How can we begin to understand something as personal as your conscience. This grey area of uncertainty has led to a few people wondering, could it be possible aphantasia is a misunderstanding of how a visualisation appears?

This and many more questions have been raised in our forum. To answer these questions, we have a crowd research section on the forum where members can ask questions to see if we can find common ground, using these polls we can look at areas where a more scientific approach might be of use.

 

In my opinion, a good way to approach any question that relates to the subjective experience of aphantasia is not to ask how they feel different, but to ask why others seem different to them. That may seem like asking the same question, but it forces the individual not to reflect on what they experience, but to reflect on the understanding of how they perceive others ability to visualise.

We know we are different, we can't visualise, or form any synthesised sensory experience in our mind. However, to deepen our understanding we must understand how we differ from the general public.

 

This was a question asked on a facebook group for people with aphantasia "Could it be that us who believe we are Aphantasiac, just have an unrealistic idea of what "an image in front of us is"?"

This is a question I have been asking myself for the last 17 years,"am I expecting more than what is normal?". I have asked other people how they visualise, how powerful is it, can you see little aliens running around? The clearest example of difference came recently, I was driving in traffic, my wife could look at the road ahead, close her eyes, and it was like they were still open.

Those kind of answers make it clear to us, that we are different. 

 

We are building up a body of information from people with aphantasia and slowly we are forming an overview of aphantasia.  

So far we have learnt that aphantasia doesn't stop you from being an artist, an engineer or a designer. Obviously it wouldn't, but we have been asked how can you draw if you can't visualise. Aphantasia isn't a disability, but a different way of thinking, a different way of being creative. Aphantasia is not a closed door to creativity.

While aphantasia isn't a disability, it could be viewed as a difficulty in certain situations, but also a benefit in others.

 

Aphantasia looks like it could have a genetic aspect, where some people have parents, siblings and children all with aphantasia.

We are also starting to see that people feel they have been misdiagnosed with another condition, when infact aphantasia explains their reason for having difficulties then their diagnosis does.

 

We are at the early stages of a journey of discovery, the more people who join in, the more we can learn.


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Posted: 1 year 5 months ago by livewire #3305
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I'm new here, and have never known others like me, who cannot visualize, so I find this so interesting that some of you are working in such visual fields. My dad was a sign painter and weekend artist and I had a cousin who was an excellent watercolor artist. I have a level of ability to copy another picture, and have done some painting, and even worked at faux finishing and painting murals at one time, but I don't have much ability to paint something unless I'm looking at it, or a picture of it.

I've never felt I was very creative, though others see me that way. In fact, I used to wonder if I HAD the creative side of the brain until, for a medical reason, I had an MRI of my head and could see the image of that complete brain, looking like a walnut or pecan.

Even so, I was always drawn to the idea of visual work. As a teen I thought it would be fun to be a window dresser or clothing designer. I made all my own clothes, though they never turned out to flatter or fit as I wanted them to. Later I tried to be an artist without a lot of success. I admire bonsai, but I have no interest in creating my own little artistic trees.

I'm excited at the prospect of learning more from others like me, with no mental images.
Posted: 2 years 1 week ago by Mike_M #2038
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PeteG wrote:
Had I a functioning mind's eye, though, I could be a director or a set designer or a graphic designer or an animator. I have found, over the course of more than five decades, that I cannot do these things because I have no mind's eye upon which to draw for inspiration.

Is it different for others with this condition?

My own experience is very different. I've worked in the visual arts all my life, originally as a painter (not very good, I'll admit!) and signwriter, then as a graphic designer in what used to be called 'commercial art' - corporate logos and liveries, print design, etc - then in computer animation back in the 1980's doing what we called 'flying logos' and eventually building and animating CG creatures for TV and film.

I really don't think that a mind's eye is essential (or even necessary) for directors and animators - directors are concerned with human emotion and movement, and their skill is in extracting performances from actors (or animators, in the case of a director of animation). They explain to the actors what the emotional content of a scene is, and suggest ways in which the emotions can be portrayed - after that, they look at the performances and modify their instructions accordingly. They don't see a finished scene in their minds before they start, they build it up from the script, the storyboard, and the actors' performances. Animators observe people (or animals) in motion - sometimes they examine live-action footage frame by frame to break down a movement into its constituent parts - and then replicate it and modify it in their work. This was as true of the best classic cel animators at Disney in the 30s as it is of CGI animators at Pixar today.

