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Emotion. 2005 Dec;5(4):489-97.

Mental imagery and emotion: a special relationship?

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  • 1Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


A special association between imagery and emotion is often assumed, despite little supporting evidence. In Experiment 1, participants imagined unpleasant events or listened to the same descriptions while thinking about their verbal meaning. Those in the imagery condition reported more anxiety and rated new descriptions as more emotional than did those in the verbal condition. In Experiment 2, 4 groups listened to either benign or unpleasant descriptions, again with imagery or verbal processing instructions. Anxiety again increased more after unpleasant (but not benign) imagery; however, emotionality ratings did not differ after a 10-min filler task. Results support the hypothesis of a special link between imagery and anxiety but leave open the question of whether this also applies to other emotions.

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