Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the creative
ability to form images, ideas, and sensations in the mind without any
immediate input of the senses (such as seeing or hearing). Imagination
helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental
to integrating experience and the learning process. A
basic training for imagination is listening to storytelling
(narrative), in which the exactness of the chosen words is the
fundamental factor to "evoke worlds".
Imagination is a cognitive process used in mental functioning and
sometimes used in conjunction with psychological imagery. The cognate
term of mental imagery may be used in psychology for denoting the
process of reviving in the mind recollections of objects formerly
given in sense perception. Since this use of the term conflicts with
that of ordinary language, some psychologists have preferred to
describe this process as "imaging" or "imagery" or to speak of it as
"reproductive" as opposed to "productive" or "constructive"
imagination. Constructive imagination is further divided into
voluntary top-down imagination driven by the prefrontal cortex, that
is called mental synthesis, and spontaneous bottom up involuntary
generation of novel images that occurs during dreaming. Imagined
images, both novel and recalled, are seen with the "mind's eye".
Imagination can also be expressed through stories such as fairy tales
or fantasies. Children often use such narratives and pretend play in
order to exercise their imaginations. When children develop fantasy
they play at two levels: first, they use role playing to act out what
they have developed with their imagination, and at the second level
they play again with their make-believe situation by acting as if what
they have developed is an actual reality.
1 The mind's eye
6 Versus belief
7 Brain activation
8 As a reality
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
The mind's eye
The notion of a "mind's eye" goes back at least to Cicero's reference
to mentis oculi during his discussion of the orator's appropriate use
In this discussion,
Cicero observed that allusions to "the Syrtis of
his patrimony" and "the
Charybdis of his possessions" involved similes
that were "too far-fetched"; and he advised the orator to, instead,
just speak of "the rock" and "the gulf" (respectively) — on the
grounds that "the eyes of the mind are more easily directed to those
objects which we have seen, than to those which we have only
The concept of "the mind's eye" first appeared in English in Chaucer's
(c.1387) Man of Law's Tale in his Canterbury Tales, where he tells us
that one of the three men dwelling in a castle was blind, and could
only see with "the eyes of his mind"; namely, those eyes "with which
all men see after they have become blind".
The common use of the term is for the process of forming new images in
the mind that have not been previously experienced with the help of
what has been seen, heard, or felt before, or at least only partially
or in different combinations. Some typical examples follow:
A form of verisimilitude often invoked in fantasy and science fiction
invites readers to pretend such stories are true by referring to
objects of the mind such as fictional books or years that do not exist
apart from an imaginary world.
Imagination, not being limited to the acquisition of exact knowledge
by the requirements of practical necessity is largely free from
objective restraints. The ability to imagine one's self in another
person's place is very important to social relations and
Albert Einstein said, "
Imagination ... is more
important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.
The same limitations beset imagination in the field of scientific
hypothesis. Progress in scientific research is due largely to
provisional explanations which are developed by imagination, but such
hypotheses must be framed in relation to previously ascertained facts
and in accordance with the principles of the particular science.
Imagination is an experimental partition of the mind used to develop
theories and ideas based on functions. Taking objects from real
perceptions, the imagination uses complex IF-functions[citation
needed] to develop new or revised ideas. This part of the mind is
vital to developing better and easier ways to accomplish old and new
tasks. In sociology,
Imagination is used to part ways with reality and
have an understanding of social interactions derived from a
perspective outside of society itself. This leads to the development
of theories through questions that wouldn't usually be asked. These
experimental ideas can be safely conducted inside a virtual world and
then, if the idea is probable and the function is true, the idea can
be actualized in reality.
Imagination is the key to new development of
the mind and can be shared with others, progressing collectively.
Regarding the volunteer effort, imagination can be classified as:
voluntary (the dream from the sleep, the daydream)
involuntary (the reproductive imagination, the creative imagination,
the dream of perspective)
Psychologists have studied imaginative thought, not only in its exotic
form of creativity and artistic expression but also in its mundane
form of everyday imagination.
Ruth M.J. Byrne has proposed that
everyday imaginative thoughts about counterfactual alternatives to
reality may be based on the same cognitive processes on which rational
thoughts are also based. Children can engage in the creation of
imaginative alternatives to reality from their very early years.
Cultural psychology is currently elaborating a view of imagination as
a higher mental function involved in a number of everyday activities,
both at the individual and collective level that enables people to
manipulate complex meanings of both linguistic and iconic forms in the
process of experiencing.
The phenomenology of imagination is discussed In The Imaginary: A
Psychology of the
Imagination (French: L'Imaginaire:
Psychologie phénoménologique de l'imagination), also published under
the title The
Psychology of the Imagination, is a 1940 book by
Jean-Paul Sartre, in which he propounds his concept of the imagination
and discusses what the existence of imagination shows about the nature
of human consciousness.
