Self-Imagining Enhances Recognition Memory in Memory-Impaired Individuals With Neurological Damage

Matthew D. Grilli, Elizabeth L. Glisky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objective: The ability to imagine an elaborative event from a personal perspective relies on several cognitive processes that may potentially enhance subsequent memory for the event, including visual imagery, semantic elaboration, emotional processing, and self-referential processing. In an effort to find a novel strategy for enhancing memory in memory-impaired individuals with neurological damage, we investigated the mnemonic benefit of a method we refer to as self-imagining-the imagining of an event from a realistic, personal perspective. Method: Fourteen individuals with neurologically based memory deficits and 14 healthy control participants intentionally encoded neutral and emotional sentences under three instructions: structural-baseline processing, semantic processing, and self-imagining. Results: Findings revealed a robust " self-imagination effect (SIE)," as self-imagination enhanced recognition memory relative to deep semantic elaboration in both memory-impaired individuals, F(1, 13) = 32.11, p < .001, η2 = .71; and healthy controls, F(1, 13) = 5.57, p < .05, η2 = .30. In addition, results indicated that mnemonic benefits of self-imagination were not limited by severity of the memory disorder nor were they related to self-reported vividness of visual imagery, semantic processing, or emotional content of the materials. Conclusions: The findings suggest that the SIE may depend on unique mnemonic mechanisms possibly related to self-referential processing and that imagining an event from a personal perspective makes that event particularly memorable even for those individuals with severe memory deficits. Self-imagining may thus provide an effective rehabilitation strategy for individuals with memory impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)698-710
Number of pages13
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Episodic memory
  • Imagination
  • Memory disorders
  • Memory rehabilitation
  • Self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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