Background and objectives: Negative mental imagery appears to play a role in anxiety disorders and can involve aversive memories or anticipated future threats. Modulating aversive memories through imagery rescripting generally reduces negative memory appraisals and associated anxiety. This pre-registered two-day analog study investigated whether imagery rescripting of aversive memories also reduces negative imagery of future threats. Methods: On Day 1, socially anxious individuals (N = 52) were randomly assigned to imagery rescripting of an aversive memory or progressive relaxation (control condition). Before each intervention, they were asked to imagine a feared social situation that may happen in their future and evaluate this situation. They also rated the aversive memory before and after the intervention phase. The feared future situation was again evaluated at follow-up on Day 2. Results: Unexpectedly, no group differences were found on the main outcome measures. That is, negative memory appraisals reduced after both interventions. Likewise, in both groups, negative details decreased, and positive details increased in prospective mental imagery, and anxiety and avoidance towards the imagined event decreased. On the exploratory measures, the imagery rescripting group showed increased positive appraisals of memory and future threat, and decreased negative future-threat appraisals, compared to the progressive relaxation group. Limitations: No passive control group was included, so potential time or placebo effects cannot be precluded. Conclusions: The interventions had similar effects on the main outcomes and influenced mental imagery of future threats. Some differences were found on the exploratory measures that warrant further investigation with a passive control condition.
|Original language||American English|
|Journal||Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry|
|State||Published - Dec 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
EL and IME are supported by a VICI grant (grant number: 453-15-005 ) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). ES is supported by a NWO VIDI grant (grant number: 195-041 ). JDH is supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant (grant number: 1905/20 ). The research presented in this paper was also supported by a Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Utrecht University Center for Partnership in Science (HUPS) grant awarded to JDH, EK, SB, ES, IME, & EL. We thank Renate Bakker, Floor Gelmers, and Ilse van der Laan for their help in data collection. We are very grateful to Ilse van der Laan for coding the narratives.
© 2022 The Authors
- Aversive memories
- Imagery rescripting
- Progressive relaxation
- Prospective imagery
- Social anxiety