Having aphantasia means "imagining" doesn't work

I don’t really visualize them at all, personally I don’t find it helpful. I don’t have any idea what Koichi, Gouichi, Mrs. Chou, Jourm, etc look like. Other than maybe Chou and Gou are just old. They are personalities to me rather than visualized things. Except for Hard Gay who is a real person so that one I can actually pull visualized things from. Luckily not cursed with aphantasia but I am not often actively making the scenario appear in my head. I’m treating them like really tiny stories and just recalling how the story went with piecing radicals together. I feel like it would be way too much brain power to think of 2000 kanji and 10000 vocab brain-visualized scenarios each rather than short (completely nonsensical) stories. Stories of which eventually I completely forget because the words in front of me just magically are the word I know over time.

For example my brain process goes like this, an easy kanji for example. The town 「町」 mnemonic. I’d start with just the radicals formation (two, rice paddy and street) and I will focus on just those aspects. I shove those into the radical part of my brain and try to just remember those two things in combination and what they mean together.

The supplied default mnemonic being “When you see both a rice paddy and a street in the same place, you have the makings of a whole town!” So when I see the Rice Paddy + Street radicals, it forms a town. In my head what is being visualized, specifically subconsciously is actually a bustling Japanese street, completely illogical to the rice paddy. So I just ignore what my brain is trying to push at me “visually” in my head since it’s vague an unhelpful in most cases for me personally.

Okay so cool, there’s Rice Paddy and Street, that’s a town because what town isn’t complete without a rice field…? What do I do with this now, what is so interesting about this town. Oh right it’s Mrs. Chou causing ruckus in the town, again. Maybe she is digging up the rice paddies or something.

This all becomes mostly irrelevant because by the time you’ve burned it, radicals for the kanji aren’t being relied on anymore, and the short story recognition is instant if needed at all.


Until you start to write seriously :rofl:

I can differentiate between left and right but I know many people who can’t (otherwise clever people btw).
I came to believe that it is not connected with intelligence.
It seems we need a “tag” from some kind of authority we trust (family, teacher, Harvard professor etc.), in order to be able to recall things.
(My theory is that we can’t memorize or forget things, just experience and recall it or not recall it)
I can’t remember where is east and west but I CAN absolutely safely in ANY situation of my life, tired hungry desperate, like really in any situation tell you left and right.
East and west needs a crotch, always.

So I analyzed what happened as a child when I heard about east and west for the FIRST time.
That was after I came back to elementary school being sick for one day.
My friend (bad student, not really trustworthy when it comes to explanations about things we learned in school) said that I missed out on the North- East- South- West thing.
And he said to me, that now I will not be able to pass the test.
I was really desperate and told that to my parents and they told me that mnemonic I use since then. I just can’t recall east and west without that!

But I can recall left and right!

But it is basically the same thing. So I remembered the first time I heard about left and right.
That was from my funny grandfather.
I trusted him completely but he is a bit of a joker.
So he looked at me really seriously and said to me in a rhyme (works only in German):
Remember that girl: Left is, where the thumb right is!
And I was really impressed by that wisdom (he just wanted to fool me but I did not realize that) and from that point I remembered left and right. IF I would need to make sure that my concept is correct actually I would recall that rhyme from my grandfather first, then move my left arm and would know where left is. But there is NO whatsoever logical connection to that rhyme to my left hand.

So my theory now is, that we don’t need a logic to “tag” information about the physical world to concepts that exists in the mind. Maybe there is no logic between that two realms necessary. It works like magic.
It is more like whatever short (the more rhyme the better) is presented to you by someone you trust is working as that tag.
If we learn through WK that means nothing else than, we trust Koichi.
But as soon as we start to trust ourselves, we can make our own mnemonics for the same purpose.

For me I realized I don’t need logic, the more bizarre the better. In that sense for me it is exactly the same like for you. Ah, a rice field and a street, that’s what it takes to make a town, all right no problem, but that only works for me because it seems that I trust in Koichi to have an authority when it comes to learning Kanji.

Sorry for the long reply and thank you for your detailed description, it really helps to compare ways of recalling!


I’ve always had problems with that, but then, I’m cross dominant. Left handed for writing, skateboarding, and boxing. Right handed for batting, throwing, and golfing.

I have no problems with NSEW, but that’s probably cultural. When you grow up on an island you reference things like the Westside and Eastside of the island and what direction the ocean is.

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That could be the reason why you have problems with left and right.
I think you can fix that.
Basically left and right is a phenomenon of the body and not of the mind, it is always personal so you have to tag it to your own body (that makes it fundamentally different from east and west) so while eg a memory tag for “onion” has to be a sense of visual, pain (in the eyes), taste or even conceptual (layers) left and right can only be a sensation. I think I linked the sensation of my left biceps to the word and concept “left”. You could actively move or activate a muscle on your left side and concentrate on the word “left” but it works better if you have a (bizarre) rhyme.
If that doesn’t work you could ask someone you trust to always know left and right to hit or bite you in your left (or right) arm and say a rhyme (that you hear for the first time) containing left (or right) after or before doing so :rofl: I think that must work because afterwards when you are unsure about where which is you remember that awkward and surprise and know which side of the body it was. You know like you always remember eg on which side of the body you had a broken arm even if you can’t say it was left or right.

