Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Benefits of Imaginary Friends

Apparently, there is research being conducted in England on the benefits of imaginary friends (seriously, how did they discover this? how often do you read about psychological research that is in the process of being conducted, when it doesn't pertain to some mental disorder?). It must be too early to say exactly what the researchers will find, because none of the researchers has anything definite to say, but that doesn't stop The Guardian from writing about it. Here's the journalist's description of the study:
Researchers are investigating whether having an imaginary friend might help children to develop language skills, boost creativity and retain knowledge.
That would be very interesting, though not entirely surprising given what we know about the role of play in cognitive development. We also know a lot about other benefits of having imaginary friends, such as increased attention from parents. In fact, the children who are most likely to have imaginary friends are those who have received the most parental encouragement in their fantasy beliefs.

I do have to disagree with one of the things that the primary research is quoted as saying. Here's the text from the article.
Ms Roby said that it was difficult to tell in young children where the realms of fantasy and play ended, where reality began, and how real imaginary friends were to them.

"Some of them definitely appear to see them ... I think that they are not a problem in general although I can see that a parent may be worried if someone was 15 still had an imaginary friend."
This isn't really true. Cognitive psychologists, especially Jaqueline Woolley, have developed rather sophisticated ways of understanding children's ability to distinguish fantasy and reality. As I've discussed before, children are pretty good at separating fantasy from reality, but in cases of acceptable fantasies like Santa Claus and imaginary friends, children seem to exhibit a third ontological category, "pretend," which they have in addition to "real" and "unreal." While there are individual differences in children's ability to make the fantasy-reality distinction, overall, by about age 3, children are pretty damn good at telling pretend from real, even if they may play as though the pretend is as real as anything else.


Anonymous said...

MY son started talking about "Simon" at the age of 2 he his currently 3. I have asked him to draw me a picture of "Simon" and he tells me every time that I ask "Simon is not real,he is fake". So I really dont understand why he has "Simon". The other thing is that I have read that smart children are more likly to have imaginary friends and I have had alot of people tell me that he his very smart.

Anonymous said...

I am not ashamed to say that I have an "Imaginary" friend and that I am 18 years old. He has helped in so many ways, sharpening my disernment,and aiding me through every problem. "One step at a time, all the time" is his motto. He has helped me to keep hope in dark times and to see that life is not as hard to live as others make it seem. Love to my best friend forever!

Anonymous said...

I have an imaginary friend and it's so helpful. Honestly I know she isn't real but at the same time I still beleive in her. She has no name. I do have tons of real friends though -

Anyways I've had this imaginary friend for quite some time now.
She's one of those good ones that never hurt or abandon you. Truth be told I'd rather be with her rather than my friends (dont know y) -

The reason may be that she is the best friend I've always wanted

* I still have tons more to say but it's 2 much to write

Anonymous said...

Well Bob is my friend. He is very cool. but he is not real if you know what i mean. i'm 10 thought. once bob died then late september he came to life and was regenful if you know what i mean ( but not to me he would get mad at drunk drivers)

Anonymous said...

I don't actually have an imaginary friend anymore, but when I did I had probably ten. They actually were pretty helpful. I'm doing my speech at school on imaginary friends and so far I haven't heard anything about them that's actually bad. Hmm, I wonder why?

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