In the Autism Quotient questionnaire, there is this statement:
"When I'm reading a story, I can easily imagine what the characters might look like"
What if I always use faces that I know, for example actors from shows I've seen a lot? Sometimes I pick an actor to be a character after the first description of the character, then later they might say something about their looks that doesn't fit with the actor, and I'll kinda ignore it because I already decided who is playing that character.
To agree with the statement, should one be able to "build a face" in ones mind based on the information given?
Sometimes these things are so hard to answer when you don't know how other people work.
Luckily for me, I find this a very simple question, and my answer may surprise some of you.
My answer is, no, I cannot. Not ever. Not even if you just showed me a picture of them two seconds ago. Not even if I try to imagine them as played by my best friend.
This is called aphantasia. I can see with my eyes just fine, but I can't conjure up images only in my mind. I have no "mind's eye"
If you don't mind me asking, how do memories work for you? I tend to see them as visual images.
The odd thing is that my brain must somehow encode visual information, and I'm sure it doesn't do it by converting images into, say, a verbal description; though I am primarily a word thinker. I have been a painter, a photographer, and a product designer. I can pass intelligence tests which involve mentally rotating 3D shapes. I have no problem recognising people or my favourite flowers. All of this is normal for aphantasic people from what I can gather, and in fact it seems very common for us to be visual artists. As I said in the thread about dreaming, I can only assume that I do have a "mind's eye", but that it isn't available to my conscious awareness; only to some kind of image processing sub-system which hands me answers without showing its workings out.
When asked what colour our family car was when I was a kid, I know it was orange, but I cannot tell to what extent an image of an orange car is generated inside my head somewhere that I can't directly reach, or whether this is just an individual factual memory to which the answer is "orange" (it's hard to believe that this could be the case for every single detail that I would be able to recall about the car).
Describing how it affects my autobiographical memory is even more difficult, because I think my recall is very strongly affected by my alexithymia. It's not just that my autobiographical memories don't have pictures; I don't really feel that I "relive" anything at all, in the way that other people describe (I cannot really tell how metaphorical this description is meant to be).To a large extent I live in a kind of permanent "now" - my past is very vague to me, and it doesn't feel much like something that I actually lived through. I know plenty of things about it, but I'm not sure they're what most people would call "reminiscences".
I may add to this later. I feel that I have taken a tangent into things which I have never tried to put into words before, and I'm finding it quite difficult. Although my direct recall of emotional states is very poor, they come to me when I try to translate my thoughts into words - I worry that if I'm not careful, I may be rewriting who I am. Maybe I need to. I need to think.
Thanks for sharing this - I can see why it must be really hard to describe your experiences.
The only thing I seem to really struggle with (in terms of visual memory) is facial recognition. I can recall the faces of my family and close friends very well, but I have to see someone very regularly before I get to the point where I can remember their face (it gets a bit embarrassing when people recognise me, but I've forgotten them). When I worked in customer service, I used to get customers who'd come in every week and be really angry that I couldn't remember them (they'd refer to things we'd discussed and I just couldn't place them). It always baffled me how other people could remember customers' names and faces so well.
You're welcome. I don't mind too much trying to describe things like that; it's often one of the best ways of understanding myself to try to explain to someone else. It kind of left me a bit bewildered for while, but actually I think it's found me a new direction to try to tackle some of my "without the mask who am I?" confusion - so all's well.
Even more amazing; thanks to firemonkey posting about a forum especially for Aphantasics, I discovered some scientific research into mental imagery tasks, one of the conclusions of which was...
"What Zeman’s findings do suggest is that mental imagery may be unconscious in the brain of an aphantasic. That is, people with aphantasia may be able to form visual images, but don’t have conscious access to them."
If only I'd read that first, to know that my guesswork was right, I might not have gotten myself quite so discombobulated!
That's good to hear
Interestingly, I read that article and only answered one of the questions correctly! I don't think I have aphantasia because I've always had a very vivid, visual imagination, but I do remember struggling with concepts like those in the article when I was at school.
P.S. Discombobulated is one of my favourite words