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Children are widely celebrated for their imaginations, but developmental research on this topic has often been fragmented or narrowly focused on fantasy. However, there is growing appreciation for the role that imagination plays in cognitive and emotional development, as well as its link with children's understanding of the real world. With their imaginations, children mentally transcend time, place, and/or circumstance to think about what might have been, plan and anticipate the future, create fictional relationships and worlds, and consider alternatives to the actual experiences of their lives.
The Oxford Handbook of the Development of Imagination provides a comprehensive overview of this broad new perspective by bringing together leading researchers whose findings are moving the study of imagination from the margins of mainstream psychology to a central role in current efforts to understand human thought. The topics covered include fantasy-reality distinctions, pretend play, magical thinking, narrative, anthropomorphism, counterfactual reasoning, mental time travel, creativity, paracosms, imaginary companions, imagination in non-human animals, the evolution of imagination, autism, dissociation, and the capacity to derive real life resilience from imaginative experiences. Many of the chapters include discussions of the educational, clinical, and legal implications of the research findings and special attention is given to suggestions for future research.
Marjorie Taylor, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon.