September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Exploring individual differences in neuropsychological and visuospatial working memory task performance in aphantasia
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Zoe Pounder
    University of Westminster
  • Jane Jacob
    Louisiana Tech University
  • Alison F. Eardley
    University of Westminster
  • Sam Evans
    University of Westminster
  • Catherine Loveday
    University of Westminster
  • Juha Silvanto
    University of Surrey
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Participant payment was funded by The European Research Council awarded to Dr Juha Silvanto, grant number: 336152
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 2655. doi:
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      Zoe Pounder, Jane Jacob, Alison F. Eardley, Sam Evans, Catherine Loveday, Juha Silvanto; Exploring individual differences in neuropsychological and visuospatial working memory task performance in aphantasia. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):2655.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Aphantasia describes the newly-identified experience of individuals who self-report a lack of voluntary visual imagery. Individuals with aphantasia are typically identified via subjective introspection on imagery experience, a process that has been shown to be modulated by personality traits. It is also not clear whether individuals with aphantasia show broader cognitive deficits or differences within other memory domains, which may explain their self-reported lack of visual imagery. This research examines group and individual differences within individuals with aphantasia on a battery of tests: a personality scale, a range of standardised neuropsychological tests of cognitive function and two visuospatial working memory tasks. Twenty individuals with congenital aphantasia (VVIQ < 25) were identified and matched on measures of age and IQ to twenty individuals with typical imagery (VVIQ > 35). Within the personality tests, the groups differed only for agreeableness, possibly resulting from a sampling bias. Similarly, the only group differences in the neuropsychological and visuospatial cognitive tests were slower performance in a task during trials that had greater working memory load, and larger variability in response times for front/back orientations within an egocentric perspective-taking task. Nevertheless, exploratory individual differences examination of performance using multidimensional scaling (which groups participants’ performance across all measures in terms of the level of similarity or dissimilarity) identified four aphantasic subgroups, each of which exhibited differing performance. In summary, these results suggest that the personality and cognitive profile of people without imagery do not greatly differ from those with typical imagery when examined by group. However, observed group differences were apparent with increased working memory load. Subgroups of aphantasia were identified, suggesting that some aphantasic individuals may experience more specific cognitive deficits. Further research should investigate the processes adopted by these subgroups, or whether (or not) individuals with aphantasia have unconscious mental imagery.


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