IamA non-visualizer. I have aphantasia, meaning I cant produce mental images. AMA.
lunahrs mentioned, mostly because of traumatic experiences.
When I was 15 I went through some really messed up stuff.
Ended up with half my face torn open kind of stuff.
Most of my memory fell prey to traumatic induced amnesia, but I still got "flashbacks"
For a normal visualizer, PTSD is a pretty scary thing. But for me, it wasn't so bad. I say "flashbacks" in quotes because they went really FBs, sure, they were me remembering the events, but it was just me remembering details. I never had to experience the imagery part, and from what I can tell, thats the hard part.
I now work in the emergency services (among other things) and not being able to re-live events has been a blessing for me. Ive spoken to a lot of paramedics, and when asked what they find to be the hardest part of the job, they say it is when they go home after a really tough job and try to fall asleep. They see the faces of the casualties, they get flashes of the trauma, they hear screams.
But for me, I can see whatever is in front of me, but as soon as I look away, that is the last time I ever have to see that horrible scene.
Sure, I cant picture my mothers face, and ill never be able to experience a book the way others do, But I get to go home after a bad day of blood and tears, and I can close my eyes, see nothing but the blackness, and fall right asleep.
Wow... you just made me realise how weird it is that I can picture things in my brain! I never even thought about that before, that not everyone can do it. Insightful.
Im glad I showed you a different angle
As /u/SatansPal has brought up and /u/Purplekeyboard has suggested: Are you also unable to audiate?
yeah, I have very, very limited audiation.
and what I do have is more like anticipation of what mouth movements i need to do next to keep the flow going.
My brain has also overcompensated in some areas to make up for my lack of visualization.
My spacial awareness is very very good, and I remember things in facts, so I take in more information than some visualizers. If I watch something happen, my brain is automatically cataloging and remembering facts about what im seeing. Who is wearing what, how people are standing, the time of each and every event, everything goes into a factual memory. Sure, day to day I forget most of everything I see, just like everyone else, but when the time comes that I need to remember exactly what I'm looking at because im going to have to recall it to the coroner later, having a factual memory is usualy better then a visual one.
Wait? People can imagine something and like see a picture in there head? Like you can just picture a bookcase? And see it? I thought the whole thing was imagination? Like no one can see mental images and we just imagine it and what it's kind of like?
Yes. If you say “picture a white cat on porch,” we can kind of see that in our minds. The details- such as the color of the house or the size or age of the cat will of course be different from person to person. But there is a definite picture that is realized.
Edit: it’s not a perfect picture- It’s kind of a hazy phantom picture. But it’s there and the more you concentrate on it the more you can “see”.
Wait... So, is this not a very rare thing? Because it seems like a bunch of people (including me) are realizing that this is a thing that they have.
Like, i've always known I couldn't picture things in my head but I didn't know it was an actual condition.
It is estimated to be about 1 in 50 people.
It is a LOT more common that you might think
Do you dream?
I have very vivid and lucid dreams.
Dreams use a different mechanism in the brain then visualizations.
Are vivid and lucid dreams associated with aphantasia? Do you have an official diagnosis? I sometimes wonder if I have aphantasia or am at least a very poor visualiser.
Its hard to say. Ive met some other aphantasic lucid dreamers, but im not sure if there is a correlation.
No official diagnosis, none of us have that, as they dont know enough about it. but ive spoken to psychs about it and they all agree that I cant visualize.
How about remembering dreams? Can you "see" what you dreamt or do you remember it as facts?
I recall dreams as facts and plot
This is fascinating
Wait. People seem visualizations? What do you mean? Like I can remember photos, but events. I’m not sure I’ve ever visually remembered something, like I can recall colors and details but there’s no visualization there. What do y’all see?
We found another one guys
Welcome to the club
Dreams use a different mechanism in the brain then visualizations.
That's interesting. I assume daydreaming uses the visualization part and you are incapable of doing that in the way most people do?
Yeah, daydreaming uses visualization, but this is the grey area.
I can daydream, but its never visual, and as soon as i realize im doing it stops and I have no idea what I was thinking about
So let’s say I hand you a photo of 2Pac driving in his 500 Benz and play “Picture me rollin” at the same time. Later, I play the song again. Can you remember what the photo looked like and effectively picture him rollin?
