I (still) don’t see anything when I close my eyes

That’s right, I have no visualization ability.

I wrote a fair amount about it here back in 1999, and nothing really has changed. I’m mostly adding a pointer to it from my blog here because I often get email from people who discovered the page and I don’t have time to reply to it all, so I want people to be able to leave comments or talk to each other about it here.

One person did point me at the work of Stephen Kosslyn, which looks like it might be interesting (I haven’t checked it out myself). His book The Case for Mental Imagery seems like a good place to start.

175 Responses to “I (still) don’t see anything when I close my eyes”

  1. Kelly Fireplace says:

    Hello. I’m 19 years old and I too have nearly all the same symptoms. However, I never realized I was different until about a week ago. I was in a meditation class for the first time, I was so excited for this, I’ve been fascinated with meditation and everything related for a long time but had yet to try it. The whole time, I was anxious about not being able to see anything. I was trying hard, and then I told myself maybe I couldn’t see because I was trying too hard. Finally, I told myself that maybe I’m not supposed to actually see anything, but have the sense of knowing what it /should/ look like. Afterall, I’m in my own mind, with my eyes shut, how should I be able to see this place being described? I felt at ease with it near the end, and when it was finished, the instructor began noting certain people in the class that looked like they “saw the images” and I realized that I wasn’t wrong, I should have been seeing this. I asked everybody I was with for the next couple of days if they could see when they shut their eyes, and they all had such confused expressions, and I realized that this is not normal.
    I’ve always had the symptoms, such as not remembering my loved one’s faces. I never thought into it too deeply, but I did feel guilty that I couldn’t picture them. I have never been able to straightforwardly draw; I can’t remember if an elephant has a tail or not without seeing an image. I rarely dream, but when I do I associate faces with the wrong people…For example, in a dream I may be talking to somebody who physically is my sister, but I know it’s my friend. I also often make up buildings and streets. I’ll be in a house that I’ve never seen before, but I’ll know it’s my childhood home. There’s one route of streets that is reoccurring as well, but I don’t remember another time that I’ve created roads. There are many other symptoms as well, but one of the most important to me is my lack of memory. I was recently trying to recall my childhood, I was asked to give my life story, and I was struggling with it a lot because I couldn’t find a memory. I know things that happened, but I don’t have a memory for those events. It wasn’t until I found this thread today that I realized why that is.

    I have many more questions now that I know what causes these things, but I feel so relieved to have answers to my previous ones.

  2. Cheryl Guthrie says:

    Wow. Happened on this thread because of a friend’s Facebook post, asking if others could or could not “see” images with eyes closed. Have just dipped my toes into these posts but I will be reading avidly as time permits. Because I have never been able to do this well, and always felt that made me somehow lacking an ability that I thought most people had. It’s good to realize that there seems to be a wide range on this, maybe a bell curve, and I’m towards one end of it but maybe not all the way off the end of it, and have lots of good company!

    I can do things like guided visualizations, but it’s kind of like what I experience is ideas of images. I don’t “see” things but I can imagine them and sort of what they would look like if I were seeing them. When reading a book I form only the most vague images or ideas of what characters and scenery look like, so am rarely disappointed by the movie in that way, though often in others. I too, as many others have said, would make a TERRIBLE eyewitness–I watch those scenes in the cop shows where a police artist is asking questions and drawing a sketch from the description, and I think, seriously? How far apart were their eyes, are you kidding me? I would have NO idea!

    I know what my loved ones look like but if I had to do the police sketch thing with them, the result would probably be equally abysmal! Once 60 Minutes had a segment about people who have NO facial recognition, as in, they cannot recognize even the most loved or familiar person by their face alone, even their mate or children. They recognize them in other ways, by their voice, or hair, or body shape, or how they move, but are unable to recognize a picture of their face. I was riveted, because I’m nowhere near that bad–I certainly can recognize my loved one’s faces. But with new people or acquaintances, I’m VERY bad at it. Unless a new person or even acquaintance that I see often, has an unusual, striking face, I’m often terrible at recognizing them when I see them. Many people I recognize by their voice or body type or how they walk, much more than by their face. I’ve been terribly embarrassed by this my whole life.

