I think back many years to my childhood, and I can remember my grandparents garden. It was a long garden with a wood at the end with paths running through it. I can remember the layout, the placement of trees, sheds, workshops.

Going deeper I can remember the steps, where they were, how many there were, the colour of the paving, the placement of minor details like BBQ and statues.

My point is, if I can't visualise, how am I able to remember all this fine detail.

 

My feeling is, we store the memories the same as everyone else, but we are unable to connect the memories to a visual representation in our mind.

I feel as though we are able to store memories to the same degree as people who can visualise, the difference to me seems to be in the retrieval of the memory.

 

Individual details of a persons face, I may be able to remember, hair colour, eye colour and skin tone. However, beyond that I can't recreate their face to explain to someone what they look like, or to attempt to draw a representation of them. This could be down to my lack of artistic skills, however, I feel like the information is in my mind, but I am unable to retrieve it in a meaningful way.

 

I feel as though, when I close my eyes (it is black) and try to remember something, it is as though I get a fleeting feeling of the whole memory, but I am then forced to work systematically through the memory from bottom left to top right, remembering each segment as I go to be able to form a whole.

To explain this, I mean that I know what the memory is, but as I can't see the whole picture, I work slowly, step by step through the memory, trying to build the whole picture, like word by word I form a sentence. The memory is in my mind, in all its glorious detail, but retrieving that information isn't possible as a visual whole.

This leads me to think I am storing the memory in just the same way as everyone else, but I can't see it in my mind.

 

However, I've heard some visualisers say that they can relive memories like a video being played in their mind. Now this is where my "theory" stumbles. If I remember a place, or even a memory that was a movement memory, like a roller coaster or a plane taking off. I feel like my memories are only ever stored as pictures, snapshots of time waiting to be retrieved.

Perhaps I have stored this memory as a video in my mind, but because I need to retrieve it piece by piece, I pause the video memory and retrieve it descriptively from an image in my memory.

 

Is my mind storing my memories of loved ones just as visualisers do, but my ability to retrieve the memory is "broken". Perhaps I can't store the memory as visualisers can in the first place, so my memory storage and retrieval is different to non aphantasmics.

Do we store our memories in the same way as non aphantasmics. That is a question I believe that will be answered in time with further research. However, I want to open the floor to discussion on this, as I want to know how people feel regarding stored memories.

 

How do you feel you store memories, in a limited way, or the same as everyone else with issues in retrieving the memory? Please leave comments below.

 


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Posted: 1 year 5 months ago by caymangolfer #3543
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This is really fascinating, I read an article on the BBC about a Blind Mind yesterday and then realized "huh, that is me!" I have never thought I was different in anyway, but now that I have talked with a few people who are able to visualize to great detail, a butterfly or apple etc and when I tried I seethe black of my closed eyelids. Somewhere in the periphery is all the detail I need to "draw that person or object" I can sense it there but I just cannot visualize it. Wow mind blown at 48 years old!

This is an odd feeling as I have always thought I had a photographic memory, if I read something I can remember it and recite it word for word, so I thought I "could see it", but now I realize I cannot, similar to AlanF who can remember where every Chess Piece is placed (I was never that good!!) but couldn't visualize the board.

I know all my visual sensory "memories" are there, I can see people in the street and recognize them instantly and where I met them and remember all about them, but if you asked me to draw them after I saw them or even describe them I would fail, certainly not useful as a eyewitness for a sketch artist.

BTW I can never remember my dreams, I have one nightmare as a child that I remember vividly, I can describe it, can see it on the periphery of my mind but cannot recall it front and centre.

Looking forward to learning more about this condition that I thought was standard!

Cheers!
Posted: 1 year 5 months ago by AlanF #3408
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I can't recall images but know precisely where things are. I was when young a very strong chess player, of master strength, but I never visualised pieces on the board but I could remember where every piece was. I could even play five games simultaneously blindfold - without sight of the board.
Posted: 1 year 6 months ago by CanISee #3129
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Tamsinash wrote:
Do any of you dream visually?