No, not in that sense.
I would be able to tell you things like the color of the car, how the guy was sitting, stuff like that, facts.
But I wouldn't be remembering it by visualizing, I would have automatically remembered facts about the picture when I saw it.
God I always thought this is normal, and now the way we have to literally explain how we imagine stuff it makes me feel so deficient.
Yeah, whole you are at it, Go find a blind man and try explain the concept of color to him.
That will keep you up at night, good luck.
How do you store the facts? As plaintext sentences, "the car is blue", associative, "car->blue", or something else? For me (now I'm doubting that it's a common experience), I'm trying to recall seeing the picture. I re-see the picture and tell you things about it.
This is why a lot of people close their eyes when they try to remember. It's also why suggestion is such a powerful tool to alter memory, I'm not seeing the original picture. I'm recreating it from scratch and if someone asks me to "remember the red car" that might just seep in.
Its stored as an idea if that makes sence. the concept of the color blue and the idea of a car, a small vehicle, 4 wheels, right hand drive because australia. My brain goes on and on with a constant stream of details intill I think of something else
You have no spank bank?
nope, I thought that was slang for sperm bank the first time I heard it.
I wouldn't mind having one lol.
so you cant picture a person in your head?
What about your memories? Just events that happened but couldn't describe them in a picture and no people/faces?
Nope, all memories are pure fact and concept, never visual
Can you jerk off and come without porn? When you do, what do you think of? Concepts, situations, stories? What's it like? I even turn on my head cinema when fucking because a lot of things that feel good are quite dull to watch, e.g. doggy, and things that look good don't feel very good, e.g. missionary.
Nope, need the internet lol
Shit, my mental imaging works fine and I can't imagine jerking it with no visual material.
It was mainly useful for a time with no Internet device.
yes, internet is great
Don't picture a pink elephant!
Did it work?
Nice try lol
Nothing but black
Is it difficult to read a book? When I read I always mentally picture what is going on I'm my head. While reading, is it difficult to concentrate because you can't "see" it?
It's actually not hard at all for me but its apparently much less rich than it is for you. I've been a voracious reader since I was a small child but I had no idea y'all were seeing pictures of what you were reading. So for me it was like seeing the world with natural limitations - kind of like how most of cannot see in ultraviolet or infrared so we see a limited palate of colors. It would be far richer to see all the missing info but it's not obvious to most people that it is missing
What they said^^^^
How do you recall memories or pull up stored information? Such as faces, etc. Do you have a hard time recognizing people?
Not sure for OP side, but for me, I recall memories/stored information as facts. Memories are fact-basis, as in I know what happened in that moment (perhaps detailing step by step basis as a series of actions), but I cannot picture the scene again in my mind. I can’t imagine someone’s face at all, but when I see the person, I can recognize them. And no, it doesn’t pose too much of a problem recognizing people as I still feel a sense of familiarity upon seeing them.
What they said^^^^
Although I went through a time where I was face blind due to other reasons.
I cant describe anyone's face from memory. Just thinking about it, I dont know the eye color of anyone in my family, and I cant think of any defining details for any of them either.
What it makes hard to do? What are this mental images? Because when I think of something, I don't see pictures, it is just strange imagination, like bundle of information together. Could I have it to?
Think of it this way: you know how in movies and TV when they say "imagine a beach", or when they remember something and the beach/memories play like a movie as a cutaway? That's actually what happens to people who don't suffer from it. If you suffer from it, you'll realize that the movies weren't just doing a representation of the memory in image form - people can actually thing of stuff in that way.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
Yep was my first reaction too, lol - welcome to realising how you're different to people and welcome to a lot of exhausting questions when people ask you about what it feels like lol
Welcome to the light lol.
If you are only just figuring this out, it can be pretty confusing, But dont freak out.
There are many benefits, im detailing those in another relpy.
its quite possible
I’ve never even assumed that when people were visualising things in their minds they could actually see a picture.
I’m so confused.
When we recall events it’s not like an actual image in our brain is it? I can remember the details of situations well, my girlfriend would dispute almost too well, but it’s never a picture more just a catalog of happenings, details etc that I can read off of.