    I do have very bad vision just in general–about 20/200 without glasses and only 20/80 in my best eye on a good day with glasses–and I’m sure that contributes to this but equally sure it’s not all or even the major part of it.

    At the same time I LOVE art and photography and love to just look at beautiful images. I love color and form and do my own digital art, abstract, colorful images that I make in photoshop from pictures that I’ve taken. I have good verbal and intellectual skills but a really bad memory for names, details, etc. And like others here have said, I have a bad sense of direction. Put me in a new building and I can wander around and get totally lost–well not just a new building, any complicated building. The local mall totally defeats me. I have a friend who has a house that’s laid out a little oddly, and as many times as I’ve been there, I STILL can wander around and make wrong turns just trying to find the bathroom! It’s become just a big funny joke.

    Oh, and dreams. Mostly these days my dreams are disjointed and not very interesting when I remember them at all. But in the past, when I was younger, I did have some VERY vivid dreams, some lucid dreams (mostly those have been flying dreams but not all of them), a few of which I can see in my mind’s eye right now more clearly than I can see most things. THAT is kind of fascinating. As I’ve read some of the other posts, it seems that everybody has a different combination of things they can and can’t do or experience.

    This is long, going to stop for now, but I will be dowsing through this thread for a long time! I saw that somewhere up there there’s a test, going to go see if I can find that and take it. I’m so glad I found this, greetings fellow non-visualizers, very glad to meet you! 🙂

  3. Lee, Nephyt says:

    I’m 19 and I never even realised that this inability to visualize was abnormal until earlier today when I was having a conversation with my brother. We were discussing memory and he was telling me about his ability to visualize things almost perfectly as though watching a video. I thought that he was joking but he insisted that it was true and I told him that I couldn’t actually visualize anything, not even a simple 2D shape like a square or a circle. When I close my eyes and imagine all I see is black or red if there is light shining through my eyelids. It really surprised me and I was convinced that my brother, was trolling or unique. I began to look on the internet and found nothing to suggest that this was an exceptional trait, I asked my mum and my dad and both looked at me as if I were crazy. My dad told me to look at something and close my eyes, he assumed that there would be a visual imprint which would fade. I saw nothing apart from a deep, empty blackness. By this point I felt alone and pretty damn confused so decided to Google: ‘I cannot visualize’ and by luck stumbled across this site. It seems that quite a few people have this often realising later in life that it is abnormal but I don’t know what it is called or if it is just a difference in our perception of memory and visuals.

    What really bothers me is that I can’t picture my mum, even if she turns away, I forget what her face looks like. My grandfather who passed away earlier this year is nothing more than a concept in my memory, a notion of what he should look like whilst remaining impossible to picture. I can recognise faces, recognise people’s gaits as they walk but if I don’t see them in front of me, or in a photo I cannot in my wildest dreams picture them. Drawing from memory is impossible. I am a decent drawer if looking at my subject; however, even when drawing, it is as though my mind has to describe each line in order for my hand to be able to project an object onto paper at all accurately.

    Dreaming for me is not really a visual experience, although my dreams can feel vivid it is as though my mind is telling a story: I feel emotions, I hear things, I can feel pain and touch but upon waking I realise that nothing was visual; my dreams are construct of concepts and emotions. The other day I dreamt of a girl who I used to have a crush on, but despite knowing what defined her, there was no clear physical image. I didn’t see her face nor her body but rather ‘knew’ that they were there as my mind raced to describe her very ‘concept’ or ‘substance’. I think that my brain has made up for this lack of visual imagery and memory with an aptitude for words which allow me to capture and describe an image, but it is still limiting, I would love to be able to close my eyes and imagine something visually: the sun, the sky… even a goddamn square would be a start. I feel like the worst thing is not being able to evoke the faces of my family. I know that this isn’t a very debilitating condition and I have lived 19 years without it ever bothering me but now that I know that most people can visualize it is really bothering me. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

    Ps: A guy posted about this on reddit and a lot of the posts were calling bullshit.

  4. Derek says:

    Thank you Daniel Demer! That link is priceless. It gives me hope, and a method for working on my visualization muscle. I always figured it was something that could be improved. Just as a total weakling who can’t do a single pushup (even from knees) can eventually do many pushups if they keep at it.

