Greater positive affect change after mental imagery than verbal thinking in a student sample.
Nelis S., Vanbrabant K., Holmes EA., Raes F.
This study sought to replicate previous work concerning the impact of positive mental imagery on emotion. Previous experimental studies found that imagining positive events was superior to verbally processing the same events in producing positive affect, and further that field rather than observer perspective imagery had a more powerful impact (Holmes, Coughtrey, & Connor, 2008; Holmes, Mathews, Dalgleish, & Mackintosh, 2006). In the current study, 78 students listened to 100 positive events randomly allocated to one of three conditions (between-subjects): imagining them via a field or an observer perspective or listening to the same events while thinking about their verbal meaning. Positive affect was measured before and after the task. Positive affect change was greater after imagery (field and observer) than the verbal condition, replicating previous research. Contrary to predictions, there was no significant difference in affect change between the field and observer conditions. To explain the latter result, we reflect on methodological explanations. In conclusion, there was greater positive affect change after positive mental imagery than positive verbal thinking. If results can be translated from the lab to the clinic then imaging positive situations may help people feel more positive than only discussing them verbally in therapy.