An edited version of an email.
Receiving a url link to a summary of a scientific paper was a very welcome shock. [ THANKS, ALAN ] I lack mental imagery in ALL sensory modes. At age 22 (now age 80) I discovered my lack of visual imagery. As a budding scientist, I began to explore the phenomenon. I discovered I was rare in lacking mental imagery in all sensory modes. However, since my primary life drive was the survival/thrival of Humankind/Gaia, I never pursued this as formal research (for which I now regret). I have had a few intense visual images, so I know what I am missing.
I have done some searching of my archives and will provide you, below, with some url documents reporting my informal studies. I can dig deeper and respond to queries.
I am open to, indeed welcome, any investigation of my abilities and disabilities. As I elder, I am concerned that critical brain scans and DNA have not yet been recorded. I have found only one person, online, who claims a total lack of mental imagery in all sensory modes.
I have two PhDs, in physics (Yale, 1965) and in educational psychology (Univ of Minnesota, 1970). My trans-disciplinary accomplishments transcend these ancient credentials. Over many decades I have learned more about my abilities and disabilities due to this condition. I now view myself as a “savant”, but where neither my disabilities and compensatory abilities lie in accepted categories. From my current blog you can access all my online publications.
My primary difficulty in having no mental imagery is the lack of a sensory past. I have no sensory remembrances, from a minute ago to ten years ago. I am well aware of others who report such sensory remembrances in great detail. I have no accessible PAST. Is this experienced by others in your research? What have they done to compensate?
An equally disabling feature is having no conscious, sensory working space for creativity. My very creative imagination is never sensory. I seek computer based visual tools.
What I DO EXPERIENCE is what I expect others also have in their gestalt background, but masked by the intensity of the sensory. I have called this “conceptual emotive imagery”. I call it “imagery” because it has the figure/ground features of gestalts. Some strong visual imagers have accidentally learned to suppress their visual imagery and experience “conceptual emotive imagery”.
Today, I wish I had recorded my 20+ years of informal studies of mental imagery with my 5 sections/semester of teaching Intro Psychology in a community college. Each semester there were a few lacking visual imagery. One was a sheet metal student who reported difficulty imaging the folds. She was studying for an inappropriate profession. Yet, before I knew of my disability, I worked as a draftsman for GE. Although I couldn’t visualize rotations, I could conceptually analyze them. For 22 years I functioned not knowing I lacked sensory imagery. As you will see from my files, the academic and research establishments were not ready to accept “lack of imagery” so soon after their liberation from the tyranny of behaviorism.
My personal lack of mental imagery (in all sensory modalities) resulted in my deep interest in the vast diversity of cognitive experience in humankind. From the null point in mental imagery, I informally researched the individual differences among those reporting mental imagery. I discovered that the scientific study of reading ignored the mental imagery associated with reading. I discovered that strong visual imagers had extreme difficulty reading highly conceptual texts. When asked “What did you experience reading that passage?” the most frequent response was “nothing”. Their variations in imagery reading descriptive literature was astounding. I interviewed professionals who were strong visual imagers, yet enjoyed and valued highly conceptual texts (such as philosophy and logic). They all reported different ways they suspended visual imagery when reading such texts.
I have no idea how many are out there with my total lack of mental imagery. I don’t know how many have developed ways to compensate. The field of competencies for mental imagery varies from those with vivid imagery and control, through those with weak imagery and little control, to those totally lacking imagery in that sensory modality. Unbidden imagery is a frequent feature of mental illness, if not sometimes the cause. Ancient studies by Roe that 3% lacked visual imagery and 7% lacked auditory imagery needs replication.
URLS TO SOME OF MY ONLINE ARTICLES
A brief report on a day’s thinking on imagery. 01/11/2013
A sequence of comments by me to a QuickTopic by John McCrone:
These are far from an organized presentation. My lack of memory blocks my access to whether I have better docs. I know I have commented on this throughout my life, in other communications. I once started a long reply to a scientific article claiming the lack of visual imagery was impossible. ACTUALLY, with eyes closed I do have a visual field. However it is usually gray or with fluctuating textures, sometimes with swirls of brilliant colors. My visual field is not a screen on which to project content, except that which comes from my eyes. I have a few speculative hypotheses as to why.
I can’t get access to your full journal article without buying a sub to the journal. Could you please provide me with a copy?
I abandoned following this theme decades ago. Imagery research seemed locked into the paradigm asking subjects “What did you see”, instead of “What did you experience”. When they responded I saw my horse jumping over a fence, I asked did you feel the wind in your face and the horse beneath you – which some did. I am very pleased to see your research. Diversity in cognitive experience, when studied in depth, should reveal a quite different conception of humankind.