The Futures We Want: How Imagining Our Goals Relates to Mental Health

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dc.contributor.advisor Addis, DR en
dc.contributor.advisor Tippett, LJ en
dc.contributor.advisor Moreau, D en Gamble, Beau en 2020-04-23T19:54:40Z en 2020 en
dc.identifier.uri en
dc.description.abstract Episodic simulation is an adaptive ability that can be directed towards goal pursuit. A growing body of work has shown that individual differences in episodic simulation are related to mental health; at the same time, separate research has highlighted the importance of personal goals for healthy functioning. Little research lies at the intersection—the imagination of future scenes related to one’s goals. In this thesis we used an individual differences approach to investigate how various aspects of future thinking, especially for personal goals, are related to mental health. In Study One, we conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis on the link between one aspect of future thinking, specificity, and a key dimension of mental health, depression. Across 46 studies and 4,813 participants, we found a small but robust association between reduced specificity of future thinking and higher levels of depression. There was also a striking moderating effect of emotional valence; future specificity was reduced in depression for positive but not negative or neutral events. In Study Two, we developed a new task to examine how individual differences in many aspects of goal setting and simulation relate to well-being, depressive symptoms, and later goal progress. In young and middle-aged adults (N = 153), higher well-being and lower depressive symptoms were related to having goals that were more attainable, and expected to bring more joy; and to goal-directed simulation that was clearer and more positive. Importantly, having more positive simulations even predicted an increase in well-being over the subsequent two months, whilst having more intrinsically rewarding goals predicted a decrease in depressive symptoms. In Study Three, drawing on data collected in Study Two, we examined the cognitive processes that may underlie the clarity of goal-directed imagination. Only the vividness of visual imagery predicted clarity; the other cognitive processes examined (episodic memory, semantic memory, working memory, strategic retrieval, and relational binding) did not. These findings suggested that any impacts on clarity related to these processes may only manifest at larger cognitive declines. Together, these studies contribute to our growing understanding of imagination, particularly for personal goals, and how this process relates to mental health. Our findings also provide a foundation for future studies to examine how goal-directed imagination can be improved—and whether such an improvement may have positive downstream effects on functioning. en
dc.publisher ResearchSpace@Auckland en
dc.relation.ispartof PhD Thesis - University of Auckland en
dc.relation.isreferencedby UoA en
dc.rights Items in ResearchSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated. Previously published items are made available in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. en
dc.rights.uri en
dc.rights.uri en
dc.title The Futures We Want: How Imagining Our Goals Relates to Mental Health en
dc.type Thesis en Psychology en The University of Auckland en Doctoral en PhD en
dc.rights.holder Copyright: The author en
dc.rights.accessrights en
pubs.elements-id 799092 en
pubs.record-created-at-source-date 2020-04-24 en

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