team able to do anything beyond anecdotal and peripheral.

    http://sites.exeter.ac.uk/eyesmind/2020/05/04/an-update-on-extreme-imagination-aphantasiahyperphantasia/

    Same with a University in Australia who started a program on aphantasia that doesn’t go anywhere .

    https://www.futuremindslab.com/aphantasia

    You have more thing about Asperger (with Cambridge professors, brother of sailers beloved Baron Cohen movie director) . A big proportion of aphants have aspergerish traits apparently.

  67. @Peterike

    If you want to have vivid dreams, mix a few tablespoons of potato starch in a glass of water or juice and drink it a few hours before bedtime.

    Dude, your dealer is messing with you.

    • LOL: Dissident
  68. @Steve Sailer

    Here’s a fantasy novelist describing his aphantasia:

    That’s fascinating. One of Lawrence’s strengths is his description of place. There are more things in Heaven and Earth….

  69. @syonredux

    Same here.

    Even in childhood, I had a strong conviction that my earliest memory was of a Fourth of July party at my grandparents’ house. Until recently, I didn’t know the exact year, but for some reason I always knew it was very early in my life.

    [MORE]

    In my recollection, every single member of my family and quite a few strangers (to me) were there, something I don’t recall happening at any other Fourth of July event. I remember vividly an incident where I was standing a few feet away from my grandfather, who was standing right next to a firecracker, looking down at it, when suddenly it zoomed upward. He barely moved away in time to avoid getting a rocket in his eye. He laughed it off, but my grandmother was extremely distraught. Then my mother yelled that I was “too close” and summoned me over to her side.

    Several of my relatives, including my mother, remember the incident involving my grandfather, but no one can recall the exact year. Everyone said I was “little” at the time.

    A few years ago, I looked through several old photo albums, trying to find some documentation of this event. I didn’t find any photos of that particular party, but I did uncover two photographs dated June and July of the year I turned three. (My birthday is in August, so I was about two years and eleven months old on the Fourth.) The June photograph showed the patio looking much smaller than I knew it as a kid. The July photo showed it looking the way I remembered it.

    Then I looked up my grandparents’ house on the county property records site and found a notation that the patio had indeed been modified that very same year. Based on the photographs, it would appear that the original patio was just a rudimentary strip of concrete surrounding the pool enclosed by a simple metal framework with mesh screen. My grandfather expanded it considerably, replacing a chunk of his lawn with an “outdoor living room” sheltered by a wooden roof and surrounded by concrete walls (with mesh-covered “windows”), a big barbecue grill, and a sink. The actual pool looked about the same in both photographs, enclosed by a black-metal framework with mesh covering. The metal, when scratched, made the same horrible noise produced by nails on a chalkboard.

    So it would seem that, the year I turned three years old, my grandfather had a new patio built in June and threw a big Fourth of July party to show it off. This event – especially Grandpa’s near-death experience with the firecracker – imprinted itself on my memory.

    A few years later, I spent a couple of hours lying in a hallway with my mother and grandparents at their house during Hurricane Andrew. Suddenly we heard a tremendous crash from the patio area – louder even than the wind, which was howling like a freight train – and the whole house shook. Daylight revealed that the entire metal framework had collapsed into the pool. A nearby swing set bolted into the ground had been mangled into something resembling a modern art sculpture.

    (We were on the northern fringe of the eyewall, in a zone where some houses sustained heavy damage and others emerged relatively unscathed. The postwar houses fared better than the ones built in the ’70s and ’80s. My grandparents’ late-’50s house came through just fine (despite one broken window – in the room where I had been sleeping), but my mother’s late-’70s-house, a few miles due west and equidistant from the eye, moved a few inches off its foundation. My babysitter’s late-’80s house, a few blocks north of my mother’s, lost its roof, as did most of the other houses in her complex and in several other subdivisions nearby.)

    My most vivid Christmas memory is the year when I got “my first car” (one of those four-wheeled bicycle things shaped to look vaguely like a car). For years, I believed that this was my seventh Christmas, because my memories indicated that my grandfather repaved his driveway (replacing bare asphalt with handsome red tile) around that time. But the photographs proved that the “new” driveway was installed around the same time as the new patio (when I was two going on three). They also proved that the “car” Christmas was my fourth.

    We always had our Christmas celebrations at my grandparents’ house – single story, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, about 2,000 square feet on roughly three-quarters of an acre, white concrete-block construction with a red-tile roof, with a semi-circular driveway leading to the front porch. The yard seemed huge when I was a kid, with two massive oak trees on the east and west sides of the house. (The western tree was vastly more climbable than its eastern counterpart.)

    More precisely, we held our Yuletide gatherings in the living room on the north side of the house. The main entrance was on the north side, so when you entered the house from the front porch you walked south into the living room. The dining room was to the east of the living room; the two rooms were separated only by a little bit of wall extending from the northside of the house that sectioned off the front-door area (with its little island of wood surrounded by a sea of tan carpet covering up the 1950s-era terrazzo floor).

    The main feature of the living room was a big horseshoe-shaped sofa surrounding a huge coffee table that never held a single cup of coffee in its multi-decade existence.

    The Christmas tree was positioned a bit east of the front door, in front of a large window that my grandmother kept shrouded behind huge white drapes. The tree varied a bit from year to year, but it was usually real, always large, always beautifully decorated, and always surrounded by a massive pile of carefully-wrapped presents. (My grandmother constantly admonished us to “save the bows” – she was a real fanatic about reusing them.)

    The kids sat on the floor near the tree; the adults camped out on the sofa. Until I was seven, the younger generation was just me and my older cousin; then my uncle – my mother’s brother – had his kid and, for a while, we were three. Then my uncle’s clan drifted away from the rest of the family and never returned.

    (I was never close to my younger cousin; I was very close to my older one. Right now we’re slogging through a tiff relating to her misbehavior at my grandmother’s funeral. I’ll write more about that some other time.)

    The “Florida room” was to the south of the living room, separated from the living room by two segments of partial walls with columns going up to the ceiling and an open area in the middle. It was a second living room, basically, with a large window on the south side of the house overlooking the pool and a glass-sliding door leading to the patio that was always locked (and, after my grandfather died, always shuttered). This was where my grandparents watched TV in their twin Lay-Z-Boy chairs. Sometimes I would sit and watch with them. Mostly I remember watching Channel 10 in the early evenings – first Ann Bishop, then Peter Jennings, then Pat Sajak, and finally Alek Trebek. (In Miami, Wheel of Fortune has always preceded Jeopardy!; in many other cities, it’s the other way around.)

    For some reason, my cousin and I always opened our Christmas presents in the living room and our birthday presents in the Florida room. (The photographs and our memories agree on that point.)

    My memory is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. Again, colors are somewhat muddled in my mind. Photographs indicate that, until I was about ten, the carpet in the living room was tan, but the carpet in the Florida room was dark brown. For some reason, my memories tell me that the living-room carpet was once dark brown, as well. But a photograph taken in my infancy proves that it was tan even then.

    The timing of the Florida-room carpet replacement was determined by my grandfather’s health – at the time, he was dying of lung cancer. (His doctor gave him six weeks but he made it almost two years.) While settling his affairs, he had the house spruced up for my grandmother, not only to ensure her comfort but also to make the place more attractive in case she decided to put it on the market.

    The house was sold, eventually, but Grandma had nothing to do with the decision. She lived there alone for twenty years after my grandfather died. Then, a few years ago, her Alzheimer’s got to the point where my aunt, after a nasty legal battle with some of her relatives, was able to obtain power of attorney and move her over to her place. Grandma’s house – a fixer-upper by that point – was sold for an amount in the upper six figures – a bargain, considering the neighborhood. (The current value on Zillow is twice as much as the sale price.)

    The condition of the house deteriorated in lockstep with my grandmother’s rapidly declining health. Eventually her home became a dump. The once-spotless carpets were now stained; the once-gleaming countertops were now dingy. The roof started leaking and, eventually, a portion of the front-porch ceiling caved in. The blue pool water turned green and then gray, and then some bizarre-looking reptiles started swimming around in it. I won’t even mention the roaches. (They’re a constant nuisance down here; even the best houses have them.)

    My grandmother lived with my aunt for a while. Then my aunt got into some legal trouble and my grandmother was put in a nursing home, where she stayed until her recent death.

    In his final year, my grandfather also redid the kitchen, due west of the living room by a wall lined by a large bookcase/cabinet filled with knickknacks and from the dining room by a bar.

    For most of my childhood, the kitchen had a ghastly 1950s color scheme, with brownish-greenish wallpaper, dull-yellow tile, and lime-green appliances. The countertops were the same color as stained teeth. (I have a photograph of me being bathed in the sink when I was just a baby. The look on my face is one of vague disgust.) As nostalgic as I feel about Grandma’s cooking in her kitchen, I can’t say much about her taste in décor.

    The new kitchen was muchSame here.

    I remember the layouts of buildings very well. Shapes and edges and angles stick in my mind. Textures and patterns are a little fuzzy. Colors fade very quickly.

    Everything I am about to write is off the top of my head. The house that I describe was sold several years ago. I would add much more detail if it weren’t after two in the morning (and if anyone else had the interest, which I doubt).

    For years I believed that my earliest memory was a Fourth of July party at my grandparents’ house.

    In my recollection, every single member of my family was there, something I don’t recall happening at any other Fourth of July event. (In my family, Thanksgiving and Christmas were always huge; for some reason, the Fourth never was.) I remembered vividly an incident where I was standing a few feet away from my grandfather, who was standing right next to a firecracker, looking down at it, when suddenly it zoomed upward. He barely moved away in time to avoid getting a rocket in his eye. He laughed it off, but my grandmother was extremely distraught. Then my mother yelled that I was “too close” and summoned me over to her side.

    Several people in my family remember the incident involving my grandfather, but no one can remember the year. Everyone said I was “little” at the time.

    A few years ago, I looked through several old photo albums, trying to find some documentation of this event. I didn’t find any photos of that particular party, but I did uncover two photographs dated June and July of the year I turned three. (My birthday is in August, so I was about two years and eleven months old on the Fourth.) The June photograph showed the patio looking much smaller than I knew it as a kid. The July photo showed it looking the way I remembered it.

