Simon Blackwell Research Interests

Research Interests

Mental imagery

My main research focus is mental imagery, in particular positive mental imagery, its role in psychopathology and healthy functioning, and how we can use it in interventions (e.g., Blackwell, 2019, 2021).

A significant amount of my work has involved developing a computerized cognitive training intervention that trains positive imagery and interpretation biases, “imagery cognitive bias modification” (imagery CBM). Initially developed in the context of depression (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2015; Blackwell & Holmes, 2010), my more recent studies have focussed on its potential to increase positive affect and reduce anhedonia (e.g., Blackwell, Schönbrodt, et al., 2023; Westermann et al., 2021), including as an add-on to inpatient mental health treatment, a stand-alone automated internet-delivered intervention, or as an intervention for patients on the waiting list for outpatient psychotherapy. An important part of this work in recent years has been facilitating dissemination for research purposes, via creating new training stimuli and software that I have made freely available for research purposes (see my site on the Open Science Framework:

Recently I have also been particularly interested in investigating the role of involuntary positive mental imagery in daily life, and developing experimental paradigms and methods to test hypotheses about the functions of such imagery (e.g., Bagheri et al., in press; Blackwell et al., 2020)

Translational research methodology

Another focus of my research is the process via which we develop and test new psychological interventions, and how we can improve this. Recent work has included development of a the ‘leapfrog’ trial design as a simple adaptive platform design to accelerate the development and optimization of psychological interventions (Blackwell, Woud, et al., 2019). Having completed a first demonstration version of such a trial (Blackwell, Schönbrodt, et al., 2023), I have been exploring potential applications such as in the context of treatment personalization (Deisenhofer et al., 2023; Blackwell, 2024), and adapting the approach to single case methods (

Other aspects of the translational research process I have addressed include the choice of control conditions (Blackwell et al., 2017 pdf.gif), moving from experimental studies to clinical trials (Blackwell & Woud, 2022), and wider issues about the development of the field of cognitive bias modification (Blackwell, 2020 pdf.gif) and CBT more broadly (Blackwell & Heidenreich, 2021).

Cognitive processes in psychopathology

In addition to my work on mental imagery, I am more broadly interested in cognitive processes involved in psychopathology, such as interpretation biases (e.g., Blackwell, 2023), automatic associations (e.g., Blackwell, Ehring, et al., 2023; Blackwell, Wilhelm, et al., 2023), and how these might be targeted in interventions.


Bagheri, M., Woud, M. L., Oglou, I. F., Oglou, F. F., Ratzkowski, J. D. J., Margraf, J., & Blackwell, S. E. (in press). An Experimental Investigation of the Causal Role of Mental Imagery in the Experience of Involuntary Memories. Journal of Emotion and Psychopathology. (view preprint version)

Blackwell, S. E. (2019). Mental imagery: From basic research to clinical practice. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 29, 235–247.

Blackwell, S. E. (2020). Clinical efficacy of cognitive bias modification interventions. The Lancet. Psychiatry, 7(6), 465–467. 

Blackwell, S. E. (2021). Mental Imagery in the Science and Practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 14(1), 160–181.

Blackwell, S. E. (2023). Mental Imagery and Interpretational Processing Biases. In M. L. Woud (Ed.), Interpretational Processing Biases in Emotional Psychopathology: From Experimental Investigation to Clinical Practice (pp. 97–116). Springer International Publishing.

Blackwell, S. E. (2024). Using the ‘Leapfrog’ Design as a Simple Form of Adaptive Platform Trial to Develop, Test, and Implement Treatment Personalization Methods in Routine Practice. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research.

Blackwell, S. E., Browning, M., Mathews, A., Pictet, A., Welch, J., Davies, J., Watson, P., Geddes, J. R., & Holmes, E. A. (2015). Positive imagery-based cognitive bias modification as a web-based treatment tool for depressed adults: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Psychological Science, 3(1), 91–111.

Blackwell, S. E., Dooley, D., Würtz, F., Woud, M. L., & Margraf, J. (2020). Inducing positive involuntary mental imagery in everyday life: An experimental investigation. Memory, 28(9), 1157–1172.

Blackwell, S. E., Ehring, T., Gladwin, T. E., Margraf, J., & Woud, M. L. (2023). The relationship between self-traumatized and self-vulnerable automatic associations and posttraumatic stress symptoms among adults who have experienced a distressing life event. Current Psychology, 42(14), 11674–11684.

Blackwell, S. E., & Heidenreich, T. (2021). Cognitive Behavior Therapy at the Crossroads. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 14(1), 1–22.

Blackwell, S. E., & Holmes, E. A. (2010). Modifying interpretation and imagination in clinical depression: A single case series using cognitive bias modification. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(3), 338–350.

Blackwell, S. E., Schönbrodt, F. D., Woud, M. L., Wannemüller, A., Bektas, B., Rodrigues, M. B., Hirdes, J., Stumpp, M., & Margraf, J. (2023). Demonstration of a ‘leapfrog’ randomized controlled trial as a method to accelerate the development and optimization of psychological interventions. Psychological Medicine, 53, 6113–6123. S0033291722003294

Blackwell, S. E., Wilhelm, F. H., Reinecke, A., Margraf, J., & Woud, M. L. (2023). Measuring Symptom-Specific Panic-Relevant Associations Using Single-Target Implicit Association Tests. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 47(5), 720–731.

Blackwell, S. E., & Woud, M. L. (2022). Making the leap: From experimental psychopathology to clinical trials. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 13(1), 20438087221080075.

Blackwell, S. E., Woud, M. L., & MacLeod, C. (2017). A Question of Control? Examining the Role of Control Conditions in Experimental Psychopathology using the Example of Cognitive Bias Modification Research. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 20, e54.

Blackwell, S. E., Woud, M. L., Margraf, J., & Schönbrodt, F. D. (2019). Introducing the leapfrog design: A simple Bayesian adaptive rolling trial design for accelerated treatment development and optimization. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(6), 1222–1243. (view preprint version)

Deisenhofer, A.-K., Barkham, M., Beierl, E. T., Schwartz, B., Aafjes-van Doorn, K., Beevers, C. G., Berwian, I. M., Blackwell, S. E., Bockting, C. L., Brakemeier, E.-L., Brown, G., Buckman, J. E. J., Castonguay, L. G., Cusack, C. E., Dalgleish, T., de Jong, K., Delgadillo, J., DeRubeis, R. J., Driessen, E., … Cohen, Z. D. (2024). Implementing precision methods in personalizing psychological therapies: Barriers and possible ways forward. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 172, 104443.

Westermann, K., Woud, M. L., Cwik, J. C., Graz, C., Nyhuis, P. W., Margraf, J., & Blackwell, S. E. (2021). Feasibility of computerised positive mental imagery training as a treatment adjunct in in-patient mental health settings: Randomised controlled trial. BJPsych Open, 7(6), E203.