  5. Derek says:

    I find all this incredibly fascinating, since I discovered I cannot visualize shortly after graduating university back in 2008.

    My condition is a little different than many people out there (e.g. I am usually good with spatial exercises/directions, have intense dreams that can sometimes be vivid), as I on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being zero ability to visualize at all) I believe I’m probably a 2 or 3. Here are some other points, which I’m not sure if everyone on this thread is like me or not. Those who are non-imagers, I have some questions for you all.

    1) I have dreams every night that in the moment seem vivid. If I see writing and try to read it, I realize I’m dreaming because everything just dissolves. In other words, my dreams are hazy but I never realize they are hazy until I wake up. I dream so often I usually don’t bother to remember my dreams unless it was particularly memorable or I gained some insight from it. Do your dreams seem vivid while you are “living” them, even if when you wake you realize they weren’t?

    2) I can visualize in my mind’s eye, minus any visuals. Basically what this means is that I can hold concepts in my mind (e.g. a particular apple) and feel it (touch), rotate it (spacial perception) and give it a stem (remember facts). However the “vision” is just knowledge about it existing. Can you do each of these things? The best explanation is like the object I’m visualizing has a cloaking device, but the faint outline of the object is visible, such that you know it is there, but effectively it is invisible. Is that how your mind’s eye works?

    3) I enjoy fiction, particularly science fiction (I’ve even written my own novel). While I don’t “see” the world, I sense the world. I feel the emotions, I sense the temperature, I sense the motion of the characters, I may even hear the sounds if I read long enough, but will never actually “see” anything. I remember reading a short story in probably grade 2 and then we were told to draw the main character after. Everyone else in the class drew an accurate (albeit with various levels of artistry – or lack thereof) picture with facts from the story. I think it was some sort of fireman if I recall. In any event, mine was the only one that was factually completely inaccurate. It wasn’t until I was much older (in my late 20s) that I realized the significance other than lower than average reading comprehension. You ever have any experiences like this? Do you also have to read things over and over to get the full picture because you don’t see things in your mind’s eye?

    4) I had a great childhood, and traveled all over the US, but I remember virtually nothing of those trips except for odd facts. For example, I might remember I saw a guyser in Yellowstone. I have a visual of the ponds there. Almost like a super basic paint by numbers photo. It says there was hot pools and cold pools, there was some sort of bridge, the color of the ground was this beige/brown colour, there was steam coming from different pools. I remember the emotion and fear caused from my mom (or possibly dad) telling me to not touch the water because it could be boiling. Basically my memories amount to basic facts. In fact, I bet if you found someone who asked me about that trip and asked them today, they would have a much better memory in more detail than I have, based on the facts I told them at the time and their constructed imagery in their own mind’s eye. Do you also feel like your past is but a bunch of still shots and basic facts, thrown in with a few emotions? It was tough to get rid of toys when I grew older because they were the only triggers I have to the “memories” I had of those times, since I don’t have any accessible “memory” to dig up. In writing this paragraph I remembered an incident when I was younger, but I again I only remember thoughts, feelings, and facts – nothing that would constitute what people usually classify as “memories”. When you recall events, is it sort of like recalling a still shot with a narrative – possibly without the still shot at all, however crude or blurry? How detailed are the memories of your life? Are they really detailed, but mostly just factual in nature?

  6. Cathleen says:

    Hello, everyone. I, too, am unable to execute visual memory. I did not even know that it was possible to see things in ones mind until I was in my fifties and when I found out I was so mad! Now I am just sad. As a diabetic I fear becoming blind and living in total darkness without the ability to recall my sons faces. My husband has excellent visual memory, as do many of my students. I hope to help those students who can’t do “mental math” and other visualizations that educators expect. I want them to know that they aren’t alone. Thank you for sharing so that I don’t feel as alone either.