    Then I looked up my grandparents’ house on the county property records site and found a notation that the patio had indeed been modified that very same year. Based on the photographs, it would appear that the original patio was just a rudimentary strip of concrete surrounding the pool enclosed by a simple metal framework with mesh screen. My grandfather expanded it considerably, replacing a chunk of his lawn with a semi-enclosed outdoor seating area sheltered by a wooden roof and surrounded by concrete walls (with mesh-covered “windows”), a big barbecue grill, and a sink. The actual pool looked about the same in both photographs, still surrounded by a black-metal framework with mesh covering. The metal, when scratched, made the same horrible noise produced by nails on a chalkboard.

    So evidently my grandfather had a new patio built in June and threw a big Fourth of July party to show off his brand-new baby, and for some reason this event imprinted itself on my memory.

    A few years later, I spent a couple of hours lying in a hallway with my mother and grandparents at their house during Hurricane Andrew. Suddenly we heard a tremendous crash from the patio area – louder even than the wind, which was howling like a freight train – and the whole house shook. Daylight revealed that the entire metal framework had collapsed into the pool. A nearby swing set bolted into the ground had been mangled into something resembling a modern art sculpture.

    (We were on the northern fringe of the eyewall, in a zone where some houses sustained heavy damage and others emerged relatively unscathed. The postwar houses fared better than the ones built in the ’70s and ’80s. My grandparents’ late-’50s house came through just fine (despite one broken window – in the room where I had been sleeping), but my mother’s late-’70s-house, a few miles due west and equidistant from the eye, moved a few inches off its foundation. My babysitter’s late-’80s house, a few blocks north of my mother’s, lost its roof, as did most of the other houses in her complex and in several other subdivisions nearby.)

    My most vivid Christmas memory is the year when I got “my first car” (one of those four-wheeled bicycle things shaped to look vaguely like a car). For years, I believed that this was my seventh Christmas, because my memories indicated that my grandfather repaved his driveway (replacing bare asphalt with handsome red tile) around that time. But the photographs proved that the “new” driveway was installed around the same time as the new patio (when I was two going on three). They also proved that the “car” Christmas was my fourth.

    We always had our Christmas celebrations at my grandparents’ house – single story, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, about 2,000 square feet on roughly three-quarters of an acre, white concrete-block construction with a red-tile roof, with a semi-circular driveway leading to the front porch. The yard seemed huge when I was a kid, with two massive oak trees on the east and west sides of the house. (The western tree was vastly more climbable than its eastern counterpart.)

    More precisely, we held our Yuletide gatherings in the living room on the north side of the house. The main entrance was on the north side, so when you entered the house from the front porch you walked south into the living room. The main feature of the living room was a big horseshoe-shaped sofa surrounding a huge coffee table that never held a single cup of coffee in its multi-decade existence.

    The dining room was to the east of the living room. The two rooms were separated only by a little bit of wall extending from the northside of the house that sectioned off the front-door area, with its little island of wood flooring surrounded by a sea of tan carpet covering up the late-’50s terrazzo floor.

    The Christmas tree was always positioned a bit east of the front door, in front of a large window that my grandmother kept shrouded behind huge white drapes. The tree varied a bit from year to year, but it was usually real, always large, always beautifully decorated, and always surrounded by a massive pile of carefully-wrapped presents. (My grandmother constantly admonished us to “save the bows” – she was a real fanatic about reusing them.)

    The kids huddled on the floor near the tree; the adults sat on the sofa. Until I was seven, the younger generation was just me and my older cousin; then my uncle – my mother’s brother – had his kid and, for a while, we were three. Then my uncle’s clan drifted away from the rest of the family and never returned.

    (I was never close to my younger cousin; I was very close to my older one. Right now we’re slogging through a tiff relating to her misbehavior at my grandmother’s funeral. I’ll write more about that some other time.)

    To the south of the living room was the Florida room, separated from the living room by two segments of partial walls with columns going up to the ceiling and an open area in the middle. The Florida room was a second living room, basically, with a large window on the south side of the house overlooking the pool and a glass-sliding door leading to the patio that was always locked (and, after my grandfather died, always shuttered). This was where my grandparents watched TV in their twin Lay-Z-Boy chairs. Sometimes I would sit and watch with them. Mostly I remember watching Channel 10 in the early evenings – first Ann Bishop, then Peter Jennings, then Pat Sajak, and finally Alek Trebek. (In Miami, Wheel of Fortune has always preceded Jeopardy!; in most other cities, it’s the other way around.)

    The “common areas” – the living room, the Florida room, the kitchen, and the dining room – were in the central area of the house, while the “private areas” – the bedrooms – were located in eastern and western wings.

    The east wing was the longer of the two, with three bedrooms, including the master bedroom and its small attached bathroom w/shower; a larger standalone bathroom w/tub and an external exit to the patio (which my cousin used when she had to change clothes after using the pool – I used another bathroom so we could both have privacy); a linen closet; and the circuit-breaker panel (on the wall next to the entrance to the master bedroom). This was the hallway where I spent the hurricane. My bedroom was at the end – all the way down and left – on the northeast corner of the house, north of the master bedroom and east of my older cousin’s room.

    (My younger cousin never had a designated room. Honestly, I can’t remember where he slept. He never spent nearly as much time there as my older cousin and I did.)

    The west wing included the fourth bedroom at the western end of the house, the only one with an external exit; the garage to the north; and a third bathroom w/shower to the south. This bathroom also had an external exit, which was my main means of accessing the patio. Outside of school, I spent most of my waking hours in the pool.

    My memory is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. Again, colors are somewhat muddled in my mind. Photographs indicate that, until I was about ten, the carpet in the living room was tan, but the carpet in the Florida room was dark brown. For some reason, my memories tell me that the living-room carpet was once dark brown, as well. But a photograph taken in my infancy proves that it was tan even then.

    The timing of the Florida-room carpet replacement was determined by my grandfather’s health – at the time, he was dying of lung cancer. (His doctor gave him six weeks but he made it almost two years.) While settling his affairs, he had the house spruced up for my grandmother, not only to ensure her comfort but also to make the place more attractive in case she decided to put it on the market.

    My grandfather also redid the kitchen, due west of the living room on the other side of a wall lined by a large bookcase/cabinet filled with knickknacks and separated from the dining room by a bar.

    For most of my childhood, the kitchen had a ghastly late-’50s color scheme, with brownish-greenish wallpaper, dull-yellow tile, and lime-green appliances. The countertops were the same color as stained teeth. (I have a photograph of me being bathed in the sink when I was just a baby. The look on my face is one of vague disgust.) As nostalgic as I feel about the food that came out of that kitchen, I can’t say much for the décor.

    Of course, nowadays I’d give almost anything to revisit to the halcyon days of my youth when Grandma cooked meatloaf in a green oven. The new kitchen, with its beige appliances, was brighter and easier on the eyes, but less memorable and ultimately less endearing. It featured the nondescript blond-wood-and-white motif that was so popular in the mid-’90s.

    After Grandpa died, Grandma kept on cooking in that kitchen and living in that house. She lived there alone (with me as her frequent companion) for over twenty years. Then, a few years ago, her Alzheimer’s progressed to the point where the person I had known in my youth was basically gone. My aunt, after a nasty legal battle with some of her relatives, obtained power of attorney and decided to move Grandma over to her place. Grandma’s house was sold for an amount in the upper six figures – a bargain, considering the neighborhood. (The current value on Zillow is twice as much as the sale price.)

    The house went cheap because it was a fixer-upper. As Grandma’s health deteriorated, the condition of the house declined. Eventually her once-spiffy home became a dump. The once-spotless carpets were now stained; the once-gleaming countertops were now dingy. The roof started leaking and, eventually, a portion of the front-porch ceiling caved in. The blue pool water turned green and then gray, and then bizarre-looking reptiles started swimming around in it. I won’t even mention the roaches.

    After the sale, my grandmother lived with my aunt for a while. Then my aunt got into some trouble with the police and my grandmother was put in a nursing home. There she stayed – senile, blind, and immobile – until her recent death. I saw her on her birthday, and she smiled and asked “How’s my boy?”; a few weeks later, she was gone.

    For some reason, on our birthdays, my grandparents always had my cousin and me open our presents in the Florida room. (The photographs and our memories agree on that point.) The living room was reserved for Christmases.

    On my aforementioned fourth Christmas, my mother and my grandparents told me that they had a big surprise for me. We walked out of the living room onto the front porch. It was the 40s (cold by Miami standards) and I was barefoot, and I remember feeling like I was walking on ice. (The weather records align with my memory.) I saw immediately that the “car” was parked on the front driveway, and I was so excited that I ran right over to it and jumped right in. I kept shrieking, “I have a car now! I have my very own car!”

    I took the “car” for a brief spin, pedaling furiously to reach maximum speed. Then my mother told me it was too cold for me to be outside wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. I protested, but they dragged me back into the house. A little while later, after donning warmer clothes, I came out again and did loop after loop around the driveway for at least an hour. It was the ride of my life.

    I outgrew my “car” within a year. I got another one after that, and then I outgrew that one, as well. Then I started riding two-wheel bicycles. Eventually I gained access to vehicles with internal combustion engines.

    So many memories, so little time…

  70. @Longstreet

    Austrian writer Stefan Zweig contrasted Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. He said that when reading Tolstoy, we hear because we see, and re Dostoevsky, we see because we hear.

    Tolstoy’s descriptions are plastic (although he was not a descriptive writer & visualizer like Dickens); in the case of Dostoevsky, we don’t know how even the most important characters look like. It is their verbal expressions, stuttering & tonalities of speech that make them vivid (no pun …).

  71. @Bruno

    Right, I would like to see something similar to an IQ score for this trait with a database of at least a few thousand people.

  72. @StAugustine

    I used to be able to find good quotes for book reviews by remembering where on the page the quote was. Now I’m older and dumber but craftier: I write down the p. number and a brief summary on the blank pages at the back.

