A new study provides validation for the recently identified phenomenon.
- Aphantasia, a recently identified psychological phenomenon, describes when people can't conjure visualizations in their mind's eye.
- A new study published in Cortex compared the visual memories of aphantasic participants with a group of controls.
- Its results found experimental validation for the condition.
Changing our understanding of the mind's eye<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2NjM0Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODM2ODE5NX0.SWkNBfgO1uLsAMsetcmmwOHvJqzK1UsPMxc6tL6Je9k/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C228%2C0%2C228&height=700" id="609a9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="121c211fd751fb11eba0e9aa4ec53ef0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Francis Galton was the first to describe a condition that would today be recognized as aphantasia.
Visualizing the difference<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTI2NjMzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjAyMDk3M30.EYfZH3v5DRhu4ImOjpuuXdHiXbPkgTUCOxJsTQmDYA8/img.png?width=980" id="fed74" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eb2d7c7f78e780fe09bc6d1635cdaad5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="598" data-height="245" />
On the left, an aphantastic participant's recreation of a photo from memory. On the right, the participant's recreation when the photo was available for reference.
Discovering a new reality in aphantasia?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cc502388d1b548118d6e587ad785fe34"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zNHDTvqbUm4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>And Bainbridge's study has joined an ever-growing panoply. A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945217303581" target="_blank">2018 study, also published in Cortex</a>, measured the binocular rivalry—the visual phenomenon in which awareness fluctuates when different images are presented to each eye—of participants with and without aphantasia. When primed beforehand, control participants choose the primed stimuli more often than not. Meanwhile, aphantastic participants showed no such favoritism, whether primed or not. Like Bainbridge's study, these results suggest a physiological underpinning for aphantasia.</p><p>Another critical factor is growing awareness. As more studies and stories are published, more and more people are realizing they aren't alone. Such a realization can empower others to come forward and share their experiences, which in turn spurs researchers with new questions and experiences to study and hypothesize over.</p><p>Yet, there's still much work to be done. Because this psychological phenomenon has only recently been identified—Galton's observation notwithstanding—there has been sparingly little research on the condition and what research has been done has relied on participants who self-report as having aphantasia. While researchers have used the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vividness_of_Visual_Imagery_Questionnaire" target="_blank">Vividness of Visual Imagery Quiz</a> to test for aphantasia, there is currently no universal method for diagnosing the condition. And, of course, there is the ever-vexing question of how one can assess one mind's experiences from another.</p><p>"Skeptics could claim that aphantasia is itself a mere fantasy: describing our inner lives is difficult and undoubtedly liable to error," Zeman and his co-authors wrote in <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/bitstream/handle/10871/17613/Lives%20without%20imagery%20Letter%20version%20FINAL%2017.5.15%20.pdf?sequence=7&isAllowed=y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">their 2015 case study</a>. "We suspect, however, that aphantasia will prove to be a variant of neuropsychological functioning akin to synesthesia [a neurological condition in which one sense is experienced as another] and to congenital prosopagnosia [the inability to recognize faces or learn new ones]."</p><p>Time and further research will tell. But scientists need phenomenon to test and questions to experiment on. Thanks to researchers like Zeman and Bainbridge, alongside the many people who came forward to discuss their experiences, they now have both when it comes to aphantasia.</p><p>* Zeman also coined the term "<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0010945220301404" target="_blank">hyperphantasia</a>" to describe the condition in which people's psychological imagery is incredibly vivid and well-defined.</p>
Fractal patterns are noticed by people of all ages, even small children, and have significant calming effects.
- A new study from the University of Oregon found that, by the age of three, children understand and prefer nature's fractal patterns.
- A "fractal" is a pattern that the laws of nature repeat at different scales. Exact fractals are ordered in such a way that the same basic pattern repeats exactly at every scale, like the growth spiral of a plant, for example.
- Separate studies have proven that exposure to fractal patterns in nature can reduce your stress levels significantly.
Fractal patterns are evident in nature as well as in some man-made art, architecture and sculptures.
