People can actually create pictures in their mind’s eye!


Wait! What?

“I simply assumed everyone saw the same black nothingness when they closed their eyes, and that the majority of language associated with mental imagery (picturing your happy place or counting sheep) was metaphorical rather than literal.”

I hope this post is read by someone who can’t draw a mental picture and that they can have the same epiphany as I did. This realisation happened a couple of years ago, and I have since seen so many articles about it that I’m sure everyone knows about it now… Or maybe not.

What is it?

Aphantasia is a condition in which an individual is unable to visualize mental images. This means that when asked to picture themselves on a beach, for example, they are unable to see the image in their mind’s eye. Similarly, they may have difficulty with tasks such as face recognition, because they are unable to form mental images of the faces they are trying to recognize. However, after much research it is becoming clear that there is actually a spectrum and other senses are involved too.

Here are few observations to note:

  • Counting sheep to fall asleep was a total non-starter. I just couldn’t see the sheep!

  • Reading fiction was always so boring. No images of the scene or characters were forthcoming. I also never understood how the book could be better than the movie!

  • Spelling! Because visualizing words is often a helpful strategy for spelling. However there are other strategies to help, such as sounding out the words.

  • Difficulty with autobiographical memory and face recognition.

  • May seem emotionally ‘cold’ in comparison to others. If you lose a loved one, you might be very sad looking at images of them, but not feel so emotional otherwise.

Check For Yourself

VVIQ, the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire, explores the vividness of your visual imagination. It is proven to be an accurate test of the vividness for which you can see people, objects, or settings in your mind’s eye.


Aphantasia was first described by Sir Francis Galton in 1880 but remained largely neglected until Dr. Adam Zeman, a cognitive neurologist at the University of Exeter in England, began his work in the early 2000s and coined the name from the Greek word “phantasia,” which means “imagination.”


Appreciate the potential dark side of visualization


  • Less affected by scary stories since we cannot visualize them.

  • Have very good spatial skills … but can’t put any objects into that space.

  • Don’t get grossed out by mentioning disgusting things at the dinner table.

  • May or may not contribute to my lack of tendency to live in the past or harbor regret.


Creating WITHOUT visualisation

This is where my love of LEGO, VR, web design and coding comes in. The use of physical objects to create what I think of in the abstract is how I create. This also applies to working with 3D computer graphics. The ability to work with designs and concepts in the CGI is so rewarding.


As mentioned before there is no one type of Aphantasia; it’s on a spectrum. Many people don’t feel hindered by it, although others believe they failed courses in school because of it.

As a teacher it is important to be aware of aphantasia and to tweak lessons so that it may benefit those that cannot visualise. Actual physical role-play is one good example.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top