Thursday, September 8, 2016

Imaginary Friends

Dr. Marjorie Taylor, University of Oregon professor emerita of psychology, directs the University of Oregon Imagination Research Laboratory. She was the first person to study imaginary companions with a systematic approach. Before Taylor's work, many people thought imaginary companions were a sign of mental illness.Her empirical studies moved thinking beyond psychopathology to reveal signs of creativity and problem solving skills.  

Taylor published, Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them. The Calvin and Hobbes comic strip about a mischievous boy and his stuffed tiger playmate have intrigued Taylor, She says, "I like the idea that you walk down the road with a tiger at your side and feel more powerful. Even if the tiger is completely imaginary, the feeling of confidence is not."

Dr. Naomi Aguiar, a University of Oregon graduate and former researcher in Dr. Taylor's lab, talked to one girl who lived in 11 foster homes before becoming adopted into her lifelong family. The girl told Aguiar that her companion was an invisible mile carton.

"What do you like about this milk carton?" Aguilar asked.  

She responded, "I really like that he's not human because he can teach me about what it's like not to be human and I can teach him about what it's like to be human."

Dr. Taylor is updating her book with discoveries from the lab's studies over the past 17 years. Some children build detailed imaginary worlds. She also studies the relationship that forms between fiction authors and their characters. Studies also assist researchers to understand the foundation of real friendships.

Create imaginary friends to populate your writing.

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