Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Medical I am wondering if I am exceptionally visual

  1. Sep 24, 2007 #1
    Lets say I am standing in the middle of the street in Newyork city. I can visualize ANYTHING. Not just a picture but a full movie like motion. Like water gushing into the city and I can see the waves crashing into the buildings and the physics are perfect. I can just sit here and dream of anything. Such as me flying in space in my space shuttle. I see it like it is a color movie in my head. All of it instantly created just as I think of it.

    Funny thing is, most of it I don't think of. Like in my shuttle, when I pan the area my brain automatically creates guages and whatever. If I look at someone, I can watch them do a summersalt just in my head. It is like a transparent image/motion depending if I am altering something I am looking at(transparent) or if it is in my head where I can make it very detailed.

    Just wondering if this is normal. heh
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2007 #2
    This illustrates the problem with using "introspection" in psychology. No one can really answer your question, it's impossible for them to compare your verbal descriptions of the results of your introspection with anyone else's descriptions. For example, I certainly also can imagine visual scenes like you describe. If I were to describe my experience I would probably have to say something like you did. However, this wouldn't be particularly convincing to anyone else that we were actually having the same kind of experience.
  4. Sep 25, 2007 #3
    Yea I guess I was just hoping for someone to say I have a special ability or something. lol

    I guess everyone has an imagination...
  5. Sep 25, 2007 #4
    I can imagine such things, but I have to make a conscious effort to put in the details I want. Also, I certainly don't see it vividly. Its more of a "thinking" about it rather than visually vivid, but it is a 3D conception, though. I've found that I'm a very verbally-oriented person. I much prefer things be described to me verbally than visually, and I think very verbally (do a lot of talking to myself--sometimes out loud). I've found I'm also good at mimicking sounds and celebrity voices, although i can't do accents well.
  6. Sep 25, 2007 #5
    I am not quite sure what you me by "thinking it." I can think just like how you have seen those futuristic 3D projectors that can make an object. But whatever I guess.
  7. Sep 26, 2007 #6
    This is called the process of the imagination. Physicists, mathematicians, writers, musicians, artists, movie and play directors, etc., all have a very powerful imagination, I would assume, to be able to create and envision new and innovative ideas.

    I would think most people have this ability.

    If you are able to record what you have visually experienced, and recreate every detail, that would be an exceptional ability.

    This guy here would in my opinion, be someone who has an amazing abilty to visualize (although not in the same fashion as you have described):

  8. Oct 7, 2007 #7
    I don't really like to brag about myself, but I have a similar ability. When I look at a steady stream of water coming out of a faucet I like to bend the stream in my mind into a spiral and a helix as if it was a stream line of particles trapped in a magnetic field. Or when I look at a crowd of busy people, I seem like I can stop, rewind and fast forward every single moment, as if I was in control overlooking the crowd from a distance. Even when I'm talking with someone, I will take moment and visualize a photon striking some surface, and then I will zoom in to atomic level and see the photon being absorbed by the surface of an atom, then I will spring back to reality and continue with the conversation.

    I do this constantly. I tried to explain it to many people. Some said I was nuts, others said I'm a dreamer and will become something etc etc. I really don't care anymore. Just enjoy it.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2007
  9. Oct 9, 2007 #8
    ah damn you all, I can hardly see anything in my mind's eye.
    takes me a good few minutes to get a vague idea of what my own face/mother's face/other familiar faces look like. And sometimes I just can't.
  10. Oct 10, 2007 #9
    Whether or not this is special depends on how literally external it seems to you. If these imaginings seem as literally real, and external to you as anything in your visual field that is authentically external to you, then you have a truly remarkable ability. Tesla visualized all his inventions in this way: he saw them in the air in front of him and could will them to move as he wished, or change parts and configurations by willing them to change. These things were so vivid to him that he didn't believe, while they were happening, that other people couldn't also see them. They amounted to controlled hallucinations.