Oh dear lord, I was not ready to be evaluating that I might have been without visualisation without realising my whole life...
And another one sees the truth!!
welcome to the land of "so thats what everyone has been talking about my whole life"
Have you tried any creative pursuits? How are you with music, can you produce a mental image of say a melody to speak?
I play the didgeridoo, and I can create different beats and sounds, but most of that works on muscle memory, knowing how to move my lips, mouth, tongue, and diaphragm to produce different things.
I also do a little bit of drawing, but that takes a LOT of trial and error and immense amounts of referencing. Once I learn to draw something I can usualy use muscle memory again to create a similar picture
Have you ever tried drawing something abstract without reference material? Would it just turn out awful or do you think you could make some interesting stuff based on your perception of reality?
I heard apparently Monet had cataracts so his paintings were actually literally how he saw the world.
Also I hope you take that didgeridoo out to bush doofs
I have done a bit of abstract stuff, I enjoy it as I dont have to try, and there is no mold I have to keep to.
I take my didge(s) bush all the time, I work out there. We often have bush doofs, the stoners LOVE when I play.
My favorite time to play is when I get a small group of people together, often clients that I had at work that day that I liked, and take them up a small hill near our camp. I time it right so that it is dark, but the moon isn't up yet. I get everyone to sit down facing east, and I start to play the didge. They sit there quietly as I play, staring at the stars without any light pollution (a rare site in this day and age). After about 5-10 minutes of just stars, the moon peeks over the horizon and begins to rise. This is a very special and surreal experience, and it blows them away every time. I've had people start to laugh, break into tears, even had a group all start howling, but mostly they just stay silent and savor the moment.
Nice. You must have savage circular breathing technique!
yeah, ive got a big mouth lol
Are you in western Australia
What happens if you try to paint/draw anything while blindfolded? Is it just scratches or can you draw something from other parts of your memory?
hmm, never tried that before.
want to give it a shot? tell me something to draw, and ill draw it blind based purely off what I can remember.
A car or a bicycle.
Or maybe some logos from big companies.
Here you go
explanations in red
I was with you until the dog.
Are you terrible with directions? How is your memory?
My navigational abilities are surprisingly well developed.
But if you ask me for directions It depends case by case.
Sure, I would be able to tell you that the bakery is around the corner and about 100m down the road, or to drive about 25km and turn left at the windmill, but ask me what side of the bakery the newsagent is, and im not likely to know, as they are both in a similar location.
I am a navigation instructor for the emergency services and part of the military.
If I have been somewhere before, even only once, I can find my way back there fairly easy, even years after. I once drove 500km to the house I grew up in without any directions. I hadn't been there since I was 7.
My spacial awareness is very well turned, as my memory is mostly location based. Most people are visual based or time based.
I have had cases of amnesia in the past (all trauma induced) but my memory is pretty good as long as im working with location. I dont have much of an autobiographical memory.
So... how do you jerk off without porn?
I̶ ̶f̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶ ̶w̶a̶t̶e̶r̶m̶e̶l̶o̶n̶ I dont
Can you draw or doodle without copying an image?
I can, but it takes me a long time to get anything that looks remotely like what im trying to draw.
LOTS of trial and error
Thanks for your answer. I'll try to picture some extra stuff for you when I go to bed.
An MD/PhD student who I worked with had this condition as well. Turns out it had a genetic link in her family. Is the case the same for you?
There have been some reports that suggest a minor genetic link, but not enough study has been done to say for sure
Do you have physical memory? Like knowing the feel of turning something right to open?
I would say yes. It's more based on a feeling of direction and movement.
But saying that, when I read that question my hands mimicked the movement as soon as I read it, and I looked at my hands to see what way they were moving.
What's your opinion of /r/Aphantasia?
New to reddit, first time seeing it.
How does your condition effect your ability to study?
I would assume that information can also be stored as image as well pure info.
I cant store anything as an image. I have to memories strait facts.
I really suck at studying.
This one is going to be a little more invasive, but how to you deal with sexual and romantic fantasies?
Most people imagine the face of their desired partner kissing them. Do you just... not?
Couldn't do that if my life depended on it.
also, never had a romantic relationship before.
