The powerful impact of mental imagery in changing emotion
Pictet A., Holmes EA.
Intrusive mental images powerfully impact on our patients’ emotional state. Such images may be of distressing memories from the past or feared futures. Within the field of experimental psychopathology a series of experiments have tested the assumption that imagery has a special relationship with emotion. Studies using a cognitive bias modification scenarios paradigm and a picture-word paradigm will be discussed. Compared to verbal processing, mental imagery was found to have a more powerful impact on changing emotion for both negative and positive emotional states. Further examining the role of mental imagery perspective indicates emotion is only magnified by field (first person) perspective but not observer (third person) perspective imagery. Clinical implications for changing emotion include asking about imagery in assessment, reducing the impact of negative imagery and finding ways to promote positive/adaptive imagery.