Yep, full color, from my perspective, etc etc. I am me in my dreams.
Posted: 1 year 6 months ago by Red Five #3093
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I am completely blown away right now. I mean I didn't think anything different or that anyone did anything differently until I read an article about aphantasia. I guess that I've always been this way and never realised it.
I have (for my age) good vision, can see distant things very well but require mild glasses for reading. Have a great memory, can taste well and know instinctively what goes with what in cooking. Smell is good, although coumarin gives me a migraine (lavender smell).
I love to read but don't really picture the words. I remember the scene though.
I think that I may be on the asd spectrum though, or is it the aphantasia making me like things 'just so'. I mean I like my DVDs stored in alphabetical order and lots of small things like that.

The only thing I can think of that affects me adversely is the inability to recall events emotionally, as if I was there. Some have called it cold and dispassionate, but I just thought it was me processing events quickly and moving on.

Anyway, I am glad I've found what it is, I can at least put a name to it now.
Posted: 1 year 7 months ago by BrightWriter #2810
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I only recently discovered that this inability to visualize had a name, but I've been aphantasmic for as long as I can remember. I have a fairly good memory. Did well academically. I remember the facts of an experience. If those facts include sensory detail, then I can recall them. I can recall and describe the house where I grew up. But I can't picture it. I can't close my eyes and see it.

I always thought that those who claimed to create mental pictures, who could visualize, were just speaking metaphorically and not literally. The brain is a fascinating thing. I have normal hearing and vision, a sense of touch, a sense of taste, a sense of smell. My brain is receiving sensory input all the time. They say the memories that are sharpest are those with the most sensory detail. A scent can trigger a memory for me. Hearing a piece of music can. It's fascinating to me. Obviously sensory information is being encoded somehow. It's not meaningless to me. Although I have read that for some aphantasmics, reading a descriptive passage in a book, a passage that "sets the scene" is meaningless to them. I can read such a passage and file it away in my memory and know that the action is happening in a forest, a downtown street or wherever. I will remember that detail of the story.

My inability to visualize seems not to have impacted my memory, at least not in any way that I can discern. The only things I've noticed is that I can't recall something, say upsetting, and experience the emotions as if I'm having the experience. I recall things dispassionately. Even if there were intense emotions surrounding event being remembered. So I guess that's something.
Posted: 1 year 7 months ago by Tamsinash #2790
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I would have to agree on several topics. I have been aphantasmic since birth, and discovered this almost 9 years ago.
Ever since I have been trying to find out more about what causes it or any adverse effects it has, such as with memory.
How nice to finally find a community of like-minded people.

I have great difficulty in memory recall and remembering faces that I do not know well. I have adapted to this by becoming good at reading when people recognise me and who they are in context (as was mentioned previously), as well as to use gait, height, dress, and mannerisms to help. However, if I see someone at work every day but never engage with them conversationally, then see them in the street, I may still find it difficult to place them. I completely agree with Debra, in that I definitely need to build up enough information about someone in order to remember them easily. However, this is not uncommon to imagers as well.

Do any of you dream visually? I dream often, but never in images. I have read that people with aphantasia generally are unable to conjure voluntary images, but conjure involuntary ones in dreams.
Posted: 1 year 9 months ago by Debra #2579
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I am just finding out I have aphantasia and it is amazing to think about all the differences between "us" and "them". For example, I struggle very hard with the game of Chess but think I would be a whiz if I could visually remember a sequence of moves. It also seems to me that if it is something you can't turn off at will then there would be a huge problem for me with sensory over-load. When I read about Aspergers I find that I can identify with a lot of the symptoms so I am wondering if it isn't possible that early in life I found a way to shut off the visualization as a coping strategy.
To describe my memory bank of faces it is like I have to be around a person quite a bit before I have stored enough information to remember them easily. Context definitely helps. I first noticed this while working in a hospital and thinking that I didn't recognize the person in public because they weren't in uniform. When I try to think about how a family member looks I get a "formula" of how they look that is based on a photo that I like of them that I have spent time looking at... shape of jaw, angle of cheek-bones, juxtaposition of parts, details and light and shadow. I think there is never colour involved but I am not sure. Still studying this.
Posted: 1 year 10 months ago by Faustine #2344
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I'd agree with that. My memory recall is pretty spatial or motion-based. I'd compare it to moving around in a familiar room in the dark, where you know where everything is but you can't see it... but now I'm wondering if visual people simply decide to see the room as if there were a light source.