I cant picture what someone might look under their clothes or picture myself with them.
(Im 21 lol, dont virgin shame me)
IMO it's better to wait to have a relationship that means something to you than just rush in. I regret my first relationship, and then my second one turned out to be the dude I would marry. First guy? I literally only got with him cause he called me pretty. Second guy? I had no attraction to him, but we became amazing friends and a few months later I realized I was attracted to him because I'd fallen in love.
Sorry. I know this is off subject from the AMA (which has been awesome BTW I've learned so much thank you for doing it). Mostly I just wanted you to know you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. It sounds like you've already done a lot in your life, and even if you hadn't there still wouldn't be a reason to be ashamed. Keep trying to be the best you can be, and someday you'll meet someone who loves you for who you are.
Thanks, that was nice to read
How would something like painting work? Can you paint a picture of a flower from memory, or do you need a model?
I could draw the basic shape of a flower, but only from factual memory.
Do you remember what you look like? Or do you need to check the mirror often? If I showed you three pictures would you be able to identify yourself?
No idea what I look like, often dont recognize myself in pics.
This part for me has had other interference though, past trauma made me partially face blind for a while, I was scared of my own reflection for that time as i always thought it was someone else.
Wow thanks for the quick answer. Another question: do horror movies scare you usually or are they always meh?
Horror movies do nothing for me, i can never get into them.
as soon as someone makes a blatantly stupid choice I loose interest
Have you ever thought that you never get spoiled by visualizing you expectations about something and never have your surprises ruined as a result?
Many times when I'm traveling with someone who's already visited a place I'll visualize it according to their tales and get disappointed when I see the real thing because I went too far.
Also dates. Every time I'm like "this is not how I imagined it"...
Never get that happen to me.
also, never been on a date lol
Is this limited to visual images? Can you still imagine sounds, smells, tastes, etc?
Ahh, good question.
Aphantasia referees to the synthesization of any senses.
Some people can do some, but not others.
For me, its a total blackout, I get nothing
Have you been involvedin any psych studies? How were you diagnosed?
Also how are you at math/science?
Never been in a study, but im keen to be.
Ive spoken to some psych students I met about it and it blew them away.
They said if they had met me earlier they would have done their thesis on the subject, but they were almost done with uni.
Maybe I should get in contact with some of the unis about it.
There are a lot of people who think that aphantasia is not a real thing, and that people who report it "just aren't doing it right."
But a 2018 study came up with a very interesting way of showing that self-reported aphantasiacs aren't just making this up.
There is a phenomenon called binocular rivalry. If you look through a pair of binoculars that have been manipulated so that you see two different images, your brain will often "resolve" the rival images by choosing to focus on one of them, even though you're seeing both of them.
It turns out that most people can be primed to resolve the image in a certain way if they are shown one of the images ahead of time.
But in people with aphantasia, priming with visual imagery doesn't appear to work.
This suggests that people with aphantasia don't just lack the ability to tap into their mind's eye; rather, their mind's eye really does appear to be blind.
I recall hearing about something like that, but its good to get the full picture. thanks!
wow, fascinating... sounds like working in emergency services is a natural fit, for leaving work at work... perhaps folks with this would also be quite effective as a detective, being able to summarize scenes and evidence in factual lists?
Probably, i have had to recreate scenes before and I was very good at it
Greetings fellow aphantasia sufferer! Do you also get tired of people asking the same questions when you try to explain what it's like?
Well I guess you're doing an ama but still...
Also - what advantages do you reckon you might have over someone who can visualize images?
SHHHH you said the "S word"!!!
haha, some of us dont like that word, I dont really care tho tbh.
if you check some of the other comments ive put a couple advantages in there.
Thank you so much for bringing awareness of aphantasia to those of us that didn’t even know it existed!
My question is, have you noticed a big impact on your daily life? Like, is it hard for you to go places without getting lost? I know I deeply rely on my memory to get places, or even recognizing your own home?
Also, out of curiosity, how do you do with memory games? Lol it’s probably a stupid question but I wonder how good you are with those memory games where you flip cards and match similar pairs.
My navigation/spacial ability is over developed, yes, that can happen, and its sometimes not fun.
im good at memory games, I memorize grid coordinates of each picture
Are your dreams visual? If not, what do you dream?
