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Spooky tales don't spark fear in aphantasics

Posted on Wednesday, 24 March, 2021 | Comment icon 7 comments

The ability to picture things in one's mind plays an integral part in the fear response. Image Credit:
A new study has revealed that ghostly tales and scary stories have little impact on those with mind-blindness.
Reading a particularly chilling ghost story or watching a paranormal documentary can unnerve even the most staunch of skeptics, but for some people, even the most terrifying of tales has no impact whatsoever and it is all to do with how we picture things in our heads.

In a recent study, scientists conducted an experiment in which they measured people's fear response by monitoring changing skin conductivity levels (or in other words, how much they sweat).

Approximately half of those taking part suffered from aphantasia or 'mind-blindness', which meant that they were unable to picture things in their heads the way most of us do.

For the test, the lights were turned off and the participants were left alone with a story that would appear on a screen in front of them. While these tales started out innocuously enough, they soon became much more terrifying.
"Skin conductivity levels quickly started to grow for people who were able to visualise the stories," said study senior author Professor Joel Pearson from the University of New South Wales.

"The more the stories went on, the more their skin reacted."

"But for people with aphantasia, the skin conductivity levels pretty much flatlined."

The results of the experiment seemed to suggest that imagery - the ability to picture a concept in one's mind - plays a much more important role in the fear response than previously believed.

"We found the strongest evidence yet that mental imagery plays a key role in linking thoughts and emotions," said Prof Pearson. "In all of our research to date, this is by far the biggest difference we've found between people with aphantasia and the general population."

Source: Science Daily | Comments (7)

Tags: Ghost, Brain

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by zep73 on 24 March, 2021, 18:31
5 minutes of googling told me that aphantasia and mind-blindness are two very different things. The first is the lack in ability to produce mental images, while the other is the lack of empathy, often seen with autism.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Hankenhunter on 24 March, 2021, 19:11
So am I one? Horror movies never bothered me one bit.  Even the scarey vids on youtube are boring. Real life has more than enough horrors to lift my short hairs. Plus I have an abundance of empathy. Seems like one more pidgeon hole article to label a person, and cause them angst.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Saru on 24 March, 2021, 19:20
Hmm, strange, I've found several sources (including universities and science journals) that seem to use the term 'mind-blindness' in relation to aphantasia. Perhaps the term has more than one meaning and is applicable in both cases ?
Comment icon #4 Posted by zep73 on 24 March, 2021, 19:25
Could be. Wikipedia is not always to be trusted.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Manwon Lender on 25 March, 2021, 2:05
Maybe our BOT needs a tuneup 
Comment icon #6 Posted by MissJatti on 25 March, 2021, 11:24
Oh yeah, whats that movie called.. where people fainted in the cinemas watching it...... oh oh The Exorcist!!? right? Wasn't scary at all! funny yes, but scary. nope
Comment icon #7 Posted by Seti42 on 25 March, 2021, 16:52
Aphantasia sounds like a hellish condition.

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