    • Thanks: The Alarmist
    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  73. Wow, I’m drawing a blank on this one.

    • LOL: Calvin Hobbes
  74. Some Guy says:
    @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    Bullshit. DNA analysis proves the finches are different races of the same species.

    Maybe that’s why he said subspecies, not species?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  75. MEH 0910 says:
    @Steve Sailer

  76. @Some Guy

    Yes. In truth, I don’t really have a strong opinion on the Finch Question.

    • LOL: Bardon Kaldian
    • Replies: @Some Guy
  77. Hodag says:

    In memorization contests I believe the trick is shifting memory of a long string of numbers into visual memory – such as imagining the digits of pi projected onto a series of painting in a gallery and mentally walking through the gallery reciting as you go Memorization contests are very big in India and the techniques were developed there. This is why I suspect that Indian kids have been crushing the National Spelling Bee for a generation.

  78. @StAugustine

    It worked as well for remembering sentences or paragraphs in books – I can remember where on the page to find a given line in a book I’ve read, usually.

    Same here. I’ve always been able to do this, and it aided me tremendously in college and grad school.

    This is a brain function that I find is completely short-circuited when I’m reading on a Kindle.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  79. @anon

    The one whose phone this is and fat fingers the keyboard.

    • Replies: @anon
  80. The original text is interesting, but a bit superficial.

    Why should picture-people possess capabilities of geometry- people? These are separate things.

    I’d say that, roughly, there are numerous types of mental processing.

    1. picture-people, intense visualizers

    2. geometry-people, capable of topographic “thinking”

    3. algebra-people, good with numbers

    4. words people, those thinking in words

    5. sounds-people, no need explaining

    …….

    Then, there is a difference between a cognitive style & memory. One could be great in visualization, but poor in remembering, any cognitive style.

    Of course, some of these things tend to overlap, but they remain different.

  81. “I’ve met golf course architecture aficionados who can describe in detail the 3-d topography of all the greens on a famous golf course that they played years ago.”

    Irony: And yet, these same aficionados can’t describe in detail what their own grandkids look like. They also can’t remember three details that happened to them yesterday. (also a form of cognitive decline, a la dementia). Perhaps one could study if there is a connection between people who can create mental images in their mind tend to be more susceptible to cognitive decline. Does mental imaging sacrifice any cognitive abilities in other areas of life?

    “What I am sure I am above average at instead is remembering verbal and statistical facts about Babe Ruth.”

    Without googling, as a hitter, how many seasons did Babe Ruth strike out more than 100 times? Without googling.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
  82. J.Ross says:

    The expectation of 4chan deriding people lacking an inner monologue (and implicitly also those lacking a mind’s eye) as “non-player characters” is that these people, by their disabilities, are naturally predisposed to enslavement by the TV and social media. That nakes sense — they cannot imagine, so they cannot rebel, and are happy that somebody else does their imagining for them — but no proper survey has been done, and it’s possible that NPCs actually have a normal distribution of gifts but happen to watch more TV.

  83. J.Ross says:
    @The Last Real Calvinist

    I don’t use Kindle (I have a third party replacement which lets me read downloaded Amazon books which cannot be snatched back from me) but isn’t it the one without pages? The pagination resets every time you change the window or the size, so there really are no “pages,” so there’s no objective anchor to let you place a sentence.

  84. @SunBakedSuburb

    Science is great and we must believe it will eventually quantify and catalog every mystery

    Good luck with that belief …..

  85. I have a mind’s eye for sure. I can still remember details of phone systems I installed or serviced forty years ago back in DC. I can see every detail of close calls out on flight decks, on the motorcycles and in car accidents with sphincter-scrunching specificity. Maybe because I only did a few, but I can remember/play back like a movie my jumps from planes. I can play back my holes in one, too, so it isn’t all terror-related. My dreams are complete with brilliant, 8K resolution, color and rolling credits at the end before the commercials preceding the next dream. Even in my dreams, commercials.

    Funny, but I thought back to hearing interviews of remote viewers and thinking you couldn’t be trained in that discipline if you have no mind’s eye.

  86. @UNIT472

    Apropos your personal anecdote, there are savants who can draw the NYC skyline from memory accurately in detail.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  87. The strange thing is that I can’t say with much confidence whether I do or don’t.

  88. @Chrisnonymous

    There was one autistic kid in an Oliver Sachs book who could do that. I’ve wondered about the differences in skills between autistic savants and all-around genius types like von Neumann. Is it just that the semi-damaged people have more time on their hands or are more obsessive? Could Brunelleschi draw the skyline of Florence from memory if he’d wanted to? Or do the savants have better skills in some areas because they are highly deficient in other areas.

    We used to have blind superstar musicians like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, who probably really were better at music because their brains didn’t have to be deal with visual input. Fortunately, there aren’t as many blind people anymore, but we kind

    I went to Rice U. with a blind guy. His dad was the chief lawyer for a world-spanning Houston oil company so he had all the latest late 1970s technology. He once knocked on my door to borrow my newspaper to read the baseball box scores with his his optical scanner that moved little pins ot create braille on his finger.His talent show act as remembering the scores of all NFL games ever played.

  89. Day-dreaming children have the best mind’s eye.

    As people get older and are conditioned to ‘get with the program’ or passively consume, the mind’s eye atrophies. In the worst cases, departing so-called ‘reality’ for the imaginary world causes anxiety.

    Creativity dies in darkness.

  90. Anon[145] • Disclaimer says:
    @Bruno

    I don’t see why certain brain developments “mistakes” couldn’t be relatively common. For instance, if a particular brain highway under development is supposed to exit at J Street, mistakenly exiting at I Street or K Street would be more common than exiting at F Street.

  91. @Steve Sailer

    “a man there was, though some did count him mad, the more he cast away the more he had.”

  92. Anonymous[782] • Disclaimer says:

    Kamin couldn’t see anything in his mind’s eye and suspected that nobody else could either and that the whole concept of a mental imagery was a hoax. On the other hand, Kamin had prodigious gifts at kabbalah-like skills involving remembering words and numbers.

    Is the inability to conjure and manipulate mental images something peculiar to (or particularly prevalent among) people with Jewish ancestry?

    Conversely, are special powers with respect to words and numbers particularly prevalent among people with Jewish ancestry? (How does one remember or manipulate a word or number without mental imagery?)

    Are the two sets of abilities (images vs other) somehow zero sum?

  93. On the other hand, Kamin had prodigious gifts at kabbalah-like skills involving remembering words and numbers.

    LOL.

    Apologies for the last typo via a failed update to the WordPress database which also been known to duplicate comments. Cloudflare is another matter.

    Part and parcel of digitalism unlike Darwin’s analog world.

  94. This research might have implications for Kantian philosophy and its branches: Heigel, Marx, etc… I vaguely remember that Kant puts the imagination at crucial point in his analysis of the mind. No minds eye seems like a problem. I can’t remember the details though and don’t plan to dig through Critique of Pure Reason anytime soon.

  95. I had a vague recollection of Einstein mentioning visual thinking, my first web search hit is as follows: https://www.visualscribing.com/blog/2019-11-11-einstein-on-visual-thinking

    It reminds me that there were a number of problems in physics and mechanics for which I would *see* the solution, then make the math work. Nonetheless, I’m certainly not hyperphantastic. Like Steve, I’m much better at remembering facts than faces.

    I suspect the folk theories about different types of learners are based on point observations and a more general model is out there somewhere.

  96. DocB says:

    It’s been a recent hobby of mine to ask people about their mind’s eye. I grew interested in this when I realized I was a 10 or 20 on a 100 point scale. I see simple colorless object and ephemera combined with proprioceptive impression. Call it hypophantasia.

    I’m a scientist and terrible at visual memory and reasoning but fantastic at abstract structuring and systems. My adopted brother is the exact opposite, pointing to some genetic controls on this. On the other hand I have a mech engineering friend with a barren mind’s eye like me who can look at any 3D shape and understand immediately how to fold it out of paper.

    There’s also a mind’s ear that’s separate. One friend with visual aphantasia can play entire albums in their head. She’s a CTO and writes poetry. Another friends inner (and outer) voice is a monotone, and they don’t ever have an ear worm.

    We could build a 0-100 point scale, but based on my twenty or so interviews of friend, I think there’s more than one axis for this.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  97. conatus says:

    So these different mental abilities remind me of Ed Dutton and that ‘of Menie’ guy who talk about ‘spiteful mutants’. They say the brain is 84% of the genome so most mutations are unseen and in the brain. Sort of the phenomenological perception differences idea. They see the world differently and in a non-Darwinian way. Their maladaptive ideas are used to destroy our society.These spiteful mutants would have died out under Darwinian conditions but in our advanced wealthy industrialized societies we are non-Darwinian. Spiteful mutants dominate the culture with maladaptive ideas.
    Perhaps not having a mind’s eye and being an overworded verbal guy is maladaptive?

  98. Dan Smith says:

    I have a friend who is a doctor like me and we golf together. When we play a golf course we’ve played multiple times he often asks me questions about the layout of some of the holes, as if he were playing it for the first time. Now I have an explanation of why that is.
    Could this be the reason men don’t stop to ask for directions when driving? They trust their mind’s eye a little too well?

  99. @Anonymous

    Many people of my age who grew up as children with black and white television will often say that their childhood dreams appeared in black and white.
    Not until we’ve been watching color TVs for several years did our dreams start to appear in color.

    http://calvin-and-hobbes-comic-strips.blogspot.com/2011/11/calvin-asks-dad-about-old-black-and.html

  100. Fjkkkkku says:
    @StAugustine

    I picture everything I read, but it is seldom guided as closely by the author as he probably intended. “Cannery Row” took place mostly in neighborhood where I once rented a house, but Doc’s laboratory was a childhood friend’s home. “In Dubious Battle” happened mostly at my grandparents’ farm. Most of D. H. Lawrence’s work was set at one or two of my neighbor’s houses, or at the farm of my father’s friend.

  101. Clemsnman says:

    // intended by evolution//

    Do you not see the irony in this statement?

