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An investigation into the relationship between visual imagery and stress

Hasler-Winter, Samuel (2018) An investigation into the relationship between visual imagery and stress. University of Manchester. (Unpublished)


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Visual imagery plays a functional role in memory and emotion processing. Similar links between stress, memory and emotion also exist, leading to the proposed hypothesis that there may also be a functional relationship between stress and visual imagery. In 36 students, trait vividness of visual imagery was assessed in relation to two variables: trait stress reactivity and acute stress response. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and a matched control condition were used to induce stress. The Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionaire (VVIQ) and Perceived Stress Reactivity Scale (PSRS) were used as trait measures of visual imagery vividness and stress reactivity respectively. Neither the relationship between vividness of visual imagery and stress reactivity or acute stress response were significant. These findings suggest that stress and visual imagery may not be as closely related as thought. However, significant gender differences seen in the sample and proposed in the literature led to exploratory analyses. These analyses revealed a significant effect of stress-reactive group (high/low) on visual imagery in women, such that low stress reactive individuals experienced more vivid visual imagery and vice versa. Additionally, in women only, the hypothesised inverse relationships: between visual imagery vividness and both trait and acute stress were found to have moderate and strong correlations that were approaching significance, respectively. Given that this was post-hoc analysis, firm conclusions cannot be drawn, although this suggests that the proposed inverse relationship between voluntary visual imagery and stress may exist in women in the healthy population.

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