The role of visual imagery in autobiographical memory

Mem Cognit. 2014 Aug;42(6):922-34. doi: 10.3758/s13421-014-0402-5.


Visual imagery plays a fundamental role in autobiographical memory, but several aspects of this role remain unclear. We conducted three experiments to explore this relationship. In the first experiment, we examined the relation between the phenomenological properties of autobiographical memory and several measures of visual-imagery ability. We found no significant positive relation between imagery ability and autobiographical memory, except on a measure of cognitive style. In a second experiment, we examined the autobiographical memories of people with different cognitive styles-namely, visualizers and verbalizers. We found that, for both kinds of participant, visual imagery was correlated with the feeling that they were reliving their memories, but auditory imagery played a greater role in verbalizers. In a third experiment, we examined the memories of individuals who had a congenital absence of visual imagery. We found that they had a deficit of auditory imagery, as well; moreover, they were much less likely than controls to feel as though they were reliving their memories. The results support the idea that visual imagery plays a vital and irreplaceable role in autobiographical recall.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult