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Title: Mental imagery and emotion : a special relationship?
Author: Holmes, E. A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2005
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The central hypothesis examined in this thesis was that there is a special relationship between mental imagery and emotion, whereby using mental imagery has a more powerful effect on emotions such as anxiety than verbal processing of the same material. This assumption has long been held in the experimental and clinical literatures. However, empirical evidence has been lacking. The above hypothesis was tested using an interpretation training paradigm, in which participants were exposed to many event descriptions that always ended either negatively or positively, dependent on training condition. In Experiment 1, during training participants either generated mental images in response to descriptions of negative events, or thought about the verbal meaning of those events. Those in the imagery condition reported more anxiety, and rated new descriptions as more emotional, than did those in the verbal condition. Experiment 2 included groups exposed to benign or negative event descriptions. Anxiety again increased more after negative (though not benign) imagery, compared with verbal processing; however, in this experiment the emotionality ratings did not differ after a 10-minute filler task. Results did not appear to be due to demand. In Experiment 3, new positive training material was created to test whether the effects of imagery could be extended to positive mood. Convergent evidence for the hypothesis was then sought using an alternative method. Experiment 4, 5 and 6 used a modified evaluative conditioning paradigm. Neutral pictures and words were paired such that their combination generated emotional outcomes. The process of pairing was associated with greater emotion if performed using mental imagery versus sentence construction. Overall, results support the hypothesis of a special link between imagery and anxiety, and also positive affect, but leave open the question of whether this also applies to other emotions. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available