The imagination is also active in our perception of photographic
images in order to make them appear real.
Mental image and Imagery
Memory and mental imagery, often seen as a part of the process of
imagination, have been shown to be affected by one another.
"Images made by functional magnetic resonance imaging technology show
that remembering and imagining sends blood to identical parts of the
brain." Various psuchologicfal factors and influence the mental
processing of and can heighten the chance of the brain to retain
information as either long-term memories or short-term memories. John
Sweller indicated that experiences stored as long-term memories are
easier to recall, as they are ingrained deeper in the mind. Each of
these forms require information to be taught in a specific manner so
as to use various regions of the brain when being processed. This
information can potentially help develop programs for young students
to cultivate or further enhance their creative abilities from a young
age. The neocortex and thalamus are responsible for controlling the
brain's imagination, along with many of the brain's other functions
such as consciousness and abstract thought. Since imagination
involves many different brain functions, such as emotions, memory,
thoughts, etc., portions of the brain where multiple functions
occur—such as the thalamus and neocortex—are the main regions
where imaginative processing has been documented. The
understanding of how memory and imagination are linked in the brain,
paves the way to better understand one's ability to link significant
past experiences with their imagination.
Piaget posited that perceptions depend on the world view of a person.
The world view is the result of arranging perceptions into existing
imagery by imagination. Piaget cites the example of a child saying
that the moon is following her when she walks around the village at
night. Like this, perceptions are integrated into the world view to
Imagination is needed to make sense of perceptions.
Imagination is different from belief because the subject understands
that what is personally invented by the mind does not necessarily
affect the course of action taken in the apparently shared world,
while beliefs are part of what one holds as truths about both the
shared and personal worlds. The play of imagination, apart from the
obvious limitations (e.g. of avoiding explicit self-contradiction), is
conditioned only by the general trend of the mind at a given moment.
Belief, on the other hand, is immediately related to practical
activity: it is perfectly possible to imagine oneself a millionaire,
but unless one believes it one does not, therefore, act as such.
Belief endeavors to conform to the subject's experienced conditions or
faith in the possibility of those conditions; whereas imagination as
such is specifically free. The dividing line between imagination and
belief varies widely in different stages of technological development.
Thus in more extreme cases, someone from a primitive culture who ill
frames an ideal reconstruction of the causes of his illness, and
attributes it to the hostile magic of an enemy based on faith and
tradition rather than science. In ignorance of the science of
pathology the subject is satisfied with this explanation, and actually
believes in it, sometimes to the point of death, due to what is known
as the nocebo effect. It follows that the learned distinction between
imagination and belief depends in practice on religion, tradition, and
culture.[according to whom?]
A study using fMRI while subjects were asked to imagine precise visual
figures, to mentally disassemble them, or mentally blend them, showed
activity in the occipital, frontoparietal, posterior parietal,
precuneus, and dorsolateral prefrontal regions of the subject's
As a reality
The world as experienced is an interpretation of data arriving from
the senses; as such, it is perceived as real by contrast to most
thoughts and imaginings. Users of hallucinogenic drugs are said to
have a heightened imagination. This difference is only one of degree
and can be altered by several historic causes, namely changes to brain
chemistry, hypnosis or other altered states of consciousness,
meditation, many hallucinogenic drugs, and electricity applied
directly to specific parts of the brain. The difference between
imagined and perceived reality can be proven by psychosis. Many mental
illnesses can be attributed to this inability to distinguish between
the sensed and the internally created worlds. Some cultures and
traditions even view the apparently shared world as an illusion of the
mind as with the
Buddhist maya, or go to the opposite extreme and
accept the imagined and dreamed realms as of equal validity to the
apparently shared world as the
Australian Aborigines do with their
concept of dreamtime.
Imagination, because of having freedom from external limitations, can
often become a source of real pleasure and unnecessary suffering.
Consistent with this idea, imagining pleasurable and fearful events is
found to engage emotional circuits involved in emotional perception
and experience. A person of vivid imagination often suffers
acutely from the imagined perils besetting friends, relatives, or even
strangers such as celebrities. Also crippling fear can result from
taking an imagined painful future too seriously.
^ a b Norman 2000 pp. 1-2
Brian Sutton-Smith 1988, p. 22
Archibald MacLeish 1970, p. 887
^ Kieran Egan 1992, pp. 50
Northrop Frye 1963, p. 49
^ As noted by Giovanni Pascoli
^ Laurence Goldman (1998). Child's play: myth, mimesis and
make-believe. Oxford New York: Berg Publishers.