Remembering what my teenage bedroom looked like, for example, I'd use the bed, the sofa, the desk or the rabbit cage as a starting point, and think in terms of distances in the dark. The sofa table was this close to the sofa, because in getting off the sofa you had this much space before hitting the table. The arm chair was in this angle because otherwise you couldn't slip past the desk. When entering the desk area there was a pillar, the remnant of an old wall, because in the dark you might hit your shoulder on it, but don't hug the pillar too close or you'll touch the bulletin board. I think the dresser has four drawers because of the height difference between the feeling of pulling out the top drawer, compared to pulling out the bottom drawer. Maybe it's three?

Remembering what my husband's face looks like I'll follow my own eye-movements as I look at him from the angle I normally closely examine his face from. With my eyes I might follow my own finger in a memory of me tracing his features with my index finger. I can't see him, but I could tell you the difference in angle and appearance of his jawbone between when he's lying on his back, sitting up straight or sitting and smiling. I couldn't draw you a picture, because I've got no image to go from, but I can describe it verbally.

There's no motion in my memories, only the motion of me working my way through them. They're vaguely 3D photos that I can't see.

To use a more technical metaphor, my recall is like a 3D environment where lots of points and shapes have been registered, but no colours, lines or textures have been added. The data is there, and it can be retrieved, but its uses are slightly limited compared to a full "whole picture" visualisation.
Posted: 1 year 10 months ago by shari_26 #2330
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I think of it as my memories are stored in a glass cabinet - I can see them, I know what they consist of, but I can't access them to be able to use/experience them, so my mind is forced to try to "create" these sense memories out of nothing, which is what I end up with - nothing. It's like a ghost of a negative - the image lacks details and is nothing more than a faint transparency of what my mind thinks I should be seeing which promptly disappears.
Posted: 1 year 11 months ago by sdegenov #2221
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..."computer and hard-drive, but no monitor..." that is brilliant! I have a monitor, but it works poorly, images are faint and hazy, and disappear immediately.
In speech therapy, there is a disorder called Apraxia (or Dyspraxia). It's a motor-planning disorder, where you cannot do or say something when you want to, but you may be able to do it when you're not trying to. When something is volitional, or purposefully attempted, that's when the motor-planning at the brain level fails. Yet there's nothing wrong with the mouth, or muscles, or breath, or tongue...it's the sequencing and coordination of the brain impulses to the proper muscles that gets screwed up, when you are making an effort to say something. This reminds me of aphantasia somewhat, because I cannot picture things when I want to, but once in a while I might get an image when daydreaming (which is, of course, unintentional).
Posted: 1 year 11 months ago by jennjenn #2214

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I actually don't have clear memories of childhood. I can repeat stories I have heard but don't feel connected to them. Part of me thinks it is because I didn't know how to capture the details as I do now. For me if it's a moving memory I am trying to recall I find my eyes will move along the path I am remembering. If its a still memory it just depends on how intentional I was about making a memory. If I wasn't intentional I can often recall the overall feeling but few details. If I was intentional then I can recall many more details. By intentional, I mean that there are times where as something is happen I stop to describe what I am seeing to myself. The words tend to stick so I can recall them. I've always wanted to sit down with someone that does the drawings based on eyewitness testimony and see if I could drescribe someone well enough to get a close picture.....
Posted: 1 year 11 months ago by MiM #2209
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To start with, your description fits my experience really well, at least up to when you started to talk about movement. For me memorising movement is more like being in an extremely lo-fi virtual reality. It does activate all my senses but, as I said, in a very low-fi manner.

Someone descried aphantasia as having the computer and the hard-disk, but lacking the monitor. I find that for me this is a very good description, and I have gotten good responses when using it with visualizers too. In my case (and as I understand it, yours too) the monitor is not completely lacking, but small and constantly flickering and generally low fidelity.

One reason I am convinced that I have the data storage, is that at the time I was first learning about aphantasia, I met an old acquaintance, that I had not seen for about 25 years, in a completely surprising situation. And I was the one who recognized her first. That would just not have been possible, without having the data, even though I probably based my recognition on her voice and behaviour as much as on what she looked liked.