Imagery Rescripting: The Impact of Conceptual and Perceptual Changes on Aversive Autobiographical Memories.
Slofstra C., Nauta MH., Holmes EA., Bockting CL.
BACKGROUND: Imagery rescripting (ImRs) is a process by which aversive autobiographical memories are rendered less unpleasant or emotional. ImRs is thought only to be effective if a change in the meaning-relevant (semantic) content of the mental image is produced, according to a cognitive hypothesis of ImRs. We propose an additional hypothesis: that ImRs can also be effective by the manipulation of perceptual features of the memory, without explicitly targeting meaning-relevant content. METHODS: In two experiments using a within-subjects design (both N = 48, community samples), both Conceptual-ImRs-focusing on changing meaning-relevant content-and Perceptual-ImRs-focusing on changing perceptual features-were compared to Recall-only of aversive autobiographical image-based memories. An active control condition, Recall + Attentional Breathing (Recall+AB) was added in the first experiment. In the second experiment, a Positive-ImRs condition was added-changing the aversive image into a positive image that was unrelated to the aversive autobiographical memory. Effects on the aversive memory's unpleasantness, vividness and emotionality were investigated. RESULTS: In Experiment 1, compared to Recall-only, both Conceptual-ImRs and Perceptual-ImRs led to greater decreases in unpleasantness, and Perceptual-ImRs led to greater decreases in emotionality of memories. In Experiment 2, the effects on unpleasantness were not replicated, and both Conceptual-ImRs and Perceptual-ImRs led to greater decreases in emotionality, compared to Recall-only, as did Positive-ImRs. There were no effects on vividness, and the ImRs conditions did not differ significantly from Recall+AB. CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that, in addition to traditional forms of ImRs, targeting the meaning-relevant content of an image during ImRs, relatively simple techniques focusing on perceptual aspects or positive imagery might also yield benefits. Findings require replication and extension to clinical samples.