When we imagine things, how are we able to see the event without actually seeing it?

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When someone is imagining an event, how can they see the event even though they’re not experiencing it? How can they see what they imagine even if it’s not real?

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To start with, not everybody can! Not being able to form mental images is called Aphantasia, and we think perhaps 1-3% of people have it.

To answer your question, I can’t answer your question. Neuroscience is a pretty hot field right now, because there is so much we don’t really understand. We can tell you which parts of your brain are active, and we can tell you how they send signals around to each other. But we can’t tell you exactly how all of those signals become an image, or a thought, or a memory.

Edit: to clarify, the signals are kind of like a computer. It’s like hearing “yes” or “no” and passing that on to a bunch of other spots, each of which either also passes it on or stops passing it on. This depends on how “loudly” it’s hearing yes or no.

Edit 2: clarified that Aphantasia is *not* being able to form mental images.

There are parts of your brain that “see” and parts that “identify”. This is a ridiculous oversimplification but it can be used to expose a mechanism. We have learned that the “identify” can change independently of “see” (and millions of other variables).

Now, the part of the brain that “imagines” is basically a predictive program. This part of your brain can run simulations using the software on other areas. (God this analogy is starting to suffer) but, your brain usually knows the difference between what it is simulating and what is actually happening.

Some people completely forget the difference between the two and they are either embraced for their genius and become famous, or they are ugly and become homeless.

If we knew how it works, You would have already Coca-Cola ads streamed right to your brain.

Consider this: why is it when photons hit your eyes, you “see” things?

Like, you’re a brain inside a skull. Your eyes are bags of mostly water and carbon, firing off electrical signals down nerve endings at the back. And then, your brain pieces all this stuff together and you say “aha, I can *see* that”, but what the fuck did you really do? You’re still a brain inside a skull.

Reality, everything you’re seeing and experiencing, is an electrochemical process based on nerve responses. It’s a video game running on your wet hardware.

When you remember, you just tell your brain to make similar nerve responses, and it experiences a similar experience to the “real” event.

I have this too. It is cool but also can be horrible. I am able to visualize things which helps in understanding how things work. Like technical gifs. But I have also seen my family die. In great detail from the third person. I have felt a bullet enter my skull. Seen it from 1st person and then switch to 3rd and seen the extent of it. Slow mo, stop motion, zooming in/out. It’s hard to put that away some times. I have stayed awake so many nights just trying to think of something other than my wife or kid dying. Trying to picture something happy. It’s a blessing and a curse.

People born completely blind don’t tend to internally visualize. Similarly, people born completely deaf don’t tend to have internal voices, including an inner voice. (They might experience virtual noises, but I would not call them voices.)

This extends to dreams.

Consider hallucinations. It’s essentially just firing up your brain like the “real thing” would.

For most people, thinking about an object and experiencing it fire up the brain in very similar manners. Like viewing an image of a flower in an fMRI vs being told to imagine that same image of a flower appears quite remarkably similar.

You should understand your reality is an emergent construct of your brain. Everyone creates their own reality in their brains and this extends throughout the central nervous system.

Your word choice is incoherently misguided. As they imagine an event they are absolutely experiencing it. What is real to a person is merely the product of neurochemical reactions. This is the subjective experience of all life as we know it. Versus a corpse. You can touch it, open the eye lids, talk to it. No internal reality for that corpse is detectable. Even though for you it’s real.

It’s like when you tell your dog, “cookie”, it salivates. It is imagining that taste of the treat. You can even warp this somewhat. Like Pavlos dog, train a dog to associate the ring of a bell with a treat, and that Bell accomplishes the same as saying, “cookie”, the dog salivates with anticipation for something it has previously experienced and can recollect.

As far as people are concerned, and this extends to all intelligent life, from mammals to insects to even plants, it’s only real because they can imagine it.

Then we get to mirror neurons and empathy and theory of mind. Being able to put yourself in some other mindset, external to your own. Whether a friend or a pet or that saber toothed tiger that is salivating in your direction.

Honestly we don’t know. The human brain and how it works is the greatest mystery right now. We have no idea why we actually have internal thoughts and are able to think about anything at all. It’s amazing that we’re not simply responding to stimuli, but that there’s more. The question is happening in all of us right now and hopefully more research will go toward it soon. I for one would love to know what consciousness is and how it came to be.

People actually see things they imagine “in their head”? Whut.