Meta-Imagination: The Language-Game of Visualization

Ever puzzled over how you could live for years, even decades, without realizing you have aphantasia?

I’ve been pondering this ever since I discovered my own aphantasia in my early 20s. And believe it or not, I’ve heard from people who found out they had aphantasia in their 80s and 90s!

One intriguing theory that might shed light on this is the concept of meta-imagination and the so-called “language-game” of visualizing.

Let’s explore this a bit.

Picture this—well, conceptually if you’re like me:

You’re pretending to be a brave pirate while playing with a 4-year-old. Or you’re imagining a serene beach during a relaxation exercise. Maybe you’re crafting a story about a mysterious detective in Vienna.

While we aphantasics can’t “see” these scenarios, we can still engage in the imaginative exercise. We describe these scenes using words, either out loud or in our minds. It’s like we’re playing a game, but with language instead of images.

Christian Scholz, a researcher in this field, calls this phenomenon meta-imagination. For those of us with aphantasia, when we “imagine,” we’re essentially acting as if we’re visualizing. We can’t see the images, but we can conceptualize what they might look like, sound like, or feel like. And we can articulate these concepts through language.

This might be why many of us didn’t realize our cognitive uniqueness for so long. We’re still participants in what some philosophers term the “language game of visualization.”

Our mental activities may not mirror those of visualizers, but we’re still in the game, so to speak.

Intrigued? Check out this presentation on Meta-Imagination with Christian Scholz to dive deeper into this fascinating topic.