    Is any of you referring to anything that vivid?
  11. Oct 10, 2007 #10
    I am lefty, and have been diagnosed with a mild case of dyslexia. I'm sure this is responsible for these abilities. The experience can be very vivid intact, perhaps not as vivid as Tesla's, but certainly can involve all senses. I can recreate a roller coaster ride, and even induce a false sense of butterflies in my stomach as you plunge down the coaster, or even up. The experience is very visual, I can see the horizon and clouds while looking at a blank wall. I don't know how else to explain it, it's like virtual reality. I also snap back to reality often, and have to start over again. I've never been able maintain my daydreams for long periods of time. I'm an EE major, but can also run similar simulations as Tesla, but with lesser intensity. When I studied schematics of microwave spectrum analyzers, I pretty much learned them by heart quickly. I can feel the actual components interacting with each other, or visualize a signal traveling down one waveguide and crashing into a mixer diode thus inducing a voltage, and then will zoom in and see the electrons gathering closer together thus creating a potential difference. Like right now, I can turn my monitor around in my head and see its back, and then will give it a couple more revolutions, before finishing the sentence. I don't expect anyone will believe what I said, I'm used to it.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2007
  12. Oct 11, 2007 #11
    I believe it. However I'm confused about the degree of concreteness of the images. You often say "in my head" yet also refer to it as "visual".

    If you look at your hand right now, that is how real a visual hallucination seems: it's indistinguishable from reality. And that is the degree of concreteness with with Tesla visualized his inventions. On the other hand I, myself, can speak of visualizing what a tesla coil looks like, but the experience is impossible to confuse with the outside world: it's much vaguer, dimmer, definitely a mental process only, clearly "in my head".
  13. Oct 11, 2007 #12
    Yea, "visual hallucination" is a more accurate description. This exactly what I experience, but with various levels of "transparency", as coined by "physicscrap." If Tesla could see a "hand" so vividly I would call that spectacular compared to what I experience, and would assign 0% transparency (what Tesla would have), as a relative measure. I would say I'm around 70% transparent just so you could get an idea where I stand. I'm not sure if psychologists would agree with such a scale, let alone debunked it quickly. But my subjective account is all I can rely on at this point.

    Furthermore, such hallucinations, don't just occur spontaneously, but rather require a great degree of concentration that can only come from working patiently on something. When idle, I'll be at 95% transparent that's when I can bend things in my mind like I described. But when concentrating while looking at a blank wall, I can hallucinate and see an actual vivid image I would pay attention to, and not the wall. The disparity in image and the wall would be like a 70% overlap of the wall onto the image I'm seeing. However I ignore that wall, and concentrate on the image. These episodes are short, but can occur frequently. When I snap back to reality I often get the "wow" moment, as I come to realization I'm still looking a blank wall. And I don't have to just stare at a blank wall, it can be a circuit board, or an integral. Alot of my ideas came this way. Needless to say, I really really don't claim I'm like Tesla, or a genius for that matter. But I can relate to him a tiny bit.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2007
  14. Oct 11, 2007 #13
    I think this is pretty noteworthy, but it doesn't fall squarely into any syndrome or condition I've ever heard about. You are probably right in linking it to the dyslexia, but I don't think it's caused by being dyslexic. Rather, there's some larger thing causing both. If we were to explore I'm sure we'd find theres a whole bunch of other unusual and unexplained perceptions and experiences you've had.

    What I find interesting is that the experience hijacks your attention from the real stuff in your visual field. Being "transparent" it forces you to chose it or reality to concentrate upon, and that concentrating on the envisioned scene results in a "daydream" drift away from your immediate surroundings. It could be the other way around: a daydream state preceeds and incites the experience.

    If physicscrap is describing something similar to your experience, then you both have an extremely interesting ability. Maybe the most interesting thing is that you're able to direct these experiences. Most unusual happening like this are out of people's control. This wouldn't fall under the specialty of a psychologist, incidently, but of a neurologist. It would be cool to give you both an EEG and Pet scan and fMRI while you're doing this and see what shows up.
  15. Oct 11, 2007 #14
    Yes indeed, I experienced weird things, and sometimes revelations. Dyslexia is associated with a learning disability, which I have in subjects like humanities, and English. I actually had to take English composition in college six times to pass. Other humanity courses I retook two to three times. While in high school, I begged them to put me in a differential equation class. Such disparity between the extremes negatively impacted me in school though. That is the price I have to pay now for having these abilities.

    Something else is also weird. I was never good at writing. I always wrote broken up sentences, and very incoherently at that. But when I took English the sixth time, I had to write the torturous 12 page research paper again. When I wrote it, I received an A-, but my writing style improved exponentially over night. Such a quantum leap has inspired me to write a book even, which I began but stopped subsequently due time constraints. I'm considering to resume writing again.

    I don't know which precedes the other, both are certainly plausible. It is definitely not involuntary, but rather it became a habit as "daydream drifts" are quite soothing. If I become bored for a second, I will find myself daydreaming again, or hallucinating.

