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Aphantasia

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Ned Marcus, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    An interesting article by Mark Lawrence in the Guardian on aphantasia—the lack of mental imagery. I'm the same, and I was shocked when I first discovered that some people could actually think in images. And in colour, too. When I write, I just sort of know things, and then I write about them. I feel the vibration or rhythm of the words and sentences, too. Hard to describe, but reading this made try to think about how I imagine. Chains or webs of knowings, or something like that.
     
  2. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I sort of figured this out freshman year in high school when the science teacher asked people to imagine an apple and then more apples, and I didn’t get one, LOL. But it still didn’t register 100%. Visual puzzles are interesting, I once tried to imagine turning the pieces to fit correctly, and while I couldn’t see a damned thing in my mind, I was able to to do pretty good. My personal description is that the images I try to imagine are there, they’re just behind a curtain of a sort. I know them, I feel them, I can put them into words... but I can’t actually see them. It’s bizarre, and like Lawrence, my writing gets praised for some of its visuals... go figure! If I mention this to people, I tend to get a stare and a version of “how the hell does that work with writing?”

    Perhaps it even requires more imagination than folks who can just see stuff in their head.

    Out of curiosity, what do you see when you close your eyes? I see sparkles, brilliant, beautiful spirals and swirls of sparkles, like looking into a peculiar nebula. As a kid I often fell asleep watching the light show, heh heh.

     
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  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

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    Conversely, a certain percentage of folks do not think in words. They do not have the running internal dialog of the majority. I can visualize to at least some degree but I've found I can remember the appearance of something better if I put it into words. It gives me a reference to hang the visuals from. (I used that for the MP in one of my mystery novels)

    But I'll admit I do not visualize the scenes, characters, etc in my fiction beforehand. I build them with my words. Then I can see them.
     
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  4. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Unless it turns out I have Aphantasia, people who can 'see' images, don't really see them as you would a regular object. It's more like seeing the contour of a thing that you can't directly look at.

    Question: Can people with aphantasia still have imaginary friends when growing up?
     
  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    There are degrees. In High School some people could visualize many apples. Fewer people could visualize two apples than one, three than two, etc. My daughter who’s rather gifted in visual art claims to see full images, and my wife claims that when her brother threatened to rip her arm off and beat her with it as a kid she could “see” him beating her with her arm... literally. There is clearly a broad spectrum here that would be near impossible to understand without being inside another person’s head. And then there is the reputed photographic memory where a person can read the page of a book they’ve read before without looking at it... I dunno! My wife, on the other hand, never remembers her dreams, while I often have lucid dreams. The brain is a wild beast.

     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I see images. Full colour, three dimension. I can see the apple and rotate it. It's red, and it's got a few dents up near the stalk. If there are many apples, the details get lost, but if I zoom in on one, they're there.

    Aphantasia is something I've pondered a lot since I learned about it a few years ago (I think I posted another thread about it back at the time). I'm fascinated by how readers process words, and how the imagination turns words on the page into images in the readers mind. It was a bit of a blow to me to realise that not everyone sees those images.
    My descriptions are based around triggering associations that put images in the mind of the reader. I don't really go for detailed descriptions of things. How does that work for someone with aphantasia? Does my prose even make sense, or is it just a jumble of words?

    It's hard to know for sure, and even harder to imagine what someone sees in their mind when they can't see anything. ;)
     
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  7. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Well bloody hell looks like my phantasia sucks as well then.
     
  8. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I'm not sure that's the way to look at it.
    Did it ever bother you before?

    Another detail.
    When reading, I never get the thing people talk about where it's like a movie playing in their head. Rather, it's all still images, like a slideshow, or like the panels of a comic book, sort of.
     
  9. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    I'm not very serious about my outrage, just a minor "Well damn, how about that huh?"

    Think I can answer your question about reading fiction though. When I read fiction I don't visualize the setting, although I suppose I could to some minor degree. The setting's still coherent though, but more in the sense of my mind bundling together the feel of the things associated with the setting. You don't, or at least I don't, need to see a car to know a car, or visualize a small, lively party on a warm, summer night to remember the feel of exactly such a small party. Think of the cold, dark of a starless night. You surely can't see it, it's just a black void, but you can feel it right? Just do that with everything.

    I do often find myself acting out certain scenes in my head when I read. Is that a thing associated with this?
     
  10. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

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  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I don’t visualize scenes, I screenwrite them ;) But in a sense I do visualize them, I just can’t see it... which is impossible to really understand becauseI don’t really get it. I can develop an image in my head, say of a creature, and it’s THERE, I can put words to it but I can’t see it. It’s weird.
     
  12. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

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    There's a wide range in ability. If you ask people to visualise an apple, some will see it clearly, as if it were in front of them. Others see it, but not so clearly. Some can visualise quite well in black and white. But on the weaker end, for some people see something like a black and white drawing that someone's attacked with an eraser.

    I'm on the lower end of visualisation. Sometimes I see the vaguest outline, but more often nothing. When I close my eyes, it's blank.
     
  13. Adela

    Adela Scribe

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    How do you live like that? lol

    I just found out about this recently and it absolutely blows my mind. Now I worry that when I write I won't have described things clearly enough because I absolutely "see things like a movie" in my head. I tend to not describe characters except for the bare minimum or settings. Even recently I chopped an old manuscript of description because I felt it was clear enough.
     
  14. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith Scribe

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    What we don't know about the human brain is fascinating, it is interesting reading about Savants and Split-Brain experiments when the Corpus Callosum had been cut:-
    Split Brains
     
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