Imagination Inflation and the Perils of Guided Visualization

Document Type


Publication Date



When adults vividly imagine the occurrence of events that took place in their childhood, they become increasingly confident that these incidents actually happened to them. This phenomenon has been called imagination inflation. In a study of 94 engineering students, strong evidence for this effect was found. Items from the Dissociative Experiences Scale (E. M. Bernstein & F. W. Putnam, 1986; E. B. Carlson & E W. Putnam, 1993) and a measure of self-concept tied to interpersonal theory of personality and psychotherapy (structural analysis of social behavior) predicted imagination inflation in these individuals. The authors discuss implications of these findings for the use of guided visualization or imagination activities in psychotherapy.