Imagining fictious childhood events: The role of individual differences in imagination inflation

R. Horselenberg*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach, P.E.H.M. Muris, E.G.C. Rassin, E. Sijsenaar, V.J.E. Spaan

*Corresponding author for this work

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Imagination inflation refers to the phenomenon that imagining a low probability childhood event promotes subjective confidence that the event actually happened. The present article describes two studies that addressed the issue of whether imagination inflation is related to certain personality characteristics (i.e. social desirability, imagery ability, and dissociation). In Study 1, students (N = 34) rated the probability of 60 childhood events. Four weeks later, they came to the laboratory and were asked to imagine four low-probability childhood events. Next, new confidence ratings of target (i.e. imagined) and control items were collected. Students also completed measures of social desirability, imagery ability, and dissociation. While a higher percentage of increased confidence ratings was found for target items than for control items, the size of this imagination inflation effect was modest. Only imagery ability was found to be related to imagination inflation in that individuals with better imagery abilities displayed a larger imagination inflation effect. The procedure of Study 2 (N = 45) closely followed that of Study I, except that imagination of target items now had to be written down. Writing about a fictitious event generated a straightforward imagination inflation phenomenon, but this was not related to any of the personality characteristics. The discussion focuses on the extent to which imagination inflation may model therapy-induced false memories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
JournalClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000

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