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  1. So the list woozy posts about imagining the apple, I found that each additional item it asked for caused me to then add that to my mental image — which I’m not sure is what they’re after, or if it “counts”. So I picture an apple, it is not immediately detailed and specific, it more platonic or abstract; but as you ask me to add details, I can and do, so you want color? Sure. Are you gonna specify the color, or should I pick one? I can do either. Is it a granny smith? Sure, if you want. Does it have texture? Sure, the more you describe the texture, I can add that. Does it have a reflection on it? Well, now that you mention it, it does… Does that count? I think I learned not to bother to be too specific about something I’m visualizing until I have to be — if you are going to describe an apple in detail, it is extra work for me to deconstruct the detailed apple I had in mind to make it conform with your description — I’m better off starting with a platonic apple and then adding details as you list them. If you leave me on my own, I’d probably fill in the apple with details, assuming I need the picture of the apple and you’re not going to describe the details (say in a book), or I might just leave it as a platonic apple if it turns out not to be too important. But if the apple is central and you never bother to describe it more, I’ll probably have quite a vivid detailed image of that apple, and complain bitterly that the movie adaptation got the apple all wrong…

  2. larK

    That’s one of the issues I have. Visualizing is not “imagination” and its not like vividness is running away. And it’s not like we *need* to visualize to think and we don’t have rainmanlike need to add complete texture like an idiot savant. And it’s not synaesthesia.

    But then the journalist can’t help but write it up like that. I think I put more detail then you do (but are you responding to “think of an apple” as opposed to being specifically told to “*visualize* an apple”? There’s a heck of a difference between those two commands.) but I find no difficulty at all in adding as little or as much detail and clarity as I want. I mean we’re just *visualizing*. But from what I read visualizing is rare…. or maybe the writers who can’t do it, think that it is.

    There’s this description:

    “The super-visualizer”

    “At the other end of the spectrum is children’s book illustrator, Lauren Beard,…

    “The text describes a baby perilously climbing onto a chandelier.

    from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

    So at this point I’m engaged and waiting to hear about the exiting hyper-visual description…. And it is this:

    “Straightaway I can visualise this grand glass chandelier in some sort of French kind of ballroom, and the little baby just swinging off it and really heavy thick curtains,” she says.

    Um… That’s it ???? She writes about a baby climbing a glass chandelier and … she can picture it in her mind with some detail …. and …. that’s considered “super-visualizing”???

    “Not many people have mental imagery as vibrant as Lauren…”

    Really? They *don’t*? It’s… just a baby in a ballroom swinging from a chandelier. Why would anyone *not* be able to visualize that? I thought there’d be something about counting the bees in the bushes out the window or the thread count of the cotton polyester blend of his pajamas with purple elephants and the shape of the faded juice stain fading into the fabric or something.

    But then I read that to visualize a “red star” that only 39% of people can do that. (What!?!?!?) And those who can’t are surprised it’s that high. (I’m surprised it’s below 91%)

    So…. I have no idea if I’m hyperphantasic or not. I can visualize or “hear” *anything I can think of in as much detail and clarity as I need or want but that seems about as intriguing or as rare as claiming “I can write a sentence in English with one hand while petting a cat in the other! I must be hyperagilfrabjoulous!”

  3. “And those who can’t are surprised it’s that high.”

    Well, it should be pretty clear at this point, but just to drive the point home: I’m still just stunned that it’s not 0%!

  4. Woozy: “(but are you responding to ‘think of an apple’ as opposed to being specifically told to ‘*visualize* an apple’? There’s a heck of a difference between those two commands.)”

    There may be a stark difference in your mind, but for me they’re pretty close. Even when trying to visualize the face of someone I know, I can easily remember what he/she looks like, but I can’t hold an image of his/her face in my head for more than a brief moment. If try to focus on one detail (like a person’s eyes or the apple’s shape), the other details (like a person’s hair or the apple’s color) disappear.

  5. Then I guess I *do* have hyperphantasia….

    I just feel that something with that fancy a name should be like a superpower or something. Like you visualize with more detail than you can actually imagine. Or that it’s hyper real and imagine a flash can cause pain or something.

    Maybe I don’t understand why the ability to visualize *should* be in any way limited. My ability to imagine anything in clarity for as long as I’d like doesn’t seem to tap into any mental region that isn’t engaged in normal activity (memory, thought, imagination,etc. Of which I’m utterly normal) . It’s just… why should it be hobbled for anyone?

    Maybe I should figure a way to turn it into a super power. If you need to have a horse tap dancing in a watermelon field visualized, I can do it for you for a modest fee….

  6. @woozy: did you follow the links I posted (way) above about Temple Grandin? She describes her visual thinking style in detail, about how it allows her to “test drive” designs she makes before building to see that it works right, and other such details. She doesn’t make it out to be a super power, but she does find it useful, and she does have to come to grips that clearly not everyone is endowed with the same abilities.

  7. larK

    Yes, but she “thinks in pictures”. I don’t think in words, pictures, or moods, or impressions. I just think. I can to a certain degree put my thoughts into pictures, moods or words, (although putting them into words is always much harder and comes out flatter than it should)

    Maybe she discovered people don’t visualize as well as she did, but I guess like Winter Wallaby but in reverse, I just assumed she meant she realized people don’t use images as a primary way of being conscious, because it never occurred to me any-one couldn’t visualize what a cow sees when it walks through a tunnel.

    (I read this some many years ago.)

