Extreme Imagination Conference 2019

The world’s first conference for people with ‘extreme imagination’ took place at the University of Exeter, UK, on 5 – 7 April 2019.

This conference is a result of research lead by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter College of Medicine and Health, and the Eye’s Mind research group: Fiona Macpherson (philosophy, Glasgow), Crawford Winlove (neuroscience, Exeter), John Onians (art history, University of East Anglia), and Matthew MacKisack (cultural history, Exeter).

In 2015, Professor Zeman coined the term “aphantasia” to describe a phenomenon in which some people are unable to conjure up pictures inside their minds. He called the opposite phenomenon “hyperphantasia”, in which people have particularly vivid mental imagery.

When these extremes of ‘mind’s eye’ experience were identified, a huge public response followed, with thousands of people recognising themselves as ‘aphantasic’ or ‘hyperphantasic’. This conference represents one of the many public responses by the Eye's Mind team, recognising the need for people to connect and share knowledge and information about a subject that clearly resonates strongly with the population. Over the course of the conference, participants heard from the Eye's Mind project leaders about the current research pertaining to Aphantasia across disciplines of Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Art and Culture. 

Participants were also able to take part in a range of workshops and break out groups to learn and share, contributing their own experiences to both researchers and each other. 

Video and audio documentation of the conference is included below, including a lecture by Professor Fiona MacPherson from University of Glasgow's Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience. 

Speakers and Workshops: 

Friday, 5 April 2019
Welcome from Professor Adam Zeman - Phantasia: the psychological significance of visual imagery extremes
Keynote Speaker Professor Joel Pearson: The cognitive neuroscience of mental imagery
Extreme Imagination – inside the mind’s eye exhibition private view at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.
Saturday, 6 April 2019
9.00: Artists Panel: Extreme Imagination artists Isabel Nolan, Michael Chance, Kirsten Baron, Dominic Mason, and Andrew Bracey discuss their work with curators Susan Aldworth and Dr Matthew MacKisack                  
Discussion groups 1: Life as Aphantasic / Hyperphantasic
Parallel sessions 1: Drawing Workshop / Creative Writing workshop / Education Workshop / Therapy Workshop
Eye’s Mind Talk: Dr Crawford Winlove – The Neural Basis of Visual Imagery
Q & A Session on Aphantasia and Hyperphantasia with all speakers
Eye’s Mind Talk: Professor John Onians – Neural Deficits as Assets: Life as a Colour-Blind Art Historian
Guest talk by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Sunday, 7 April 2019
Keynote Speaker 2: Professor Emily Holmes – Mental Imagery and the Emotions
Break out discussion groups 2: Strategies for the Aphantasic / Hyperphantasic
Parallel sessions 2: Drawing Workshop / Creative Writing workshop / Education workshop / Therapy Workshop
Eye’s Mind Talk: Professor Fiona Macpherson – What is it Like to Have Visual Imagery?
Next Steps: community building, closing remarks










Links to BBC coverage of the conference can be found here

The Eye's Mind is supported by The Arts and Humanities Research Council