    • Agree: Dissident
  102. @Steve Sailer

    Could Brunelleschi draw the skyline of Florence from memory if he’d wanted to?

    On the other end of the scale is something that we joke about around here: The ability to draw a swastika that looks like a swastika instead of a cactus.

    Here’s a guy (leftist, I’m pretty sure) who implies that the inability to draw a correct swastika is a mark of fascist retardation:

    My opinion is that it goes the other way. Actual “fascists” probably have practiced drawing a swastika enough to do it correctly, even if they’re stupid. It’s the hoaxers who have seen swastikas and think they must be simple to draw who then find out it’s a bit more tricky than they expected.

    • Agree: Triteleia Laxa
    • Replies: @duncsbaby
  103. Aidan Kehoe says: • Website

    I’m skeptical of these sorts of subjective impressions and claims by otherwise normal adults. Unless you’ve been brain damaged or use drugs or are ill, I don’t see how an otherwise normal person totally lacks the ability to visualize or has hallucinatory like visualization spells that interfere with normal consciousness.

    This isn’t a claim at either of those extremes, but: I have had no traumatic brain damage, am healthy and hold down a good job. I do no drugs beyond about 20 units/week of alcohol. I can visualise things I have seen often but it is very very rare that I want to or feel the need to do so, most of the time most of my thinking is not visual. For me it is unsurprising that some neurologically healthy people have no mind’s eye.

    Slightly relatedly, until I started regular dutasteride, my inner monologue was rare to intermittent, now it’s there all the time, which is a little bit helpful in that I do a people-facing job where verbal communication is important, it seems to function as a low level of practice for that.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
  104. The Z Blog says: • Website

    I’ve written about this in the past, regarding cats: https://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=9070

    I think mammals, especially predators, evolved a mental shortcut. Having an minimalist image of the hunting ground will allow the predator to anticipate the moves of the prey. If Felix knows Mickey must turn left at the log, Felix increases his chance of eating Mickey.

    Humans have probably been losing this over time, so some people have very strong visual memories, while others have very week ones. It may be why home feels like home, even after living away from it for a long time. The ghost of that original image remains in memory.

  105. Catdog says:

    Aphantasia is a meme on art forums because it’s so often used as a whine/excuse for producing shitty art or not even trying to get good. I’ve been practicing drawing for about two years and my ability to visualize objects and rotate them in three dimension in my head has greatly improved. I believe visualization is a skill that can be trained.

  106. My friend and I should get credit for Nicklaus’s 1986 Masters victory. We gave Seve Ballesteros the “evil pinky.”
    7th paragraph: https://www.golfdigest.com/story/david-owen-muny-life

    Nicklaus was great at visualizing the shot he wanted and making it happen. He prpbably didn’t understand his golf swing as well as he thought he did.

    In Golf My Way Jack wrote that his swing took 1.95 seconds from takeaway to impact. 0.95 seconds is a better number.

    Did Nicklaus realize his driver grip was 6 degrees more vertical at impact than at address and his shaft was flexed down 4 degrees at impact, making the hosel of the club 10 degrees more vertical at impact than address? Doubt it.

    If Jack wanted to fade a 7 iron 20 feet he said he would swing along a path aimed 20 feet left of target while aiming his clubface directly at the pin. IMO he should have. had his clubface looking ~12-15 feet left of target.

    Nicklaus thought the grip of the club should be in the fingers of the right hand. I swung max 147 mph with a 45″ driver with the grip more stable in the palm of my right hand, like a baseball player’s grip. Baseball players crush it on the golf course. My max drive in 1987: 405 yards. Moe Norman kept grip in palm of right hand.

    Bryson DeChambeau does everuthing I wanted to do in the 1980’s. Same length irons with super upright lie angles, single plane swing based on Homer Kelly’s “The Golf Machine,” stiffer shafts, bigger grips, other things too complicated to talk about. Nobody made clubs that would fit my swing in the 1980’s. Ping’s most vertical lie angle on irons in 1987 was 3 degrees (white dot). I bent my MacGregor Muirfield 2 iron 12-13 degrees upright but the clubhead would separate from the shaft at inopportune times.

    Most of DeChambeau’s irons are probably about 7 iron length (37.5″) and 10+ degrees more vertocal than standard. Club manufacturers thought such a lie angle was insane for decades. In reality it was just common sense if your brain can function outside the box. DeChambeau’s spatial reasoning ability was measured at top .01%.

  107. Barnard says:
    @syonredux

    Scott Richert, a former editor at Chronicles, wrote about having aphantasia in 2019. He assumed everyone was this way and didn’t know it was a condition until his son who can only see “fuzzy” mental images researched it. He talks about two of his daughters who have more vivid mental images.

    I was a few months shy of 50 years old when Jacob made his discovery. I had never heard of aphantasia, and my first reaction was disbelief—not that such a condition could exist, but that it wasn’t universal. From the time I became aware of language implying that we should be able to create mental images (at will or involuntarily), I had always assumed that such language was metaphorical. I had never thought that “Picture this” was meant—much less could have been meant—as a literal command.

    Not sure if you need to be a subscriber to access either of these articles

    https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/picture-this/

    https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/sufficient-to-the-day/

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  108. @jon

    LOL:

    What it’s like living without an inner monologue

    54,033 views • Mar 6, 2020

    Comments are turned off. Learn more

  109. @Bill P

    In a video on Youtube, Dr. Zeman claims that people with aphantasia are less likely to have PTSD after trauma, and better able to “move on” from bad experiences. It sounds as if you have hyperphantasia; perhaps that makes sad memories harder to forget.

    I corresponded a bit with Dr. Zeman after reading about his research with artists with aphantasia, and realizing I’m aphantasic myself, in spite of working over 25 years as a scientific illustrator. My daughter and granddaughter also took the test online and were also without mental imagery. My daughter, like Leon Kamen, refuses to believe that other people have mental imagery, but I remember my mother talking about her own vivid mental images. She claimed she could literally see phone numbers in her head and simply read them, and this helped her in her first job out of college as a secretary. She told me she could see brightly colored, highly detailed images in her head of just about anything she had ever seen. My father was an artist and physician; perhaps we inherited aphantasia from him, but my parents are gone.

    My daughter told me that since taking the test, she has spent a good deal of time wondering and worrying about what exactly she is thinking about, and so have I, especially in connection with my work. It seems that there are dim, “transparent” images in my head that can be called up, and fleeting geometric shapes, but the only time I have colorful mental images are in my dreams. My husband smiles at me because I also draw pictures in the air of things I am trying to think about, and I can see these transparent images in front of me for about a second or two. My daughter says she sees nothing, a black screen, but mine is gray. Like some of the other people with aphantasia, I realized years ago I had trouble trying to meditate. But I daydream all the time! What on earth am I thinking about?

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    , @Calvin Hobbes
    , @Bill P
  110. What do you call a tendency to see running subtitles of one’s conversations? I have that.

    • Replies: @Random Smartaleck
  111. @International Jew

    What do you call a tendency to see running subtitles of one’s conversations? I have that.

    As do both I and my mother, which I assume means there’s a genetic component rather than it being just a skill you pick up.

  112. Anon[378] • Disclaimer says:

    Steven Spielberg would be a 99

  113. J.Ross says:
    @Red Pill Angel

    Supposedly trauma is reinforced by re-visualizing: there is a therapy method where you recall a traumatic event, but deliberately misremember it, speeding it up or changing colors or adding “special effects.” Eventually you visualize a different outcome to challenge the apparent inevitability of it.

  114. J.Ross says:
    @Barnard

    ( … how do these people effect self-evil? Do they just … not?)

  115. @Red Pill Angel

    … I remember my mother talking about her own vivid mental images. She claimed she could literally see phone numbers in her head and simply read them, and this helped her in her first job out of college as a secretary.

    Feynman in one of his books (probably “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman”) tells about how he practiced keeping track of time (in seconds) by counting to himself and seeing whether other activities interfered or changed his timing speed. He told John Tukey that he could read while counting the seconds but not talk while counting the seconds. Tukey did not believe him and said he could talk while counting seconds but not read. It turned out that Tukey kept track of time by visualizing a numbered tape scrolling by. It sounds like Feynman was using a verbal part of his brain (which I would think is how most people would do it), while Tukey was using a visual part of his brain.

    Tukey was a very famous guy in statistics, by the way.

  116. Old Prude says:
    @UNIT472

    Artistic draftsmanship is astounding. Some of these folks can make their hands create things with photographic accuracy. Sculptors do it in 3d, in a medium that allows for no errors. Vaguely related is the ability of machinists and technicians to conceptualize intricate assemblies and shapes and toolpaths in their minds. One toolmaker I work with coined the phrase “spatial conceptualization”. They are artists in their own right: Imagination combined with skill.

  117. Old Prude says:
    @Bill P

    ” It’s often better to forget.” Even better is to not see in the first place. Avoid rubber-necking deadly accidents, violent movies, snuff videos, and cable television. Its good not to have neurons taken up by Quentin Taratino films, the execution of Saddam and the jack-assery during the summer of Floyd.

    • Agree: Harry Baldwin
  118. Old Prude says:
    @Peterike

    I find gin does the trick.

  119. @Calvin Hobbes

    I don’t believe the lack of a mind’s eye, then. I would argue that what they have is a far more focussed one, not that they don’t have one at all.

    • Replies: @Calvin Hobbes
  120. @R.G. Camara

    I think the reverse is true.

    The purpose of using a metaphor is to create a vivid image in the mind of the reader or listener that brings home the reality of the idea that is being explained.

    If the metaphor does not have that effect the most likely explanation is that this is a tired or worn out metaphor that has become a cliche.

    Saying that skating on thin ice will get you into hot water is a perfect example of a metaphor used very poorly, and the person who thinks in visual images will immediately recognize that, or recognize that the joke is that the metaphors are mixed and nonsensical, whereas the person who doesn’t form an image of the metaphor may miss the incongruity.

    Even children will pick up on the contradiction.

    • Agree: Dissident
  121. anon[263] • Disclaimer says:
    @J.Ross

    I don’t use Kindle (I have a third party replacement which lets me read downloaded Amazon books which cannot be snatched back from me)

    Can you recommend one please?

