Cognitive models of social phobia propose that negative self-images play an important role in maintaining anxiety. This study examines the effect of holding a positive or a negative image in mind during a speech on the retrieval of autobiographical memories. Twenty high socially anxious participants performed a standard autobiographical memory task (AMT), which used positive, negative and neutral cue words. Participants performed the AMT twice: once after giving a speech holding a positive image and once while holding a negative image. Participants were more anxious and rated their performance worse in the negative image condition. Negative memories were retrieved faster in the negative image condition and positive memories were retrieved faster in the positive image condition. In the negative image condition, positive memories were retrieved more slowly than either negative or neutral memories. Inhibition and facilitation are proposed as two processes that could explain the effects of differently valenced imagery on autobiographical memory. The clear evidence for an inhibitory effect on positive autobiographical memories in the negative imagery condition is considered in relation to Brewin's [(2006). Understanding cognitive behaviour therapy: A retrieval competition account. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 765–784] retrieval competition hypothesis. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the potential role of inhibition in imagery rescripting
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