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Two interpretation bias modification experiments found that mental imagery vs. verbal processing of positive material have differential emotional effects. In Experiment 1, participants were instructed to imagine positively resolved auditory descriptions or to listen to the same events while thinking about their verbal meaning. Increases in positive mood and bias were greater in the imagery than in the verbal condition, replicating E. A. Holmes, A. Mathews, T. Dalgleish, and B. Mackintosh (2006). An emotional vulnerability test showed that imagery (relative to the verbal condition) protected against a later negative mood induction. Experiment 2 created 2 new verbal conditions aimed to increase or reduce verbal comparisons. Results suggest making unfavorable comparisons with the highly positive material might be partially responsible for the inferiority of the verbal condition in Experiment 1. The findings demonstrate that imagery can play a key role in cognitive bias modification procedures and thus that task instructions are crucial. Imagining a positive event can make you feel better than thinking about the same event verbally. The authors propose that recruiting imagery will be useful in therapeutic innovations to develop a "cognitive vaccine" for depressed mood.

Original publication




Journal article


J Abnorm Psychol

Publication Date





76 - 88


Adult, Affect, Cognition, Depression, Female, Humans, Imagination, Life Change Events, Male, Quality of Life, Thinking, Verbal Behavior