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Personality differences in mental imagery and the effects on verbal memory


  • Both authors contributed equally to this work and authors' names are therefore listed alphabetically.

Siné McDougall, Psychology Department, University of Bournemouth, Fern Barrow, Poole BH12 5BB, UK (e-mail:


This study examined the effects of extraversion and neuroticism on participants’ reported vividness of visual imagery and on their memory performance for concrete and abstract nouns. Groups of extraverts (n = 15) and introverts (n = 15) were selected from a larger original sample and asked to remember a series of concrete and abstract nouns, including a set of lexically ambiguous concrete homonyms (e.g., earth = 1. planet, 2. soil). Extraverts reported more vivid imagery than introverts but this did not translate into better recall for extraverts, even for concrete stimuli. Recall was best for unambiguous concrete nouns, followed by concrete homonyms, then abstract nouns. While initial analyses suggested that there was an interaction between extraversion and the type of word presented, later analyses revealed that neuroticism was the main driver in differences in recall between different word types. While differences in recall were best explained by context availability theory (Schwanenflugel, 1991) rather than dual coding theory (Paivio, 1991), questions remain about the power of either theory to explain the role of individual differences in personality on recall, particularly given that imagery vividness effects were related to extraversion while differences in recall were related to neuroticism. The implications of these findings for future research and theoretical development are discussed.