I believe I may have Aphantasia (lack of ability to visualize)

I just recently came across an article about Aphantasia and i’m still not certain if I have it, but I always assumed the way my imagination works is normal. When I picture things I don’t see pictures, instead I see the back of my eyelids but I think about the concepts of things. For example, if you asked me to visualize a rose I could imagine the concept of the shape in my mind, and almost pull the color forward but I can’t actually see a clear picture of a rose, whereas in dreams (when I have them) I usually have a very vivid and immersive world created, which is why I kind of understand that my daytime imagination might not be normal. As far as mentally walking through my house its similar I guess, I can do it mainly because I probably know my house well, I kind of visual the shape of my walk and the shapes of furniture and place loci on them, and when dealing with loci in my memory palace I have the concept of what they are and that’s what makes me remember them rather than a vivid visual picture of them. This usually works ok for me, the much harder part for me is remembering enough locations vividly enough to have enough places to put loci.

I always thought only savants could have those magnificent memory palaces, perhaps now I realize instead, I am the exception, rather than the norm. So I think I might be doomed as far as a successful memory palace is confirmed.

But I am curious what everyone’s thoughts are on this, if you have any kind of experience you would like to share, or advice, that would be appreciated!

P.S. This is Aphantasia for those who don’t know

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I know someone with this condition and I have thought about this before, it certainly seems that competitive memory would be impossible due to visual memory being the centerpiece of every technique. I can’t say for certain whether you have this or not, but I can say that most people can see things they have familiarity with in their head no problem similar to a dream except usually less vivid. I don’t want to tell you to give up but you might have to find a different way to approach memory. I am interested in your discoveries so please keep us posted :slight_smile:

I’m going to post about my experiences and hopefully its the same for the majority of other people. When I close my eyes all I see is blackness, the backs of my eyelids like you. However, I can visually imagine things. It isn’t like physical seeing, its like thinking but in images. Its possible for me to visualize things in a lot of detail though not always. When you say you see the “shapes” of things it might be the same thing though I do not know. Starting out, it seemed like I had a worse ability to visualize locations (not images in general) than other people but practice has helped. I can always imagine things in color and I almost never have a problem with it but I think color is one aspect my brain is particularly good at.

Yes I think perhaps a lot of it might just be a communication problem of what exactly “seeing things” is. I can conceptualize what something will look like in my brain, though it lacks any kind of detail. After doing some research I guess for most people they can “see a photograph” or “have a movie playback when they are reading a book”, my memory is nowhere near this vivid. Admittedly it is not something I practice regularly (though I am going to start), though I don’t think the average person has to practice seeing images in their hea, typically they just come up naturally. Still what confuses me is in the rare occasion that I do have a dream it is virtually indistinguishable from real life, so I am not sure if this is how I am supposed to visualize when awake as well

The vividness of my mental images has improved drastically just a short time after starting to practice. Before there was some concept, maybe a little bit of an image but not much detail. now more details are showing up and I can ignore the blackness behind my eyelids, in a similar fashion to how you don’t feel your clothes. If you keep practicing and trying for as much detail as possible, you may get better at it.

i actually was going to post this study in a second thread, then this thread caught my eyes.

Here’s a study about visual imagery and memory. not the whole study, but the abstract’s there.


I actually visually go through my memory palaces in my head with my eyes open nowadays because I have to do it like that for memorizing things and also during recall.

The vividness of my mental images has improved drastically just a short time after starting to practice.

Hey, happened to me, too! You improved simply by using mnemo-techniques?

I think aphantasia is basically a word defining “untrained visualization skill.” With frequent practice everyone can illuminate that mental stage. When I started out using memory techniques, I didn’t “see” anything but over time I was able to design my own images.

I think, anyone who’s unable form mental images, just needs to practice on a regular basis. Memory techniques will do. Otherwise, there’re are a lot of good visualization exercise resources on the web.

For instance, this site got a good collection of exercises: https://unchainmybrain.com/learn-to-visualize/


Thanks for that link – it’s very interesting. :thinking:

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I have recently realised I have aphantasia after reading an article about it. I have suffered from anxiety and depression over the last few years and felt very frustrated that lots of the advice or techniques to help didn’t work as I couldn’t or didn’t ‘get’ the picture a place or a loved one or yourself in a situation. I now realise that most people can do this with ease! The only reason I have an idea of what others see is because very occasionly when relaxed with eyes closed but not asleep, a tiny pinhole of an image, usually a brick wall but sometimes a lane which expands to include some trees appears in my mind but as soon as I realise I’m actually seeing a picture, it closes down and I can’t get it back. But from talking to friends and family, I have only just realised that they see clear sustained images of people and places and can hear, smell and taste too!. They can’t understand at all what I mean and also ask how I can be so creative if I can’t see in my mind.
I felt sad, very envious and frustrated at first but am now more just curious. Although I would be interested to know if you can do anything to help 'see images