This is me!!! I don’t think in pictures, so I can’t imagine what they would look like, but apparently I think in words. I remember the story and remember the words that were in the story, like I’m memorizing a song. That’s what has helped me <3

Copied from What is a こういち? - #8 by Joeni

Actually, I can imagine a whole memory palace (a memorization book taught me), but it is tiring.

It might be possible to compensate / make up with muscle memory, though. Writing a word, rather than writing a Kanji, if you must.


Does this only affect visual imagery? What about audio? Can you play a song back in your mind’s ear, hearing all of the instruments? Can you compose a song in your head? Is this all part of Aphantasia or is it a different disorder?

Yup. I have auditory aphantasia but I have no problem with images. I love singing, and I love playing music, but the only way I can remember it is by notes or the feel of the vibrations in my throat when singing it. The lyrics, on the other hand, I know backwards and forwards.

Even for a song that I’ve heard thousands of times, I can’t hear it in my head unless it’s plying or I’m singing it and following that feedback loop of how it feels to sing it and what I’m hearing.

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Hmm. I didn’t know this was a thing until today, although I had wondered about it like 20 years ago, if there were people that couldn’t do it, when I realized I can say “I want to hear this series of notes… no not with that instrument, let’s try another”.

So if you sing it out loud you’re fine, but you can’t imagine the sound in your head? That’s really interesting. If you hear/sing a song out loud, how long after the actual sound stops do you lose the the ability to reproduce the song in your head?

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I think with it being an ongoing action with immediate auditory feedback, the effect would be over instantaneously? Like, the previous notes would be forever lost, replaced by whatever is currently playing?

Although it would be VERY INTERESTING if the effect lingered for a brief period before dissipating. Like there was a few moments after hearing something that you could replay it.

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On the plus side, it sounds like you NEVER have to deal with the aggravation of having a song stuck in your head. I had ODB’s “Got Your Money” stuck in my head for 3 weeks once.


From almost immediately or within a few minutes. But I never knew it was a thing until much later in my adult life, and once I did I started realizing all the habits I’d picked up to compensate, such as remembering the feeling of singing it rather than the sound, at least for a few bars until I could get that feedback loop going.

Kind of, yeah. I sometimes get lost in the middle of singing a song where I really have to concentrate on the vibration to tell whether I’m in tune or not because I stop hearing in my head for whatever reason.

It hasn’t really hampered me, but it was a huge surprise to find out that it’s not something everybody experiences.


Absolutely not, unfortunately. Even with auditory aphantasia I still get songs stuck in my head. It’s probably different than what you experience though.

For me I’ll have whatever lyrics I know playing through my head, but there’s no music and no notes to the lyrics. It’s like a generic, tone-less voice more or less just reading out the song lyrics at the proper cadence and with some words emphasized. There’s also some music info, like I’ll know there’s a big drum hit after a certain word, and sometimes I’ll have a good sense of an entire melody, but there’s still no actual note and no interesting timbre to it.

It’s really hard to explain, but basically write down a song in plain text and that’s largely how songs play through my head. Like, because I have a 4-yr old, here’s how part of the Paw Patrol song is stuck in my head right now:

[fast drum hits going do do do do do do do do] PAW Patro-l, PAW Patro-l, we’ll be there on the dou-BLE. Whenever there’s a problem…'round Adventure BAY. RYDER and his team of pups, will come and save the daaaay.

My mind essentially reads through that at the correct pacing and emphasizes some words. I can point out when certain instruments play and I could like tap my finger each time a note is hit from memory, but none of that is played back in my head.

It’s all very strange and tough to describe accurately, but long story short it’s like music without the music…just some weird distilled down version that leaves me with just enough to still get stuck in my head. Even instrumental pieces can get stuck in my head, it’s just a bunch of abstract “do do do dooo’s”.


OMG OMG OMG… that means that to torture a person a person with auditory aphantasia…




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I’ve had enough Baby Shark exposure that I’m immune to that now or I’d be cursing your name :slight_smile:

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Oh? But what about…



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That’s a pretty accurate explanation of how I remember ‘Last Christmas’ :joy:

But that’s only for these kind of pop songs (which I don’t like), eg classical music is sometimes very complete.

Yes, same for me. In fact, I think one of the reasons I grew up liking rap is that it was much easier to remember the lyrics and the cadence rather than the melody.


Neat, that’s pretty similar for me too. I didn’t really have any exposure to rap as a kid, but it really clicked when I did start listening to it about 10 years ago. Especially when there’s a really clear vocal track and they enunciate well.

I’ve also always loved bands that have two lead singers, presumably for the same reason. A nice quick and steady stream of lyrics just vibes with my brain so well.