    • Replies: @J.Ross
  122. Anonymous[263] • Disclaimer says:
    @DocB

    I’m a scientist and terrible at visual memory and reasoning but fantastic at abstract structuring and systems.

    What is “visual reasoning?

  123. Bill P says:
    @photondancer

    A 2 year transferrable trade degree is not a bad place to start for an engineer. He can keep his options open that way, and he can earn good money by 20. If he wants to do another couple years of school it will be easier making $30/hour (or considerably more if he lives in Seattle) than $14.

    • Agree: Old Prude
  124. ArtQ says:

    I have aphantasia and am a financial mathematician; I am head of research for a medium size quant hedge fund. I graduated from college summa cum laude with high honors in mathematics, and received a book award from the mathematics faculty as the outstanding math major of my graduating class, but had poor intuition in 3-dimensional geometry, although I was quite good at 2-dimensional geometry.

    I am very near sighted and generally not a visual person. When my wife asks what color we should paint our walls or what color carpet we should buy, I never have a strong opinion.

    Like Sailer, I am good at remembering facts and dates, but poor at remembering what houses I previously lived in looked like.

  125. Seaxnēat says:

    I think my anecdotal experience / story is useful to dive into here.

    I can’t tell whether I have a “minds eye” or not. I don’t really understand what it would be to “visualize” something. If I try to do so, I can think about what something looks like, but I don’t really “visualize” it. I assume this means I either have aphantasia or, more likely, I am fairly far towards the tail of the “aphantasia-side-of-the-curve.”

    I’m definitely fairly far towards tail of the the “face-blind-side-of-the-curve” — although I’m definitely not fully face blind. I can recognize people I know fine. But it takes me multiple times meeting someone to be able to reliably recognize them. And I can easily forget people. For example — not to long ago at a conference I was speaking at, I “met” a former coworker who I worked with for about three years. I didn’t realize it was him and had to play it off like a joke when I introduced myself and asked him his name. It had only been about a year and a half since I worked with him. This kind of thing is not uncommon for me and I’ve developed coping mechanisms through my life. Not that hard to learn to deal with with minimal problems.

    I would be surprised if there was not some correlation between aphantasia and face blindness. They seem to me like they would share common causes.

    Similarly, I also have horrible biographical memory. It’s a running joke between me and my wife and between me and my friends. Otherwise my memory is great (eg. for facts, concepts, etc).

    Also worth noting that I score as mildly autistic based on an Autism Spectrum Quotient test. That said, I’m very successful, live a very normal life and have lots of normal friends. Since it doesn’t seem to hold me back in any way, I wouldn’t classify myself as “on the spectrum.” But, again, I would imagine there’s a correlation between aphantasia and ASD.

    Lastly, I also am diagnosed with the inattentive form of ADHD — although I think that ADHD is largely a ridiculous diagnosis / disorder, at least as implemented. Again, I would imagine there’s a correlation between aphantasia and the inattentive form of ADHD.

    Looking at it from a FFM perspective, I would speculate that aphantasia strongly negatively correlates with agreeableness and/or extroversion — just like ASD.

    OK, back to work. Damn you ADHD!

    • Replies: @Inquiring Mind
  126. anon[157] • Disclaimer says:
    @Triteleia Laxa

    And which one of you is that?

    • Troll: Triteleia Laxa
  127. prosa123 says:

    I must be an odd case when it comes to early childhood memories. At age five I attended a private kindergarten for a year and retain many vivid memories of that time: some of the games we played, the approximate layout of the outdoor play area, the beets they inexplicably served for lunch all the time,* and even the time a copperhead slithered into the playground and the workers hustled everyone inside. Yet I have no recall whatsoever of any of the other children. No names, no faces, no nothing.

    One year later, at age six, I attended first grade in a Catholic school. While I recall the names of two or three other kids in my class almost everything else is a complete blur including the name and appearance of the teacher. The school consisted of three classroom buildings that I would guess date from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. When I look at the buildings on Google Street VIew I can no longer recall the one in which my classroom was located.

    * = to this day I still loathe the freakin’ things, even though they’re now trendy

    • Replies: @prosa123
  128. anon[364] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Did Alexander, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar have maps?

    Not as we understand them. I suspect that means each of them had superior 3-D visualization skills.

    In Anthony Burgess’s “Napoleon Symphony,” Bonaparte is constantly calling up maps he has studied into his mind’s eye and determining where they’ll take their defensive stand.

    18th and 19th century officers walked the ground a lot. Napoleon is known to have walked potential battlefields, Wellington walked parts of the Waterloo area in 1813 or earlier. He knew how thickly wooded certain hills were. Knowing the ground from personal walking, Napoleon could see “When the Russian infantry reaches this stream, they will be X minutes from that ridge”. Some of the Grand Tour for English aristocrats may have involved knowing how far apart bridges were across a given river.

    In more modern times, a lot of German officers took little driving tours across western Europe in the 1920’s and 1930’s, photographing their wives next to highway tunnels, railway bridges, etc. On the flip side, it was illegal for many years in the USSR to take any photograph of a railway at all.

    My impression of Roman times is that they had lots of linear verbal itineraries: follow the left bank of the river until you reach the big rock that looks like a turtle, then …

    Yes, Roman and medieval “maps” were narratives with some pictures added. Not all that unlike Google Maps giving directions, really.

    She snapped a selfie…then her phone battery died..

    It is interesting how often something like this happens. I’m aware of a couple of cases in the Colorado Rockies and one in the Cascades where a hiker (a) snapped a selfie with scenery behind them and texted it to a friend (b) ran out of phone battery, (c) didn’t arrive back home, (d) was eventually found due to the pic.

    Perhaps one should snap a selfie at trail junctions, send it to someone trusted, then turn off the phone to preserve battery? Oh, noes, turn off the phone! is unthinkable!

  129. Some Guy says:
    @Steve Sailer

    “Supposed Truth-Teller Dodges the Finch Question”

  130. prosa123 says:
    @prosa123

    Now that I get a good look at my old first grade Catholic school I realize why I have almost no memories: the buildings obviously were haunted, and the ghosts erased my memories.
    https://goo.gl/maps/RriqCS8Svknwkbu67

    The school closed a few years ago and consolidated with another one even though, unusually for Catholic grade schools, enrollments were rising. It had become impossibly expensive to maintain the old buildings. No joke, the diocese probably could make money renting them out to film crews looking for haunted house locations.

  131. @Yancey Ward

    Wow, it never occurred to me that there were people incapable of imagining or reimagining an object, event, or location.

    I find it unlikely, though, that such people would be highly successful scientists or mathematicians- I would guess a Venter would be an extreme outlier, and I would question the validity of his claim. My career was as a synthetic organic chemist, and a mind’s eye seems almost essential to doing it successfully. I also studied tons of math and physics earlier in my life, and I can’t imagine learning either discipline with aphantasia other than the ability to do just rudimentary stuff.

    I’m with you.

    I’m pretty visual, but i can easily believe that there are successful scientists who have poor visual memory or who have poor visual fantasy/dream lives.

    But i see being able to create mental images, mental visual models of mathematical/physical phenomena and systems as pretty darn basic to doing science. I don’t know how you even do any science if you can not “see it”.

  132. My “mind’s eye” is probably about average, but I seem to remember facts much more vividly for some reason.

    I have very vivid dreams.

  133. Bill P says:
    @Red Pill Angel

    It isn’t just the sad memories that get you down. For me it’s often very pleasant, old memories, for example playing on a field on a sunny day as a child. I will remember what it was like to be so close to the ground, to pick dandelions, feel the grass, etc. It’s like I’m there, and then all of the sudden I snap out of it and here I am. That’s a real bummer sometimes. It brings on severe nostalgia.

    I wonder, if you’re aphantasic do you feel nostalgia?

    It’s interesting that you have vivid dreams, which suggests that the ability is there, but your mind filters it out when you’re awake. Sometimes, when I’m lying in bed trying to sleep the fantasies seem to eventually merge into a dream. In fact, the most detailed imagery I get is typically when I’m very relaxed. In these cases the resolution is better than my eyesight. Sometimes, when I’m trying to figure things out, I use that time to visualize problems.

    It can be a hindrance in math. I was good at math, but I really didn’t like algebra because I kept trying to figure things out visually. I had to really force myself to go through the process, and it felt unnatural the entire time. It was kind of like wearing blinders. I suppose if I had an inner blinder it would have been very helpful for me in that case.

    When it comes to mechanical and biological systems, however, it’s very useful. If you can visualize these things it’s a lot easier to fix them. It’s good for chemistry, too, because of the geometric properties of molecules.

  134. prosa123 says:
    @Steve Sailer

    That lost woman hiker in LA was very lucky someone could match the background in her selfie. It can be fiendishly difficult to find lost people (or bodies) in the wilderness even with relatively small search areas. In July 2013 a woman named Geraldine Largay was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine when she went a short distance off the trail to go to the bathroom and was never seen again. There was an enormous search with many teams of rescuers and aircraft and tracking dogs, yet even though the area in which she must have gone missing was known with some degree of precision there was no trace of her.
    A couple years later a forester found Largay’s remains two miles off the trail, in a spot that was less than 100 yards from where a dog team had searched. She had set up a campsite and in a journal had documented being lost for almost a month until she died, apparently of exposure. Although the campsite was in dense woods, it was only a couple hundred feet from easy-to-navigate open forest and a 25 minute walk from a road.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  135. Steve Sailer says:

    For instance, I can call up a picture of Babe Ruth in my mind, but I doubt if it’s more detailed and above average than most people’s (although who knows what the inside of other people’s minds is really like). What I am sure I am above average at instead is remembering verbal and statistical facts about Babe Ruth.

    I say:

    I can call up a picture of Babe Ruth’s bat in my mind’s eye because it looked like a big club and I saw it at Cooperstown which was settled or pioneered by JF Cooper’s people and I can recall visual imagery of the drive into Cooperstown because it was snowing and the hills were somewhat steep heading into Cooperstown.

