Introduction

The Two-Factor Imagination Scale (TFIS) is a self-report measure developed in 2008 to assess spontaneous imaginal activity. Although useful for assessing any individual, the TFIS was initially 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 elaborated in other works exploring the subject of alexithymia, notably by 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 while 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 is not 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.

References:

Aleman, A. (2005) Feelings you can’t imagine: towards a cognitive neuroscience of alexithymia, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 9, Issue 12 , Pages 553-555
Casey, E. (1976) Imagining: A Phenomenological Study. Indiana University Press
Casey, E. (1991) Spirit and Soul; Essays in Philosophical Psychology. Spring Pub.
Fain, M., David, C. (1963) Aspects fonctionels de la vie onirique. Rev. Franc. Psychoanalysis. 27, 241-243
Krystal, H. (1988) Integration and Self-Healing: Affect, Trauma, Alexithymia. Hillsdale NJ: The Analytic Press.
McDougall, J. (1985) Theatres of the Mind: Truth and Illusion on the Psychoanalytic Stage, Basic Books, New York.
Taylor, G.J., Bagby, R.M. and Parker, J.D.A. (1997) Disorders of Affect Regulation: Alexithymia in medical and psychiatric illness. Cambridge University Press
Thompson, J. (Aug. 2008) Alexithymia: An Imaginative Approach, Psychotherapy in Australia Journal, Volume 14, No 4, Pages 58-63
Thompson, J. (2009) Emotionally Dumb: An Introduction to Alexithymia, Soul Books.
Winnicott, D.W., (1971) Playing and Reality. Tavistock Publications

 

 

TFIS Questions

Instructions: Answer the following questions and then calculate your score with information provided below. If you get stuck on a question, you can skip it and come back to it when you have completed the other questions. If a question simply does not apply, leave it out completely and continue with the next. Each question can have one of 2 possible answers.

These are:

More Often True . . . . . . . . . . . . Less Often True

(For automated scoring version click here)

1. My imagination persistently generates daydreams and fantasies without any conscious effort on my part.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2. My daydreams and fantasies frequently produce unexpected themes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

3. Elaborate imaginary themes often come to me instantaneously, seemingly out of nowhere.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4. The products of my imagination are usually ones that I initiate; i.e. they generally don’t come on their own.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

5. My imagination is usually not spontaneous and surprising, but rather is used/employed in a more controlled fashion.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

6. I tend to terminate imaginal exercises once I have reached a pre-determined or desired goal of the activity.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

7. When designing or inventing something, or when participating in artistic activities, my imagination often directs the process with little mental deliberation.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

8. I am frequently astonished at the scenarios my imagination generates.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

9. My imagination produces elaborate scenarios in an instant without prior deliberation on the theme.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

10. Imagining is an act I choose to commence; it is rarely something that just “happens to me”.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11. I tend to guide the direction of my imaginative processes, rather than relying on the possibility that imagination will autonomously guide the process.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

12. I usually terminate impractical or unwanted imaginal exercises by distracting myself, emptying my mind, or by initiating a brand new exercise in imagination.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

13. When a friend feels upset my imagination automatically generates an internal image of their predicament, helping me to understand what they are feeling.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

14. My imagination tends to conjure/suggest realities contrary to those I would habitually expect.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

15. The images and scenarios of my imagination usually take time and persistence to construct.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

16. I use my imagination mainly for practical means, eg., like how to work out a problem or construct a useful idea or object.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

17. When I imagine something I prefer to control the contents, direction, spatial character, and duration of the imagined scenario.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

18. I tend to allow imaginative experiences to reach their own natural conclusion, rather than me calling a halt to the activity.

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19. The products of my imagination take considerable effort to construct.

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20. The products of my imagination are generally predictable.

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21. I frequently find myself imagining something, even when I have not chosen to do so!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

22. I often do not have control, nor take control of an imaginative experience, but allow the contents, direction and spatial characteristics of the imaginal presentation to direct themselves.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

___________________________________________

Scoring for questions:

For questions 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 18, 21, 22, add 3-points per question if you answered “More Often True” and 1-point for each answer of “Less Often True”.

For questions 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, add 1-point per question if you answered “More Often True” and 3-points for each answer of “Less Often True”.