  7. Sammy G says:

    I just decided to google all of this today, and I was surprised (and thrilled) to find that there are other people like me. I am 26, female, and I didn’t realize that I couldn’t imagine pictures until a few years ago, and when I talked about it with a friend he seemed to think there was a defect in my brain, and I needed to practice harder.
    To answer Derek’s question above, when I read or try to imagine things, in my minds’ eye I can see a vague shape, and color. If someone tells me to imagine a hill, I see bright green in a hump shape. I cannot imagine faces, and remembering faces is quite difficult. I am good at imagining sounds, sensations, and I remember numbers very well. I can’t draw, even geometric designs are difficult.
    Most of my memories are blurry. I remember my first summer at our house in Speedwell, and how the fresh grass smelled, how loud it was and the hot sun. I do remember thinking about thinking when I was probably 7 or 8, and I knew that I thought in words, and talked to myself about what was happening. I had no idea other people could see pictures.
    I have read a lot of debates on whether this is a handicap or not. the reason I looked this up today is because I really want to be a writer. I love novels, but when I try to write, I cannot imagine what anything looks like. I can describe the general colors in a scene, but I have no idea what my characters look like, and I don’t even really care. But for the rest of the world, who can imagine what the things look like, I guess a lack of visual description would be boring. sometimes I think that my thoughts are like water colors- just shapes and colors. I wonder how I can build and share imaginary worlds, when I experience them through physical sensation imaginings, not visual.
    I have done jewelry making in the past, and I would have no idea what a necklace would look like until I had the pieces assembled, and could decide if it was right or not.
    The biggest issue I have had, that I do worry about, is my inability to remember people’s faces, and it takes me several meetings to recognize people. I have started doing nursery at church, and I realized that I have no idea who the parents of the babies are, even though I saw them less than 2 hours ago. It could be a safety issue, and I’m kind of embarrassed. Not long ago, I was at the health department, and a woman started speaking to me. I nodded, and smiled, and finally (through context) realized that she was in our Bible study group we had started going to. I finally figured out that she was our hostess, and I had seen her two days before. I wonder if people just think I’m rude? Which would be kind of funny, because I can’t remember my own face, either. I look at pictures, and the mirror, and I’m always surprised at what I look like. I see pictures of the back of my head, and I’m always surprised by how curly my hair is (it is the same naturally curly hair I’ve always had).
    My dreams are incredibly vivid. I see many things, I experience pain, emotion, sometimes lucid dreams. I can remember my dreams, and even in memory they are visual and solid (unlike real life). I am not sure how good my sense of direction is. I live in an area that is familiar, and I know which routes to take for the shortest drive. I think I memorize facts about the roads, and it is less visual. I am good at memorizing where toys and obstructions are in a room, before I turn off the light. But when I walk in the dark, I am not seeing the room as it was when the light was on. I am just following the pattern I made in my mind.
    I am very grateful to find others who have had a similar experience. and I realized that I have more visual imagery than some.

  8. Lori says:

    I have never been able to visualise I didn’t even realize that others could so growing up I didn’t think about it. It did take me longer to read and maths I just got good at using paper, I worked everything out on paper. My son says he has the same problem and I think my daughter does too. I tried to practice and I’ve tried all sorts od meditations. It was when I started meditating I realized I had this. I think your brain does just use other methods. like someone said audio I do talk thinks through in my head I have no visual imagery and when I dream all my dream are dark and black and white. MY son also dreams in black and white. I do remember growing up that I couldn’t recognise face on the TV I can now but did struggle as a child.

  9. sommervr says:

    Hello all:

    Thus is just a me-too post. I will outline my particulars for posterity:

    47 y/o never had the ability to visualize anything, comically bad with directions. I navigate by orientation with local bodies of water which someone mentioned above. Interesting that I can visualize sounds and smells easily which might have something to do with the water thing.

    My brain doesn’t work like normal persons. While working on a problem I pace and mutter to myself which is how I lay down and recall things (movement and audio cues). I work from home and have most of my life. I am a telecom engineer with great recall and a sort of holistic systems approach that is very effective and unique amongst my peers.

    I rarely remember my dreams but they involve images and colors. I had mumps when I was young. I am a good writer but I suspect I have memorized certain styles that I copy. When I picture something I picture a picture of that thing (I do photography as well)

  10. Emma says:

    Another me-too post. It has always bothered me that I can’t visualise places I have seen or people I know. Tonight I was prompted to google the problem as my boyfriend was very bothered that he couldn’t remember a particular landmark we had been to and I thought ‘story of my life’ – for him it was unusual; for me perfectly normal. When I see photos I remember (usually) in the same way as I recognise people when I see them but I can’t see them in my mind’s eye.

