Definition of Imagination


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For other uses, see Imagination (disambiguation).

Olin Levi Warner, Imagination (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

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Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination is the work of the mind that helps create fantasy. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world,[1][2][3] and it also plays a key role in the learning process.[1][4] A basic training for imagination is the listening to storytelling (narrative),[1][5] in which the exactness of the chosen words is the fundamental factor to ‘evoke worlds.’[6]

Imagination is the faculty through which we encounter everything. The things that we touch, see and hear coalesce into a “picture” via our imagination.

It is accepted as the innate ability and process of inventing partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world.[citation needed] The term is technically used in psychology for the process of reviving in the mind, percepts 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. Imagined images are seen with the “mind’s eye.”

Imagination can also be expressed through stories such as fairy tales or fantasies. Most famous inventions or entertainment products were created from the inspiration of someone’s imagination.

One hypothesis for the evolution of human imagination is that it allowed conscious beings to solve problems (and hence increase an individual’s survival fitness) by use of mental simulation.

Children often use narratives or pretend play in order to exercise their imagination. When children create fantasy they play at two levels: first, they use role playing to act out what they have created with their imagination, and at the second level they play again with their make-believe situation by acting as if what they have created is an actual reality that already exists in narrative myth.[7]

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