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September 26th, 2021

The Double Edged Knife Of The Mind’s Eye

Some weeks ago this Times Article came across my news stream and provoked some thoughts…even some visualizations…

Many People Have a Vivid ‘Mind’s Eye,’ While Others Have None at All

Scientists are finding new ways to probe two not-so-rare conditions to better understand the links between vision, perception and memory.

Dr. Adam Zeman didn’t give much thought to the mind’s eye until he met someone who didn’t have one. In 2005, the British neurologist saw a patient who said that a minor surgical procedure had taken away his ability to conjure images.

Over the 16 years since that first patient, Dr. Zeman and his colleagues have heard from more than 12,000 people who say they don’t have any such mental camera. The scientists estimate that tens of millions of people share the condition, which they’ve named aphantasia, and millions more experience extraordinarily strong mental imagery, called hyperphantasia.

I would probably fit pretty well in the latter category. I can almost completely zone out into a daydream that’s almost like a vivid dream in its detail. And I can do that at will. It’s a two edged knife. And I think I’ve met people who have no mind’s eye at all. They’re the ones that mystify me when they tell me that they don’t dream.

When working on a cartoon, be it a political cartoon or an episode of A Coming Out Story, I do next to no preliminary drawings. I might draw out a figure just to make sure I can actually draw it the way I want it on paper, but I already know how I want it to look on paper. I can visualize it clearly, in detail. I think out a cartoon or a painting, sometimes off and on for days. I can see it vividly in my head. By the time I sit down at the drafting table to actually start drawing it I know exactly what I want to put down on the paper. It’s very rare that I have to change direction once I begin to see it on paper.

In episode 19 of A Coming Out Story, I made reference to my ability to disappear into my own alternate worlds…

My daydreaming really is this vivid…

I used to think everyone can do this. And there are times it’s helpful in a practical way. Like when I’m thinking out a home repair job, or something I want to build for myself. But it can also be a trap. As I point out at the end of episode 19.

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