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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.

“A lot of children take an object and they give it a personality, they give it a character, they talk to it, they listen to what it has to say,” Taylor says.

“And I wouldn’t want to say those kids aren’t interacting with an imaginary friend.” (But, she adds, the object’s character has to be fixed — if a child gives a single teddy bear multiple personalities depending on the situation, it doesn’t qualify as an imaginary friend.) Meanwhile, a small 2000 study of 78 preschoolers found evidence for key differences between the two types: Children with invisible friends were more likely to treat them as they would real friends, while kids who personified real objects tended to take on more of a nurturer role.

It shows that a child is curious and is ready to imitate sounds and actions of the adults around him,” a skill which can later morph into the development of an entirely new persona.

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“If you read the autobiography of Agatha Christie — she wrote this autobiography at age 70 and she still had them.Over the past several decades, as Science Friday also recently documented in a series of episodes on the subject, researchers have established imaginary friendship as perhaps psychology’s most delightful area of study.And perhaps more importantly, they’ve discovered that having an imaginary companion isn’t abnormal or unusual – and living in an imaginary world might even help kids develop valuable skills for the real one.Animals can be magical (like Dipper, “an invisible flying dolphin who lives on a star”), and people can be much younger, much older (like Nobby, “ an invisible 160-year-old businessman who talks to the child in between trips to Portland and Seattle”), or peers with unusual traits (for example, Taylor wrote, “Baintor is a tiny completely white person who lives in the light of lamps, Jerry lives in a secret vault, the Skateboard Guy lives in a boy’s And, sometimes, imaginary friends can be made-up extensions of real people.One girl she studied, Taylor recalls, had an imaginary playmate she named Fake Rachel, after a friend of hers.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.As a recent Science Friday article noted, they were once considered a sign of something unhealthy, or even sinister: Historically, many researchers and parents thought that imaginary companions were harmful or evil, and were a sign of a social deficit, demonic possession, or mental illness.For instance, at the University of Alabama’s Knowledge in Development ( The stigma, as the anecdote about Gilpin illustrates, is still alive and well, but it’s fading. 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.

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