    I actually had EEG done while being in either kindergarten or the first grade. That's when they diagnosed me as having some level of dyslexia. A psych evaluation was requested on behalf of the school as teachers noted my peculiar behavior, or my learning disability. In either case, the psychiatrist conclusion was I would turn out ok. Fast forward today, it would be interesting in taking EEG and other tests just out of curiosity. A weird spike here and there would definitely show up on the graph.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2007
  16. Oct 11, 2007 #15
    I can visualize and play with objects in my head, but as everyone has mentioned this is a very vague description of one's visualization, as everyone can do it to a certain extent. I guess the most accurate description I can give of my visualization is that I can play chess games in my head. I'm pretty confident that I can play more than one, but I don't remember trying more than one blindfold game at a time. One more game is just one more position to memorize, up to a point. But anyways, I believe a good part of this is that I used to play chess very competitively and thus had a lot of practice. I played competitive/rated chess in 8th and 9th grade and spent ~5 hrs a day studying or playing. (I quit the summer going into 10th grade to do other stuff.)

    On a different subject, physicscrap, it seems like you're trying to find some kind of super power that will ensure you wild success just by virtue of that super power. But I challenge you to find an accomplished mathematician, scientist, or physicist who didn't put in an enormous amount of hard work. Such people don't rely on super powers.
  17. Oct 12, 2007 #16
    I think the ability described is pretty unusual as is, simply by virtue of what it is, and potentially quite useful.

    Tesla did, in fact, heavily rely on this ability:

    "The mental constructs were built with meticulous care as concerned size, strength, design, and material; and they were tested mentally, he maintained, by having them run for weeks - after which he would examine them thoroughly for signs of wear. Here was a most unusual mind being utilized in an unusual way. If at any time he built a "mental machine" his memory ever afterward retained all of the essentials, even to the finest dimensions."

    -Prodigal Genius
    The Life of Nikola Tesla
    by John J. O'Neil pp. 51-52
    Ives Washburn, 1944

    Tesla was a very hard worker, but the nature and sophistication and difference of his inventions was certainly the result of his unusual means of engineering them.
  18. Oct 13, 2007 #17
    It might be good for you to describe all this in a journal. Write a history of it, as it were.
    In some cases unwanted deficits allow for, and lead to, the development of unusual strengths elsewhere. The first is not a "price paid" for the second, though. The second isn't a guaranteed consequence of the first: not all autistic people become savants, for example (In fact only a small percentage do).

    The "ability", too, may not be a compensatory building of "muscle" at all but another form of deficit that happens, coincidently, to be of use. Richard Cytowic, who studies synaethesia, believes it to be a malfunction which causes certain information to become conscious prematurely; before it has been completely processed. People who have this condition, though, find it to be extremely useful and rely on it to the degree they are nervous that his scrutiny might lead to the pronouncement that it is not "real".

    I mention synaethesia deliberately because I think there's a chance the kind of visualization you experience is related. Same in Tesla's case. For you, instead of sound being manifested as forms and colors in the visual field, thought, itself, gets manifested. I am speculating there, however.
    Once in a while I read a description of someone crossing a threshold to suddenly become adept at something that previously eluded them. This is a pretty fascinating phenomenon which probably hasn't been studied, per se. I suggest you write this story down as well.
    I think it's extremely common for people's thoughts to drift when bored. The unusual thing in your case is how the thoughts manifest so visually to you. The process of imagining is somehow presented to your consciousness as having a certain fraction of reality, of being stimulated by signals from the outside world when they aren't. The fact it's transparent suggests it's only occurring in one side of the visual field. Not in one eye or the other, but in one half of each eye, either the right or left half, which is how the visual field is divided. A proper kind of test would be able to determine which side of the visual field is involved and the hemisphere governing that side would be the hemisphere where the main cause is no doubt located. Since you are dyslexic, I would bet on the left hemisphere. However, a person can have bilateral problems, too, of course.

    Surface EEG's are only sensitive to a certain depth. An EEG showing no epileptiform discharges does not rule them out. Finding some, though, automatically rules them in. It would be interesting, anyway, just to see if anything unusual showed up, as would the other scans.

    Although your diagnosis is dyslexia I'm sure there's more to it, and that dyslexia is one symptom of something more, just because that seems to be the way these things occur. A woman I know here is diagnosed as dyslexic, but she also has a rare case of female colorblindness. A guy I know here who's been diagnosed as dyslexic has also been told he is probably "autistic" as well (they probably meant he had features of Asperger's, he's clearly not autistic.) There are a lot of people who don't fit squarely into a well defined diagnosis, but who will be told they do for legal and medical purposes.

