Creative Personality: A Result of Imaginary Companionship

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ABSTRACT

Understanding the imagination and creativity of the minds of children is often very puzzling for adults however what is more puzzling is the fact that these imaginary thoughts of a child have a strong influence on his personality a an adult. Along with many other aspects, pretend-play and make-believe friends are frequently common in the life of a child. Researches in the past have proved relationship between the imagination of a child and the development of creative aspects in their personality as an adult. Therefore, it is suggested that people who had imaginary companions during childhood display more creative personality characteristics in adulthood relative to those who did not have imaginary companions. To understand this phenomenon the paper discusses the imaginary companionship in terms of Gough and openness with the big five personality traits and their interconnectedness. Creativity matches the imaginary complexion that understands the difficult relationship of identity, which involves openness to the other, without the danger of dissolution.

 

 

Creative Personality: A Result of Imaginary Companionship

1. Introduction

It was only in last century that the research on the imaginary companionship begun. In the beginning, this imaginary companionship was believed to be a sign of mental illness, however, in 1940s the researchers started to show a new sense of interest in this topic within the psychodynamic tradition. The idea of imaginary companionship is discussed as the superego, the ego and the id concepts in psychoanalytic. Moreover, imaginary companionships were even conceived as the manifestation of various defence mechanisms. However, children with imaginary companions were reported to have personality defects according to these psychoanalytic studies (Runco, 2007). It was only in 1999 that M. Taylor pointed out many certain problems with these studies. Along with other issues, the researcher selected his subjects from different hospitals and clinics where there were people who were suffering from psychological and emotional problems. Hence, it was proved that these children were not mentally ill neither showed any traits of personality defects. Some researchers like Myers (1979) and Singer & Singer (1992) even proposed that the children with imaginary companions are likely to be more gifted, or in simpler words, more creative. The six case studies presented by Myers showed that children with imaginary companionships were likely to have more creative capacity.

Children with imaginary friends discover opportunities, explore and use their insights in the most creative ways possible which impacts their creative sense in their adulthood. According to the research by Gleason (2003), a trial of 102 college women completed a set of imagination and personality process and informed whether they had ever had imaginary companions during childhood. Participants who reported to have imaginary companions scored higher than did those who did not on measures of imagination. Moreover, the study by Hoff (2005) investigated four aspects: First, a relationship between imaginary companions and creative potential; second, children with harmful self-images is more likely to have imaginary companions; third, there are gender dissimilarities among those children who have imaginary companions; and, finally, aspects of imaginary companions and what characteristics of those who invent them are related to creativity. As per the research, the children with imaginary companions were reported to be more creative. The self-image dissimilarities were highest on the subscales measuring psychological well-being and peer dealings. It was more common for girls to have imaginary friends. Another research by Hoff in the same year 2005, studies the forms and functions of imaginary companions. Through the research it was observed that the imaginary companions are mostly same-aged children, but some are different kinds of animal or fantasy creatures.

There are various ways to define creativity, however according to Hoff & Carlsson (2002) it is a productive way of experiencing reality along with the own self of the perceiver. Through this definition it can be emphasized that every individual has a different way of experiencing reality. Therefore it is suggested that people who had imaginary companions during childhood display more creative personality characteristics in adulthood relative to those who did not have imaginary companions.

Openness to experience is related to creativity. They are people who like to think and use your mind, solve puzzles or problems, find solutions and, in general, are attracted to intellectual activity. Those who score high are more likely to be studied and examine themselves, have a fluid style of thinking that allows them to make new associations between ideas in principle unconnected, so they tend to be more creative than other people. Openness to experience is the main predictor of divergent thinking (which is the mode of thinking related to creativity), creativity showing people in their daily lives and creative achievement (Hoff, 2011). This personality dimension describes open-mindedness, originality, creativity, imagination and intellectual curiosity of a person. People who score high on this dimension are people with open minds and flexible, with unconventional ideas and lots of different and varied interests, who are interested in their own world both inside and outside (Taylor, 2001).

2. Method

Conducting a research on human psychology can be very interesting as well as challenging. The main design adopted to conduct this research was survey method. The data was collected through the questionnaire and later interpreted through SPSS. The independent variables include age, IC2 (Do you have any brothers or sisters?), IC3s (How many sisters), IC3b (How many brothers), IC4 (What is your birth order), IC6 (How old were you when you met your pretend playmate/s the first time), IC7 (How old were you when it disappeared?), IC10 (How many pretend playmates did you have), GOUGH (Gough creativity score) and  OPEN (openness score from ‘Big 5 personality traits which apart from openness include Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism). In psychology, the Big Five model is a model of personality that it analyzes the composition of five broad factors or dimensions of personality. These factors were found experimentally in research on personality descriptions that some other people did. The levels were two: one those who had imaginary friends and second those who did not have imaginary friends.

The age of the respondent is an important aspect in this research along with the variable IC5 (Did your brothers or sisters have pretend playmates). The range of the age of respondents is 35 and the mode is 18. Respondents were selected randomly. The materials used for the research is the questionnaire for survey (see Appendix I), literature for the literature review and SPSS for data analysis.

The survey was emailed to the participants as well as handed over. The respondents were given liberty to participate in the survey on voluntary basis. Description was provided to complete the survey (see Appendix I). After gathering the data it was added into SPSS and then analysed using SPSS software.

