People with aphantasia are unable to voluntarily create or recall mental images.
This can extend to non-visual memory too (e.g. remembering that they heard a loud bang, but not remembering the sound of the loud bang itself).

Everything I've read talks about the overall symptoms, but not about the underlying mechanism.

Does the mind correctly record memories (which can't be recreated), or does it fail to record sensory memories in the first place? I.e. is the memory failure in the recording or in the recalling?


1 Answer 1


It is neither:

Aphantasia is the inability to voluntarily create mental images in one's mind.

How this relates to visual memory is still under investigation, as is most everything about aphantasia, a condition first described only in 2015.

The original paper coining the term by Zeman, Dewar, & Della Sala (2015) did speculate about the connection:

The descriptions given by our participants suggest that in some visual memory is preserved even if visual imagery is absent, while others may rely entirely on non-visual representations in memory tasks ...

A few studies since (eg, Keogh, Wickena, & Pearson, 2021; Bainbridge et al, 2021; Dawes et al, 2020; Pounder et al, 2021; Zeman et al, 2020; Milton et al, 2021) indicate that visual working memory and visual spatial memory are largely unaffected by aphantasia, while autobiographical and object-specific memory may be impaired.

Researchers currently speculate that aphantasics encode visual memories using strategies that differ from those with typical mental imagery, resulting in recall that sometimes matches and other times underperforms the general population. Accordingly, a recent study by Monzel, Vetterlein, & Reuter (2021) demonstrated that memory tasks where substitute strategies are less effective, are much more challenging for aphantasics.


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