Could You Possibly Have “Aphantasia?”
Recently, I was sitting down with a student turned friend, asking him how he’d been progressing through The SuperLearner MasterClass.
“Well, to be honest, I gave up,” he said.
“You know how you said that less than 2% of people have that weird visualization disability? Well, it turns out, I’m one of them. When I close my eyes and try to visualize, all I see is black.”
“I don’t buy it,” I replied.
A bold statement…
…But how could I be so sure?
Well, for one, I had only a week earlier memorized a series of interesting findings from researchers at Dartmouth, The University of North Carolina, and the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute describing the neurochemistry of episodic memory, and the new theory that memory is inextricably linked to location (and therefore novel visual stimuli) in the brain.
But beyond that, this is also a claim that I’ve heard (and overcome) all too many times before from students.
Lots of students believe that they have “aphantasia” — the inability to visualize
So… how could I prove to someone that in fact they don’t have a psychological condition…
…especially one like aphantasia, which is hardly even understood, much less testable?
“Tell me,” I asked my friend. “Do you remember your parents’ home?”
“Of course,” he replied.
“In the kitchen, can you tell me where the stove is?” I continued, beginning to smirk.
“Yeah, it’s on the left side — why?” my friend inquired.
“What color is it…?” I began to close in on him.
“Off-white…” he sheepishly replied — the conclusion setting in.
“But how do you know? You can’t see it…?” I teased.
At this point, the light bulb lit up: “Oh, wow. I see what you’re saying!”
“Now, was that an electric stove, or a gas one?” I continued, gloating in my victory just a little.
“OK, you made your point — now you’re just showing off,” he fired back.
You see, there’s quite a bit of evidence that the overwhelming majority of us not only have the ability to visualize — but that it’s how our brains naturally remember.
That’s why, when students claim to have aphantasia, I generally call B.S.!
So why, then, is visualization so hard for so many people?
Why does it take weeks of training in our course to master it?
Through decades of learning the “broken” way, in spoken lectures and with boring written materials, our natural ability to visualize and imagine is gradually bred out of us.
That’s why, despite the fact that visualization and imagination are crucial survival skills for the human species, so many people believe that they are unable to do it.
But fear not:
Not only can you learn to visualize (and therefore take full advantage of the world’s most powerful learning and memory techniques)…
…You can make it second nature.
All it takes is some diligent practice, and integrating visualization into your daily life.
Once you do that, you’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes to remember anything and everything you set your mind to.