Boy and grandfather pretending to drive racecarsImagination is a capacity to form mental images, sensations, and representations without the use of the senses, and is commonly associated with creativity.

What is Imagination?
Imagination is often used colloquially to refer to the ability to think creatively by dreaming up novel scenarios, fantastical stories, and visual representations. Creative people such as artists and writers are often conceived of as having powerful, active imaginations. In psychology, imagination generally refers to the ability to mentally represent sensations that are not physically present. For example, when a person contemplates the smell and taste of a lemon without either seeing or tasting the fruit, her or she is engaging in imagination.

Imagination is an important part of human cognition, and the ability to imagine things that have not actually occurred may even be unique to humans. Young children often become very imaginative as part of their development, and this imaginative capacity can help them develop empathy, the ability to take on another’s perspective and the ability to anticipate consequences to their actions. Some therapists use play therapy with young children, taking advantage of their active imaginations to help them resolve conflicts and develop coping strategies.

Imagination’s Role in Mental Health
Imagination plays a number of important roles in mental health. The ability to contemplate things that are not actually happening can contribute to mental health problems such as anxiety and delusions. But imagination can also play a powerful role in healing. Some therapists encourage their clients to envision happy endings, positive outcomes, and peaceful locations to improve emotional and mental well-being. Imagination can play a role in focused meditation when, for example, a client is encouraged to envision a safe, comfortable space as a way to cope with fear or depression.

The imagination was of particular importance to psychologist Carl Jung, who emphasized the importance of dreams to the unconscious mind. Dreams are a form of imagination because they represent images, sounds, and smells that are not actually occurring.


  1. Imagination, mental imagery, consciousness and cognition. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-10-2015

  • Leave a Comment

    March 25th, 2022 at 10:38 PM

    This is excellent! I really noticed my imagination today in a way that surprised me. I’ve been having space from my partner which is allowing everything” to feel freer. And, I can see how these images could help me heal. Thank You!!!

  • Michael

    August 22nd, 2022 at 1:06 PM

    I used a term for the process of cushioning a mental blow with imagination and used it also for muscle soreness. I have forgotten it
    and would like to know if anyone remembers it is a seldom used word similar so synthetic or symbiotic or intrinsic. It is a process of imagination that can have an effect with no physical cause. Can you send me an email if you know?

  • Michael

    August 22nd, 2022 at 1:31 PM

    Thank you, the term was systemic.

  • Blessing

    January 2nd, 2023 at 2:01 PM

    Ok. I wish I could talk to someone about this.This relieving I have been having imaginations from childhood and I’m 25 I really want to stop or make good use of it because it’s destroying my relationships with people I need help

  • Temilade

    August 16th, 2023 at 1:42 PM

    You need to be intentional and conscious about your imagination else it becomes a destructive tool, you can always turn things around by taking control of the thoughts and feelings you allow into your mind

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