super visualizer

Are you a super visualizer?

This month's edition of Scientific American Mind deals with something which might be of interest to hypnotherapists. Recent research has shown that about 2% of the population are unable to visualize anything. When you ask them to recall say, what they had for breakfast this morning, they are incapable of picturing it in their mind's eye.

They are also unable to imagine the face of their children, or their kitchen, or the school they went to. Hypnotists have long known that some people do not respond well to hypnotic inductions that require them to visualise.

You don't have to be a super visualizer to go into trance

Hypnotists have also learned that you don't have to be able to visualise in order to be able to go into trance. Avoiding visualization words allows people to understand things in their own terms. You do not need to be able to see a picture of a staircase in order to imagine going deeper by going down one.

The new research has shown that people who cannot visualise are not handicapped. Many of these people have successful careers in design, programming and the arts. It appears that they have invented other ways of experiencing the world to make up for the fact that they cannot create a mental image.

In one test people were asked whether the grass was a darker or lighter green and a pine tree. Non-visualizes insisted that they were not seeing a pine tree grass, somehow they just knew that the pine tree was darker.

How to spot a Super Visualizer

The researchers developed a questionnaire which reliably classifies people who have aphantasia. MRI scans have shown that the brains of these people react differently when asked to visualize. The normal visual part of the brain shows almost no activity, but parts of the brain to do with decision-making and error prediction were busy.

It turns out that aphantasia has been known for more than 100 years but no one had ever bothered to look into it closely. Once it began to become widely known, hundreds of people came forward to say that they also could not visualise.

They had all assumed either that no one could, or that there were oddities. Most of them felt a great relief to know that there were actually thousands of people just like them.

Interestingly enough, at the other end of the scale there are people who are superbly good at visualising. This group has not been studied scientifically either.

Maybe this is something you should look out for in your clients?


David Mason

Therapist at Wellington Hypnosis
David Mason is an experienced and university qualified hypnotherapist with 15 years of clinical practice. He has a PhD and a Masters degree in psychology.
He is highly regarded in the hypnotherapy community. He is Vice President of the New Zealand Association of Professional Hypnotherapists (NZAPH).
He is regularly consulted for advice by other hypnotherapists around the world. He is known for the quality of his published scripts. He presents at international conferences and has published on hypnosis and advanced hypnotherapy.
He lives in Wellington New Zealand with his wife Trish and a cat called Parsnip.
David Mason
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2 thoughts on “Are you a super visualizer?

  1. Reply
    Skyla - 2018-08-30

    I don’t have complete aphantasia, but I’m definitely much closer to that end of the scale than most people. I’ve never been able to be hypnotised and I suspect it might be at least part of the reason why. I actually saw a hypnotist claim on his website that everyone can visualise. He had a whole bunch of people with aphantasia telling him he was wrong. Strangely, after all the commenters pointing out that not only was it real, it had a name, there aren’t any more replies on the thread from him or his assistant/co-site owner. An apology would have been nice.

    1. Reply
      David Mason - 2018-08-30

      Hi Skyla,

      You are right. It is generally believed that everyone can visualize. Possibly this is has something to do with the hypnotist’s belief that he word “visualize” is taken to include seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and feeling.
      I tend to avoid, or at least minimize the use of visualization instructions. I tend to say “just imagine a garden in summer” or “I wonder if you can think of some stairs?”. The theory is that everyone can understand those ideas in their own way. If they see it, fine. If they smell the garden, or the polish on the stairs, then that’s fine too. If that is their way of experiencing it, and it does not rely on vision, then the hypnotist can go on. There are many types of hypnotic induction that do not depend on ‘pictures’.
      Maybe you just haven’t been exposed to the right type of induction for your particular way of thinking?
      It might be worth trying different ways with an experienced hypnotist.

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