Brian Lee Diamond Bar Highschool 11th Grade
Try to imagine a water bottle in your mind. Can you do it? Most people can see the apple crystal clear; less people have trouble seeing the apple clearly. But rarest of all are the people who can’t imagine the apple at all.
These people are described as having a condition known as aphantasia. Aphantasia was first studied in 1880 through an experiment by Francis Galton in which he asked his co-workers about their eye’s mind. These studies were based upon the person being asked to tell the accurate truth thus they are not completely deemed as scientifically accurate.
Joel Pearson and Rebecca Keogh from “The Conversation” took it upon themselves to set up an experiment that would not rely on the person’s subjective thought of their mind‘s eye. They used a technique known as binocular rivalry. The participants where given 3D glasses that induced one eye in seeing red and the other eye in seeing green.
When the images were superimposed (put on top of one another), only one image would be seen by the participant. The image seen could be influenced if the participant were to think of the color they wanted to see. Joel and Rebecca took advantage of this quality and told the participants to think about green or red over a course of 100 trials.
Interestingly enough, being told to imagine one color over another indeed impacted the results of what was seen: if told green, the participants would see the green image, and if told red, they would see the red image.
One would expect that all people were influenced by imagining a color, but that’s not the case. The self-proclaimed aphantasics were met with confirmation as being told a color to imagine seemed to have no effect on the colored image they saw. This is one of the first completely objective experiments pertaining to aphantasics that actually shows that they can’t imagine the color being told to them in the first place.
By objectively identifying aphantasia as a disorder, researchers can continue their work and potentially develop treatments to aid aphantasics in forming images in their mind.