Our human interface with reality

Aphantasia: A life without mental images BBC article and Radio4 program

All this discussion (about whether we have a visual imagination or not) ignores the evidence that we are only able to see the world around us by imagining it. Our eyes are physically incapable of giving us an instantaneous high-resolution view of “out there”. We see the world out there in our mind’s eye.
So the discussion is really about why we might be unable to visualise with our eyes closed. Our “mind’s eye” creates an idea of a 3D world out there, from the somewhat limited 2D images falling on our retinas, added to greatly from our previously acquired expectations. The blind person has a similar idea of what is “out there” but with details developed through touch and hearing, and this idea is also held within the “visual” cortex.
Most of us non-artists have difficulty visualising from memory the faces of people (especially those close to us) because the emotional messages are more important to us than visual detail.

See how you can manipulate someone’s emotions Make anyone smile!

I have my doubts about this test of Aphantasia using an image of a friend or relative who you frequently see: If I am familiar with someone in ways beyond the superficial visual, then I remember the sense of the person far more than their visual image. I would remember a photo of them to draw them from memory. I scored only scored 22 out of 40, so I’m hardly superficial! I expect that these people with Aphantasia can still navigate round their bedroom in the dark, implying that they have a 3D spatial memory.

One comment on “Aphantasia: A life without mental images

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Richard Epworth on August 27, 2015 12:12 pm

“Imagination creates reality.” – Richard Wagner, (German dramatic Composer and theorist, 1813-1883)

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