This is Science, Quickly, a podcast from Scientific American. I’m Stefano Montali.
If I asked you to visualize, say, Harry Potter, you’d probably have no problem picturing him in your mind: a teenage wizard with black hair, glasses, a thunderbolt-shaped scar on his forehead and a wand in his hand.
It would almost be as if you were pulling up a photograph in your head.
Building on this research, Pearson and his team then recruited people with aphantasia from the Sydney, Australia, area to come to the lab for another experiment.
This time, he asked the participants to imagine a dark object and then a light one.
Your pupil contracts when you’re imagining the bright thing just like it does if I look up at the light.
And with imagery, their pupil was different in the light condition. No imagery, with aphantasia, there’s no real difference there.
For a person to be able to volunteer for this type of experiment, they first have to realize that they have aphantasia.
But how do you know that you can’t visualize if you don’t even know that other people can?
Quite often, Pearson says, the epiphany takes place in a meditation class.
The teacher will be saying, “Now picture this and picture that.”
And they’ll be getting more and more frustrated, saying, “They keep saying that. What do they mean? I can't picture that.”
他们会越来越沮丧，说: “他们一直说想象。到底想象的是什么? 我想象不出来。”
I compare it to people discovering they’re color-blind. They just don’t know what they’re missing until someone describes, somehow, the vivid experience of color. Then they go, “Oh, wait, what?”
On a brighter note, though, there are many successful, creative people that live with the condition.
Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull is one.
Glen Keane, a character animator behind films such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, is another.
So is there a connection between imagery, aphantasia and creativity?
I get lots of e-mails from people saying, “Oh my God, I’ve realized I have aphantasia. That's why I'm not creative.”
There doesn’t seem to be any roadblocks there.
In fact, we’re running a creativity study now here in Future Minds, and again, the data does not support any difference in creativity measures for those with aphantasia.
So even though people tend to sort of have some intuition—they think that there should be a lack of creativity in aphantasia, the data doesn’t support that so far.
Living without mental imagery might seem like a disadvantage, butPearson says there are benefits as well—especially in terms of those living with anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
All the data we have so far suggests that the more vivid your imagery is, the more prone you are to develop PTSD after a trauma.
So there’s a couple of things already pointing to the fact that things around anxiety are going to be different and less so without imagery.
But what about good memories? Do they stick around? Pearson says yes, just in a different way.
但是美好的回忆呢? 会留下来吗? 皮尔森认为会留下，只是方式不同。
So that can take on a number of different semantics, ideas, concepts, spatial locations, emotions and sometimes different senses.
So you can break aphantasia up into multisensory aphantasia—so let’s blind across all the senses—while or pure visual aphantasia.
So while people's lifelong memories have less details if they have aphantasia, they’re still there.
It’s not catastrophic. Their memories aren’t lost.
Thanks for listening. For Scientific American’s Science, Quickly, I’m Stefano Montali.