Credit: Anikakodydkova on Adobe Stock<p>The research team explored how individual differences in processing styles might account for trends in fractal fluency. Researchers exposed participants to images of fractal patterns (exact and statistical), ranging in complexity on computer screens.</p><p>The ages of the participants were:</p><ul><li>82 adults (between the ages of 18-33)</li><li>96 children (between the ages of 3-10)</li></ul><p>When viewing these patterns, the participants chose favorites between pairs of images that differed in complexity. When looking at exact fractal patterns, selections involved different pairs of snowflake-like or branch-like images. For statistical fractals, selections involved choosing between pairs of cloud-like images. </p><p>Although there were some differences in the preferences of adults and children, the overall trends were similar: exact patterns with greater complexity were more preferred. This study confirms that these preference trends are apparent in early childhood, suggesting that the appreciation for common fractal aesthetics is formed earlier in our development than previously thought. </p><p>Prior to this study, exposure to fractal patterns might have been expected to vary across the lifespan of a person due to environmental and developmental patterns. Instead, this study found a consistent preference across childhood and through adulthood which suggests a stable fractal aesthetic is established early in life. There is a possibility, according to this study, that an early biological or evolutionary mechanism optimizes our visual system for processing fractals. </p>
Fractal patterns can be used to significantly reduce stress<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk1OTg2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjQ3MjQ0N30._vBGVkgp9RLj9wIBG-RC9sy5-LlSkrNVFqZ6N1Wqm2A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C618%2C0%2C618&height=700" id="3a2ba" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ff0d89c69acb5ade6f8006e68504fda0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="fern plant fractal pattern in nature" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Fractal patterns and designs can reduce your stress by up to 60%, according to research.
Credit: MNStudio on Adobe Stock<p>The term "fractal" was first coined in 1975 by Benoit Mandelbrot, who discovered that simple mathematic rules apply to a vast array of things that often looked visually complex. Since then, many studies have been conducted on what fractals are, where we find them, and even how they impact us.</p><p>The study above, mentioning the positive benefits that fractals have in even small children, becomes particularly interesting when you begin to understand the potential benefits we derive from even minimal exposure to fractal patterns. </p><p><strong>Fractal patterns can reduce stress by up to 60 percent, according to <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/codes-joy/201209/fun-fractals#:~:text=The%20results%20of%20many%20studies,physiological%20resonance%20within%20the%20eye." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Psychology Today</a>. </strong></p><p>Exposure to fractal patterns in nature can reduce your stress levels significantly. It seems this kind of stress reduction most often occurs because of a certain physiological resonance within the eye. While this effect is most prominent in nature's fractal patterns, some research indicates that certain types of artwork carrying fractal patterns can also promote relaxation.</p><p><strong>How can you use fractals to feel happier? </strong></p><p>A separate <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/codes-joy/201209/fun-fractals" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Psychology Today</a> article focuses on how to use our knowledge of the positive benefits of fractals to our advantage. To take a walk in nature, visit a park or garden or sit and watch the clouds for a while, paying special attention to the patterns you see can help you include this kind of relaxation practice into your daily life. Alternatively, you can opt for a visually pleasing fractal plant (like the spiral aloe or a fern) to sit at your office desk. </p><p>Additionally, you can conduct some "research" of your own by placing yourself in fractal-rich environments for 20 minutes a day for one week and monitoring your stress levels before and after. </p>
The Chumash people poked bits of psychoactive plants into cave ceilings next to their paintings.
- Mysterious pinwheel paintings in a California cave are probably representations of the hallucinogen Datura wrightii.
- The paintings were made by the Chumash people 400 years ago.
- This is the first definitive connection between cave painting and hallucinogens.