    How about visualizing what land looked like without trees because much of the northeastern section of the USA was at one time denuded of trees for timber and the creation of pasturage.

    Fiona Ritchie, Scottish host of a radio show, said she couldn’t see the mountains in North Carolina because they were covered in trees. I guess in Scotland the mountains are bare of trees.

    Political imagination is helped immensely by visualizing possible scenarios and their ramifications in markets and demography and rhetorically and propagandiscally.

    I see Marine Le Pen defeating Macron in the 2022 French presidential election and I can visualize the happy mug of Marine Le Pen delivering her victory speech and I can visualize in my mind’s eye the walk in the white skirt of Marine Le Pen’s niece and for good measure the walk in a lime green skirt of Faith Goldy as she ran for Mayor of Toronto.

  136. @prosa123

    As an election worker I can direct or sign in hundreds of voters, guess their age and see their date of birth in print right in front of me — I’m often surprised at how young someone can look in their 50s or 60s if they take a little care of themselves. Another interesting mind’s eye exercise is to look at someone and imagine what they looked like back in their prime.

  137. Would post-traumatic stress disease — with flashbacks to a war, a rape, a collision etc — be the result of an overactive mind’s eye?

    • Replies: @anon
  138. @Bill P

    It isn’t just the sad memories that get you down. For me it’s often very pleasant, old memories, for example playing on a field on a sunny day as a child. I will remember what it was like to be so close to the ground, to pick dandelions, feel the grass, etc. It’s like I’m there, and then all of the sudden I snap out of it and here I am. That’s a real bummer sometimes. It brings on severe nostalgia.

    Van Morrison says:

    Why didn’t they leave us to wander through buttercup summers
    Why didn’t they leave us to wander when there was no other

    I say:

    I always thought he was singing wonder but I guess it was wander.

    The Master’s Eyes:

  139. @StAugustine

    I make very elaborate head-movies when I read a novel, and thus do not want to read a novel after seeing the movie version of it. I think about camera angles, lighting and so on and cast all the characters; for some reason Trevor Howard pops up a lot although I would not consider myself a particular fan

  140. guest007 says:

    The U.S. Army found that around 25% of Americans cannot be taught to read a map enough to be able to complete a land navigation(Orienteering) course. The Army used to require at least officers to be able to function use a map and terrain. That would seem to agree that some people cannot picture in their mind what the map is telling them.

  141. Wency says:
    @Yancey Ward

    My guess is this condition is real, but a lot of people claiming it are trying to prove how special they are.

    I’m reminded of a really annoying guy I once knew who claimed all sorts of minor superpowers for himself (“I can hear electricity running through wires”) while claiming he lacked other normal human abilities (“I have no sense of personal space”). One thing he didn’t lack was a tendency to always let everyone else know that he’s Not Like Other People.

    • LOL: PiltdownMan
  142. We often hear that “visualizing success” is crucial in sports — has any mind’s-eye research been done on athletes? (I know the visual process became much easier for me when I began shooting free-throws Rick Barry underhand-style; I see the imaginary ball go in instead of dully clanking off the rim)

  143. • Replies: @Old Prude
  144. @Bill P

    It isn’t just the sad memories that get you down. For me it’s often very pleasant, old memories, for example playing on a field on a sunny day as a child. I will remember what it was like to be so close to the ground, to pick dandelions, feel the grass, etc. It’s like I’m there, and then all of the sudden I snap out of it and here I am. That’s a real bummer sometimes. It brings on severe nostalgia.

    I recently posted a music video that has the same imagery, shown in the mind’s eye of a middle-aged man escaping his current life—all the footage in the video is ‘found’ (e.g., the main actors are from a ‘70s educational film about schizophrenia). Be careful, the music is great in a grand melancholic way and hits like a ton of bricks.

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/cnn-homeland-security-says-commemorations-of-tulsa-race-massacre-could-be-target-for-white-supremacists/#comment-4688002 (#137)

    From the comments:

    Merciful Zeus! 5 years ago

    It’s [from] a UK Public Information Film from the 1970’s that was never broadcast – it was intended to raise awareness of the signs of schizophrenia in a person, and show what to do if you suspect someone to be mentally unstable.

    Rhys Davies 1 year ago

    Not sure how healthy this is to listen to tbh, seriously depressing to the point of not being in the present anymore. So much lingering towards the past and REGRET.

    Yeah, I’m a wistful nostalgic vibe connoisseur.

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/why-have-almost-all-the-white-students-suddenly-vanished-from-san-mateo-public-high-schools/#comment-4658913 (#13)

  145. @Aidan Kehoe

    Slightly relatedly, until I started regular dutasteride, my inner monologue was rare to intermittent, now it’s there all the time, which is a little bit helpful in that I do a people-facing job where verbal communication is important, it seems to function as a low level of practice for that.

    Sounds like you’re maturing. Do you mean “monologue” or conversation?

  146. Ian M. says:

    I think mechanical engineers must have a better ability than most to visualize in their minds’ eyes.

    • Agree: PiltdownMan
  147. Ian M. says:

    Darwin was an analog scientist (e.g., distinguishing among 13 subspecies of finches on the Galapagos Islands).

    Indeed. Darwin may be the exemplar of the analog scientist, famously arguing that there is no qualitative difference between a variety and a species, or, presumably, between species.

    He could be contrasted with Aristotle, who argued that vegetative life, animal life, and human life are qualitatively distinct.

  148. Gamecock says:

    As Reg Cæsar says, age has an affect.

    I used to have photographic recall, which is what we used to call this.

    Fifty years ago, I was taking an organic chemistry exam. The question was on Krebs Cycle. Like Triteleia Laxa said, “If I close my eyes and relax in a certain way,” I leaned over, closed my eyes, and opened Morrison & Boyd to the right page in my mind, and there was the graphic display. I read right off the page in my mind and answered the question.

    Not so sharp now. But I don’t know if it is because I lost the ability, or I just don’t use it anymore. My retirement creates fewer requirements for my brain.

  149. anon[471] • Disclaimer says:
    @Known Fact

    Would PTSD…overactive mind’s eye?

    Seems very likely, especially if the memory is tied to the emotional state at the time. Yanking on the limbic system would produce a lot of complex downstream events.

  150. @Bruno

    “For example, at MIT lab, people are moving objects with their imagination. ”

    The midcentury New Thought lecturer, Neville Goddard (who went by the single name “Neville”) taught a “simple method for changing the future” that involved intensely imagining a simple dramatic event that would be the result of a desired scenario (a handshake from your boss, after a promotion), Mitch Horowitz has speculated that Neville’s previous training as a dancer enabled him to enter extreme states of relaxation almost at will, inducing states like the hypnagogic state prior to sleep, along with something like Method acting. Perhaps Neville also benefited from this hyperphantasia thingy.

    https://smile.amazon.com/s?k=o%27meara+mysticism&i=digital-text&ref=nb_sb_noss

  151. Ian M. says:
    @Bruno

    I have a relative who recently received an unofficial diagnosis as having Asperger’s. We also learned a few years ago that he does not visualize or create images in his mind when reading (and does not like reading fiction).

    • Replies: @Dissident
  152. @Bruno

    “Most Aphants have dreams. It’s the voluntarily imagination they lack.”

    Thank you for your informative comment. I woulda Thank’d you, but I ran out of ‘Thanks’ – I’m limited to five per day.

  153. @prosa123

    Ugh. She should have read Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, where the same thing happened. An experienced hiker should know better than to leave the trail. (The book ended happily, incidentally)

    I guess most people think to take photos at spots where the geography is a bit different, i.e. ‘scenic’, and is therefore slightly easier to recognise. When I’ve gone walking in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, which are very eroded, I’ve often contemplated how each valley or ridge looks exactly like all the others. People get lost in them all the time.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  154. @Old Prude

    “the ability of machinists and technicians to conceptualize intricate assemblies and shapes and toolpaths in their minds”

    I’m far more impressed by these people than I am by artists. I like to wander through art galleries occasionally but no work of art, no matter how highly esteemed, has ever moved me to the same sense of awe I feel from watching some intricate machinery.

    • Agree: PiltdownMan
  155. @photondancer

    In California’s mountains, it would seem to me hard to get lost because the scale of the mountains is so large that to cross from one watershed to another is usually a rare and strenuous event.

    But people get lost all the time.

    I think about watersheds more than most people do. My first decade in Chicago I kept asking people: Chicago is in the St. Lawrence watershed but suburban Joliet is in the Mississippi watershed: where’s the sub-continental divide. But few could grasp the point of the question. Finally, a well informed man told me that in suburban Summit, IL, there was a 40 foot tall statue of Joliet and Marquette in a canoe to mark the one mile long portage between the two watersheds, the existence of which is why Chicago became the capital of the Midwest.

    Although, now that I think about it, we should probably distinguish between people getting lost and people getting disabled, usually due to falls. California mountains are so steep that it’s not uncommon for hikers to slip off trails and disappear down into a ravine. That may be a more common reason for hikers to be reported lost than their not knowing where to go.

    • Replies: @John Pepple
  156. @Old Prude

    There are numerous videos on YouTube about how things are made in modern factories. I’m always impressed by the ingenuity and the visuo-spatial skills required to invent the necessary machines and come up with the factory processes involved in mass manufacturing.

    The 19th century, especially, must have been an extraordinary time, as men gifted with a “vivid mind’s eye” came with so many ways in which to put steam, and later, electric power to work in making things.

    • Agree: photondancer
    • Replies: @photondancer
    , @Known Fact
  157. California mountains are so steep that it’s not uncommon for hikers to slip off trails and disappear down into a ravine. That may be a more common reason for hikers to be reported lost than their not knowing where to go.

    Would one of those high-power green handheld pointers used by Antifa during night battles have enough luminosity to illuminate the bottom of clouds to allow someone to triangulate a lost hikers position?

    I recall an advertisement for an ancient piece of military surplus gear that was for a spotlight that was aimed up into the clouds to ascertain cloud ceiling.

