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Poster C25

The curse of imagery: Trait object and spatial imagery relate to trauma and stress outcomes

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC
Also presenting in Data Blitz Session 3 - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EDT, Ballroom West.

Ryan Yeung1,2 (, H. Moriah Sokolowski1,3, Carina Fan1, Myra Fernandes2, Brian Levine1; 1Rotman Research Institute, 2University of Waterloo, 3Toronto Metropolitan University

Imagery is integral to autobiographical memory (AM). Past work has highlighted the benefits of high trait imagery on episodic AM, such as faster, more detailed retrieval and greater feelings of vividness and reliving. However, these advantages may also come with drawbacks: following stressful or traumatic events, strong imagery could promote the intrusive memories and flashbacks characteristic of PTSD. We examined relationships between trait object imagery (e.g., imagery for form, size, shape), trait spatial imagery (e.g., imagery for spatial relations, locations), and PTSD symptoms (e.g., intrusive memories) using self-report measures in online studies in two independent samples: undergraduates (n = 493) and trauma-exposed adults (n = 936). Controlling for gender and depression symptoms, regressions indicated that higher object imagery was associated with more PTSD symptoms in both samples (βs = 0.11–0.21, ps < .002). In contrast, spatial imagery was associated with fewer PTSD symptoms (βs = 0.09–0.15, ps < .03), although in undergraduates this effect interacted with gender such that it was present in men and not women. These findings suggest that different forms of imagery have different (or even opposing) relationships with remembering, which in turn impacts outcomes following exposure to trauma and stress.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024