ISBN 1-85973-918-0. Basically what this means is that the
children use their make-believe situation and act as if what they are
acting out is from a reality that already exists even though they have
made it up.imagination comes after story created.
^ Cicero, De Oratore, Liber III: XLI: 163.
^ J.S. (trans. and ed.),
Cicero on Oratory and Orators, Harper &
Brothers, (New York), 1875: Book III, C.XLI, p.239.
^ The Man of Laws Tale, lines 550-553.
^ Viereck, George Sylvester (October 26, 1929). "What life means to
Einstein: an interview". The Saturday Evening Post.
^ Ward, T.B., Smith, S.M, & Vaid, J. (1997). Creative thought.
Washington DC: APA
^ Byrne, R.M.J. (2005). The Rational Imagination: How People Create
Alternatives to Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
^ Harris, P. (2000). The work of the imagination. London: Blackwell.
^ Tateo, L. (2015). Giambattista Vico and the psychological
imagination. Culture and Psychology, vol. 21(2):145-161.
^ 1905-1980., Sartre, Jean-Paul, (1995). The psychology of
imagination. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415119542.
^ Wilson, John G. (2016-12-01). "Sartre and the Imagination: Top Shelf
Magazines". Sexuality & Culture. 20 (4): 775–784.
doi:10.1007/s12119-016-9358-x. ISSN 1095-5143.
^ a b Long, Priscilla (2011). My Brain On My Mind. p. 27.
^ Leahy, Wayne; John Sweller (5 June 2007). "The
Increases with an Increased Intrinsic Cognitive Load". Applied
Cognitive Psychology. 22: 275. doi:10.1002/acp.1373.
^ "Welcome to Brain Health and Puzzles!". Retrieved 2011-03-05.
^ "Welcome to ScienceForums.Net!".
^ Piaget, J. (1967). The child's conception of the world. (J. & A.
Tomlinson, Trans.). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. BF721 .P5
^ Alexander Schlegel, Peter J. Kohler, Sergey V. Fogelson, Prescott
Alexander, Dedeepya Konuthula, and Peter Ulric Tse (Sep 16, 2013)
Network structure and dynamics of the mental workspace PNAS early
^ Costa, VD, Lang, PJ, Sabatinelli, D, Bradley MM, and Versace, F
(2010). "Emotional imagery: Assessing pleasure and arousal in the
brain's reward circuitry". Human Brain Mapping. 31 (9): 1446–1457.
doi:10.1002/hbm.20948. PMC 3620013 .
PMID 20127869. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
Byrne, R. M. J. (2005). The Rational Imagination: How People Create
Alternatives to Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Egan, Kieran (1992).
Imagination in Teaching and Learning. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Fabiani, Paolo "The Philosophy of the
Imagination in Vico and
Malebranche". F.U.P. (Florence UP), Italian edition 2002, English
Frye, N. (1963). The Educated Imagination. Toronto: Canadian
Norman, Ron (2000) Cultivating
Imagination in Adult Education
Proceedings of the 41st Annual Adult Education Research.
Salazar, Noel B. (2011). The power of imagination in transnational
mobilities. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power
Sutton-Smith, Brian. (1988). In Search of the Imagination. In K. Egan
and D. Nadaner (Eds.),
Imagination and Education. New York, Teachers
Wilson, J. G. (2016). Sartre and the Imagination: Top Shelf Magazines.
Sexuality & Culture, 20(4), 775-784.
Watkins, Mary: "Waking Dreams" [Harper Colophon Books, 1976] and
"Invisible Guests - The Development of Imaginal Dialogues" [The
Analytic Press, 1986]
Moss, Robert: "The Three "Only" Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams,
Coincidence, and Imagination" [New World Library, September 10, 2007]
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Imagination".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Three philosophers for whom imagination is a central concept are
John Sallis and Richard Kearney. See in particular:
Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the
Representational Arts. Harvard University Press, 1990.
ISBN 0-674-57603-9 (pbk.).
John Sallis, Force of Imagination: The Sense of the Elemental (2000)
John Sallis, Spacings-Of Reason and Imagination. In Texts of Kant,
Fichte, Hegel (1987)
Richard Kearney, The Wake of Imagination. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press (1988); 1st Paperback Edition-
Richard Kearney, "Poetics of Imagining: Modern to Post-modern."
Fordham University Press (1998)
Look up imagination in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: imagination
Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
Media related to
Imagination at Wikimedia Commons
Imagination on In Our Time at the BBC.
Imagination, Mental Imagery, Consciousness, and Cognition: Scientific,
Philosophical and Historical Approaches
Imagination Scale at the Open Directory Project
"The neuroscience of imagination". TED-Ed.
Perception as interpretation
Higher nervous activity