Social media was abuzz after the publication of an article on Facebook on the subject of “mind blindness”. Software developer and entrepreneur Blake Ross wrote about his condition, which he only just discovered had an official name and diagnosis: “I have never visualized anything in my entire life. I can’t “see” my father’s face or a bouncing blue ball, my childhood bedroom or the run I went on ten minutes ago. I thought “counting sheep” was a metaphor. I’m 30 years old and I never knew a human could do any of this. And it is blowing my goddamned mind.”
Aphantasia is the inability to “see” in the mind. The condition was named in 2015 after research published in the science journal Cortex. Researchers named mind blindness by combining the prefix “a,” meaning “absence of,” and “phantasia,” a term used by Aristotle for describing the capacity of the human mind to present unseen visual imagery. Aphantasia therefore literally translates to “absence of fantasy”.
Ross doesn’t suffer from lack of imagination. In addition to being a software developer, he is also a writer. Comparing his own experiences with that of friends, he has discovered that his memory, imagination and thought processes are vastly different: “Overall, I find writing fiction torturous. All writers say this, obviously, but I’ve come to realize that they usually mean the “writing” part: They can’t stop daydreaming long enough to put it on the page. I love the writing and hate the imagining, which is why I churn out 50 dry essays for every nugget of fiction.”
The whole essay is a fascinating insight into a condition which still hasn’t been researched in major depth.
Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind [via Facebook]
For further reading, this article regarding the discovery and classification of mind blindness is excellent:
Picture This? Some Just Can’t [via The New York Times]