    And she solves problems in pictures because her visualization. I suspect if I asked her to visualize an elephant crawling through a mousehole she’d have trouble. I can solve some many problems through visualization but as me pictures are not actually constructed they are under no obligation to follow the laws of physics to any degree *more* than I actually know them. If I imagined dropping two objects off a building and I intuitively had a rough idea of their mass and I only had an intuitive idea of the laws of impact there is no reason the craters created would match reality. And of course I can visualize the ping pong causing an earthquake and the bowling bow floating away in the breeze.

  8. Also part of my surprise is I find it moderately possible to imagine how people might not be able to visualize at all, but I find it really strange to imagine that people can do it but very badly. If you can do it at all, it’s hard to imagine why you can’t just do it well.

  9. larK: If the ability to visualize made marked differences in outward ability, then I don’t think either of us would have been able to go so long without realizing that there were these differences in ability. I’m not saying you can’t find a use for your “superpower,” but in terms of outward appearances, the ability to visualize and the ability the imagine appear quite similar.

  10. All this reminds me of Stendhal and Mallarmé. Stendhal’s depiction of the Saint Bernard pass, when he understands he’s not describing his memories but an engraving he had seen later on a wall someplace (and actually, he’s not describing the engraving but the memory of it). Mallarmé put it more poetically: “Je dis : une fleur ! et, hors de l’oubli où ma voix relègue aucun contour, en tant que quelque chose d’autre que les calices sus, musicalement se lève, idée rieuse ou altière, l’absente de tous bouquets.” Flower instead of apple.
    I learn better listening than reading. My visual memory is about location: I can never remember a quote but I know exactly where in a book I can find it. I can remember/dream/imagine sight, smell (actually my best links to very early memories), taste, sound, touch. Dreams are more vivid than recollection or imagination. I can also sometimes control my dreams but I avoid it now because waking up can be very upsetting. I am never bored in a waiting room.

  11. It was woozy talking about “superpowers”. My take is that people may use vastly different engines under the hood, but that they have all conformed to have roughly the same appearance of performance on the outside. That doesn’t mean, however, that the differences in the underlying engine don’t give advantages (and disadvantages) in certain tasks (and it’s simply evolutionarily beneficial that there are a multitude of ways to solve a problem, so I don’t see this going away anytime soon, either). I have in past here written about the difficulties I encountered in school and in learning, where the method used to teach is not optimal for my way of thinking. Some people are able to leverage this to differentiate themselves and advance way beyond others, and others get a sub optimal education and suffer disadvantages. And probably most (I think this is my case) work very hard using their different system to merely catch up to the mean, which is a waste of potential, but keeps society grinding along.

  12. ” I have in past here written about the difficulties I encountered in school and in learning, where the method used to teach is not optimal for my way of thinking. ”

    I guess every *other* trait I’ve had (or I wanted to believe I had because it’d make me feel special) as in ADHD, or Introversion or tactile information processor, or lucid dreamer, and west coast accent, or whatever, I’ve always felt something before hand to determine that somehow it fits me.

    This is, so far as I can tell, the only time where it *never* occurred to me anyone *would* be different. And this is also one of the only times where the alternative way just seems quite alien.

  13. larK: Whoops, I meant woozy.

    Re: different optimal learning styles. My wife recently commented, “I used to think that the fact that you passed all your classes in college by skipping class, and just reading the book at home, showed how smart you were. But I’ve come to realize that it’s also because you s-k at auditory learning.”

    She wasn’t being mean, just matter-of-fact. (She was right.)

  14. I also find this fascinating — I can do everything on woozy’s list, but visualizing something isn’t remotely like looking at it, or dreaming I’m looking at it, it’s like remembering looking at it, which is quite different. How does that figure in?

    …my default apple is a Macoun. Which doesn’t look like the one on the Wikipedia page.

  15. Dave in Boston: Are you sure that you can do everything in woozy’s list? My understanding is that by “visualizing” he means that it is like looking at it. i.e. it’s just like photons hitting the eyes. Similarly with the picture in the cartoon: 1-5 means “what do you see, floating before your eyes?”

    If it’s just “can you remember looking at something?” and recall or imagine specific details, then I can do that, but I think almost everyone can. If the ability to recall details was what was in question, then the tests woozy linked to could have been objective, rather than subjective: e.g. “Can you remember what colors apples can come in?”

  16. Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? I’m not talking about remembering what colors apples come in, or what shape they are, I’m talking about visualizing the color and shape. Definitely visual in nature; could draw from it, if I could draw. But it’s not the _same_ as seeing something in person, like dreaming is, nor does it overlay or obscure anything I’m actually looking at. It’s like remembering having seen an apple last week, except it’s synthetic.

  17. What does it means to “visualize” something if you can’t actually “see” it? Until last week I would have said “visualize” was shorthand for “forming a good mental map from your recollections that you can use for things like drawing a picture, or other practical activities,” which sounds like what you’re saying. But after talking to woozy and others, I’ve become convinced this is not what the majority of people mean by “visualize.”

    In other words, it seems like I can do what you can do, so either you have aphantasia, or I’ve incorrectly diagnosed myself with aphantasia.

  18. Well, it’s visual; it’s like looking at something, it’s spatial, there’s depth perception, etc, it’s just not the _same_ as looking at something. It doesn’t seem the same as what you’re describing, but it also doesn’t necessarily seem the same as what others are describing either, at least some of which sounds like visualized objects actually appear in their vision.

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