What is the link between mental imagery and sensory sensitivity? Insights from aphantasia

Dance, C J, Ward, J and Simner, J (2021) What is the link between mental imagery and sensory sensitivity? Insights from aphantasia. Perception, 50 (9). pp. 757-782. ISSN 0301-0066

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People with aphantasia have impoverished visual imagery so struggle to form mental pictures in the mind's eye. By testing people with and without aphantasia, we investigate the relationship between sensory imagery and sensory sensitivity (i.e., hyper- or hypo-reactivity to incoming signals through the sense organs). In Experiment 1 we first show that people with aphantasia report impaired imagery across multiple domains (e.g., olfactory, gustatory etc.) rather than simply vision. Importantly, we also show that imagery is related to sensory sensitivity: aphantasics reported not only lower imagery, but also lower sensory sensitivity. In Experiment 2, we showed a similar relationship between imagery and sensitivity in the general population. Finally, in Experiment 3 we found behavioural corroboration in a Pattern Glare Task, in which aphantasics experienced less visual discomfort and fewer visual distortions typically associated with sensory sensitivity. Our results suggest for the very first time that sensory imagery and sensory sensitivity are related, and that aphantasics are characterised by both lower imagery, and lower sensitivity. Our results also suggest that aphantasia (absence of visual imagery) may be more accurately defined as a subtype of a broader imagery deficit we name dysikonesia, in which weak or absent imagery occurs across multiple senses.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: aphantasia, imagery, sensitivity, pattern glare task, dysikonesia, autism traits
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2021 15:17
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2022 12:30
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/101100

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Misophonia in Children: Impact, Co-morbidities, and Roadmaps to TreatmentG2858REAM FOUNDATIONUnset