    Tesla's visualization abilities weren't concommitant with dyslexia at all, but with severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. This functioned alternately as a strength and a weakness. It was a strength when it drove him to be meticulous, but a weakness when he was compelled to divert time and energy into satisfying unimportant conditions to proceed. He would not allow himself to eat, for example, until he had calculated the volume of the soup bowl in front of him.
  19. Oct 14, 2007 #18
    I thought about that before, and I may have wrote something short before, but then I thought for who? Who would actually read that stuff. For me it wouldn't be so much helpful, as I can recall my experiences vividly.

    I performed a small research on "synaesthesia" because I wasn't familiar with the word. Well, your hunch was correct, I do display signs of this phenomena in the "letter" department. I associate individual letters, and numbers with different colors, although the colors are somewhat pale, not flamboyant. But words, and larger numbers, appear the same in color, usually gray, but the gray does not have any connection with emotions, like one would immediately assume gray is gloomy. So I'm ok with this.

    As far as thought being manifesting in colors, that is a certainly astute proposition. I still do not understand my thought process completely, so I cannot say with certainty whether it has occurred, or something else entirely. At the very least, some thoughts I have might be very tinted in color, like the individual letters I associate.

    I had a few instances of this occurring to me, that I was below average at something, then something flipped in my head and then I became very good subsequently. Believe or not, I was terrible in math by 7th grade, and was placed in a lower level math class, and barely passed it. But over the summer, I remember clearly my dad explained to me something in math and something clicked in my head. The moment was followed by a plethora of feelings associated with thrill and energy. Such epiphany sparked my adventure curiosity to seek out more math, that still continues to this day. By 8th grade, I crossed paths with my former 7th grade math teacher who knew how bad at math I was. I talked about derivatives with him, a concept that I vague started to understand then, but is considered to be at college level. Needless to say, I almost gave him a heart attack.

    That's interesting. What is intriguing is the image would appear in a "half of the eye," rather than in one or the other as analogous to a 3d image being seen through 3d glasses. In 3d glasses, a different filter is placed over each eye thus inducing a real sense of depth perception. Since I'm also left-handed, I would venture to guess that the left hemisphere would be freed up, since the right hemisphere would do the job of steering the left head.

    That's true indeed. I've always suspected there is more to my condition than dyslexia, but just never had any more tests done. I think it would cost a ton get tested properly these days.

    This is where me and Tesla start to diverge. No way in the world I would have such a disorder. My patience is actually limited, except for things I find interesting.
  20. Oct 14, 2007 #19
    Mostly to practice becoming articulate at describing your experiences. Saying you can visualize things vividly doesn't actually give a sence of how unusual your experience is. I am the one who teased it out of you with the right questions.
    Are you saying that if you see the letter "A", for example, it actually consistantly appears to be a certain color to you? Or by "associate" do you mean it merely makes you think of that color?

    I wasn't suggesting that thought is triggering the kind of abstract visual displays of color that synaesthetes experience upon hearing sound. What I said was that, in the same way sound triggers colored visual displays in people with synaesthesia, your thoughts seem to trigger visual manifestations of those thoughts. It that sense it reminds me of synaesthesia: one thing erroneously triggering another. Sound shouldn't trigger displays in the visual field, and neither should thought. Could be it's the same or similar underlying mechanism.

    This is a cool story.
    This site has a good graphic showing the wiring:

    http://www.hhmi.org/senses/b410.html [Broken]

    You are looking at the underside of the brain there.

    You might want to look around for dyslexia forums and compare stories with others. I bet a lot of people with this diagnosis have a bunch of other non-dyslexic symptoms.
    That's good. It was a great burden to him.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  21. Oct 14, 2007 #20

    Individual letters appear in different colors. For instance, "A" appears pale yellow, even though its font is black. The distinction between the colors is sort of alternating. I can tell at anytime that its yellow or black in reality. But for all reading purposes, it's yellow, I tend to ignore the original color. Even if the letter was dark yellow, I would still perceive it as a pale yellow. Weird heh.

    Thought certainly triggers something. The end result is a dynamical visual manifestation. Also incorporated is real time sensory input, where it is subjected to mental alterations.

