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Chapter 29

Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness

Michele Root-Bernstein

Abstract Creative potential in childhood, of a kind bearing fruit in maturity, reveals itself in imaginative play, the most complex of which is the invention of imaginary worlds (paracosms). Worldplay often includes the generation of stories, drawings, etc., that provide evidence of little c creative behavior. Historical examples (e.g., the Bront es) suggest that productive worldplay may thus serve as a learning laboratory for adult achievement. Early research explored ties between worldplay and later artistic endeavor. Recent study of gifted adults nds strong links, too, between worldplay and mature creative accomplishment in the sciences and social sciences. As many as 1 in 30 children may invent worlds in solitary, secret play that is hidden from ready view. Worldplay nevertheless gured tangentially in early studies of intellectual precocity. Improved understanding of the phenomenon, its nature and its potential for nurture, should bring childhood worldplay to the foreground as an indicator of creative giftedness. Keywords Imaginative play Imaginary worlds Paracosm Worldplay pedagogy Productive creativity Creative process Creative behavior Creative giftedness

Intellectual giftedness and precocious talent appear on the horizon of childhood with the insistence of
M. Root-Bernstein (B) Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA e-mail:

a shining moon or planet. People notice and admire the child who can best most adults at chess or mathematics or perform a violin solo with the local orchestra. Gifted programs in the schools or private tutelage can do much to promote them both. Creative giftedness in childhood, a rather different category of precociousness involving originality and inventiveness (Getzels & Jackson, 1962, pp. 37; Milgram, 1990, p. 217), proves a more elusive, shooting star. Efforts to identify and nurture children with the potential for productive innovation and invention in adulthood have largely met with disappointment (Terman et al., 1925/1954; Terman and Oden, 1959; Subotnik, Kassan, Summers, & Wasser, 1993). Two unusual approaches to creative giftedness in childhood combined here may, however, re-inform its detection and nurture in the young. The rst approach is to focus on complex imaginative play in this case the invention of imaginary worlds or paracosms as a potential indicator of creative behavior in general. One way to identify nascent creative talent in children, it has been suggested, is to examine their free-choice leisure activities outside the classroom (Milgram, 1990, pp. 217, 228229). The second approach is to trace the incidence of this worldplay in creative adults in order to determine the strength of its association with mature giftedness. Though such a retrospective study does not establish causality, it may identify likely play behaviors for prospective and longitudinal study. Together the two approaches suggest that worldplay is an early sign in childhood of the same creative behaviors that characterize innovative adults at work in many elds of endeavor indeed, the invention of imaginary worlds may in many instances prepare experientially for mature creative achievement.

L.V. Shavinina (ed.), International Handbook on Giftedness, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-6162-2 29, c Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009



M. Root-Bernstein

Giftedness in Play
Interest in the play practice of gifted children dates back to at least the early decades of the 20th century. Initially a means of typifying the sociability of children with precocious intellect or talent (Terman et al., 1925/1954, pp. 385, 437439), such interest has more recently turned to characteristics of the play itself as educators and researchers realized that the gifted are gifted, not just during classroom hours but all the time (Subotnik et al., 1993, p. 98). Milgram (1990) found that many gifted children freely devoted extracurricular time to activities that satised their curiosity and developed their interests (p. 222). In at least three subsequent studies, the observation was corroborated: gifted children read voraciously; they practiced skills related to particular talents; they spent time drawing or dancing or making music, they played intricate board games and solved challenging puzzles and they played imaginatively (Subotnik et al., 1993, p. 38; Klein, 1992, p. 248; Gross, 2004, pp. 130133). Gross found pretend or fantasy play a favorite pastime among the highly gifted children she studied, as did others. By and large, that fantasy play was more elaborate than the pretend play of non-gifted age-mates, involving intricate rules, extensive plots and complex roles that unfolded over time (Kearney, 2000). Morelock (1997) argued that such fantasy play typically featured complex clusters of diverse concepts and facts joined logically with ights of fancy into internally consistent conceptual structures (p. 2). Generally speaking, in their imaginative play gifted children make original patchworks of personal meaning out of their limited experience and precocious knowledge. One way they do so is to invent imaginary worlds of their own design.

