Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

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Archived General > Mind-Blindness: Are You a Visual Reader?

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message 1: by Erin (last edited Oct 10, 2016 12:34PM) (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Reading through posts recently on a book site that I frequent, I found an article on mind-blindness and was totally fascinated. The further I read, the more of an "I think I have that!" feeling I got.

How clear are your mental pictures? How well do you visualize written descriptions? Because we are now learning that the ability to visualize in the mind's eye is actually something of a spectrum: some people can perfectly recreate stunning pictures from memory and some rare few can't see things in their mind at all.

I also found a couple of news articles from the NYTimes and BBC on the subject from last year, when this condition was "discovered" and given a name (aphantasia):
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/23/sci...
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

The BBC link has a short questionnaire too; to see where you fall compared to average. (I'm "below average" for mental vividness, apparently. Which I would totally agree with as I can never describe or picture faces or landscapes. I'm pretty good at interior spaces, though.)

Have you heard of this condition? How would you rate your ability to visual what you read?


message 2: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 26 comments I just took the test and I wasn't surprised to find I was extremely visual. I can see things clearly in my mind. The only hang up I may have is the description in the book. The wording may not work for me and I have to rewrite it in my mind to see it. It's an interesting topic for readers as visualization is such a big part of reading.


message 3: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Erin wrote: "Reading through posts recently on a book site that I frequent, I found an article on mind-blindness and was totally fascinated. The further I read, the more of an "I think I have that!" feeling I g..."

That's interesting, Erin. I haven't heard of mind-blindness per se, but did learn in various management seminars I took that people have different styles of taking in information - some are visual, some have to be hands-on, and others learn best through hearing. I presume this is, in a way, related (if you have trouble visualizing, then most likely you'd have difficulty learning just by reading, you'd have to see something done yourself).
I think I'm probably a bit middle-of-the-road in being able to visualize. I know some people, for example, read the description of the Holmes sitting room in BEEK and can absolutely see the layout right down to which wall the windows are on. I have to see a printed layout before I can do that. On the other hand, I can read a well-written description of weather, for example, and feel cold or hot, depending.
Must take the test and see where I fall...


message 4: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
I took the test and came out unusually strong, in the upper 25% of ability to visualize. This surprised me, really!


message 5: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
How interesting! I didn't realize that some people don't get visual images in their head until I was having a conversation with my husband. He said that he never imagines anything he reads, and I was shocked.

The test said I have 'exceptionally strong powers of visualization suggestive of hyperphantasia', and asked if I wanted to take part in a study, which doesn't surprise me at all. I lived in my imagination as a child, and struggle with PTSD and dissociative issues.

One of the reasons why I'm a slow reader is I need to imagine what I'm reading. I need to taste the words. Words are like paintbrush strokes for me, and each stroke paints a new facet on my mental canvas.

Dry prose leaves me frustrated. The Martian comes immediately to mind. I was so starved for some descriptive elements in the prose that my mind kept having to reach for the brief movie preview clips.


message 6: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "How interesting! I didn't realize that some people don't get visual images in their head until I was having a conversation with my husband. He said that he never imagines anything he reads, and I w..."

You and I got the same ranking, Sabrina! Didn't volunteer to be in the study, though...


message 7: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "The Martian comes immediately to mind. I was so starved for some descriptive elements in the prose that my mind kept having to reach for the brief movie preview clips."

And I was totally opposite! I didn't even notice the lack of description; I was caught up in what he was doing more than what it looked like.

One of the comments from the BookRiot article that I thought was most interesting was that the writer found graphic novels to be too busy to concentrate on because he's unequipped to process both pictures and words at the same time. If there were just dialogue or just pictures he could do it, but both at once was too much. And that is exactly how I feel about them. I'm not mentally processing the pictures while I'm reading the dialogue so I feel like I'm missing something.


message 8: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
That was an odd comment about comics, Erin. I also find them too busy. It's the words that do it for me, and I find the pictures distracting. Maybe it has to do with how each brain learns and stores information. I remember reading an article on that man who learned Icelandic in a week. He said that numbers to him are pictures. So instead of seeing a long string of numbers, he sees a field of wild flowers, and each flower is a number depending on color and placement. I thought that quite beautiful.

Brains are so amazing. Discoveries only lead to more questions.


message 9: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Sabrina wrote: "That was an odd comment about comics, Erin. I also find them too busy. It's the words that do it for me, and I find the pictures distracting. Maybe it has to do with how each brain learns and store..."