    I attended a lecture recently in which the speaker said ‘when you leave this room you will have a picture in your mind of how you got here and will be able to find your way back’ but I have always struggled with a terrible sense of direction – more than one turning and I won’t remember the way I’ve come. It is no exaggeration to say I left the room that evening and didn’t know whether to go left or right.

    I always feel very sad when people describe childhood memories so vividly – I have a mere handful of brief snapshots and even those aren’t really visual – I know what the scene consisted of (eg: school playground, trees on the boundary) but can’t actually see it in the same way as I know my sister has dark hair, fair skin but I can’t picture her.

  11. Laureano says:

    Apparently one guy named it. I am still researching all the info in the articles. Here I leave the link if you wanna find out too


  12. Abe says:

    I’m wondering if I might have an extreme case because I do not have visual dreams. Instead, I have a similar memory stored that closely resembles one that I experienced while awake. I haven’t given much thought on how im able to differentiate, but there’s no effort required.

    What stands out for me, is that I have had about 5 or so crystal clear dreams that did not appear to be dreams. Like many others, im happy I found this blog and I’ll be picking up a copy of the recommended book. Ive also given serious hought at figuring out what options might be available for brain scans. I’ve also experimented with using non flouride paste for a few weeks and there seems to be something to it but ive never tried this in a very disciplined manner.

  13. Danila says:

    Hi there.
    Thank you for the thread!
    Just imagine, it started 16 years ago!
    Jocking, you cant imagine it 🙂
    Just like me.
    I’m not native english speaker, so i’m sorry for pure vocabulary.

    This “can’t” never bothered me in my life. Maybe, because i didn’t realise that there is an option to see smth in your head 🙂
    I cant see images in my mind too.
    I’m good in navigation, if i was somewhere i will remember this place when i’ll get there again.
    I’m was good in math at school.
    I like reading a lot, but i do not see or imagine how characters or places are looking.
    I can somehow hear tunes in my head, but not peoples voices.
    I cant see my parents/wife/daughter face whith my eyes closed. It’s sad when they are not near me.
    I understood that there is a “problem” a few years ago, but was not able to mind seeing all my life.
    “Imaginary friends? You got to be kiddin, right?” :))
    I’m good in making stories, even whith detaly descriptions. I’m learning screenwriting right now. And i wish i had ability to play my work in my mind to know how it works 🙂
    The good thing is – i can talk about litterally any awkward or frightned topics, cos i do not see pictures in my head, which would illustate thing i was talking 🙂
    I love to know that i’m not the only one with this “cant”.
    But i had never meet person like me in real life.
    Thank you! This thread helped me a lot.
    And remember, if our brain has no ability to see smth, it 100% has some other ability in change 😉

  14. Zoe Gascoigne says:

    Not being able to see mental images now has a name! Aphantasia! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34039054

  15. Stuart H. says:

    I too have realized over time that I have a hard time visualizing things. The original blog post described my experiences spot-on! I am 52 year old and only recently started to sense that some other people had a certain advantage in this regard. What really made me think about it was when I purchased a new camera and wanted to make a short movie. Though I had an idea of what I wanted the theme of the movie to be, I just could not get a clear idea of the individual scenes in my mind. I found this very frustrating! I am forcing myself to adapt by just shooting a bunch of throw-away clips as idea generators and then improving on the ones that show promise. Though I can’t see the entire picture from the start, I can build on an idea to achieve comparable results.
    I do wish I could visualize with rich detail, but I realize that we all have strengths and weaknesses. (I wish I could sing well also!) I guess my bottom line is to find a work-around that suits you. Think about why you are trying to visualize something. What is your end goal? Then take a different path to that goal. That’s life, eh?!? 🙂

  16. Emmanuel says:

    Hi everybody,
    Well, it is really comforting to read all this comments.
    I am 22, French engineering student, it’s been 2-3 years since I experiment issues to explain what’s in my mind when I close my eyes.
    My answer is nothing but the truth is more a sequence of triggers that flash information in my brain.
    I think I’ve never been able to represent sound, images, smells, taste nor touch. I’ve never speak with somebody that was able to understand me.
    On the other hand I get really good senses, maybe a little bit higher than the average but not so much.
    Also I wanted to share my sound and memory problem with a exemple :
    I love singing but I can’t remember lyrics and sounds. Though when I hear the first note of a song I know, it is like I hear the song 1 second before the sound goes out the speakers. Then I focus on my short term memory to remember the lyrics.
    This is not perfect so I can not sing perfectly.
    I get the same when I play guitar…

    Anyway, my life is not so hard. I feel different most of the time but not for this particular reason.
    Don’t hesitate to contact me, sharing and learn from each other could be great.