Worldplay may be dened as the repeated evocation of an imagined place (often, but not always) inhabited by imagined people or beings. When such activity manifests, it does so within a normal developmental pattern of make-believe play. The ability to pretend rst emerges in the human 2 year-old and blossoms within the next three years. As the childs capacity for pretense grows, he explores a variety of imaginative behaviors. Make-believe begins with the simple substitu-

tion of one object for another, the animation of inanimate things and, often, the invention of imaginary companions. It rapidly evolves into the more complex playacting of social roles or characters, the re-enacting of stories heard or read in books and, at times, the inventing of serial bed stories shared before sleep (Cohen & MacKeith, 1991, pp. 107111). For the most part, all these behaviors prove common in early childhood (36 years). In middle childhood (712 years), however, the simpler imaginative behaviors begin to drop out and more complex and inventive forms of make-believe emerge. In general, a concomitant shift also occurs in these years from the solitary or side-by-side play of toddlers to the group play of elementary school children, as when siblings or neighborhood friends pretend to inhabit together a desert island or devise narratives for secret societies. Solitary make-believe does not disappear in middle childhood, however. At about the time that reading becomes silent, solitary pretend play appears to internalize in secret daydreams and related self-told stories or written narratives (Singer & Singer, 1990, pp. 32, 41, 72, passim; Cohen & MacKeith, 1991, p. 111). At this point, typically in middle childhood and in the context of private solitary play or play shared with only a few others the invention of imaginary worlds may take place. Sometimes this worldplay grows out of earlier imaginative pretense with animated toys or imaginary companions; sometimes it builds upon new imaginative inspiration. Usually it peters out around puberty; sometimes it lasts into the late teens or early twenties; in a very few cases it persists through adulthood. Worldplay distinguishes itself as a complex and elaborate form of make-believe in several ways. Most childhood play is ephemeral. Children may play at dolls or trucks, blocks or dress-up, but the scenarios that capture their imagination for an hour or a day invariably dissolve like gossamer when playtime ends. Worldplay, in contrast, is more persistent; for weeks, months or even years, the child revisits over and again the same make-believe scenario. The imagined place takes on a consistency of aspect, whether it is described in ongoing narrative or proliferative system-building. At the same time, the imaginary world tends to evolve, as the child embellishes the adventures of particular persons or elaborates the analogue language, geography, history or a simulated sports league of a particular world. Despite the childs concerted efforts to make the parallel seem real, however, worldplay in no way


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness


replicates the fantasies of psychotic individuals unable to distinguish between imagination and reality (Cohen & MacKeith, 1991, p. 14; Silvey & MacKeith, 1988, pp. 173174). Worldplay is rst and foremost play. Indeed, at its most complex, it is creative play. For the child who documents or structures the invention of place with maps, drawings, statistical lists, written histories, stories or any number of other constructive artifacts, exercises creative behavior.

Worldplay as Creative Play

Creative behavior, at its most fundamental, involves the generation and the expression or instantiation of ideas, things or processes that are both novel and effective. If novel refers to the originality of the created idea or thing itself, effective refers to its subsequent reception, for a creative idea or thing takes on a life of its own after communication to others it lls a cultural need, solves a social or intellectual problem recognized by a larger group. At its most powerful, creative behavior is revolutionary, producing the ideas, solutions and inventions that recombine disciplines and technologies or carve out new ones. Big C creativity of this sort encompasses the contributions of a Newton, a Gandhi, a Joyce or an Edison. Most people, including children, are not capable of creative impact at this worldwide level. They are, however, capable of creative behaviors that generate ideas, ll needs and solve problems within the smaller circles of ethnicity, polity, neighborhood or family. Different in quality, but not necessarily in kind, little c creativity anchors the other end of a gradating spectrum of like behaviors. The child who invents and elaborates an imaginary world engages in creative behavior of the little c variety. She brings into being novel things, such as maps or histories of a uniquely imagined place, that are personally effective, in that they document and structure her conception of an analogue world. This imagined world, if communicated to others, may also strike family and friends even a somewhat larger community as fresh, original and charming. Worldplays real benet, however, does not lie in its outer, social inuence. Rather, it lies in its inner inuence upon the child herself. To invent and elaborate imaginary worlds is to develop a sense of self as a creator by immersing oneself in creative process.

