I learned a few years ago that I have aphantasia, which is, to quote from Wikipedia: “characterized by an inability to voluntarily visualize mental imagery.” Before learning about this, I’d never believed people had actual visual mental images when they imagined things. Honestly, it’s still hard for me to imagine such a thing being possible. In June 2020, I was on Vikasan Pillai’s podcast The Untypical Podcast to talk about what it’s like to have aphantasia. I rebroadcast this episode for my own podcast. Here are episode links:
Here’s the link to Visakan’s original interview on Spotify. And here’s Pillai’s Twitter.
Topics we discuss and related resources:
- A well-known post about aphantasia by Blake Ross, which brought it to many people’s attention for first time.
- 2018 Scientific American article about aphantasia
- My Twitter poll asking people about their visual mental imagery. This and other conversations make me think that more people have aphantasia than the 1% or so often said to have it.
- 2015 NY Times piece about aphantasia.
- 2020 NY Times piece about aphantasia.
- 2015 BBC piece about aphantasia
- 2020 piece by fantasy author Mark Lawrence about his own aphantasia
- A book Aphantasia: Experiences, Perceptions, and Insights (while this had some interesting descriptions and observations, it’s mainly a compilation of people’s self-reports and self-reports on consciousness are so inherently ambiguous and flawed that it’s hard to reach much conclusions from them)
- Piece about how people born blind don’t develop schizophrenia. I haven’t seen anything written about it, but I would theorize that people on more aphantasiac side would be less likely to develop psychosis.
- Daniel Dennett’s Consciousness Explained, which I recommend for understanding the human mind, and which I think helps explain why people over-estimate their visual imagery abilities (as they often over-estimate other mental capabilities).