Imagery and Emotion Components of Event Descriptions about Self and Various Others

Nicholas A. Kuiper, Jennifer Kuindersma


Imagery and emotion have been identified as two of the main component systems of autobiographical events. It is not yet known, however, whether a primary focus on either the self or others may have an impact on these components. To investigate this issue, half of the participants in this study provide a real and made-up event description about themselves, and half provide descriptions about a well-known other. In addition, all participants generated a made-up event description about an unfamiliar other. In accord with predictions generated from a multiple-system model, real events received higher visual detail, imagability, and positive emotion ratings than made-up events. This pattern was also evident for a novel measure of imagery, in which real events were rated as being much more dynamic than made-up events. However, contrary to theoretical positions which postulate a special enhanced role for self-referent information processing, the self-descriptive events were not rated as being easier to imagine and did not have more positive emotions or visual detail, than descriptive events about well-known others. This pattern suggests that efficient cognitive schemata may be involved in the processing of information about both the self and well-known others. In contrast, descriptions of an unfamiliar other received lower imagery and emotionality ratings, suggesting that less well-differentiated cognitive structures are involved in component processing for these individuals.


Imagery; Emotion; Self-other; Real made-up

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