Graphic designers tend to work on a sketchpad, not in their heads. Perhaps today they'd work on electronic sketchpad, but the principle is the same. They rough out an idea, modify it, play around with it, look at it upside down or in a mirror (really helps with composition), gradually honing it into something they like. They'll sometimes end up with 50 or 60 sketches for a single logo.

The Impressionist painters worked directly from life - their whole philosophy was based around painting what they saw in front of them; they didn't make it up in their heads. Would anyone argue that they were not artists?
Posted: 2 years 1 week ago by S Weinberg #2036
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Pete, I'm pretty sure that my aphantasia is fairly comprehensive (except that I seem to be able to dream with images, which mystifies me), and I am an engineer. A mechanical designer, in fact, which I've heard is one of the types most associated with strong mental imagery skills. The thing is that I don't need a mental image for much, if any, of my work. The image is fairly superficial, actually. I know what I want my design to do, and I'm aware of the properties of a wide variety of mechanisms, devices, materials, etc. Generally, I construct by function, more than form.

As far as images, I construct them as I go, on paper, and on my screen. Computer Aided Design software is an amazing tool where you can construct basically whatever you want on the computer in photo-realistic quality, if that's what you want, and it is ubiquitous in engineering now. I don't need a mind's eye, I have the tools to create the imagery for me.
Posted: 2 years 1 week ago by Nathan Buzby #2006
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PeteG,

I have been able to conceptualize basic scenes and shapes without visual imagery, I know that assembling certain shapes in certain orders can create certain effects. I am unable to make it realistic and suck at any sense of perspective, and I must create the scene as I go, meaning I make numerous mistakes and errors. thankfully, abstract and figurative art does not need this level of realism and I have found that to be my creative outlet. I used to want nothing more than to make photorealistic pictures, I wanted to draw the heroes described in the books I read, I wanted to see them, but alas never could. I put down my pencils and brushes for decades because of my perceived failure, but finally i have discovered that my perception has real value, my art is not the same as everyone else's, we do not lack for people to draw heroes, dragons, landscapes, and portraits. Instead my art is formed in front of me on the medium as I go, even I do not know what the end result will be, and I find it fascinating, and I find it makes people think, to ask questions, instead of just labeling it as "oh look a dragon". Sure, I could put in the man hours to learn to look at a picture and copy it, but art is so much more. Just different processes, I find I appreciate more art as a result (I used to loathe abstract, now I am doing it! go figure, but I still am amazed by photorealistic drawings and paintings, blows my mind).

As for designing areas the the space around me, I find I am able to do this again on a strictly cognitive level, but it does take longer, I cannot walk into a room for example and have some concept in my mind, I have to walk around, feel out the space, think consciously how certain colors compliment and contrast, I have to spend a lot of time in that space to begin to put things together, then I will have to re-arrange multiple times, not great for a set designer or a career with a time constraint, but it turns out to be not such a bad approach for interesting home decor! Once again, just a different process, with a different potential result, that can still be a wonderful thing!
Posted: 2 years 1 week ago by PeteG #1982
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I'm not at all sure Aphantasia "doesn't stop you from being an artist, an engineer or a designer." Or maybe it's simply a matter of how each of us experiences it.

I remember being a kindergartner in art class in the 1960s, being presented with blank paper and watercolors, and being asked (with the rest of the class) to paint a simple scene - a house, or some flowers, or whatever. And I remember sitting there in utter bewilderment (and a terrible feeling of being utterly alone) as other kids painted from their mind's eye while I sat there without a clue in front of a piece of paper that remained blank because I had no idea what to put on it. And I still can't do it today. Oh, I can copy something if it's in front of me. But take it out of my view and I'm lost.

This means I can't synthesize a scene, or a 2D or 3D object, or a character, or a logo. I can't see it in my head, so I can't put it on paper (or on a screen).

Oddly enough, I work as a video editor - the epitome of visual media, to be sure. But when editing, the set has already been designed and built, the actors already costumed and choreographed, the material already shot. I don't need to synthesize - I only need to work with building blocks that have already been created. Had I a functioning mind's eye, though, I could be a director or a set designer or a graphic designer or an animator. I have found, over the course of more than five decades, that I cannot do these things because I have no mind's eye upon which to draw for inspiration.

Is it different for others with this condition?