Take the contemporary case of one M. Around the age of 9 years, she began designing a language based on pictographs. The simple sentences and stories she wrote out in this way supposed a simple people, whom she called the Kar. These people required a world to inhabit. Within a few years M. had begun to generate verbal and pictorial descriptions of their daily lives. Much like an anthropologist she documented their holidays, their clothing, their homes, their food, their myths, mathematics and music. Whatever she learned of human culture in school or in her own wide-ranging reading, she transposed into some analogue form in her imagined world. And in many moments of this imaginative undertaking, which persisted into her teenage years, she engaged in one aspect or another of the creative process. Psychologists conventionally describe that process as involving elements or stages of preparation, incubation, insight and elaboration (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, pp. 7980). Sufce it to say here that time and again M. prepared for creative endeavor by setting herself a problem for instance, how did the Kar actually come to write their stories? Such a problem might incubate for some time while she asked the questions and gathered the books and artwork which fueled her informal, free-choice learning. At some point around the age of 12 years, the imagined development of spoken and written language coalesced for her with the imagined emergence of simple writing implements and an imagined economy that valued narrative goods. On the strength of such insight, M. elaborated histories of the time . . . called the word explosion in which at a market, a person can get a ne blanket or a pot for a story, or more for a book. A couple of years later, in an illustration format drawn from Eyewitness BooksTM and other visual dictionaries for children, she documented the sophisticated tools and furniture of the professional scribe, for almost every village had someone who spent their time writing stories (About Writing, personal papers). M.s worldplay was shot through with yet another well-recognized ingredient of creative thinking, the comparison and synthesis of two or more unlike things. The discoveries of science and of art, as Jacob Bronowski famously expressed it, are explorations more, are explosions, of a hidden likeness (1956, pp. 3031). The discoveries of the novice creator also depend on recognizing similarities, even if these appear less hidden to adepts. In the case of M.s Kar


M. Root-Bernstein

drawings, rst undertaken around the age of 12 years, the synthetic blendings were two-fold. The drawings themselves represented a visual amalgamation of early human cave art, Egyptian tomb paintings and other ancient pictorial forms. Moreover, they nearly always transposed or anticipated Kar stories, especially those about the god-like beings of legend. In the marriage of picture and story, M. manifested her personal discovery that visual iconography is like narrative myth is like the very foundations of an imagined world. More often than not, the exploration and documentation of these congruences required the integration of what we formally recognize as distinct forms of expression. Like many other children who invent and elaborate imaginary worlds, M. nearly always expressed her vision in multiple and synthetic ways; visually, verbally, sometimes musically as well. By her late teens, this tendency was quite marked (Fig. 29.1 and Appendix). Indeed, the integration of what many consider separate domains is what distinguishes worldplay from juvenilia focused on one

recognized locus of technical talent or one recognized body of specialized knowledge.

A History of Worldplay
M.s play in an imaginary world of her own invention has historical antecedents. Over the past 200 years or so, worldplay has gured as a curiosity of childhood in the backgrounds of people likely to write memoirs or leave personal papers of interest to others. Writers of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Robert Louis Stevenson, C. S. Lewis, Stanislaw Lem, W.H. Auden, Vera Brittain and Gertrude Stein left testimony of childhood worldplay (Goertzel & Goertzel, 1962, p. 117n; Silvey & MacKeith, 1988, pp. 191194; Lem,1975/1995). So did the actor Peter Ustinov (1976/1998, pp. 276282). And the visual artist Claes Oldenburg has revealed the imaginary land of his childhood to at least one biographer (Rose, 1970,

Fig. 29.1 Wall Painting in a Cave (the death of the hero Yeoceroee). The rst lines of the Kar writing read, Once the ower

is taken it is forever dead, and no ower lives in beauty but a hero died there. For a full translation, see Appendix


