Blake Ross wrote an article about his personal experience with aphantasia, which is defined here as:

a condition where a person is unable to visualise images in their minds eye.

Has it been verified that some people have this condition?

(It's obviously qualia but there are some ways to measure this phenomenon. For example asking subject to read diagonally from visualised words presented.)

  • Of course a non-visual mind can be qualified as a real thing, consider it brain equivalent of a command-line operating system rather than one with a graphical user interface. It's the same principle.
    – user36209
    Oct 12, 2016 at 23:07
  • So what exactly about Aphantasia are you skeptical? Is it possible to have an imagination that is not visual? Why not? There is much we don't understand about how the brain works. I don't have a visual imagination. My imagination has no sound , no taste, no sensory perception. That doesn't stop me from enjoying a good sci-fi novel. I do word search puzzles with ease. I can read words backwards, diagonally, upside down, l3tt3rs r3plac3d with numb3rs. I find it hard to believe people have images in their minds. How distracting that must be. For more on the subject bbc.com/news/health-
    – user36212
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:07
  • 2
    It is not just about images Quoting from that definition page: People with aphantasia vary in their ability to synthesise senses in their mind. The majority are unable to reproduce anything within their mind, be it visual, sound, smell, taste, touch. It is noted that even for people who can visualise in their minds eye, not everyone can achieve the other abilities, or even to the same degree. I suggest a rewrite for this question.
    – user22865
    Oct 13, 2016 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


The basic answer is that aphantasia is very real and is recognised and researched. It's just that not everything that is real can be tested directly.

There are some studies that have been done, but it is inherently difficult to study what happens inside a person's mind. This study reported that the participants occasionally had involuntary images in their mind and could dream in images, however they could not willingly create images. Another is here and discusses congenital aphantasia. This study is currently underway and is investigating both ends of the visualisation spectrum. Still, I have yet to find a way to measure it exactly in the way you are asking - there is no objective test because for those of us who experience it there are no images to test. It is not a matter of quality of visualisation, how much we can visualise, it's literally no visualisation.

There is one place trying to find a way to measure and manipulate visuals and their information is here. They have analysed brain activity when someone is using their mind's eye and are working on ways to manipulate the activity levels. They hope this can be particularly beneficial to those who are distracted by over active visualisations, but they are also looking into the applications for those with aphantasia. Again, though, this is only a measure of brain activity in certain areas and the size of certain regions of the brain. It's not a test as such.

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    Welcome to Skeptics. Please read our introduction. I have removed the part of the answer that was anecdotal since we don't accept personal anecdotes on this site. I've also fixed your links. It would be great if anyone could add quotes from the relevant publications to prevent link rot.
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:56

They've done MRI's to show different levels of brain activity: Aphantasia: Losing the mind’s eye

Since I have aphantasia I would qualify this as a real thing. The problem is until we get more brain scans, and studies completed, any explanation will sound very semantic. Whole terms need to be redefined.

'Imagine yourself on the beach' has nothing to do with seeing myself. It's all about the kinesthetics of it. I remember being places, and doing things. Unless I pay attention, I won't remember the color of the walls there, or be able to 'go back and look' in my mind.

  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics. Please read our introduction. The evidence presented in this answer does not seem to be conclusive. it's a possibly authoritative blog but the OP is already skeptical of a similar publication. The rest of the answer is anecdotal and we don't accept personal anecdotes on this site.
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 13, 2016 at 0:50

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