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Optimism is associated with a range of benefits not only for general well-being, but also for mental and physical health. The development of psychological interventions to boost optimism derived from cognitive science would have the potential to provide significant public health benefits, yet cognitive markers of optimism are little understood. The current study aimed to take a first step in this direction by identifying a cognitive marker for optimism that could provide a modifiable target for innovative interventions. In particular we predicted that the ability to generate vivid positive mental imagery of the future would be associated with dispositional optimism. A community sample of 237 participants completed a survey comprising measures of mental imagery and optimism, and socio-demographic information. Vividness of positive future imagery was significantly associated with optimism, even when adjusting for socio-demographic factors and everyday imagery use. The ability to generate vivid mental imagery of positive future events may provide a modifiable cognitive marker of optimism. Boosting positive future imagery could provide a cognitive target for treatment innovations to promote optimism, with implications for mental health and even physical well-being. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychiatry Research

Publication Date





56 - 61