Wow, re the Iceland guy, Sabrina. That sounds like a form of synesthesia, where someone hears colors, etc.
I too have trouble with graphic novels. It's sort of like I can't concentrate on the pictures and absorb the words, too, and vice versa.


message 10: by Sabrina (new)

Sabrina Flynn | 1158 comments Mod
Yes that is exactly what it is called, Merrily. Here is link to that article. http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Health/stor...


message 11: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 29 comments Merrily wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "That was an odd comment about comics, Erin. I also find them too busy. It's the words that do it for me, and I find the pictures distracting. Maybe it has to do with how each brain ..."

I process the pictures and the words in a graphic novel separately. Writing and illustration are two separate art forms which need to be evaluated on their own terms. I often find that the art and the text are at different levels of quality in graphic novels. So I page through examining the art first , and pay particular attention to illustrations that stand out for me. Then I read the text to evaluate for plot and characterization. I tend to be a very focused person. Breaking apart the two types of content in a graphic novel is the only way I can deal with it.


message 12: by KarenB (new)

KarenB | 352 comments This is fascinating. I came out on the low side which isn't surprising as I don't visualize when reading. But, oddly enough, I feel it. So when asked to visualize I can do a complete and thorough job of it, but don't do it unless called upon to do so.


message 13: by Merrily (new)

Merrily | 1791 comments Mod
Shomeret wrote: "Merrily wrote: "Sabrina wrote: "That was an odd comment about comics, Erin. I also find them too busy. It's the words that do it for me, and I find the pictures distracting. Maybe it has to do with..."

Very interesting, Shomeret!


message 14: by Laura (new)

Laura Stratton | 240 comments Oh My - this is fascinating! This makes so much SENSE! I predict that this will have a role in determining learning styles and differences for children.

I too got a 25. I did poorly on imagining people but did well on imagining the landscapes.

I read very quickly (mostly as the result of 2 speed reading classes i High school) but I also wonder if it's because I'm reading the dialogue and not making pictures in my brain.

It also relates to other parts of my life including quiting, sewing and crafts. I need to see the pattern or sample in front of me and follow step by step instructions to create something. I can't just take fabric and "voila" all done.

I have always been a Visual Learner. I need to see it done to learn it. I can't make the pictures in my head.

Thanks Erin for telling us about this research.


message 15: by Shomeret (new)

Shomeret | 29 comments Laura wrote: "Oh My - this is fascinating! This makes so much SENSE! I predict that this will have a role in determining learning styles and differences for children.

I too got a 25. I did poorly on imagining ..."


I visualize people very well, but my visualization of natural landscapes tends to be vague. I have lived in cities all my life. Give me a familiar intersection and I can visualize it in detail.


message 16: by Erin (new)

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I wonder how this impacts things like trying to describe suspects for the police. Like I'd be able to describe general stuff like age, height, build and skin tone, probably, but I'be no help at all if you asked me what a person actually looked like.


message 17: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 56 comments Interesting. I scored a 36/40. I sometimes have trouble reading non-fiction (depending on the subject matter) because I have to be able to see something in my head in order to understand it. I can get stuck on sentences, reading them over and over, because I literally cannot understand what I'm reading until I can picture it.

I also have a very hard time with audio books - maybe because I can't go at my own pace and if I get stuck trying to visualize something, the book has moved on and I miss something else. I have no problem listening to audio dramas, however.


message 18: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 128 comments I was astonished many years ago to hear from a book loving friend that she never saw the scenes in her mind.
When teaching first graders I tried to explain to them that it was like enjoying the movie in your head. No wonder it sometimes wasn't convincing.
Lois Bujold, who writes character driven fantasy and scifi, says she hangs a recorder in the heads of her vivid characters.


message 19: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (dmess) | 8 comments I scored 37/40. I think this may explain why I have to read a book and review pictures in the book separately. I never enjoyed comic books as a child and tend to think movies ruin the books.


message 20: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 11 comments My score is 38/40 which is probably why I read novels like many people watch movies and why sometimes it's difficult to watch a film made from a beloved book. I would much prefer reading the book. Nonfiction books about subjects which are of intense interest to me, such as climate change and social justice, take two or three times longer to read. Sometimes I reread paragraphs three times because they convey important concepts rather than pictures. I love reading metaphysical and philosophical books also but I crawl through the pages.


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