Aphantasia is the suggested name for a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery. (Wikipedia)
Prof. Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter has been researching this subject for years. His research brought the topic into public view around Fall 2015. Many people have aphantasia and didn’t know it until reading one of the many articles describing his research. And that includes me. I reached out to Prof. Zeman’s lab that Fall and was sent their Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ 10.07.15):
For each item on this questionnaire, try to form a visual image, and consider your experience carefully. For any image that you do experience, rate how vivid it is using the five-point scale described below. If you do not have a visual image, rate vividness as ‘1’. Only use ‘5’ for images that are truly as lively and vivid as real seeing. Please note that there are no right or wrong answers to the questions, and that it is not necessarily desirable to experience imagery or, if you do, to have more vivid imagery.
- 5: Perfectly clear and vivid as real seeing
- 4: Clear and reasonably vivid
- 3: Moderately clear and lively
- 2: Vague and dim
- 1: No image at all, you only “know” that you are thinking of the object
For items 1-4, think of some relative or friend whom you frequently see (but who is not with you at present) and consider carefully the picture that comes before your mind’s eye.
- The exact contour of face, head, shoulders and body:
- Characteristic poses of head, attitudes of body etc.:
- The precise carriage, length of step etc., in walking :
- The different colours worn in some familiar clothes:
Visualise a rising sun. Consider carefully the picture that comes before your mind’s eye.
- The sun rising above the horizon into a hazy sky:
- The sky clears and surrounds the sun with blueness:
- Clouds. A storm blows up with flashes of lightning:
- A rainbow appears:
Think of the front of a shop which you often go to. Consider the picture that comes before your mind’s eye.
- The overall appearance of the shop from the opposite side of the road:
- A window display including colours, shapes and details o f individual items for sale:
- You are near the entrance. The colour, shape and details of the door:
- You enter the shop and go to the counter. The counter assistant serves you. Money changes hands:
Finally think of a country scene which involves trees, mountains and a lake. Consider the picture that comes before your mind’s eye.
- The contours of the landscape:
- The colour and shape of the trees:
- the colour and shape of the lake:
- A strong wind blows on the trees and on the lake causing waves in the water:
If you score 1s straight across the board, you (very probably) have aphantasia. Literally any other score means: Congratulations! You have the ability to visualize. From dimly to vividly, it all still counts as visualizing.
You can live a perfectly normal life without a mind’s eye. I mean, I feel like I certainly have.