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Medical Concerning the Ability of People to Visualize

  1. Oct 9, 2005 #1


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    We all know about 'spatial intelligence' and we also know that some people are better at visualizing than others. I know for example, that when I'm awake, it's very difficult for me to visualize in 3-D and consequently, I have ruled out engineering in favor of a physical science due to my poor spatial abilities and poor visual memory (are they extremely important in physics/astronomy though?)

    But on the other hand, we can all visualize clearly when we are dreaming. Do we all have a hidden ability to visualize in 3-D, even if our abilities are very poor? And is there a way to take advantage of that ability? One thing is known - some people with brain damage sometimes gain some phenomenal abilities, such as the ability to know the name of the day of a future or previous date in their head.
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  3. Oct 9, 2005 #2
    I'm curious to know what has made you think you have a poor ability to visualize things in your head. I can't recall ever having been tested in any way for this, or in what circumstances it would reveal itself to be a problem if I had such a problem. In other words: I don't know if other people do it better than me or not, and I'm not sure how I could find out.
  4. Oct 9, 2005 #3


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    I look at sample tests of spatial ability and well, they look extremely challenging. Even though the quantitative tests that often come on the same page as those tests of spatial ability look extremely easy.

    Furthermore, I don't have a visual memory. I may be comparing myself to people who have phenomenal abilities to visualize (Nikola Tesla, Temple Grandin) who could play a movie in their heads but I'm mildly autistic (as they both are) and am pretty frustrated that while most autistics can visualize things, I can't. I seem to have all of the negative characteristics of my disorder but not the positive ones.
  5. Oct 9, 2005 #4


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    I took a pilot test called "Sta-9" when I was in Air Force ROTC as an undergradiate. Among the 3-D visualization skillls was looking at a wall built of blocks colored diagonally in two colors, and deducing the pattern on the back of the wall from the one on the front. Hot pilots were said to ace this; I did rather poorly.
  6. Oct 9, 2005 #5
    Visuospatial ability factors and WAIS-III subtests

    WAIS-III subtests:


    PO = Perceptual Organization.

    Possibly, Object Assembly should be added to that list of visuospatial subtests.

    Last edited: Oct 9, 2005
  7. Oct 9, 2005 #6
    Do you feel that you have a strong three dimensional awareness when you are dreaming? I know that I don't particularly. In my dreams things seem to change and move around quite a bit to suit what is happening. Sometimes I fit into areas that are too small for me to fit into or I put pieces of something together that don't really look like they should but they fit together anyhow.
    According to a cheesy online IQ test I have a strong visual spacial perception yet I'm dyslexic.
  8. Oct 9, 2005 #7
    I'm not sure what a test like this would consist of. Are there any online you know of that you could link me to?
    My understanding of "visual memory" is the ability to recall if you've seen something before or not. In other words, if you saw 10 pictures today, you ought to be able to pick those ten out of a stack of 50 containing 40 pictures you've never seen.
    First off, Tesla was not autistic. Tesla suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. If you research Obsessive-Compulsive disorder a bit, and also read the Tesla biography Prodigal Genius by John J. O'Neil, it is clear that his stranger behaviors fall under the explanation of this disorder. Margaret Cheney steers clear of these things in her biography Tesla, Man Out Of Time except in a couple instances.

    His ability to visualize things in three dimensions in the air in front of his eyes is not linked to that disorder, but is a separate thing for which there is no particular name or explanation. The things he visualized weren't memories but new inventions. This is a very rare phenomenon and although some autistic savants also have this ability, it is not a "symptom" of autism per se. Quite a few non-autistic people can do the same thing, or I should say, the same thing happens to them.

    Temple Grandin is not "mildly autistic", either. She's a high-functioning autistic person.

    When you say you are "mildly autistic", does this mean you have gotten a diagnosis of "Asperger's Syndrome"? The reason I ask is because Asperger's is sometimes refered to as a "mild form of autism". Still, it's not the same thing as "high-functioning" autism.
  9. Oct 9, 2005 #8
    You ought to start a thread here about dyslexia. I'm sure there are others around who have it as well. A quick look in one of my books tells me there are four different kinds. I think there'd be a fair amount of stuff to discuss.
  10. Nov 9, 2005 #9
    It's been quite a shock for me to realize that I'm a bit unusual in this, but I always thought TV, cartoons, and people conversationally exaggerated their ability to visualize. It's only been in the last two years that I could even see a face in my mind for more than an evanescent flicker. I don't dream visually either, although I recall doing it a few times when I was younger. The only times I have ever had my brain provide me with the slightest evidence that it even has the faculty has been during two hypnagogic?(they occured coming out of sleep) hallucinations (no chemicals).

    Chemically induced hallucinations are cognitive for me. My apprehension of whatever I'm hallucinating skips a step and just becomes part of my understanding without passing through a particular sense. (once I just knew I one of those battle elephants from one of the lord of the rings films, but I didn't see or hear anything to convince me of this).

    Dreams are very similar; full of shortcuts and one thought leading to another, and usually completely unrendered. Occasionally I'll "see" a particular thing, but it's more like in a novel where some particular element of the situation is expounded on. I definitely don't have any priprioception(sp) or vestibular sense in my dreams usually. When people talk about small print or the like tripping them off to the fact that they're dreaming, two years ago it would have been completely inconcievable - if what you're reading doesn't describe the ceiling of the room, you can't notice that it's distorted -, since then I've had a couple dreams with enough of a semi-visual element to guess.

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