Imaginary friends, real benefits

Credit: Marina Adinolfi
Credit: Marina Adinolfi

Children with imaginary friends are better at learning to communicate than those who do not have one, according to psychologist Dr Evan Kidd at La Trobe University in Melbourne.

In a study of 44 children, Evan and his colleague Anna Roby showed that the 22 children who had imaginary friends were able to get their points across more effectively when talking.

“Children with imaginary friends have a lot of practice at inventing interactions with them,” says Evan. “We think that this facilitates development of conversational skills—being in charge of both sides of the conversation.”

The researchers have also discovered that adults who had an imaginary friend as a child scored higher on tests of creativity, were more focused on achievement, and were more likely to be absorbed in challenging activities.

The phenomenon of the imaginary friend is misunderstood, according to Evan. They are, in fact, common and associated with positive outcomes.

Kidd also conducts research on languages and language learning. His current projects include studying how children learn various aspects of grammar, and the use and functions of Australian slang.

For more information: School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Evan Kidd, Tel: +61 (3) 9479 2420, e.kidd@latrobe.edu.au

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