Our attitudes can change solely by the power of imagination

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” — Viktor E. Frankl

A recent study in Nature Communications shows that our attitudes can be influenced not only by what we actually experience but also by what we imagine. Locations such as street corners, buildings, playgrounds, etc., may seem ordinary unless we experience something special there. We can imagine something special too and that will change our attitude toward that space. "Merely imagining interacting with a much-liked person at a neutral place can transfer the emotional value of the person to this place. And we don't even have to actually experience the episode in reality."

Researchers want to “better understand the human ability to experience hypothetical events through imagination and how we learn from imagined events much in the same way as from actual experiences. This mechanism can potentially augment future-oriented decisions and also help avoiding risks.” It can also help to understand “the consequences of negative thoughts: ‘In our study, we show how positive imaginings can lead to a more positive evaluation of our environment. I wonder how this mechanism influences people who tend to dwell on negative thoughts about their future, such as people who suffer from depression. Does such rumination lead to a devaluation of aspects of their life that are actually neutral or even positive?’"

A review of the study can be found here.

Jeff Trueman