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Imagine How Good That Feels: The Impact of Anticipated Positive Emotions on Motivation for Reward Activities

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jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:sec jats:titleBackground</jats:title> jats:pDisease burden and unsatisfactory treatment outcomes call for innovation in treatments of depression. Prospective mental imagery, i.e. future-directed voluntary imagery-based thought, about potentially-rewarding activities may offer a mechanistically-informed intervention that targets deficits in reward processing, a core clinical feature of depression. We propose that the previously described impact of prospective mental imagery on motivation for everyday activities is facilitated by jats:italicaffective forecasting</jats:italic>, i.e. predictions about an individual’s emotional response to the imagined activities.</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleMethods</jats:title> jats:pParticipants (jats:italicN</jats:italic> = 120) self-nominated six activities to engage in over the following week and were randomized to either: (1) an jats:italicaffective forecasting imagery</jats:italic> condition (jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 40); (2) a jats:italicneutral process imagery</jats:italic> condition (jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 40); or (3) a jats:italicno-imagery</jats:italic> control condition (jats:italicn</jats:italic> = 40).</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleResults</jats:title> jats:pAs predicted, increases in motivation ratings from pre to post experimental manipulation were significantly higher following affective forecasting imagery compared to both neutral process imagery (jats:italicd</jats:italic> = 0.62) and no-imagery (jats:italicd</jats:italic> = 0.91). Contrary to predictions, the number of activities participants engaged in did not differ between conditions.</jats:p> </jats:sec>jats:sec jats:titleConclusions</jats:title> jats:pResults provide initial evidence for a potentially important role of affective forecasting in prospective mental imagery. We discuss how these findings can inform future research aiming to harness prospective mental imagery’s potential for clinical applications.</jats:p> </jats:sec>


Funder: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau (1016)


Guided imagery, Behavioral activation, Major depression, Motivation, Prospective mental imagery, Episodic simulation

Journal Title

Cognitive Therapy and Research

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00030/11)