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date: 30 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Imagination refers to the capacity to mentally transcend time, place, and/or circumstance to think about what might have been, plan and anticipate the future, create fictional worlds, and consider remote and close alternatives to actual experiences. This multifaceted capacity emerges early in life and develops substantially during the preschool years. The first section of this chapter reviews the development of social imagination in pretend play, narrative, and mental time travel, suggesting that the simulation of imagined social scenarios involving self and/or others in all three domains contributes to the development of real-world social understanding. The final sections of the chapter discuss the relation between imagination and creativity, compare imagination in typically developing children and children on the autism spectrum, and suggest directions for future research.

Keywords: pretend play, simulation, imaginary companions, fantasy–reality distinction, narrative, mental time travel, counterfactual reasoning, creativity, divergent thinking, autism

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