Music influences vividness and content of imagined journeys in a directed visual imagery task

Steffen A. Herff*, Gabriele Cecchetti, Liila Taruffi, Ken Déguernel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Directed, intentional imagination is pivotal for self-regulation in the form of escapism and therapies for a wide variety of mental health conditions, such anxiety and stress disorders, as well as phobias. Clinical application in particular benefits from increasing our understanding of imagination, as well as non-invasive means of influencing it. To investigate imagination, this study draws from the prior observation that music can influence the imagined content during non-directed mind-wandering, as well as the finding that relative orientation within time and space is retained in imagination. One hundred participants performed a directed imagination task that required watching a video of a figure travelling towards a barely visible landmark, and then closing their eyes and imagining a continuation of the journey. During each imagined journey, participants either listened to music or silence. After the imagined journeys, participants reported vividness, the imagined time passed and distance travelled, as well as the imagined content. Bayesian mixed effects models reveal strong evidence that vividness, sentiment, as well imagined time passed and distances travelled, are influenced by the music, and show that aspects of these effects can be modelled through features such as tempo. The results highlight music’s potential to support therapies such as Exposure Therapy and Imagery Rescripting, which deploy directed imagination as a clinical tool.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15990
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 6 Aug 2021


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