    • Replies: @JMcG
  158. @PiltdownMan

    The comic Girl Genius is great fun to read for anybody who enjoys contraptions. It’s a send-up of the mad scientist trope (called sparks in the comic) but most of the time what they’re doing is engineering rather than science. A really good spark, apparently, can warp the laws of physics in 2 minutes. 🙂

  159. @Bill P

    If you’re aphantasic do you feel nostalgia?

    The other weekend, my husband and I went out thrifting and going to used bookstores for the first time in a year. On impulse, I went into a shoe store to try on shoes. It was so old fashioned. There were actually people who brought out shoes to try on, just like when I was a kid. The owner, a dignified older man, walked by and his elegant leather shoes clicked with each step. Suddenly I almost burst into tears! It was the smell of leather and that sound of leather shoes I hadn’t heard in so long.

    Many years ago, I was a victim of a violent crime. For about three months, I was anxious and started if I saw someone who resembled the perp. After that it went away. I dreamed about it, vividly, one time only. I watched a video about aphantasia and a guy was saying he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral. I didn’t, either, although I still felt sad. I tend to remember things people say, though, forever.

    Suddenly I realize that my emotions at the shoe store reminded me of my mom. My emotional memories are real, but related to touch, sound, and smell.

    • Replies: @Bill P
    , @Known Fact
    , @JMcG
  160. @J.Ross

    Some Kindle books do have page numbers that I assume correspond to the printed version; others don’t. But of course even if those page numbers are provided, they don’t correspond to anything concrete when you’re reading, because of the variability of settings you mention.

    I find that reading an easy novel or travel book on the Kindle is fine, but if I want to actually learn something, it’s better to read a printed book.

    • Replies: @res
  161. @Yancey Ward

    I don’t believe the lack of a mind’s eye, then. I would argue that what they have is a far more focussed one, not that they don’t have one at all.

    The math genius I was referring to has read up on aphantasia and is convinced he has it.

    I’ve figured out a few math things, and my way of understanding math is always rather visual. It’s a mystery to me how this guy has cracked a whole string of big open problems without a “mind’s eye”.

  162. @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    I realized in high school that other people were being literal when describing how they visualized things in their minds. This seems to be rather early for someone who can’t. I have dreams, but they usually* don’t have images. It’s more as though I were reading a book to myself, with me as the protagonist. I do experience sounds and tactile sensations during them.

    Or another way to think of it—in most of my dreams, it’s like being in a room where you know where everything is, even though it’s pitch black and you can’t see anything. I know what I’m interacting with and where it is relative to me, without having or needing any vision of it.

    *The only exception I can recall offhand is that, back when I was an avid chess player, I occasionally had dreams where I saw positions I had failed to take advantage of and recognized my mistakes. This was over a decade ago. And even then, it was a 2d representation of a board like you’d find in a chess book rather than the actual 3d board I’d played on.

  163. guest says:

    Could it be as simple as people claiming not to have a Mind’s Eye are lying? If not flat-out, at least by pretending what they actually envision doesn’t count, and what would count must amount to an effortless David Lean masterpiece running through one’s head?

    I hate to reference Game of Thrones at this point, but it reminds of when the character Bran claimed he never dreams, then proceeded to describe a dream. Ah, but this was supposed to be a prophetic vision, you see.

    Why didn’t he count his prophetic vision as a dream? Because he just didn’t want to use the word “dream,” I guess.

  164. @Achilleus

    I recently saw a blogpost written by someone like that. He had just learned, well into adulthood, that most people have an internal monologue, and was absolutely freaked out by it. Can’t find it right now, though.

    Oh, it was Eric S. Raymond, and his site is down at the moment. Here’s an archived version:
    https://archive.is/ezgM0

    • Replies: @photondancer
  165. @Old Prude

    Vaguely related is the ability of machinists and technicians to conceptualize intricate assemblies and shapes and toolpaths in their minds.

    Nikola Tesla needed no model to test his inventions; they appeared before his eyes as functioning realities that he could stop and start as though they were really there.

    If he thought of an object it would appear before him exhibiting the appearance of solidity and massiveness. So greatly did these visions possess the attributes of actual objects that it was usually difficult for him to distinguish between vision and reality….

    Tesla: “Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop.

    “The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My first electric motor, the vacuum tube wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way.”

    Tesla’s mightiest invention was his alternating current motor. It is difficult to overestimate its value. It was really the invention of a principle — the principle of the rotating electric field. For, once that principle was conceived, the motor and a multitude of other practical applications of the alternating current practically invented themselves. It was a master invention that created the electrical power era, the foundation of our modern industrial system.

    He was walking with a friend, Sziegeti, in a Budapest park when the solution to building and alternating current motor came to him. He described it to his friend as if it were floating in front of them. “Don’t you see it?”expostulated the excited Tesla. “See how smoothly it is running? Now I throw this switch — and I reverse it. See! It goes just as smoothly in the opposite direction. Watch! I stop it. I start it. There is no sparking. There is nothing on it to spark.”

    “But I see nothing,” said Szigeti. “The sun is not sparking. Are you ill?”

    “You do not understand,” beamed the still excited Tesla… ‘It is my alternating-current motor I am talking about. I have solved the problem. Can’t you see it right here in front of me, running almost as silently? It is the rotating magnetic field that does it. See how the magnetic field rotates and drags the armature around with it? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t it sublime? Isn’t it simple? I have solved the problem. Now I can die happy.

    • Thanks: Old Prude
  166. @nobodyofnowhere

    Thanks for the link. It’s been a bit annoying not being able to access ESR’s site lately.

  167. Bill P says:
    @Red Pill Angel

    That’s sounds like quite an experience at the shoe store. I can relate to the evocative nature of scent. A certain smell will take me back in time more reliably than a particular shade of color, which is often what triggers nostalgic visions for me.

    I have come up with an idea about human consciousness that involves attention. Our conscious experience differs from that of animals in that we have two centers of attention while they have one. What makes us special is that we can have an inner dialectic. Say you’re focusing on something, such as a person walking up to your door. While one center of attention is gathering visual information, the other focuses upon the mental image rather than the direct flow of sensory information. For many people this creates an “inner voice” that runs a commentary on what’s happening.

    There are countless variations on this process. Each center of attention could be focused on different things, as for example driving a car and listening to the radio. But it is always no more than two. If you want proof of this, try singing while performing a manual task such as washing dishes and see if you can think about anything else while doing so (this is a great way to eliminate intrusive thoughts).

    So, getting to the point, what enters our conscious experience is that to which we pay attention. Some people apparently do not pay attention to visual imagery, and I would suppose that instead they focus on the analysis of what they see/experience instead. That is not to say that they have no visual memory, because in that case they would be technically blind. Rather, it simply doesn’t enter the conscious experience because their focus is elsewhere.

    This would explain the tendency toward science and math that aphantasics display. In many scientific and mathematical disciplines the process is paramount. If you can focus on that without visual distractions you’ll have a clear advantage.

    For those of us who are not aphantasic, it is not so foreign after all, because most of us are aphantasic most of the time. Usually, when I am having a conversation, I can go for at least a little while without “seeing” anything, and I am a highly visual person. I will admit that I inevitably do start to conjure up images, but I can repress it for a time. Also, when focusing on language (e.g. learning a new one) I don’t “see” sounds or grammar. That’s probably the most aphantasic activity I’ve engaged in, and I’m actually pretty good at it. Now that I think of it I used to have purely verbal dreams when learning languages.

    This brings me to a point of speculation. I think spoken language as we know it is a fairly recent development, but the extra center of attention that makes humans distinct is probably quite old, and may exist in some rudimentary form in primates (mirror neurons may have something to do with it).

    Originally, visualization may have been the most important skill brought about by human consciousness. It would certainly be of use in improvising tools, and was likely our main means of communication through gesture and pantomime. However, after spoken language evolved, it no longer had such an overwhelming importance, and perhaps certain advantages could be gained by focusing on other things. Did a Sumerian scribe need to visualize the edicts he impressed on a clay tablet? Did a servant to the ruler need to visualize commands, or simply follow them accurately?

    So while someone who cannot focus on visual images may have come off as a klutz in hunter-gatherer societies, that same person may have had advantages in a civilized society. Aphantasia might actually be a result of recent evolutionary change following the advent of civilization.

    In that sense, aphantasics would be more “modern” than most of us. And if you think about it, Abrahamic religions have a bias toward aphantasia (Revelations notwithstanding) with their prohibitions on idolatry and strict focus on the word of God.

    • Replies: @Red Pill Angel
  168. Minds-eye types are more susceptible to advertising, I betcha. Just whisper F-150 and here come the mighty desert mesas at sunset while you haul your party boat or oil derrick down the open road

    Minds eye stuff helps me drift off to sleep — does this kind of visualization trigger melatonin or something like that?

    • Replies: @Red Pill Angel
  169. @Red Pill Angel

    RP Angel my wife handles the crying at funerals and when we have to put down the dog. I mist up later, thinking about all the fun and good times. This was a very bad winter

    Re dreams — I have not worked a newspaper desk in 25 years but I still have vivid dreams where something is preventing me from putting out the paper. No news, no photos, no power, no computers, sometimes we’re all just sittiing at desks out in an open field (that does work for rock videos, I guess). I’m drunk, stoned, paralyzed, showed up six hours late, you name it.

  170. @Seaxnēat

    Do you recognize automobiles?

    I have trouble with faces, but I right away recognize people by seeing them drive up in their car.

  171. Old Prude says:
    @JohnnyWalker123

    Just wonderful. Putting on a face diaper and looking like an ass all the time, reduces your chances of getting a bug that has a minimal chance of killing you by 12%. The chance you look like a retarded sheep is 100%.

    • Replies: @JohnnyWalker123
  172. res says:
    @Bruno

    it goes from 10k to 100M (that is a 10k times difference) between top 3% (with four cones) and people with two cones, not counting variability in each cone wich goes from 70 to 130 colours each (and your brain multiply ! )

    Could you elaborate on this or point me to a reference, please? This Wikipedia link seems like a decent starting point, but perhaps you know of better?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetrachromacy#Humans

  173. res says:
    @The Last Real Calvinist

    How does reading a PDF page by page compare?