3. Result

It was analysed from the data that there is a strong relationship between whether the respondent had an imaginary companion to their creativity and openness level. Those who have had imaginary friends as children had higher rate of creativity and openness. This proved the relationship between the three aspects of the study (see Appendix II d). It is the dimension that caused confusion and disagreements over the five-factor model, but their constituents are active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attention to internal experiences, and love of variety, intellectual curiosity and independence of judgment. The individual open is original and imaginative, curious by the external and internal environment, with experience richer lives and interested in new ideas and unconventional values. At the opposite pole the individual tends to be conventional in behaviour and appearance, prefer the familiar to the novel and are socially and politically conservative. It is opposed to the closure to the experience. The traits of openness are: sociability, assertiveness, aesthetics, feelings, activity, and excitement seeking, positive emotion (Schellekens & Goldie, 2011).

4. Discussion

Imaginary friends can be of different types, such as people or objects, stuffed animals, monkeys or invented characters. And it is with them that the child has a place to chat, play and fight. In general, it is assumed that imaginary friends are a positive function for children at times when they are not able to express their feelings. There are even times when their own negative feelings are attributed to them. For example, to avoid a challenge or punishment when the child does something wrong fault. Imaginary friends also arise in response to the idealizations and positive ideas. Alongside these characters have room to satisfy their wishes and desires; in general, in these instances can meet some needs that are not in their usual environment (Seiffge-Krenke, 2006).

The overall aim of the study was to determine that whether imaginary companionship in childhood has an effect on the creativity as an adult, in simpler words, whether or not there was a correlation between variable IC1 (imaginary companion in childhood) and GOUGH. As per the analysed data the hypothesis was accepted as there was a significant relationship showed between the two variables. According to the t-test conducted (Appendix II d), it was indicated that imaginary companionship in childhood and creativity and openness later in life are interlinked. A significant relationship between having an imaginary friend to the creativity level and openness in adulthood indicated that there is a relationship between the two variables. The creative act is thus a mental journey that pushes the idea of wiggle in places of critical analysis, in which concepts and definitions as migration, ethnicity, neo-colonial, multicultural and their mutual overlap, become aesthetically endpoints (Daniels & Piechowski, 2009). The materialization of the idea in the event incorporates visual creolized forms of visibility that beyond national borders to create social awareness and new possibilities for collective action. In this context of relationship and openness to other creativity moves so philosophy, without centre or periphery, opens to the rapport with the other, keeping the difference (Raphael-Leff, 2009). Thus, creativity could match the imaginary complexion would understand the difficult relationship of identity, an identity that involves an openness to the other, without the danger of dissolution (see Appendix II c).

Gleason (2003) and Hoff (2005), it is suggested by this study that the occurrence of imaginary friend impacts the creativity of a child in adulthood. The significant positive correlation shows that the children with imaginary companions are likely to be very creative and open to new opportunities as adults. It can be hypothesized that imaginary friends were used to enhance the creative skills in children however; more research is required in these terms.  Moreover, 34.74 respondents had imaginary friends as compared to the 65.3 who did not.

However, due to the limited amount of data, it will be beneficial if more research was conducted regarding this topic with more people. Instead of surveys, interviews will work more effectively in this research as they will bring more information about the indicating possibilities of why children choose to indulge in imaginary companionship. Additionally this study assessed the correlation between the imaginary play in childhood and creativity in adulthood. A study with different age groups will allow the assessment of short term impact and understanding of the creativity. It is impossible that even a more significant relationship can be found between the two variables  (Bonne, Canetti, Bachar, De-Nour & Shalev, 1999).

 

 

 

References

Bonne, O., Canetti, L., Bachar, E., De-Nour, A.K. and Shalev, A. (1999), Childhood Imaginary Companionship and Mental Health in Adolescence, Child Psychiatry and Human Development, Vol. 29 (4), pp. 277-286

Daniels, S. and Piechowski, M.M. (2009), Living with Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults, Arizona: Great Potential Press, p. 121-166

Hoff, E. (2011), Imaginary Companions, Creativity, and Self-Image in Middle Childhood, Creativity Research Journal, Vol. 17(2-3), pp. 167-180

Hoff, E. (2005). Imaginary Companions, Creativity, and Self-Image in Middle Childhood.Creativity Research Journal, 17(2&3), 167-180

Hoff, E. (2005). A friend living inside me: The forms and functions of imaginary companions. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 24 (2), 151-189.

Harter, S., & Chao, C. (1992). The role of competence in children’s creation of imaginary friends. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 38, 350–363.

Gleason, T., Jarudi, R., Cheek, J. (2003). Imagination, personality, and imaginary companions.Social Behavior and Personality, 31, 721 – 737.

Myers, W. A. (1979) Imaginary companions in childhood and adult creativity. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 48, 292–307.

Runco, M. A. (2007), Creativity: Theories and Themes : Research, Development, and Practice, Waltham: Academic Press, pp. 141-166

Raphael-Leff, J. (2009), The “Dreamer” by Daylight: Imaginative Play, Creativity, and Generative Identity, Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Vol. 64, pp. 14-53

Singer, D. G., & Singer, J. L. (1992). The house of make-believe: Children’s play and the developing imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2006), Close friendship and imaginary companions in adolescence, New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, Vol. 1993 (60), pp. 73-87

Schellekens, E. and Goldie, P. (2011), The Aesthetic Mind: Philosophy and Psychology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 111-187

Taylor, M., & Carlson, S. M. (1997). The relation between individual differences in fantasy and theory of mind. Child Development, 68, 436–455.

Taylor, M. (2001), Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 49-70

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