    Thanks for the link, didn't know the optical fibers for "half eye" were split like that. I have to do more research. After all I failed PSY101 a couple times. :smile:
  22. Oct 15, 2007 #21
    That's authentic synaethesia, then. Evo's daughter has that form of it, and a famous case is the writer, Nabokov, who hallucinated specific letters and numerals as having specific colors. A fair number of people posting here in the past have claimed to have this form, as well. If you do a forum search for the word you should find some of their descriptions, and links to other online literature about synaesthesia. Or synesthesia.
    There is no name for this that I'm aware of, and it is apparently fairly rare. Someone like Oliver Sacks, or V. Ramachandran, or Richard Cytowic, might, just possibly be interested in your story, which is another reason you might practice articulating it better. If not them, some neuroscientist somewhere is certainly specifically studying this and would be interested in your report of it.

    It seems to me it has something to contribute to a general understanding of visual hallucinations, the mechanism for which isn't well understood, that I know of.

    You're welcome. Another thing to inform yourself about is the blind spot in the right eye. Everyone has one, and there is a form on non-psychotic hallucination in which people hallucinate things in their blind spot. I think your visual experiences would also fall under the heading of "non-psychotic hallucination"", and there is another group who experiences this due to a degenerative eye condition (can't remember what it is called just now). People who experience this know full well the hallucinations aren't real, that something is amiss.
  23. Oct 23, 2007 #22
    Stole this conversation from a forum

    I just swiped this conversation from the realmemoryimprovement.com forum. Seems theese guys are having the same thing going on...

    I want to be able to do what tesla could do!


    Mr. Stewart:
    Lately I've not intentionally coded anything to memory mainly because about two weeks after I finished the program, I begin having clear, almost life-like images flow through my imagination. This happened mainly when I was lying down in bed. My greatest fear is that somehow these images will unexpectedly appear in my life. Ruslan once told me in an email that you are what you remember. So whenever an image pops up in my mind because of fear, I attempt to modify that image into something I believe to be better. Has anyone else experienced images that seem to come to life?
    Yes, particularly when I'm exhausted. I suppose I never thought to be afraid of them. They don't happen too often, but when they do, I'm fascinated. A cat returns most often.
    WTF? don't tell me this program makes me halluciniat!
    Part of the risk, LOL. Buahahahahahahahahahaha (Evil Laugh). Actually I'm sure this wouldn't be all scary, I expected something of this nature to happen if this memory training actually works by the time I'm done, similar to how Nikola Tesla had very strong visualization ability. But as Frin said, I'm sure that your ability to control your fear would determine if you will be frightened by your vivid images. Me personally, I'm actually doing one thing that I think is a good idea, for my figurative codes I'm not choosing anything that I find particularly frightening that I'll have to visualize a lot, when the connection comes up. Examples 974 (CaDaVer), 203 (ZoMBie), 406 (VaMPire). Don't think I'd mind 758 (DRaGon) though. I've already been experiencing vivid detailed dreams since I started doing some exercises, but right now I'm just developing an optimal Figurative Code list.
    Hey how vivid are these images? Schizoid?
    Mine are seen as through a fog or a dim mirror. Part of it is choice (I see a cat), part of it is involuntary (Whoa, I see a cat). The images only stick around if I allow them---they persist if I concentrate.

    Peter J
    Congratulations. What you are conciously experiencing are "hypnogogic/hypnopompic" images. They are certainly nothing to be afraid of, but a good indication that you are becoming more aware of subconcious processes.

    A hypnogogic state is experienced just moments before you fall asleep, and hypnopompic states just before you wake up. Those who are conciously aware of the images forming in their minds will describe images in perfect detail. It is true that Nikola Tesla could create engineering diagrams and models in his mind with detail down to a 100th of a millimetre. As you abilities in visualisation develop, you will become more proficient at controlling and creating these perfect vivid images.

    Once again, congratulations. A side effect of memorisation, yes, but in the same way a perfect body is a side effect of months of continuous physical training.


    Tesla visualized all his inventions in this way: he saw them in the air in front of him and could will them to move as he wished, or change parts and configurations by willing them to change. These things were so vivid to him that he didn't believe, while they were happening, that other people couldn't also see them. They amounted to controlled hallucinations.

    Wow, tesla was one of the greatest inventors ever...

    I think we're only scratching the surface of what we can do with this skill... Imagine, we've only been at it for a short period of time, and most people stop their development after the course completion... I can't wait to complete the course and start experimenting!

  24. Oct 23, 2007 #23
    Sounds kinda spammy to me.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook