Fantasy Proneness and Theory of Mind in Adulthood

Topics: Developmental psychology, Statistical significance, Mind Pages: 8 (2302 words) Published: April 16, 2015

Fantasy Proneness and Theory of Mind in Adulthood: The Role of Childhood Imaginary Companions

Name: Jolene Alexa Cox

Student ID: u4892321

Tutor’s Name: Amit Poonath

Laboratory Time: Tuesday 1200 – 1500


The role of childhood imaginary companions in relation to fantasy proneness and theory of mind (ToM) in adulthood was examined in a study of 142 second-year psychology students. The participants were assessed of their fantasy proneness, theory of mind, and their imaginary companion (IC) status with a computer-based task, the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Hill, Raste & Plumb, 2001), a self-report questionnaire, Creative Experiences Questionnaire (CEQ; Merckelbach, Horselenberg & Muris, 2001) and a survey identifying IC status. The independent variable in this study is the participants IC status, and the dependent variables are the measures of both fantasy proneness and ToM. The aim of the study is to investigate if individual differences (IC status) in behavioural characteristics in childhood extend to adulthood. It is hypothesized that (1) adults who had a childhood IC would score higher on an advanced measure of ToM than adults who did not have one and (2) Adults who had a childhood IC would score higher on a measure of fantasy proneness than adults who did not have one. The IC group scored higher on average than the NIC group on the fantasy proneness, but that the opposite was the case for ToM. However, no significant difference was found between the IC groups and non-IC (NIC) group for ToM. The research supports the idea that there may be a continuance of developmental differences to adulthood.

Fantasy Proneness and Theory of Mind in Adulthood: The Role of Imaginary Companions

Substantial amount of research conducted on children with imaginary companions (ICs) has suggested that there are developmental differences in IQ, theory of mind (ToM), fantasy proneness, creativity amongst many others, to children without imaginary companions (NICs). However, there has been insufficient research into whether these found differences are extended into adulthood. It is essential for more research to be devoted in this research to develop a better understanding of the influences of childhood experiences on cognitive and affective aspects in adulthood. As defined by Svendsen (1934), an imaginary companion is: “an invisible character, named and referred to in conversation with other persons or played with directly for a period of time, at least several months, having an air of reality for the child but no apparent objective basis” (p. 988). Present research has shown that children who have ICs are developmentally different in many aspects including IQ, ToM, fantasy proneness and narrative skills (Bouldin, 2006; Bouldin & Pratt, 2001; Taylor, 1999). For instance, having an IC gave children boundless opportunities for engaging in dialogic self-talk, facilitating higher internalized speech level (David, Meins & Fernyhough, 2013). It has also been suggested that children with ICs have higher IQs, but this has been inconsistently replicated (Taylor, 1999).

Children with and without ICs also show differences in fantasy proneness and ToM. Research suggests that because children’s imagination of their IC was not just limited to their appearance, but extends to their behaviour and their interactions verbally and physically, these children, therefore, engage in higher levels of fantasy play through their interactions with their IC. From a cognitive perspective, fantasy play evolved from the same mental processes as daydreaming and dreaming (Piaget, 1962). Children use fantasy play to understand and interpret their world. Studies found that children with ICs may have increased predisposition to fantasy (Bouldin & Pratt, 2001) and that children with ICs engage more often and more readily in fantasy play (Bouldin, 2006). Thus, one could conclude that...

References: Bouldin, P. & Pratt, C. (2002). The ability of children with imaginary companions to differentiate between fantasy and reality. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29, pp. 99-114.
Dunn, J. & Brown, J. (1994). Affect expression in the family, children’s understanding of emotions and their interactions with others. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, pp. 120-137.
Gimenez-Dasi, M., Pons, F
Harter, S. & Chao, C. (1992). The role of competence in children’s creation of imaginary friends. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 38(3), pp. 350-363.
Merckelbach, H., Horselenberg, R
Svendsen, M. (1934). Children’s imaginary companions. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 2, pp. 985-999.
Taylor, M
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