Very visual, very lucid, very stable dreams
How does it affect your social life?
Do you think that having aphantasia has a positive or negative effect on your connection to other people? Is it easier to forgive other people? Is it harder to reminisce together?
Oh, totally negative on social life for me.
I forget they exist way to often.
Out of sight, out of mind, quite litaraly.
Are you an NPC?
Hello, I have an everyday task for you to do.
No one else in the world can do it.
Its very urgent, but if you come back in a few days I will still be standing here.
Has this affected your personal relationships positively or negatively, that you've seen?
I ask as someone that has an exceptional visual memory (and memory in general), and i feel it has isolated me to varying degrees in personal relationships as people don't understand my 'strange' behavior. I can't attend viewings as that image will be stuck with me forever, and likewise i do not carry around photos of loved ones because i remember them nearly perfectly, etc.
I forget my friends exist sometimes. Out of sight, out of mind (completely)
Never had a romantic relationship.
Ive never had pics of family.
Do you think having aphantasia is better than having an overactive imagination? I often catch myself weaving in and out of my imagination land where full events take place. Conversations are had, characters are made, backgrounds too. Everyday my gf catches me daydreaming and she says "what are you thinking about" so I'm pulled back into reality and I tell her about some silly thoughts. Some are funny, and some are very dark. I can't physically stop myself from doing this, especially when I'm bored or tired. My whole body goes on autopilot and I can't hear or see anything else until I come back. If someone speaks to me when I'm reading anything, even a Reddit post, it's very hard to hear them because I'm focused on the content and creating a mental image. All of these things have been effecting me more lately, especially when my gf showed me some pictures she took while I was daydreaming...I look horrendous. I have thought about taking medicine to help me, too. I think I'd rather have aphantasia. Thoughts?
I still daydream, But its never visual, I kind of just zone out. I think I rather my end of the spectrum tbh.
what happens if you misplace something?
I do exercises to help me visualize things example tying 2 pieces of string into a certain kind of knot, it is also really helpful in dealing with abstract concepts. Are there any exercises that you have tried to improve or create visual memory? How did this affect your study habits in school and now?
I am very good at knots, I use tactile memory for that mostly.
Never been able to use visual memory..
I sucked at everything but the sciences (And physical stuff) at school
Are you able to daydream?
Yes, but its not visual?
This is a hard one for me to explain
What do you see when you close your eyes?
Edit: This is a bit vague; what I meant has to do with visual memory. My brain tends to show imprints of visual memories/images that are associated with what I’m thinking of or what I’m feeling at that moment. Since I’m not really sure whether this is what a photographic memory is like or whether it’s more of a regularity, and since I haven’t actually thought about this entire process this deeply before, I was wondering whether or not someone with aphantasia has this, or to what extent. Like, do you have visual memories that your mind conjures up when you remember them?
Wait, what do YOU see when you close your eyes?
I mean that I see images that my mind conjures up, but I would imagine that, for someone with aphantasia, all they see is black. I am curious about whether or not that’s true.
As someone with aphantasia, it's just black.
Yeah, pure black for me
How did you find out? How old were you?
I was 18
I mentioned to someone how dumb it was back in school when my English teacher always used dumb metaphors like "see it in your head"
"dumb bitch failed me because I could never figure out what she meant by that" I said, and my mate just sat and stared.
He explained, I freaked out and wanted to go home and re-think my life.
Can you draw a picture from memory? Like a basic landscape?
In OP's absence since starting the AMA, you can physically draw or paint images of landscapes without too much trouble but they won't be one that you've actually been to. You'd start by drawing the rough edges of what you remember makes a landscape... Start with a horizon & hills and fill in the gaps from what kind of things you'd consider to be attributed to that landscape. Someone's face? Similar sort of detail. Start by using a generic shape, then build detail from a list of distinguishing elements that you would have noted while looking at them and thought were remarkable. It won't likely look much like them - but it will look like someone similar to them with similar notable features
Sorry for being absent, was having dinner.
I cant really draw very well from memory.
I can do enough to play pictionary, but not much more than that. (i suck at that game)
Why are you extremely grateful for it?
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