Imaginary friends

Psychologists from the University of Oregon have been studying children’s imaginary friends. Their study found that 65% of children had imaginary friends at the age of 7, a much higher rate than expected, and that the presence of an imaginary friend is linked to better emotional understanding and ‘theory of mind’ skills (the suggested ability that allows us to figure out and represent others’ beliefs and intentions).

Other studies on imaginary friends in children have also shown that they seem to be quite normal and generally linked to positive psychological development.

Interestingly though, some of the children report that their imaginary playmates don’t always do what they’re told and sometimes won’t go away when expected to, or bother them inconveniently. It seems that even from quite a young age, we are not always master of our own imaginations.

Link to story in Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

2 thoughts on “Imaginary friends”

  1. Heck, imaginary friends are useful well into maturity.
    Talking to oneself is a great way to promote introspection.
    I’m hesitant to admit this with a username I care about, but I still use “imaginary friends” today when working through a tough decision. I sit down with a notepad, and, in a chit-chatty style, write a message down as myself, then “switch” to the imaginary person to consider and write a response. This forces your mind to consider the statement as an outsider. Someone who doesn’t have a stake in the decision, and is just there to help you make the correct one.
    The brain seems well equipped to handle this sort of dichotomy. It makes me wonder if schizophrenia and prayer use similar mechanisms of the brain.

  2. I have been for a number of years interested in imaginary friends ever since a friends child introduced me to several of hers and we had a tea party. I never had one but realised these are an integral part of a lot of children’s lives. I asked around and received numerous accounts of these and set about taking note of them for a study and or book. Having searched the internet a lot I have come up with numerous places where these stories are retold but not in one single source. So in the latter part of last year I set about making my own website. Its a little cheesy and when I get round to it will look a lot better, but has a section where people can enter there stories and I can post them up. I thought there would be a lot of interest but so far not much, strange considering the amount of info dedicated to such phenomenon on the web. So if you do have a story and would like it posted on a sole source and indeed read others stories please feel free to visit.
    Andrew Carson

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