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Our perception of imagination

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Imagination is an essential part of what makes us human. It is part of the package that gave us the intelligence that set us apart from other animals. It means that we can do more than just react to our immediate environment, we can think about different possibilities and plan for their occurrence [1]. Yet, now we have somehow separated imagination from intelligence. What is the reaction to the person who speaks up with a wildly different suggestion?

We all start life fully engaged with imagination and then we gradually lose it. We learn to confirm rather than do things in a different way. For an excellent speech that addresses this issue, I highly recommend watching this TED Talk [2] (which is, or at least was, the most watched TED talk).

If we all have the innate ability to have an imagination, then really there is no sense in anyone saying that they are not creative. By logic, they must have the potential, having come from a strong lineage of people whose creativity has allowed them to survive. And if this ability is indeed innate, then it is there waiting for us to tap into it.

Which is what we do as children - we have stories read to us, we engage in role play, we make up games…and our days are filled with one imaginative activity after the next.

Does it end there? I can’t help but notice since dipping into the art world in the last couple of years that there seems to be a resurgence in creativity among women who have older children. Is this because they have recently retouched these childhood activities? Filled days by reading stories, engaging in role play, making up games? Does parenting reignite the imagination and creativity centres that we all have (if we let it), meaning that parents will soon need another outlet for it?

At no time was this truer than during lockdown…and we all noticed the boom in creativity. Was it just a time-filler? Or a result of us having to look inwards to find ways to keep everyone going, therefore opening up those gates to our imaginations again?

I think we all have the potential to imagine and be creative - most likely just in different ways - and I think that we should recognise this, and respect it. Nobody ever made any progress by just doing things in the same way.

  1. Dutton D. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2009.

  2. Robinson K. Do Schools Kill Creativity? Presented at: TED2006 The Future We Will Create, 22-25 February 2006, Monterey, CA.

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