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Living with aphantasy, the inability to make mental images


It is possible that people who have identified their aphantasy still do not know the full extent of what they are missing. I only recently learned that metaphors are meant to evoke images. For example, when some people hear “My job interview was a slam dunk,” they imagine someone playing basketball. Who knew?

Robin Reymond, a third-grade teacher in New Haven, Connecticut, said during her training as a teacher, she was instructed to encourage students to create “mind movies” while they read. She was taught that visualization was “a key skill” and that “if a child cannot do it, it interferes with their learning”.

But Ms Reymond herself had never been able to visualize and was shocked to learn that others were. Eventually, she discovered that with concentration, she can see faint outlines in black and white. Some automatically see vivid and colorful images and rely on these images to process the information. Some don’t see anything at all, and many fall somewhere in between.

Ms Reymond said she initially taught her students visualization as a strategy, but recently moved away from it, believing that like other learning strategies, visualization is not the key. only way to be successful in school.

Aphants use a range of strategies to compensate for their lack of mental imagery, but since aphantasy varies from person to person, what works for some may not work for others.

Some involve other mental senses, such as what might be called the ear of the mind. For example, I often read my notes aloud and rely on auditory recall of tests. But it won’t work for everyone: About half of the people who contacted Dr. Zeman about their aphantasy also describe an inability to evoke sounds, feelings or smells in their minds.

Others take a kinesthetic approach. While studying for her pre-med classes, Ms. Xu simulates science concepts with a friend, gesturing with her hands to stick a lesson on ligand-receptor interactions.



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