Forcing a respondent to give an answer to each question may cause frustration because it is quite possible that a particular question just doesn’t apply, thus disrupting the flow of the process. For this reason, unanswered questions are defaulted as “undecided” and given a medium score of 2-points.

Maximum possible score is 66. This test uses cutoff scoring: equal to or less than 45 = low spontaneous imagination, equal to or greater than 60 = high spontaneous imagination. Scores of 46 to 59 = proportionate spontaneous/controlled imagining.

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Scoring and Factor Targets

The TFIS cut-off scores were determined after an informal assessment of 4 high-alexithymic and 4 low-alexithymic individuals. The first group had previously undertaken a TAS-20 assessment with a qualified clinician within the previous two years and scored in the high-alexithymia range 61+, with subsequent scores on the TFIS being 38, 42, 39, and 34 for the four test subjects respectively. From this result the first cut-off score of equal to or less than 45 for ‘low spontaneous imagination’ was selected.

The second group selected randomly from the local Queensland community each completed the informal Online Alexithymia Questionnaire-G2 and all scored in the low-alexithymia range 94-, with subsequent scores on the TFIS being 62, 55, 61, and 53. From the results of this second (low-alexithymia) group the cut-off point for ‘high spontaneous imagination’ was set at equal to or greater than 60, and ‘proportionate spontaneous/controlled imagining’ was set at 46 to 59.

This preliminary survey does not constitute a formal study and further clinical investigations will be required to validate the selected thresholds. Nevertheless, initial indications suggest that the TFIS may have potential for detecting the ‘constricted imagination’ factor of alexithymia.

 

FACTOR TARGETS

Factor 1: Spontaneous Imagining

(a) Effortlessness
▹My imagination persistently generates daydreams and fantasies without any conscious effort on my part.

▹When designing or inventing something, or when participating in artistic activities, my imagination often directs the process with little mental deliberation.
▹When a friend feels upset my imagination automatically generates an internal image of their predicament, helping me to understand what they are feeling.
▹(inverse) The products of my imagination take considerable effort to construct.

(b) Surprise
▹My daydreams and fantasies frequently produce unexpected themes.
▹I am frequently astonished at the scenarios my imagination generates.
▹My imagination tends to conjure/suggest realities contrary to those I would habitually expect.
▹(inverse) The products of my imagination are generally predictable.

(c) Instantaneity
▹Elaborate imaginary themes often come to me instantaneously, seemingly out of nowhere.
▹My imagination produces elaborate scenarios in an instant without prior deliberation on the theme.
▹(inverse) The images and scenarios of my imagination usually take time and persistence to construct.

Factor 2: Controlled Imagining

(a) Initiation
▹The products of my imagination are usually ones that I initiate; i.e. they generally don’t come on their own.
▹Imagining is an act I choose to commence; it is rarely something that just “happens to me”.
▹I use my imagination mainly for practical means, eg., like how to work out a problem or construct a useful idea or object.
▹(inverse) I frequently find myself imagining something, even when I have not chosen to do so!

(b) Guidance
▹My imagination is usually not spontaneous and surprising, but rather is used/employed in a more controlled fashion.
▹I tend to guide the direction of my imaginative processes, rather than relying on the possibility that imagination will autonomously guide the process.
▹When I imagine something I prefer to control the contents, direction, spatial character, and duration of the imagined scenario.
▹(inverse) I often do not have control, nor take control of an imaginative experience, but allow the contents, direction and spatial characteristics of the imaginal presentation to direct themselves.

(c) Termination
▹I tend to terminate imaginal exercises once I have reached a pre-determined or desired goal of the activity.
▹I usually terminate impractical or unwanted imaginal exercises by distracting myself, emptying my mind, or by initiating a brand new exercise in imagination.
▹(inverse) I tend to allow imaginative experiences to reach their own natural conclusion, rather than me calling a halt to the activity.
_________________________

This questionnaire is a first generation version which may be updated if future studies indicate areas for improvement, in which case ‘G-2’ (etc.) will be applied. The Two-Factor Imagination Scale may be used or reproduced for free after receiving permission from the author. For further information or to request use of the TFIS please contact the author (Jason Thompson) via the contact form below.






 

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