AuthorTopic: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"  (Read 15670 times)

Offline Atnas

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #30 on: April 28, 2016, 11:59:14 am
Spooky, I thought mental visualization was something everyone had in varying degrees.

For me even emotions and stuff are abstract visualizations. When I think of the term "excited" and I try to 'look' at the feeling in my head, I see a yellow outline of some form like an amoeba that's suddenly getting dispersed like an egg does when thrown into a pan with a flick of a wrist, and immediately starts to crackle against the 'oil', before fizzling out. Except, not like an egg or oil, it's just the closest thing I can describe it as without showing it. I normally just feel this, but I can also.. focus on the feeling, and then I see it. Almost like my mind's eye is looking forwards, and I just have to turn the eye to the side, and it comes into focus. I observed this particular instance while high, but its reproducible while sober. Although the eye feels 'stuck' to one direction/mode of viewing without the assistance of drugs.

I'm not sure if this is projecting visuals onto a feeling, or simply how I process them to begin with... When I was a child, I used to get blinding migraines often, and I would have vivid visualizations during them. When it rained during a migraine, I couldn't concentrate on what my eyes were or were not seeing without the sound of the rain visualizing in the 'front' of my brain, overtaking all my thoughts, and I'd just see a huge sea of what the rain sounded like, as if my mind was a flat liquid and the noise of the raindrops was disrupting my mental vision and fucking it all up to the point of me wanting to throw up.

I'm thinking it might be worth it to try to animate what every feeling/emotion looks like to me, it's a thought that I've been nursing for a while, but hearing that there are people that don't actually see their emotions in visuals because they can't see in their heads at all makes me more intrigued.

Really cool discussion all around.

About the sword thing, I can just make it in my head as if it was on paper or a screen, and change stuff around. The problem comes when focusing on details, there are portions that get lost and bumped out of RAM so to speak, but I think that's just a thing that can be trained. I'd feel mute or blind without that. It's amazing you can do the work you do without that ability.

Offline 32

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #31 on: April 28, 2016, 12:03:46 pm
I think in a lot of ways the "minds eye" tricks you up anyway. I couldn't count the number of times I thought I knew exactly how something was going to look before trying to draw it and finding it made no sense in physical reality.

I think the idea of people who actually physically see imagined things is far more bizarre than the idea that you couldn't "visualise" something. I've never heard of that. Makes you wonder just how differently people can experience the world.

Edit: I would describe the process of visualising the sword in the same way. I could trace my eye around the edges of it but if I want to see the tip I cannot see the hilt. There's definitely a pretty low limit to how much I can visualise at once and to what fidelity I can imagine it.

Edit 2: I'd also add that probably our physical sense of sight is restricted in much the same way, you can see a whole room but you can only focus on one thing at a time.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2016, 12:10:47 pm by 32 »

Offline Ai

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #32 on: April 28, 2016, 01:29:03 pm
Spooky, I thought mental visualization was something everyone had in varying degrees.

For me even emotions and stuff are abstract visualizations. When I think of the term "excited" and I try to 'look' at the feeling in my head, I see a yellow outline of some form like an amoeba that's suddenly getting dispersed like an egg does when thrown into a pan with a flick of a wrist, and immediately starts to crackle against the 'oil', before fizzling out. Except, not like an egg or oil, it's just the closest thing I can describe it as without showing it.
This is so cute. I mean, seriously. I would like to see your animation of this.



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I'm thinking it might be worth it to try to animate what every feeling/emotion looks like to me, it's a thought that I've been nursing for a while, but hearing that there are people that don't actually see their emotions in visuals because they can't see in their heads at all makes me more intrigued.
I sincerely hope you're familiar with the term 'synaesthesia'. If not, look it up. I think experiencing emotions as visuals qualifies.

(this happens to me too sometimes, though without animation.)

