Weird psychology question regarding visualization.

Do a little excercise.

Imagine a big wheel, like you’d see in an old fashioned mill, or one of those giant wheels that propel river boats. Picture it from the side.

Now, imagine the wheel gradually speeding up, until it’s going fairly quickly.

Now imagine that wheel slowly and gradually stopping, and reversing direction - don’t replace the image with another wheel which is going the other way, but make sure the image you have already does that.

Easy to do? I would imagine so.

But I have extreme difficulty doing it. I spent 10 minutes last night trying to do that, and gave myself a nasty headache in the process because I was focusing so hard. It wasn’t that I couldn’t picture another wheel going the other way, but I couldn’t make the current one stop. Whenever I tried, as silly as it sounds, the “torque” of the wheel in the visualization would go up, and it would overpower my attempts to slow it down.

So, I can’t even control the visualizations in my own head, without extreme difficulty. Is there a name for this? Is it indicative of some other psychology condition, like OCD perhaps?

I can’t do it either, and I’m having a similar problem to yours. I can make it slow down, but never stop.
I wonder if it’s universal, or a small subset of the population has odd problems with it?
And for the record, I tried to do it before you described your difficulty doing so, so it can’t just be the power of suggestion.

For whatever reason, I’m having no problem with this. I start with a stationary wheel, get it going clockwise, slow it down to a stop, and start rotating it counterclockwise. I can even get it going clockwise again.

Maybe you’re experiencing some sort of visual inertia, based on lack of context. Would it help if you visualized a bicycle wheel, with the bike slowly moving forward and backward?

I can’t do it. At all. What’s up with that?

I can do it, easily. panache45, do you think in “pictures”? Its possible the visualization is easier for “picture thinkers” as opposed to “word thinkers” (or how ever the heck the rest of you accomplish your think.)

I can do it pretty easily I think, but I’m a strongly visual thinker myself.

picunurse: I’ve heard (from my brother, who goes on about things like this a lot,) of at least four ‘systems of perceptive thought’ – visual (pictures), audio-tonal (sounds and pitches of music), audio-verbal (words), and kinesthetic (touching and manipulating objects mentally.) All four have different strengths and weaknesses, and most people use at least two often, in varying proportions. Just thought I’d mention that.

Do you have problems controlling other images? If not, some non-verbal part of your mind may just have an opinion on what to do with that particular image. I’ve participated in a few guided meditations and it amazed me how I could control some things and could not control others. It was interesting.

Me too. I’ve never been able to visualize.

Thank you! That’s very enlightening. I am mainly visual, but I’d have to say I use audio-tonal and to a lesser extent, kinesthetic.

What?!? People can visualize literally? Like visuals you see when you dream? I’d always thought that asking, “can you visualize something” was just a petty phrase. Like when you ask me to visualize this wheel, I can’t see the dang thing at all. I could describe the characteristics that I imagine if told to think of a mill-wheel, for example. Or the contrary (as an engineer, all the time is the contrary) someone will describe something to me as a concept (let’s build such-and-such), and I won’t “see” it in my head, but I know exactly what it looks like without seeing it. You can tell me to rotate it 90% along a certain axis, and I’ll know what it looks like, but I won’t see it. So when asking me about mill-wheel motion, I would say that I can visualize it, but not actually really mean that I can see it. And I certainly can’t see it in motion – I can only think about what motion is and know what changes from instantaneous moment to instantaneous moment. In that respect, since every “frame” is motionless, stopping the thing is no problem for me.

So, am I nuts? Or am I thinking now that “visualzing” isn’t really what I’m thinking you’re all saying – you can really see this stuff? And why can’t I? What have I been missing my whole life?

I don’t know about others, but for me, visualizing an object is pretty close to seeing. Zoom in, zoom out, rotate, distort; all that. If I’m really concentrating on visualizing, my perception of the ouside world closes down pretty hard even though my eyes remain open.

I am with you Balthisar. I am pretty pissed about this. Some folks can think of a wheel and actually see it? WTF. Have I been dealt a duff brain or what? It might be worth another GQ, but what is up?

Yup. And actually it isn’t all that uncommon. My girlfriend can’t visualize either. She suffers migraines quite badly and has to visit her neurologist frequently. She spoke to him about this quite recently and he was not only unconcerned, but told her that it isn’t extraordinary at all.

Whoops! Obviously you already know what I stated above, Balthisar. I read that all important word “can” in your post as “can’t.” Apparently I have trouble visualizing things that are right in front of me.

Is this related to why I have always been confused by those police identikit suspect drawings you see? I have always thought I would have next to no chance telling anyone what someone I saw looked like if I only saw them briefly. Can you folks who visualise bring up an image of someone you have seen?

I take it so much for granted that I often get surprised when people don’t (or can’t) visualize.

I’m similar to a previous poster…I visualize as a “separate vision” but complete with color, motion, even tactile sensations like force and texture. Depending upon the degree I sink into it, my mind either multitasks with what my real world is, or sort of overlays my visualization simultaneously over my vision, or my real world perception just kind of grays out and gets nearly completely replaced by my visualization. It is also fully controllable, the waterwheel spinny thing is easy, although when I did it there was a Grimms-esque ogre that was poking his finger in the spokes of the wheel and spinning it forward and backward while befuddled fish poked their heads up out of the wheel’s water buckets as the water sloshed about. But that’s just me, if I need to visualize a wheel rotating forward and then backward, it helps a lot to also visualize a logical reason for the wheel to be doing so.

I think that this is one reason that many people simply don’t enjoy reading fiction novels. When I read a novel, I visualize very intensely at the same time I am reading, I see the shadows cast by Sting in the caves of Moria, they aren’t simply words on a page that I am parsing.

When you visualize something (at least me), you don’t actually see something in a visual sense. If your eyes are open, the input stays the same, you’re looking at whatever you’re looking at. The visualization comes at a non-physical level - there’s a layer in the perception center of the brain that handles it, or something. I thought it was something that everyone could do … it’s hard to describe it exactly.

It can be helpful to close your eyes, as the lack of other stimulus can let you focus even more.

It’s hard for me to believe that other people can’t visualize, maybe they just misunderstand what’s meant by it… or maybe not. If someone asked you what side of your desk, or something, that your stapler sits on… couldn’t you create a picture of your desk from memory and then look to find out where it was? How else would you do it?

Sure - any visual memory. Same as an auditory memory, really. If you can remember what someone said, in the voice that they said it, then why not what they look like? Huh. Never knew there were people that couldn’t.

Of course I can! I’m actually amazed that there are people who can’t “see” things in their head. What do you think of when masturbating? I usually think of my really hot ex-girlfriend. Do you people see words like ‘fuck’ and ‘stick it in my poop chute’? :confused: Maybe that’s why some people need porn, since they can’t imagine it at all.

I would consider myself more of a word thinker but I had no problems visualizing the image. I can easily make it into different colors - blue spokes - no, red! And I can see the water rushing underneath and the whitecaps caused by the turning wheel. I can see the wheel just floating by itself or attached to a boat.

I can’t, however, for the life of me, make one of those colored dot pictures turn into something though. No matter how hard I try.