Struggling artists and authors with writers' block may soon be offered help from an imagination app.

British psychologists are developing new ways to test and improve imagination, which is still not well understood.

They also hope to produce an iPhone app designed to strengthen imagination through daily creativity exercises.

Dr Sophie von Stumm, from Goldsmiths, University of London, who is heading the two-year project, said: "We will develop new psychometric tests to assess imagination, and then validate them in several studies.

"Most importantly, however, we will find ways to improve imagination that everybody can use. We will develop an iphone application that will be freely available with exercises and tips for enhancing imagination.

"This will be the greatest contribution of our project to society, because imagination is at the core of our everyday thinking and behaviour."

Imagination is defined as the creation of mental representations of images, sensations and concepts that are not perceived at the same time by the senses.

Despite appearing to play a key role in psychological development, it remains elusive. There are few ways to measure imagination, and little is known about how it works and what impact it has on people.

The Goldsmiths researchers plan to explore the mysteries of imagination and come up with psychometric tests that can deliver an "Imagination Quotient", or "imQ".

Genetic and environmental influences on imagination will also be investigated by comparing identical and non-identical twins.

The team will look at how imagination is related to intelligence and personality, and the way it affects behaviour, the acquisition of knowledge, and academic achievement.

Dr von Stumm has been awarded a research grant from the Imagination Institute, based at the University of Pennsylvania, US, supported by the John Templeton Foundation.