A suspicion confirmed<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTgwMjk5NH0.S3cHxTWA0-NnEZE2Pc2wWEvTjbKGINKAEy7gaI0_nxE/img.jpg?width=980" id="44b2f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a8b2cdbfb20dd669a639aa6467f5ff09" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="913" />
Robinson in Pinwheel Cave
Credit: Rick Bury/PNAS<p>About 50 clumps, or "quids," of chewed <em>Datura</em> plant fibers were found tucked into the stone alongside the swirls. It's believed they were painted sometime between 1530 and 1890 by members of the Chumash tribe, linked to today's Tejon people. This is the first time traces of hallucinogens have been found in proximity to cave art. It strongly suggests a connection.</p><p>The discovery was made by archaeologist <a href="https://www.uclan.ac.uk/staff_profiles/dr_david_robinson.php" target="_blank">David Robinson</a> of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the U.K. Robinson has been excavating the cave since 2007.</p><p>As for what those red-ochre pinwheels represent, Robinson asserts that they depict <em>Datura</em> itself and the way that it unwinds at dusk as seen at the top of this article.</p>
Datura wrightii<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzA1ODM5Mn0.4AU3TZ6B0gntCK45Fkm0_UdMbSXnrQSvAHua0bsj4ec/img.jpg?width=980" id="c3c55" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a3c10957305244183fe3b5f5656a64d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="1440" />
Credit: Dlarsen/Wikimedia Commons<p>Chemical analysis revealed that 15 quid samples contained traces of two hallucinogenic alkaloids found in <em>Datura</em>, scopolamine and atropine. Microscopy revealed that a majority of the quids contained remnants of <em>Datura</em>, and further 3D scrutiny found that the quids exhibited properties consistent with having been chewed.</p><p>Says co-author <a href="https://www.strath.ac.uk/staff/bakermatthewdr/" target="_blank">Matthew Baker</a> of the University of Strathclyde, "The combination of chemistry and archaeology in this project has truly shown the power of a multidisciplinary approach to uncover new knowledge."</p><p>The Chumash people are known to have used <em>Datura</em> in adolescent rites of passage and for shamanic vision quests. The plant was considered part of the tribe's spiritual family, personified as an old woman named "Momoy." The plant is classified today as an <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen" target="_blank">entheogen</a>, which are plants used for spiritual purposes.</p><p><em>Datura</em> was often ingested after being processed into liquid form, it was also chewed, as seen in the cave's quids. The Chumash knew how much <em>Datura</em> to ingest — it can be lethal when the dosage is too high.</p>
Bringing the past to the present<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0MzQ5My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzg4NTI1MH0.0e6H1ImLOQvOlpO9MloBjvUDCC3jWfyk37voCQU64E0/img.jpg?width=980" id="1bc7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="173dc2bfcfe6f12ee6c3e89bdfa29d97" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="456" />
Credit: Devlin Gandy/University of Central Lancashire<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The link between hallucinogens and rock art has long been suspected," says Robinson, "and this research shows that it was not only a source of creative inspiration for these prehistoric groups of people, but a core tenet of important rituals and community gathering."</p><p>He adds, "These findings give us a far more in-depth understanding of the lives of indigenous American communities and their relationships, from late prehistoric times right up until the late 1800s. Importantly, because of this research, the Tejon Indian tribe now visits the site annually to reconnect to this important ancestral place."</p><p>Co-author <a href="https://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/about/staff/fcs22.page" target="_blank">Fraser Sturt</a> of the University of Southampton, lauds the partnerships that made the findings possible:</p><p>"The results of this project spring from a high interdisciplinary, open and collaborative approach to research. In this way, new and improved recording and analytical techniques have helped to reconnect material remains, art, narrative and people across space and time. Thus, while the focus is on the hallucinogenic properties of Datura and its role in rock art and community generation, this work also shows that it is one facet of a complex suite of relationships between people, place and the environment."</p>
Handwriting has been shown to have more benefits for memory than typing.
- Recent research found that we retain information better when writing by hand, rather than typing.
- A combination of written notes and digital files is ideal for the modern world.
- The motion-tracking sensor in this pen transforms your handwriting into digital text so you get the best of both worlds.
You'll never have to pay for an image again.
- Stock photo websites can be expensive, costing thousands of dollars per year.
- Paying designers for logos and brochure icons is also a pricy proposition.
- Fortunately, there are low-cost, high-quality sites to get all the photos and icons you need.