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About the sword thing, I can just make it in my head as if it was on paper or a screen, and change stuff around. The problem comes when focusing on details, there are portions that get lost and bumped out of RAM so to speak, but I think that's just a thing that can be trained. I'd feel mute or blind without that. It's amazing you can do the work you do without that ability.
As someone who can visualize but typically doesn't, I want to train that for memory/concentration purposes. I'm unsure whether it has clear benefit to drawing, though I guess it would be very hard to know for sure (One of the things I'm beginning to suspect from discussing in this thread, is that my sense of visual relationships is running at least partially off my proprioception. Maybe I am mentally replacing part of my sense of 'my body' with the object I'm drawing?)

I have talked to quite a few people about their experiences with visualising things, not just seeing, but also hearing, smelling and so on.

Of course there was some external input at some point to give your brain the memory of something, for example a favourite cake of yours, your mom used to make when you were little.

Most people I talked with would be able to visualise that cake, seeing it more or less vague, but also getting a sense of smell and sometimes taste too. For some it would be pretty much like having taken a bite of the cake a while ago and still having the lingering aftertaste without the cake actually being in their mouth. I get nothing like that, not even vague, just nothing.
Huh.. I just realized -- probably most of my 'visualization' went into audio. I have a pretty detailed memory of music and can 'set a tune playing' mentally; usually it is an active effort to stop it. I usually have one running.
Sorry. I was just wondering whether turning that off would improve performance in other areas.

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* 'what is the step-by-step process of sense-perception?'
One or more of your senses get/s input/s from outside, be it light, soundwaves, smell particles, sense of touch etc, and then processes this to make you see, hear, feel, taste, etc things.
Mea culpa. The 'and then processes this' is what my question was intended to get at -- that until we know roughly what is occurring inside of 'and then processes this', and can walk a person through it, there's real doubt of whether [what we are prompting the person to try and do] is genuinely [visualizing].
(square brackets added to make that sentence less confusing.)

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* 'Is there really no external input? Are other senses feeding into the visual sense at all?'
As I said, of course there has to be initial input at some point, you can not get the sense of tasting a strawberry if you never tasted one. But someone who can synthesise sense perception in their mind could probably go into an isolation chamber and easily visualise strawberries and what they taste like.

I meant at the time that the synthesization is occurring. But I think it might have been a poor question (since you almost always have some sensory input of the relevant type to compare the experience of X [strawberries] with)

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* 'In what ways are two individuals' sense perception comparable, and in what ways are they incomparable?'I would say that they are comparable in that you can hook people up to an EEG machine and see what their brain is doing while they do things like looking at stuff, and then things that would lead people to visualise things, like reading for example. Of course you could always make the argument that you do not know what other people perceive, and my green might be totally different than your green. I however think that from what we know about evolution and neuroscience among other things, we can be fairly certain that most people, those who fall into the "norm" spectrum, perceive things very similar at a sense level.
Yes, I agree with that; their set of -individual- senses / qualia is very similar. I'm not sure I would so readily agree that compound or complex experiences (for example, the entire experience of a strawberry, smell + taste + feel + look.. +sound i guess; or visualizing a polyhedron) are comparable. I think it is like, we are programmers and each wrote our own Strawberry class (model of 'strawberryness').  Some of the properties are comparable, some properties exist in one model and not the other, some properties are mutually exclusive between models.
That (complex experiences) is the category in which I currently have put 'visualization'.

Edit: I would describe the process of visualising the sword in the same way. I could trace my eye around the edges of it but if I want to see the tip I cannot see the hilt. There's definitely a pretty low limit to how much I can visualise at once and to what fidelity I can imagine it.

Edit 2: I'd also add that probably our physical sense of sight is restricted in much the same way, you can see a whole room but you can only focus on one thing at a time.
That reminds me of an interesting resistance I noticed:
I can draw things below real scale or above real scale, with no real difference in the difficulty. But if I draw them significantly above scale, they creep me out. This remains true even when the picture is distanced from me to the point it appears 'correctly' scaled, and inanimate subject matter (eg. notepad, pencil) is -more- creepy than animate is.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2016, 01:49:06 pm by Ai »
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline ptoing

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #33 on: April 28, 2016, 01:56:10 pm
Regarding stuff like "strawberryness", of course the exact experience would differ from person to person.
But there is a strong argument to be made for mutual intelligibility. If I ask you to buy some yellow bell peppers from the supermarket you will likely not get me green or red ones, and I am pretty sure we would also agree that yellow and red bell peppers are sweeter than green ones. There is a pretty broad common baseline in perception, which arguably is needed to get anywhere as a species.
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Offline Ai

