Researchers from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, took a first step in identifying a cognitive marker for optimism that could provide a modifiable target for innovative interventions to promote optimism, which research has already shown can benefit general well-being and mental and physical health.
 
They hypothesized that the ability to generate vivid positive mental imagery of the future would be associated with an optimistic disposition.

A community sample of 237 participants completed a survey comprising measures of mental imagery and optimism, along with socio-demographic information.

Vividness of positive future imagery was significantly associated with optimism, even when adjusting for socio-demographic factors and everyday imagery use.
 
The researchers conclude that an ability to generate vivid mental imagery of positive future events may provide a modifiable cognitive marker of optimism.  And therefore strategies that boost positive future imagery could provide a target for treatment innovations to promote optimism, with implications for mental health and even physical well-being.

Citation: Blackwell SE, Rius-Ottenheim N, Schulte-van Maaren YW, Carlier IV, Middelkoop VD, Zitman FG, Spinhoven P, Holmes EA, Giltay EJ. Optimism and mental imagery: a possible cognitive marker to promote well-being? Psychiatry Research. 2013 Mar 30;206(1):56-61. [email protected]