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness


p. 19). However, the earliest known case of a childhood paracosm is that invented by an individual remarkable only in childhood. Thomas Malkin, a precocious student of Greek, Latin and other classical studies, focused much imaginative play on the invented land of Allestone before his death at the age of 7 years in 1802 (Malkin, 1806/1997). Other remarkable children who invented imaginary worlds include Malkins near contemporary Hartley Coleridge, brilliant son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and inventor of Ejuxria (Coleridge, 1851; Plotz, 2001, pp. 191251), and Barbara Follett, who brought her young vision of Farksolia to fruition in a precocious novel published in 1927 (McCurdy, 1966). Exceptional children who also achieved renown in adulthood include the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (ForsterNietzsche, 1912, pp. 4647), the English writer Thomas De Quincey (De Quincey, 1853, pp. 9798) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Cox, 1926/1953, p. 592). Hands down, the best known example of worldplay belongs to the Bront e siblings, children of the wild moors in 19th century England. Branwell Bront es unquenchable enthusiasm for toy soldiers pulled him and his three sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, into two decades of the most elaborate and best documented worldplay yet on record. Enacted make-believe with toy soldiers soon made way for the manufacture of maps, reports of military campaigns, miniature magazines, drawings of people and places, and story upon written story that traced the ongoing saga of the inhabitants of Great Glass Town, an imaginary Verdopolis somewhere in the far reaches of Africa. Sometime in their teens Emily and Anne developed an offshoot of Glass Town known as Gondal, while Branwell and Charlotte elaborated another offshoot known as Angria. Even as they moved into early adulthood, all four siblings absorbed themselves fully in this worldplay by reading voraciously for inspiration, drawing imaginary landscapes and persons, and generating hundreds of manuscripts. Eventually, the Bront e sisters parlayed the creative and literary tutelage of their worldplay into the production of novels and books of poetry that shook the foundations of 19th century literature. From these individuals and others like them who make a mark in maturity, it is possible to get a sense of the great creative boon in adulthood that may follow upon worldplay in childhood. In the case of the Bront e sisters, literary scholars

have traced with exhaustive care the technical apprenticeship in writing that play with Glass Town, Gondal and Angria afforded the girls (Ratchford, 1949; Evans & Evans, 1982; Alexander, 1983; Barker, 1997). Psychologists, for their part, have recognized the Bront e example as one that may broaden understanding of juvenile activity that prepares for adult creative achievement or even the eminence of genius (Cohen & MacKeith, 1991, pp. 24; McGreevy, 1995). The Bront es worldplay served as a learning laboratory characterized by self-paced, free-choice learning; encouragement of eccentric as well as conventional interests; a high tolerance for fantasy play; and time free of other distractions to indulge all three (McGreevy, 1995, pp. 146147, passim). And, icing on the cake, the children consciously referred to themselves as Genii in that learning laboratory, rst as god-like participants and later as condent and audacious creators of stories and poems. Instances of childhood worldplay plucked from the past tend, by their very nature, to privilege examples of genius in which immature play had direct and obvious relationship to mature achievement. This was certainly the case for the Bront e sisters, whose childhood play would surely have remained a literary curiosity if not for the link between their early juvenilia and later artistry. But worldplay of the caliber and consequence produced by the Bront e siblings represents only the extreme tip of a much larger phenomenon. Like giftedness in general, the invention of imaginary worlds in childhood is more widespread than the rare cases of creative eminence in mature adults with which it may be associated. Indeed, a ground-breaking study undertaken in the late 20th century found sophisticated instances of childhood worldplay well hidden in the general population.

The First Study of Contemporary Worldplay

Robert Silvey, the man who rst initiated in the late 1970s the study which culminated in The Development of Imagination, the Private Worlds of Childhood (1990), was himself an inventor of an imaginary world in childhood. The enduring personal as well as educational value of his New Hentian States intrigued him. His play had been a spur to the acquisition of


M. Root-Bernstein

knowledge, he wrote, but even more, the stimulation of curiosity (Silvey, 1977, p. 18). In the late 1970s he began soliciting other instances of world-building in the general public by placing ads in British newspapers. Eventually he compiled over 50 dossiers of material on imaginary worlds, which he and his professional collaborators called paracosms. After Silveys death, Cohen & MacKeith (1991) placed 64 of these paracosms described by 57 adults in a context of psychological and creative development. In particular, they shed light on the imaginary worlds of childhood by establishing for the rst time what appeared to be an ascending complexity of forms and contents. Cohen and MacKeith discerned ve typical categories: paracosms based on or invoking fantasy play with (1) toys, (2) particular places and local communities, (3) imagined islands, countries and their peoples, (4) imagined systems, documents and languages and (5) unstructured, idyllic worlds. Some of their data appeared to indicate that as world-inventing children matured, their focus tended to shift from the personal intimacy of toy families to the social interactions of larger establishments to the increasingly abstract cultural, economic and political systems that characterize society at large or utopian visions. Two out of three girls in the sample focused on the social and emotional interactions of characters, while nine out of ten boys focused on the elaboration of settings bureaucracies, histories or games, for instance with little personalized content (Silvey & MacKeith, 1988, p. 186). In either case, paracosms that took on the invention of countries, peoples, languages or socio-political systems modeled the real world in strikingly sophisticated fashion. In addition to the classication of types, Cohen and MacKeith wished to ascertain in a general way the overall incidence of worldplay in the general population. Because of the nature of their self-selecting sample, however, they were unable to do so, except in-sofar as to assert that the phenomenon was uncommon. Cohen and MacKeith had also hoped to nd some link between the childhood invention of imaginary worlds and adult professional achievement. In the event, two factors seem to have convinced them that childhood worldplay did not contribute to the creative development of individuals in their sample. First, only a small and disappointing number of their respondents became writers or artists as adults. Second, apparently no one in their sample had (at time of study) achieved

