Imagination and Testimony in Cognitive Development: The Cautious Disciple?

Paul L. Harris, Melissa Koenig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Imagination is often associated with the capacity to contemplate non-existent possibilities; however imaginative faculty is also used when thinking about several non-observable but real events that are learned through testimony rather than direct observation. This chapter discusses the relation ship between imagination and testimony in the cognitive development of children. Testimony is the manner with which adults impart information to the younger members of the society. Through testimony, children gain insight into events that they are not able to observe firsthand. And just as children process a fictional narrative through imagination, they also rely on imagination to make sense of real events that they have not witnessed for themselves. To test the interweaving relationship of testimony and imagination, an experimental study testing the credulity of children on matters they cannot verify themselves was conducted. Evidence has shown that even preschool children do not readily believe what they are told and often measure this information with concepts and constructs they have devised for themselves. They are also cautious in their trust, wherein they often seek out and endorse information from reliable informants. They are also capable of showing differentiation among different types of non-observable entities. They exhibit more credence in invisible scientific entities and less credence in non-scientific entities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationImaginative Minds
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191734540
ISBN (Print)9780197264195
StatePublished - Jan 31 2012


  • Children
  • Cognitive development
  • Credulity
  • Direct observation
  • Imagination
  • Testimony
  • Trust


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