Imaginary Friends Forever


Friday, April 26, 2013

Lots of kids have imaginary friends. (A young Kurt Andersen had a gaggle including Robbie Dobbie, Crackerpin, Jimmy the Cat, a poodle called Genevieve — which he pronounced in the French manner.) Marjorie Taylor, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, has been looking at imaginary friends and the children who have them. “They tend to be more social, less shy, and do better on tasks which require you to take the perspective of another person in real life. We have found that they are more creative on some kinds of tasks. Other people have found that their narratives are richer.”

Taylor is exploring the idea that these children are more creative — in particular, the kids who build a paracosm, a country or place for their friends “where children think about all kinds of things like entertainment, the food, the clothes, the transportation, the money.”

Maxine, who is eight years old, walks us through her paracosm and the friends in it. Some are a little creepy, like Devil Man and Betchaboo, who takes the shape of a gun, but they’re not frightening to her. “They’re not the kind of people who will go and kill people. They’re not like gangsters, they’re just tricksters.” Besides, Maxine says, if imaginary friends caused trouble, “then they would be deleted. Because then you don’t exist. Sometimes when I forget about them they die, but they’re not deleted.” When you imagine the world, you get to set the rules.

Original music for this story was composed by Jason Cady.

(Originally aired: November 23, 2012)

→ Read more about the research conducted by Marjorie Taylor, Jacob Levernier, and Candice Mottweiler at the University of Oregon


Maxine’s three first imaginary friendsMaxine’s three first imaginary friends

Comments [6]

Everett from Nashville, TN

Maxine is my youngest little sister, listening to this was such a magical experience for me. Being 25 years older then her I haven't gotten to enjoy getting to know her as much as I would like. I will share something that you all may enjoy. It's something that's made me hope to have children one day if not just being a better big brother to her. My first time playing dolls with her she was only six and had never met me. I had just moved back east after living out west for six years. So we're getting to know one another and she's slowly inviting me into her world. As she's telling me about her dolls she explains how one is sick. I asked her how can we make her better?? Maxine gave me this incredulous look and stated "With the Moon Magic Duh!". Reading this it doesn't seem to comprise what was shared. That moment will stick with me the rest of my life~ I mean we all need to be remember to use Moon magic... Duh ;)

Apr. 29 2014 03:50 PM
Coraima Nunez from Columbus, OH

i have an imaginary friend at 17 years old! i know it's crazy but it makes me happy. his name is Dionysus Terpsichore Erato Mirth. i named him after a greek god in ancient geek mythology. he is there for me to talk to and to share my secrets with. i have other friends that are real but he is the only one who i can make real life decisions with. i am an awesome person to be around. my friends always ask me "how are you always happy in the mornings?" or "why are you so happy all the time?". I tell them that my "imaginations" take me to happy places and i just go from there!

Sep. 11 2013 04:03 PM
Colleen L from Seattle

I want to hang out with Maxine! Entrepreneurs: Heads up! get stock options on this child. Wait. I so take that back...Nothing commercial should taint this little treasure.

May. 04 2013 08:05 PM
mary artley werner from egg harbor townhip, new jersey

last weekend 04/27 - 28
i listened to "imaginary friends forever" at Maxine's interview
I find this study to display a GREAT sense of respect for those some how by design are lighting the way with their own world.
I am dyslexic and find a way to read, write poetry and have imaginary friends that are based on a tiny bit of reality and groomed to be citizens of my own world.
Soon i will be on UTube under my name reading a poem: Baseball: Our Ultimate Cancer Survivor".
Please add my email address your studay that is so very vital to our survival and understanding of differences.
Thank you!
mary artley werner

Apr. 30 2013 01:00 PM
ktlman from Nassau county, NY

Fantastic story and super compelling narrative by Maxine. unfortunately the music and sound effects over dubbed not only got in the way when I first listened to it in the car but after getting home and attempting to share this with friends, they too complained that it was some of the most annoying and distracting sounds we've ever encountered on Studio 360. great story but made hard to hear. Sound mixing and music can truly enhance an audio story as long as it does not contradict the conveyance of that story. Would love to hear it again sometime without the cacophony.

Apr. 29 2013 11:32 PM
Betty Bender from Santa Clarita, CA

My daughter had at least 3 imaginary friends starting at just before 2, and who left when she was around 5. She knew things about them that no one could have told her. It was all very interesting, and I was sad to see them go.
Now she is very social, has been a community queen, teen contestant in the Miss California pageant, Social Development Chair of her Sorority, etc. She is a very successful, outgoing young lady, with great social skills - none of these things were my idea - she went for what she wanted. It's interesting to think that she may have become what she is because of her relationship with her imaginary friends. :)

Apr. 29 2013 02:30 PM

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