How to improve visualization and mental imagery?

I want to be able to form and manipulate vivid mental images in my mind, both for memory palaces and just to be able to design things in my head and see them with greater clarity. What are some techniques and excercises I can do to become a vivid visualizer?


It does not really answer your question but I mention brain food because I think that plays a big role.

Pkiani, I’m so glad you brought up this topic. I’ve been struggling with clear mental imagery myself lately. I’ve been working slowly through an artificial memory room I created, and storing all the elements from the periodic table (chemistry), yet have had difficulty with speed. You and I both need to work on this skill set more.

The best way to improve your visualization ability of mental images is the same as in anything else. If you want to be a better long distance runner, in addition to running and walking at a normally moderate pace, you also occasionally practice short bursts of running your fastest, at intense speed, then slow down and relax - doing that intermittently will significantly improve your fitness level. The same holds true for visualization. Practice occasionally seeing a few images as vivid and clear as you can for even just a second, then relax and allow your images to be less vivid. Do that a few times and you will notice a major improvement. However, even the top memory athletes in the world do not have perfect image clarity, but rather see only the most important parts of the images as clear as possible for a short second, then on to the next image.

Speaking of physical fitness and mental imagery practice, here is a strange study I found showing visualization practice can actually make you physically stronger as well.

Another very useful idea is to practice looking at objects throughout the day, then closing your eyes or simply looking away, and remembering everything you can about how it looked, then looking back again, then away, and so on. That is what some artists do to strengthen their own visualization skills. I’ve provided one YouTube video link and a few other article links below, which I will also read and watch. Good luck!

Free memory training game:


They’re right: brain food and practicing the visualization are important. Visualizing images in detail is difficult because the brain is designed for efficiency and does not want to expend extra energy filling in details of an image. Of course, as mnemonic disciples, that doesn’t help us much! One trick I have found that helps with visualization for me is “hearing” the image. If it’s an image of an elephant playing a saxophone, hear the elephant trumpet and hear the sax. And hear the fly buzzing around it and hear the dinner plates clacking in the background, and hear the air conditioning unit come on…whatever you hear you will see.

I’ve heard of a couple of exercises. One is the Goldentouch-Levy method (from the SuperLearner course) called the Multiple Uses test. Take an object like a pen and think of as many uses as possible from “writing” of course, all the way to “take out the spring and use it to short out a battery” or “use it to span a short distance so a mouse can walk across.” Get creative and absurd.

Next exercise is a visualization exercise. Think of, say, an orange. Really try to see it, the color, the dimples in the skin, imagine scraping your finger across the rind and smell it, feel it. Imagine peeling it, the sound. Then imagine making it grow, huge. Shrink. Distort/stretch. Rotate around. Morph into another shape.

These are said to help. Anthony Metivier thinks that practicing card memorization also helps stretch the visualization muscle. Probably ANY mnemonic exercise: linking, pegging, cards, whatever you like will help as well.

jmsmall, those are fantastic ideas! It seems the whole idea behind improving our memory and visualization skills resides in the creative uses we apply it for, as you indicated in your recommendation of the Multiple Uses Test. Life is movement, and the more we engage with that movement, the more it engages with us, creating a symbiotic relationship - we add energy of thought into ideas, and those ideas stick in our brains and expand in potentialities.