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #34 on: April 28, 2016, 02:54:04 pm
Regarding stuff like "strawberryness", of course the exact experience would differ from person to person.
But there is a strong argument to be made for mutual intelligibility. If I ask you to buy some yellow bell peppers from the supermarket you will likely not get me green or red ones, and I am pretty sure we would also agree that yellow and red bell peppers are sweeter than green ones. There is a pretty broad common baseline in perception, which arguably is needed to get anywhere as a species.
Sure. That level of communication is adequate in a general sense because we have concrete reference points for it -- even if we don't agree about what strawberryness is, we both can point at strawberries and agree that we each pointed at the "same type" of thing (ie. that the differences between our models are not that significant for simple practical purposes) . But we can't point to things happening inside our own mind, so the level of effect caused by any minute differences in what we're thinking about, is quite unknown. Think of all the misunderstandings around subjects like "love" and "spirituality"!

(as a general principle I would suggest that the more abstract the subject, the more common and massive in scale the misunderstandings are. And I would rank visualization at minimum 2 in terms of abstractness, since it is about some kind of simulation/emulation process.)
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #35 on: April 28, 2016, 03:36:54 pm
I'd say I generally agree with that. "Spirituality" to me makes virtually no sense, what with so many different definitions, or how people use it, etc.

When it comes to visualisation (or just any kind of synthesis of senses in the mind) I think if someone tells me that they can imagine a song, and it is like actually hearing the song, or the same with a voice. Or being able to manifest some kind of image, more or less clear, I just have to take that at face value. Same as you would have to take me saying that I can not do any of that at face value too.

To get more clarity on this issue there needs to be more research done by proper neurologists and neuroscientists, who have the knowhow and the resources. If I could be part of some research where they hook me up to an EEG and ask me stuff, or get readouts while I do things like draw and the like, I'd be super up for that.
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Offline yrizoud

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #36 on: April 28, 2016, 04:04:28 pm
I'm very puzzled by this discussion. It sounds like people are expected to "visualize" graphically something that they are familiar with, but I thought only the rare people with a photographic memory could do that.
I mean, ask people to draw a bike, and you get this. As far as I can tell, we can visualize fleeting images, but there is no precise, complete, 2D picture of the whole.
Example : You've all seen the oldschool Batman logo (Tim Burton movie era). Can you imagine it ? You see it ? Yes ? Now how many "dents" are there in the wings ? If you can't count them, you're not actually seeing them.

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #37 on: April 28, 2016, 04:33:24 pm
Photographic memory is a different issue, and also has been largely disputed as actually being a thing.

The majority of people (Current estimations for people with aphantasia are 2-3%) can synthesise senses in their mind, to varying degrees. I am sure there are some people out there who can picture stuff in full 3D in front of their eyes and rotate them around. People like me for sure can not do that. I can not even see the oldschool Batman logo, no matter how hard I try. But that is something that I could draw reasonably well (just tried and got the head wrong), but I got the number of "dents" right, without seeing it. So it is possible to count stuff even if you can not see it.

What probably is going on is that the same information is stored in our brains (more or less), but the way we access it is different. How this exactly works without visualising no one really knows, and I can't describe it.
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Offline yrizoud

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #38 on: April 28, 2016, 05:51:14 pm
Thanks, it's clearer. It's seems there is indeed very varied levels of perception. I *can* somehow visualize souvenirs or on-demand things ("a yellow elephant"), but images are fleeting, very hard to focus and maintain for more than a split second. On the other hand, I can very easily represent sounds in my mind : Any familiar voice speaking any words with any intonation, or any instrument playing any melody. This is not very helpful because I have zero talent for actual music.

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Re: Aphantasia - not having the "mind's eye"

Reply #39 on: April 28, 2016, 06:14:26 pm
So I would say that what we have gathered so far is that being able to synthesise stuff in your mind does not necessarily help with art. But it might. Who knows.
There are no ugly colours, only ugly combinations of colours.