Close your eyes and imagine walking along a sandy beach and then gazing over the horizon as the Sun rises. How clear is the image that springs to mind?
Most people can readily conjure images inside their head – known as their mind’s eye.
But this year scientists have described a condition, aphantasia, in which some people are unable to visualise mental images.
The BBC article includes a simple quiz to see how your ability to mentally visualize images ranks. I was in the bottom 5% – I have basically next to no mental imagery of that sort.
Honestly, before reading this article, I didn’t realize that other people DID have this sort of mental imagery. I mean, I heard other people say they were “picturing it in their mind,” but I always assumed that was a metaphor. So that’s a little bit freaky, to me.
It can go the other way, too. On Tumblr, “Rabbit Cube” wrote:
I think so visually that it took me forever to realize that other people sometimes thought in words. For the longest time I thought that inner monologues and thought balloons in comics were merely a narrative convenience, not an indication of how (some) people actually think.
I brought this up on social media, and a few people have been surprised that I don’t picture things in my mind, since I’m a cartoonist.
I can imagine things without picturing them – I can imagine the idea of someone running very hard with sweat pouring from them without having to see a picture of that in my mind. I can imagine that contained in a very narrow panel border shape that conveys tension and speed, again without actually seeing the picture of that in my mind.
To convert that into specific images I can see, I generally need to actually sketch the picture out. (Although the sketch might not be anything more than a stick figure). And sometimes, when I actually sketch an idea so I can see it visually, it’ll turn out that it doesn’t work.
Thanks to Mandolin for the link.
[Illustration: Excerpt from Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli.]