  174. I can imagine a pizza.

  175. J.Ross says:
    @anon

    Anything’s good, Calibre’s good.
    (All I do in general re software is check the Cnet review and look at what forums say.)

  176. @Bill P

    Very interesting points about the human dual-focus consciousness. There is probably a good bit of overlap between anaphasic and visual thinkers. I dream in color, and I believe I do have visual thinking, fairly complex, but it is all directed outward in my art. That is how I “think” it. Similarly, people without an inner narrative must speak or write it down in order to “think” it, at least that’s what they said on YouTube and it makes sense.

    • Replies: @Known Fact
  177. @Known Fact

    “Minds eye stuff helps me drift off to sleep.” Hmm, I listen to Enya! Even the sound of a tv in the other room is cozy. Oh, a number of years ago I took an occult course that featured meditation of a different sort: it involved starting with a quote or idea and then sitting quietly and letting one’s mind wander on that track. Ideal for anaphasics. After a while, I started getting these bursts of bright colors with my eyes closed, which then began morphing into images. I had no control over the images. My daughter, who is also anaphasic, said the same thing happened to her in an isolation tank. Anyway, now I sometimes see these color bursts when I fall asleep, and a few times they have morphed into color dreams. Is that what people are seeing in visual imagination all the time? What am I missing? I never even knew.

    • Replies: @photondancer
  178. @Steve Sailer

    In Minnesota, there are three possible watersheds: Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the St. Lawrence seaway. As far as I can tell from the map I just looked at, the Mississippi River and the St. Louis river are at one point separated by just twenty miles, even though they are part of different watersheds.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  179. @John Pepple

    There’s a triple divide point just outside of Hibbing, MN. I couldnt find any Dylan songs that refer to it though.

  180. @res

    I frequently find reading pdfs tiresome because they’re usually laid out as US letter-sized or A4-sized documents. This means the line length is too long for optimal reading.

    If it’s a pdf that’s the same layout as a typical book page, then the experience falls somewhere between a printed book and a kindle version.

    • Thanks: res
  181. duncsbaby says:
    @Calvin Hobbes

    It’s quite astounding to me how often hate-hoaxers get the swastika wrong. Believe me, I’m no Nazi (honest guys!), but I could draw a swastika w/ease. It’s actually a pretty graceful and simple shape. Maybe it’s my mad youth spending endless hours drawing “war” pictures. The German tanks had swastikas and the American tanks had stars. Duh. Drawing stars on the other hand, that’s tricky. I had a friend that used to draw Stars of David. Easy, two intersecting triangles, but it didn’t look right to me. What were we talking about again?

  182. @Red Pill Angel

    What do you mean by ‘anaphasic’? I am not easily finding a definition that fits your context.

  183. @photondancer

    Ah! I meant “people with aphantasia,” and now to my embarrassment realize that anaphasic is completely garbled. Aphantastic? That doesn’t sound right, either.

  184. Gamecock says:

    A mechanical engineer friend of mine told me that piping designers were the people he was most in awe of. They routinely think in 3D.

  185. @photondancer

    Someone mixed up aphantasia and aphasia (loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage).

    • Thanks: Red Pill Angel
    • Replies: @Red Pill Angel
  186. @PiltdownMan

    Some cable channel used to run an entertaining show that took viewers to various candy factories and followed the process step by step

  187. @Harry Baldwin

    Bill P spelled it right: “Aphantasics” is the correct term for people with aphantasia. Is it possible aphantasics are bad spellers, too? I went back to Bill’s post three times to check the spelling, and still garbled it because I didn’t write it down. To what extent is spelling connected with visualization, and not verbal skill? I am reminded of my mom’s skill at remembering phone numbers, simply reading them from her mind’s eye. She was a top-notch speller, too.

    • Replies: @Bill P
  188. @Red Pill Angel

    As a verbal/writer type it’s hard to imagine people who for whatever reason lack an inner dialogue. Who else is going to keep you happy and entertained if not yourself? If you don’t enjoy your own company, you could be headed for trouble.

    “Of course I talk to myself,” Dorothy Parker explained. “I like a good speaker, and I appreciate an intelligent audience.”

    • LOL: Red Pill Angel
  189. Dissident says:
    @Ian M.

    A big proportion of aphants have aspergerish traits apparently.

    I have a relative who recently received an unofficial diagnosis as having Asperger’s. We also learned a few years ago that he does not visualize or create images in his mind when reading (and does not like reading fiction).

    Interesting. I’m at least Asperger-like in many traits, but much closer to hyperphantasia than aphantasia.

    I’ve always had a highly active imagination. Also, spending many hours listening, first to talk radio, then to old time radio, audio books, and various lectures and podcasts, results in a great deal of elaborate graphic mental visualization. Would like to see some discussion or data on the effects that the transition from radio to television and film had upon mental functions related to imagination and visualization.

    @Red Pill Angel:

    I tend to remember things people say, though, forever.

    That’s me. Can recall conversations from as much as decades ago in uncanny detail.

    [MORE]
    Many times, I’ll followup on a past conservation with someone, asking about something I recall them saying from some time back, and the other person won’t even recall having said it.

    Also, immensely vivid visual memories. And, like someone had said in one of the comments, when lost in thinking of a memory, can come uncannily close to feeling I am actually there.

    These traits also tie-in to what has, for some time now, been my greatest fascination, one that is driven in no small part by nostalgia for memories from my own youth. At the core is a composite yearning of sorts: for the boy I was, as well as the one I could only dream of being. Boys evoke all that for me. A yearning that is ultimately impossible to fulfill yet impossible to still. An illusion of immortality.

    Yet another form of the escapism that, in one form or another, I’ve always resorted to. For the brutal reality is that I’ve never actually come to terms with brutal reality. Always retreated into a labyrinthine world of thought and fancy. Escapism.

    My emotional memories are real, but related to touch, sound, and smell.

    I believe that smell is one of the most evocative senses.

  190. Bill P says:
    @Red Pill Angel

    I won the regional spelling bee at age 12 without studying for it. I can spell very well when I visualize words. Also, I never used to have to write down phone numbers, and I knew hundreds of them. In middle age I’ve gotten a bit lazy about that, but I still regularly memorize numbers I need with little effort.

    However, when I’m writing without thinking visually about the words I’m typing I often mix up homonyms. I think this is because when my visual focus is elsewhere (say, on the concept in my mind that I’m writing about) the auditory part of my brain takes over my typing and uses phonetic representation. This didn’t start happening until I became good enough at typing to do it without looking at the keyboard, i.e. non-visually, at which point my writing began to better reflect my “inner voice.”

    Again, there’s the split focus thing.

    I wonder how it would break down for you as an aphantasic illustrator. Here’s what I would guess:

    You have a verbal focus combined with a strong “systematic” focus that produces visual output in a logically consistent, step-by-step manner. Perhaps it’s akin to following instructions to perform a dance. If you make the correct moves in the correct order you’re halfway there; all you need to do it right is a bit of practice to get the feel for it. No visualization is necessary.

    I use dancing as an analogy because a dance seems visual to the observer, but for the performer it isn’t necessarily so. Visualization might even get in the way, because it would force the dancer to drop either the kinetic or systematic focus.

    So, I’d assume there’s a good chance that you would find it easy to learn dances.

    • Agree: Red Pill Angel
    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
  191. Dissident says:

    A considerable amount of discussion in the comments about memory and recollection, and specifically, visual memory. Did not notice any mention, however, of confabulation, and how often, much of what we recall is actually a composites of what are actually two or more separate incidents, events, experiences or images, synthesized into what we recall or visualize as one. In recent years, I’ve become increasingly conscious of this phenomenon. Among the many areas it occurs with is Internet comments just like these. Both with my own, as well as with those posted by others, when I actually go and check specific past comments, I frequently find them to differ, even rather considerably, from how I had recalled them.

    • Agree: Harry Baldwin
  192. Mike321 says:

    I think my brother must have hyperphantasia. I went to visit him at his work one day (he was a Navy aircraft mechanic.) One of the people in his crew told me that, “Last week your brother did something so amazing that people are still talking about it. We had to replace a long, oddly shaped length of conduit pipe that wormed its way right under the skin of a helicopter. It was going to be a pain in the ass because the procedure in the manual said the whole right side of the helicopter skin had to be removed. That’s a 2 hour job. After the conduit was replaced (5 minutes) it was going to be another 2 hour job to put the skin back on. Your brother said “Bullshit. Gimme that manual.”
    He studied the “exploded view” of the helicopter for about 2 minutes, then he said, “Unscrew the connectors on both ends.” He then grabbed the aft end of the conduit pipe, and while holding the manual in his right hand, used his left hand and pulled the pipe back about a foot, twisted the pipe a few degrees, pushed it back a few inches, rotated it again a few degrees, pulled it back anther couple of feet, and continued pushing and pulling and rotating this way and that way for about 5 minutes until it was out of the helicopter. “Gimme that new conduit.” He then did the procedure in reverse. Five minutes later he said, “Hook up those connectors.” We couldn’t believe what we had just seen.”

    • Thanks: Harry Baldwin
  193. MEH 0910 says:

  194. @Bill P

    However, when I’m writing without thinking visually about the words I’m typing I often mix up homonyms. I think this is because when my visual focus is elsewhere (say, on the concept in my mind that I’m writing about) the auditory part of my brain takes over my typing and uses phonetic representation. This didn’t start happening until I became good enough at typing to do it without looking at the keyboard, i.e. non-visually, at which point my writing began to better reflect my “inner voice.”

    So would this neural processing explanation be of any help with that lady cop who said “Taser! Taser!” before blasting the Black! driver recently with her 9mm pistol? Everything she consciously did apparently was to utilize a less-lethal weapon. It’s like when your computer boots up and it’s not quite right after it finishes.

  195. JMcG says:
    @Joe Stalin

    Smart hikers generally carry an EPIRB these days. It’s a little electronic gizmo about the size of a pack of cards. Buy it, register it, turn it on if you’re lost; then just wait for rescue.

  196. JMcG says:
    @Red Pill Angel

    Proust’s Madeleine.

    • Thanks: Red Pill Angel
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