Phantasia-The psychological significance of lifelong visual imagery vividness extremes

Adam Zeman, Fraser Milton, Sergio Della Sala, Michaela Dewar, Timothy Frayling, James Gaddum, Andrew Hattersley, Brittany Heuerman-Williamson, Kealan Jones, Matthew MacKisack, Crawford Winlove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Visual imagery typically enables us to see absent items in the mind's eye. It plays a role in memory, day-dreaming and creativity. Since coining the terms aphantasia and hyperphantasia to describe the absence and abundance of visual imagery, we have been contacted by many thousands of people with extreme imagery abilities. Questionnaire data from 2000 participants with aphantasia and 200 with hyperphantasia indicate that aphantasia is associated with scientific and mathematical occupations, whereas hyperphantasia is associated with 'creative' professions. Participants with aphantasia report an elevated rate of difficulty with face recognition and autobiographical memory, whereas participants with hyperphantasia report an elevated rate of synaesthesia. Around half those with aphantasia describe an absence of wakeful imagery in all sense modalities, while a majority dream visually. Aphantasia appears to run within families more often than would be expected by chance. Aphantasia and hyperphantasia appear to be widespread but neglected features of human experience with informative psychological associations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-440
Number of pages15
JournalCortex
Volume130
Early online date4 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Aphantasia
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Hyperphantasia
  • Prosopagnosia
  • Visual imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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