Aphantasia

At the end of April last year, Madeleine Finlay reported for the BBC Radio 4 programme All In the Mind from the “Extreme Imagination” conference at Exeter University about people with aphantasia who have no mind’s eye – who can’t visualise friends, family, objects, or anything. She met people with this experience and researchers trying to understand it.

The Phrase Finder website states:

“The first actual mention of mind’s eye comes before Descartes, in 1577, when Hubert Languet used it in a letter. This was subsequently printed in The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, 1845:

“What will not these golden mountains effect … which I dare say stand before your mind’s eye day and night?” “.

In The Atlantic of 4.12.14., Conor Friedersdorf pondered the question, “What Does it Mean to ‘See With the Mind’s Eye?”. He noted,

“As it turns out, how people form mental images seems to vary significantly, a fact that’s surprised those who’ve encountered it for more than a century. In 1880, Francis Galton published his classic paper “Statistics of Mental Imagery” after asking a series of subjects about images summoned by their minds. Some protested that they couldn’t really see anything. “These questions presuppose assent to a proposition regarding the ‘mind’s eye’ and the ‘images’ it sees,” one subject wrote. “This points to some initial fallacy … It is only by a figure of speech that I can describe my recollection of a scene as a ‘mental image’ which I can ‘see’ with my ‘mind’s eye’ … I do not see it any more than a man sees the thousand lines of Sophocles which under due pressure he is ready to repeat. The memory possesses it.” “.

In late April last year, Christina Farr wrote for the Consumer News and Business Channel on the subject of aphantasia, referring to Lives without imagery – Congenital aphantasia, the article in Cortex of 3–5 June 2015 where Adam Zeman and Michaela Dewar introduced the term. Farr adds:

“Zeman pointed out some very successful people have reported having similar problems with visualization, including the former Pixar CEO Ed Catmull, who recently told the BBC that he figured out he was different while trying to meditate. Catmull spent days trying to conjure up a picture of a sphere before giving up. He eventually learned that many of the other top animators in his field had it too, including Glen Keane, the creator of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”.

This evening, Radio 4 broadcast a half hour programme by Sue Armstrong on the subject, entitled Blind Mind’s Eye.

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