  17. Jim Dalton says:

    I do audio visualization exercises (self hypnosis ) to help me with stress and anxiety and I have never been able visualize images or colors. If I try real hard I can see incomplete shadows of things I want to image and some times a faint color. I do better when I’m sound asleep as far as seeing things. Even then only in black and white. I think it would be wonderful to be able to imagine things in color and detail. If you can, count yourself blessed.

  18. Kitty says:

    Hi All,
    I also am unable to visualise but my dreams are extremely vivid. I don’t think it has had an impact on my ability to learn as I’m an accountant but having started meditating recently, I struggle with visualisation techniques (I see nothing) and have to use other methods.

    The reason for my post is that finally it looks like we are being recognised or our condition is being addressed by scientists. The name given to the inability to visualise is ‘Aphantasia’ and they believe that the links between the areas of the brain which generate images to visualise, are somehow disrupted. Hence why the condition has been associated with brain damage. Here is a link to details about Aphantasia or you can google it.
    Research is being done into Aphantasia and although in its infancy now, maybe one day scientists will be able to provide us with much more information.

    Out of interest and to see if two conditions are in some way related. Does anyone who has posted that they are unable to visualise (have Aphantasia) also have static in their vision, sometimes called snow vision? I always thought I had some sort of damage to my vision but turns out many people also see this sort of transparent static (best description is like the old TV static interference). No it’s not eye floaters, I know what they look like as I’ve had them before. It’s something I see all the time but is more prominent in low lighting. Looks like plenty of people also see this, check out these posts.
    I was just wondering if anyone else has both ‘Aphantasia’ and ‘Static/snow vision’ like myself and therefore is there possibly a relationship between the two conditions? I may not be able to use my visual imagination but my curiosity will never be stopped!

  19. Kitty says:

    Hello again,
    This is the Kitty from just above, but rather a – now 14 year old – commenter from last year. I haven’t changed much, I haven’t gotten magically better at visualising, but I have found out something interesting. Within the past year I have been diagnosed with disprexia and dermatillomania (They are not related to one another). The dermatillomania can be pushed to one side – it is a skin picking disorder – but disprexia is the reason I first found this post. I wonder if this has had some impact on my inibility to visualise. I am glad to so that I am working through my exams well, even if I don’t have photographic memory. I am way to forgetful to try and work every night on my visualisation- so I guess I’m just going to cope with the blackness.

  20. Nadav says:

    I found this blog (and the other one) 4 years ago, when I was 14. I had a normal conversation with a friend, and for reasons I do not remember, he mentioned that he can imagine his father and see him in his mind as if he was actually there. At the time I wasn’t aware that I had Aphantasia (lovely name, btw), and obviously he didn’t believe me when I told him that I don’t remember what my father look’s like. At all*. Later that day I searched: “I can’t see anything when I close my eyes” and found this blog. I read all the comments, and while I was sad that I couldn’t imagine a thing, I was happy that I am not alone.
    That’s my story, I just felt like sharing it 🙂
    *goes both for my inability to imagine anything, as well for his disbelief at my lack of imagination
    Oh, and I’m sorry if my English is bad, I actually didn’t write here 4 years ago because I was afraid that my English is so horrible that people won’t understand me… I hoped that I improved since then.

