Previously depressed individuals experience disturbances in affect. Affective disturbances may be related to visual mental imagery, given that imagery-based processing of emotional stimuli causes stronger affective responses than verbal processing in experimental laboratory studies. However, the role of imagery-based processing in everyday life is unknown. This study assessed mental imagery in the daily life of previously and never depressed individuals. Higher levels of visual mental imagery was hypothesised to be associated with more affective reactivity to both negatively and positively valenced mental representations. This study was the first to explore mental imagery in daily life using experience sampling methodology. Previously depressed (n = 10) and matched never depressed (n = 11) individuals participated in this study. Momentary affect and imagery-based processing were assessed using the “Imagine your mood” smartphone application. Participants recorded on average 136 momentary reports over a period of 8 weeks. The expected association between visual mental imagery and affective reactivity was not found. Unexpectedly, in both previously and never depressed individuals, higher levels of imagery-based processing of mental representations in daily life were significantly associated with better momentary mood and more positive affect, regardless of valence. The causality of effects remains to be examined in future studies.
- experience sampling methods
- mental imagery
- Middle Aged
- Depressive Disorder/psychology
- Young Adult