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Once the imaginary friend of Riley, the girl whose mind plays host to all the movie’s action, he spends his days deep in the recesses of her memory, mostly forgotten but willfully believing that she’ll call him up again oneday. ) eventually disappears completely, in the most heart-wrenching death Pixar could have possibly dreamed up.Until relatively recently, though, the loss of an imaginary friend wouldn’t be considered something worth mourning.Taylor, who has developed a taxonomy of imaginary friends based on descriptions she’s collected over the years, wrote in a 2003 paper that while fully made-up companions are occasionally superheroes or ghosts, most often they take the form of animals or people.Within those categories, though, there’s a pretty wide variety.She liked them better than the characters in her novels,” Taylor says.“I’m not worried by imaginary friends whenever they happen.” Or however they happen.

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The strictest definition of an imaginary friend is a completely made-up, invisible being, but some researchers also include anthropomorphized objects, like a stuffed animal with its own distinct personality.Past research in India and New Guinea, meanwhile, has noted that the concept of imaginary friends doesn’t seem to exist.And, anecdotally, a former student of Taylor’s who lived in Istanbul, she says, once mentioned that in her experience, imaginary friends were rare in Turkey — or perhaps, she hypothesised, kids just weren’t as open about having them.“In a lot of ways they’re really similar, but when we do find differences, they tend to show an advantage for kids who have imaginary friends,” says University of Oregon psychologist Marjorie Taylor, the author of .“They’re sociable kids, they’re less shy than other children.Recall the 65-percent figure — that’s American kids.By contrast, in a British study of 1,800 kids between the ages of 5 and 12, only 46 percent said they’d ever had an imaginary friend.There are some studies that show they have enhanced social understanding — they’re better able to take the perspective of someone else in real life.” (It bears noting that these links are correlations, not causations — scientists don’t know if kids who already have these traits are then more likely to create imaginary friends, or if the act of having an imaginary friend in turn spurs the development of certain skills.) And while it’s rare, even healthy adults can have imaginary friends, either creating new ones as they age or maintaining characters they made up earlier in life.“If you read the autobiography of Agatha Christie — she wrote this autobiography at age 70 and she still had them.“Because so few sources are available, early conceptions regarding pretend companions are sketchy.” And it’s difficult to determine which of those early conceptions can be translated into modern terms — in earlier periods, children’s (and adults’) imaginary friends may have been described as spiritual or supernatural entities, like demons or guardian angels.Today, cultural factors may influence how and how many kids bond with imaginary figures.


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