September 26, 2022

Visualize A Horse…But What If You Actually Can’t? Aphantasia Explained With Dr Adam Zeman

Close your eyes and visualize a horse. Most people can picture the outline of the body, the color of the horse and the unique features of the animal. But some people simply don’t see any image at all. This lack of a mind’s eye is known as aphantasia

 

To help explain exactly what aphantasia is, and how it can affect behavior, we talk with Professor Adam Zeman who actually helped identify and name the neurological condition. Adam has a medical degree and a PhD in philosophy from Oxford University. He’s been a lecturer and professor of cognitive and behavioral neurology and has published extensively on visual imagery and forms of amnesia occurring in epilepsy. Adam has also published an introduction to neurology for the general audiences called, A Portrait of the Brain. But the reason we are talking to Adam on this episode is about his research on our “minds eye”. He discusses how a lack of visual imagery (aphantasia) or overly vivid imagery (hyperphantasia) can be identified and what effects it has on our behavior. 

 

We often ask guests on the show about whether their work is influenced by “me-search”; something of particular interest to them personally. Well, this episode is a little bit of me-search for our own Kurt Nelson who himself has aphantasia. Join both Kurt and Tim as they both find out more about the recent research into the condition and how we should all be aware of how it affects people.

 

Thank you to all our listeners of Behavioral Grooves, we enjoy sharing unique insights with you. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider writing a review on your podcast player. Or you can contribute financially to our work through our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves

Topics

(3:36) Welcome and speed round questions.

(5:15) How Adam discovered the condition aphantasia.

(10:30) How aphantasia can affect all the senses.

(12:45) The prevalence of aphantasia.

(15:38) The behavioral differences that are present with aphantasia.

(19:42) What careers suit people with a lack of mind’s eye?

(23:39) What causes aphantasia? 

(25:51) The differences between voluntary and involuntary visualization. 

(30:41) Visualization is an echo of vision. 

(35:21) What music Adam will take to a desert island.

(37:51) About The Mind’s Eye Project.

(42:49) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim.

 

© 2022 Behavioral Grooves

 

Links

Aphantasia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphantasia 

Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ): https://aphantasia.com/vviq/ 

Professor Adam Zeman: https://psychology.exeter.ac.uk/staff/profile/index.php?web_id=adam_zeman 

The Mind’s Eye Project: https://www.gla.ac.uk/research/az/cspe/projects/the-eyes-mind/ 

“Picture This? Some Just Can’t” by Carl Zimmer, 2015: https://carlzimmer.com/picture-this-some-just-cant-101/ 

Prosopagnosia: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/prosopagnosia#:~:text=Prosopagnosia%20is%20a%20neurological%20disorder,face%20blindness%20or%20facial%20agnosia.  

Hyperphantasia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperphantasia#:~:text=Hyperphantasia%20is%20the%20condition%20of,as%20vivid%20as%20real%20seeing%22. 

Ed Catmull: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_Catmull 

Craig Venter: https://www.jcvi.org/about/j-craig-venter 

Blake Ross: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blake_Ross 

Think of a horse: https://aphantasia.com/think-of-a-horse/ 

Musical Links

David Gray “Sail Away”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oyBnvibWEY 

Bach “Cello Suite No.1 in G Major”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1prweT95Mo0 

Mendelssohn “Overture: The Hebrides”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdQyN7MYSN8 

 

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