The Two-Factor Imagination Scale is a self-report measure developed in 2008 to assess spontaneous imaginal activity. Although useful for assessing any individual, the TFIS was created for assessing imaginal activity in high alexithymic individuals who by definition evidence "constricted imaginal processes, as evidenced by a paucity of fantasies" (Taylor, Bagby & Parker 1997, p.29). The constricted imaginal processes of alexithymia refer to a lack of spontaneous imagining (Thompson, 2008, 2009), and to affect laden imagery in particular (Aleman, 2005). The deficit in spontaneous or unconscious imagining is also elaborated by prior researchers Fain and David (1963), McDougall (1985), and Krystal (1988).
To understand spontaneous imagining it is helpful to contrast it with the activity of controlled imagining. The factor structure of the TFIS is based on American philosopher Edward Casey's descriptions of controlled and spontaneous imagining which he terms "traits of imagining" (1976, p.63 see here). Casey describes controlled imagining as a willful effort to manipulate images in the mind which is characterized by three sub-traits: 1. initiation, 2. guidance, and 3. termination, whereas spontaneous imagining is described as self-generating and is characterized by the subtraits 1. effortlessness, 2. surprise, and 3. instantaneity. Casey demonstrates that although the traits of spontaneous and controlled imagining tend to compliment each other they are nevertheless exclusive, meaning that when we imagine it will be either spontaneous or controlled in character in a given moment and cannot be both "at the same time," although in practice the two acts of imagining often appear in close proximity and can give rise to each other in a symbiotic interplay. (Casey, 1976; 1991)
Although the TFIS rates spontaneous imagining with a higher score, this should not be assumed to indicate a value judgment of psychological health. Whilst psychological health is usually characterized by a high degree of spontaneous imagination (Winnicott, 1971), there are notable exceptions to this rule in which a florid imagination can portend psychological disorder such as may be found in delusional, or schizoid states for example. Conversely, whilst a high degree of controlled imagining may be correlated with psychological disorders involving intellectualization, there are exceptions where, for example, one's culture, profession or current life circumstances require a stronger emphasis on controlled imagining. Finally, the TFIS is provided for gaining informal assessment which may indicate the need for a more thoroughgoing clinical assessment, or to compliment existing alexithymia measures. A TFIS score does not represent a diagnosis.
The Two-Factor Imagination Scale is copyrighted (c)-2008 by Jason Thompson
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