The Four-Factor Imagination Theory: Strategy, Methodology, and Anticipated Results

Project: Research project

Project Details


The ability to form abstract mental representations – the ability to imagine – plays an important role in a wide range of behaviors, including learning, empathy, psychopathology, and vocational training. Despite this, empirical research on imagination has historically been limited. The present research proposal is designed to address this paradox in three stages: Stage One. As an important measurement-related advance to the field, the first goal of the proposed research is to develop an Imagination Quotient (ImQ) scale, with an item set which includes both high general factor saturation (imagination), and distinct secondary factors (frequency, complexity, emotional valence, and directedness). We will first develop the preliminary item set, then administer the preliminary item set to a large international sample (minimum of 1,000 participants) through the SAPA-Project ( Finally we will evaluate the structure of the preliminary scale, which will include identification of its factor structure and internal consistency as well as consideration of possible differential functioning (for either the general or specific factors) based on criteria such as occupation, education, age, gender, etc. Stage Two. At this stage we will evaluate the relationships between imagination and its subfactors and academic achievement, creative achievement, divergent thinking, vocational interests, intelligence, and personality based on self-report measures and performance measures in a large international sample (minimum 1,000 participants) through the SAPA-project. By the end of Stage Two we will have a structural assessment model of imagination that will allow for both high level assessment of imagination, as well as lower order assets of imagination. Stage Three. Drawing from our previous work, the final stage of the research program will use neuroimaging techniques (fMRI) to examine neural basis of attention in high and low imaginative people. We are especially interested in studying the involvement of the default mode network (DMN) and the executive functions (EF) network in the attention task as a function of imagination. Additionally, we will examine the effect of mood (positive versus anxious) on attention in high and low imaginative people. We will also collect data on participants’ general intelligence, real-world creative achievements, divergent thinking, SAT/ACT data, and GPA. Regression of the connectivity parameters against the ImQ metric will be conducted to investigate the spatial correlates of imagination, while controlling for demographic and academic parameters. Physiological markers (respiration, heart-rate variability, and skin conductance) will also be collected. Imagination can be a transformative tool for going beyond the limitations of a physical object, stereotyped thinking, and literal concepts. Imagination is a capacity for envisioning a better future – thus, the results of the proposed research project will be invaluable in a variety of settings, from education (both arts and sciences) to sports, industry, and politics.
Effective start/end date7/1/156/30/16


  • Imagination Institute (RFP-15-04)


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