Some number of years ago I stumbled on this blog post, "I don't see anything when I close my eyes"
The author says that he can't mentally "see" objects in his mind—for instance, if asked to imagine a red square, while he knows intellectually what it looks like, he can't really imagine/see it unless it's in front of him.
I found this fascinating to stumble upon, because I thought this was how everyone
was. When people talked about seeing a picture in their mind, I thought it was just kind of a figure of speech, but this dude's post + various anecdata indicates most people actually do this, and I'm the weird one for not being able to picture things!
Anyway, this week I found a couple cool articles on this topic! Turns out researchers are starting to look into this
, which I find exciting, because it seemed like such a tricky and quirky thing to study that we'd never get actual scientists on it, and yet here we are. Also it has a name now: "aphantasia."
Also, another person reports he's also unable to mentally "hear" music
, which is fascinating to me. I can hear music in my mind, quite vividly, and have composed whole songs that way; it feels weird
that not everyone can do this.
* I'm really curious if there are any good artists with visual aphantasia. I actually liked art a lot as a kid and drew lots up through middle school, but I wasn't excellent at it. I imagine with more training/effort I could've become good, but I wonder if I'd eventually hit difficulties once I got to Serious Business stuff? Like, I can imagine composing music without being able to hear music in the mind, but it'd be a huge pain in the ass, you'd be pretty reliant on synthesizer-like tools to experiment with sounds, and I imagine not having the ability to turn over different approaches in your mind would make iterations/improvements harder. But maybe not!
* Amusingly, I think this explains why I found it so impossible to find an approach for meditation that worked for me. A bunch of meditation guides have stuff like "start by imagining a white dot in your mind," and I think that was supposed to be the easy
part, but I would get stuck there, trying and trying to conjure up a thing in my mind that just was not happening. Once I read a guide on walking meditation it all made much more sense.
Also if anyone else shares this experience let me know, because I'm super curious, join the aphantasia club etc etc