What It’s Like to Be ‘Mind Blind’

Close your eyes and see what you see. For me, it’s always been a black screen, sometimes with the static of a crackling TV. My dreams are tangles of thoughts, but when I try to remember them, I can’t actually see anything. I don’t need to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming, because my dreams never resemble reality. Aphantasia is a form of mind blindness. My eyes can clearly see but my brain cannot.

Though I am able to think about and understand a memory conceptually, I cannot visualize the actual picture or project myself into it. I hold all the projector slides and have all the information, but can’t see the actual picture. Four percentIt is estimated that approximately 5% of the population will experience aphantasia. However, we don’t have to know it all our lives.
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It was only when I was 21 that I realized this, sitting in a coffee shop alongside my best friend. She animatedly spoke about an article she had read on aphantasia and how she couldn’t imagine what it would feel like. It was then that I suddenly realized how different I saw the world. My assumptions about daydreaming and counting sheep were always based on metaphors. I was able to picture myself at the beach, picturing my surroundings, and even thinking of other ways of seeing the world. I couldn’t imagine what mental imagery would feel like.

We discovered it was my mom’s after we told my family. My mom is Aphantasia, and we are both related to her. ResearchIt has been shown that congenital aphantasia is possible in 21% of your family members (parents, siblings, and children). At first, it was hard to not see this as a loss, but over time, I’ve developed a new appreciation and interest in how I learn and experience the world.

Aristotle first described the sixth sense of visual imagination as phantasia. The absence of mental imagery is what Aphantasia refers to, however it can also be used as a synonym for obscurity. From 10% to 15%Many people have hyperphantasia, which refers to vivid imagery and photographic memories. These invisible cognitive differences were first discovered in 340 B.C. However, they were not named until 2015 by Dr. Adam Zeman at University of Exeter.

In the second decade of the 20th Century, research on mental imagery was taboo. BehaviorismIntrospection was rejected as a method to comprehend behavior by the philosophic group. Now, however, “It’s been embraced by scientists of all types now because we can measure it. People are realizing that we don’t know much about it, and we should,” says Joel Pearson, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Because the feeling of experiencing aphantasia varies between people, it’s difficult to define. There is also no equivalent conscious experience. “People say that they feel that the imagery is there but they just can’t get to it,” Zeman says. “We know that, in a certain sense, [people with aphantasia]It is essential to have an in-depth understanding of the way things work. [they]They can be recognized. They are all stored in the brain. [but they find it] hard to use that information to produce a visual experience in the absence of the item.”

Aphantasia is often described as a visual condition, but it’s actually multisensory. People with a reduced ability to visualize their thoughts can experience Aphantasia. Reduced capacityAccess to other senses such as touch, sound, smell and taste. I cannot imagine the taste of my favorite meal or how it feels to hug someone. While I have difficulty imagining the flavour of my favorite food or the feel of a hug in my mouth, my inner voice can help me hear songs and recognize them. Because I am a multisensory anomaly, my mental abilities are limited in more than one sense. But not all.

Zeman calls global aphantasia, a state in which a person experiences a total loss of their mental faculties. A person can experience a Publication of 2020 research study Scientific Reports,Only 26% reported that they had no inner mental representations. This shows how unique the experience of all senses is for most aphantasics. People with aphantasia have different experiences.

Although scientists have focused their research on aphantasia through the lens of visual imagination rather than other senses, a great deal remains to be discovered. Even among visual aphantasics, people can have completely different experiences—some have no concept of visual imagery, but 63%Some people can experience vivid dreams and images. “Most people with aphantasia are pretty confident that they do dream visually. It’s just that they’re experiencing it in a brain state that’s involuntary,” Zeman says.

Aphantasia has its advantages and drawbacks. Aphantasia sufferers tend to be able-bodied. higher average IQThere are 115 (compared to 110 for the general population) Fearful stories do not affect people as much.They cannot see them. As Zeman explains, “it’s clearly not a bar to high achievement … You might have thought it would interfere with creativity, but that clearly isn’t the case either.”

Aphantasics are less likely to experience a decrease in their levels of Sensory sensitivity, overwhelm from “sensory inputs that might be bright lights, loud noises, or the smell of perfume,” says Carla Dance, a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex in the U.K. However, these people do possess a certain amount of intelligence. more difficultyWith autobiographical memories and face recognition

People may not realize they have aphantasia because they’ve developed shortcuts for how to process the world. “In visual working memory, we see their performance is about the same [as the general population]. But once you start looking under the hood and see how people are holding this information in memory, it’s a different mechanism and a different strategy, even though the performance on everyday tasks looks the same,” Pearson says. “Most people with aphantasia will have very good spatial skills … but they can’t put any objects into that space.”

At work, in an exercise to explore neurodiversity, my colleagues and I were once asked to draw our brains to visualize the way we think, but I couldn’t do it, because I don’t think in images. I felt frustrated and self-conscious, because there was no alternative for me to participate—I had to sit and wait while other people completed the exercise. I was reminded of a way in which I’m different from others, even though I don’t like to see it as a weakness. This can be overcome and people who have different ideas may find ways to include them. My coworkers might have changed the way they framed it from showing what our brains look like to just representing how we think. Instead of trying to create images, I could write a list or emotion to describe how my mind functions.

“Aphantasia is just another way of experiencing the world. It comes down to figuring out what learning style you have and what works for you, given your imagery profile,” Dance says. “If somebody has really good auditory imagery, perhaps [they can use] that sense as a gateway to remembering things.” We can all benefit from deeply considering how we think and what this tells us about ourselves.


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