  21. Steve says:

    Hi everyone I too have had this problem all my life. I didn’t find
    Out I had a problem until I was 29 now I’m 51. In my case not being able to see anything
    While closing my eyes gave me learning problems throughout my school years.
    Not being able to “see” a word in my minds eye to spell it !!. Not being able to work out math problems in my head !. I’m still not good at spelling or maths. I feel this has held me back my whole life and it get depressed thinking what I might have been able to become if I could have worked out problems in my head by seeing them.
    I do dream in colour also I like my dreams and as a child always tried to remember them.
    I don’t think teachers understood this problem back in the 1970s, so I was classed as being stupid, or lazy.
    Or though it understand not that’s not the case, I consider myself quite smart.
    I too also like photography and take some nice landscape shots.
    If I could wish for anything in my life it would be to have the ability to come over this.

  22. Ami says:

    Same here – can’t see a thing in ‘my mind’s eye’. Family and pals think I’m strange. Cannot do visualisations e.g. guided meditation or NLP types, yet I have an excellent memory, no learning difficulties (graduate of a degree subject that requires a lot of written analysis) and pretty good spatial awareness (apparently) for a woman. I did not know I was ‘deficient’ as I presumed people were like me until relatively recently. Maybe I’m more auditory – which may prove to be a problem as I’m going deaf in one ear?! Anyway, whilst this is an old conversational thread … anyone who stumbles upon it in 2017 might be interested in this link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150826101648.htm – So, it is ‘a thing’/condition called aphantasmia!

  23. edsorow says:

    I don’t see anything when I visualize (not entirely true), but my other senses are still available. I can smell, hear, feel, taste, but not see. Growing up, I did have some learning disabilities. I had no sense of direction whatsoever, and could get lost just turning a corner. I was also very uncoordinated, and could not translate someone else’s body movements/orientation to my own body. Nowadays, I don’t have many problems. I credit this to early intervention. During my preteen and teen years, my inability to do all these things made me so mad that I spent hours a day just to get better (my cousins made fun of how much I sucked, haha). After half a year of practice I learned to juggle 3 balls :/, another 4 months and I could juggle 4. Next, I learned to juggle a hacky sack with my feet, which only took me about a week. After that I trained my balance by closing my eyes and balancing on 1 leg. I joined the soccer, wrestling, basketball, and football teams at school. I failed my driving test 6 times, but passed on my 7th. I took to visualizing maps in my mind, and always tried to know which direction I was facing. I learned of memory palaces, and memorized every detail of my house until I could use it as a memory palace, despite my inability to visualize. Learning to use memory palaces improved my visual memory a great deal, though it’s still somewhat below average.

    Nowadays, I’ve actually started ‘seeing’ vague flashes of images when I visualize, not consistently, but this means you can learn to see images (to some extent). I know there isn’t any evidence that you can increase your general intelligence, but anecdotally, train enough specific skills for a specific domain of intelligence, and eventually the skills seem to transfer to other skills in that domain that were never trained. For instance, juggling actually improved my sense of direction. Memory palaces seem to have improved my mental math.

    So, if you can’t see anything in your mind’s eye. Maybe with enough practice you can learn. In my particular case, I think I can visualize, but not consciously. I mean, my dreams are plenty vivid, and I don’t have trouble recognizing faces. So I’m probably ‘seeing’ mental images on some level, at least some of the time.

  24. Michael Eisbrener says:

    I too have no ‘pictures’ in my imagination. Dreams tend to vivid, in color and ‘real’. That may explain why I have converted in some way everything into words. I realized early, over 50 years ago I could not ‘see’ someones face in my memory. I found some methods that put me into a ‘dream’ state that allows me to re- see everything in pictures but once ‘awake’ it is all words/audio. New thoughts appear as audio, word sounds. I discovered it going to school with two blind people, blind from birth, who also only had memories in audio. My wife wanted to know what letters I saw! She obviously has distinct pictures in her memory banks.

  25. ds says:

    I believe this is in fact the most universal condition, possibly the only one.

    Voluntary, coordinated, deliberate closed-eye hallucinations/”visual lucid dreams”, being something either very rare or even not yet proved to actually exist.


    I’ve read somewhere once that very young children were capable of it for a while and it’s usually lost before 7 or so. But again, it was not something providing clear detail of how they’ve figured it, like fMRIs of people having this self-induced hallucinations and comparing it with actual sensorial vision.

    Possibly much of the supposed existence of this lies on problems with poor self-reports, most of the time the sole evidence being people saying so, but not even necessarily being able to grasp exactly what they’re implying, or even self-deluding.

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