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    ‘Imagine…’ Our attitudes can change solely by the power of imagination



    Summary: Our attitudes can be influenced by both our imagination and experiences. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex plays a key role by binding together information based on existing knowledge and constructing imaginary events to help shape our attitudes of a situation.

    Source: Nature Communications.

    In life there are certain places that seem to become special to us, like a school playground, perhaps an old church, or that unnoticeable street corner where you were kissed for the very first time. Before that special feeling, you had never even noticed that corner. It’s as if the specially unique experience with that beloved person transferred positive emotion to the location. Our perception towards these places thus suddenly changes – they become important to us. But could this also happen completely by the power of imagination rather than by having actual experiences?

    Researchers from Max Planck institute and Harvard University have examined this question and published their article. The findings of the study revealed that our attitudes can be influenced not only by what we actually experience but also by what we imagine. Furthermore, researchers believe the phenomenon is based on activity in a particular region in the front part of our brains, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.

    Participants in the study were first asked to mention names of people that they like very much and also people they don’t like at all. They were also asked to provide a list of places that they considered to be neutral. Later, when the participants were found lying in the MRI scanner, they were asked to distinctly imagine how they would spend time with a much-liked person at one of the neutral places.

    After the MRI scanning was done the researchers were able to evaluate that the attitudes of the participants towards the places had changed: the earlier neutral places that had been imagined with liked people were now regarded as more special than at the beginning of the study.

    Using MRI data, the researchers were able to demonstrate how this mechanism works in the brain. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex plays a key role in this process. This is where information about individual persons and places from our surrounding is stored, as the researchers assumed. But this region also determines how important individual people and places are for us.

    Published: Nature Communications.

    Contact: Roland G. Benoit Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

    Details: Image source IStock


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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