publicly recognized success, let alone the kind of eminence associated with discipline-altering achievement. Again, the nature of their study precluded any solid conclusion. Perhaps due to the weight of the Bront e example, which, along with other historical exemplars, suggested that worldplay most obviously prepared for adult achievement in the literary (or perhaps other) arts, the researchers ignored Silveys initial intuition that the invention of imaginary worlds in childhood might stimulate curiosity and knowledge acquisition in general. The oversight was critical. Silvey had drawn maps; he had written out a history and a constitution for The New Hentian States and produced its newspapers, almanacs and nancial tables. He grew up to inaugurate the new business eld of audience research at the BBC, marrying the demands of statistical inquiry to sociological and psychological nuance. By any measure, he did so successfully, too. In recognition of his achievements, he was appointed Ofcer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1960, an honor granted for valuable service in the arts, sciences and public sectors (Silvey, 1974, pp. 193194). The connections between worldplay, profession and professional success were indirect, yet compelling in Silveys case. He carved a path through audience research because he intimately understood that a valid sample had to be selected in such a way as to be a miniature, a scale-model, of the universe (Silvey, 1974, p. 46). For Silvey a sample was, in effect, an imagined world. Indeed, his experience, in contrast to that of the Bront es, suggested that the potential benets in maturity of childhood worldplay did not reside in technical or professional training per se. Rather those benets were to be found in the general exercise of imaginative and creative behavior that might surface in any number of professions and in disparate measures of professional success.

Worldplay in a Population of Creative Adults

A recent study of worldplay in childhood among adults of recognized creative achievement tested both the insights gained from Silveys personal experience and the very different conclusions drawn by his collaborators (M. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2006). Its purpose was three-fold: to determine the relative


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness


incidence of worldplay in a demonstrably creative population and in a general population; to determine the relative strength of its association with a wide range of mature disciplinary occupations; and to explore phenomenologically, that is, by means of queries and interviews, the understanding study subjects may have had of connection between childhood play and adult creative success in a variety of disciplines. In general, it was hypothesized that the childhood invention of imaginary worlds may in fact be a predictor for adult creativity across the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences. For the purposes of this undertaking, MacArthur Fellows appointed in the years 1981 through 2001 presented a uniquely suitable, ready-made group for study. Drawn from a wide range of disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, arts, humanities and public affairs professions, Fellows are selected by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for extraordinary originality and exceptional creative promise in their elds of endeavor. The Foundations public recognition of these individuals, as well as the terms of that recognition, strongly argue that the Fellows as a whole comprise a population of gifted adults. Fellowship recipients were queried about their childhood play and its connections to adult vocation and avocation. A similar query was administered to a control group of students enrolled in a variety of courses at Michigan State University in the spring and fall of 2003, adjusting for intended, rather than actual profession, and the inclusion of practical careers within the ve professional categories utilized by the MacArthur Foundation. The entrance level for this large, land-grant institution is moderately difcult (on average, students score between 1040 and 1260 (combined scores) on the SAT) and the student body, at least in comparison with the MacArthur Fellows, represented a population of individuals selected for ordinary achievement. The comparison of data from both groups yielded the following results: First, the study found worldplay to be more common than hitherto supposed. The incidence of researcher-assessed worldplay among sampled Fellows was 26%. It remained unknown, however, whether MacArthur Fellows who did not respond to the query invented imaginary worlds in the same, greater or lesser numbers. Assuming that the whole group engaged in childhood worldplay at the same rate as the sample, 26% was set as a maximum proportion.

Assuming that the sample in fact netted all Fellows appointed between 1981 and 2001 with this childhood experience, a minimum proportion was set at 5%. Thus, the rate of worldplay in a creative population presumably lay somewhere between 5% and 26%. Among students, worldplay was similarly assessed at 12%. Once again, assuming that the sample incidence represented that of the whole, 12% set a maximum proportion of students who engaged in childhood worldplay. Assuming that all students who participated in worldplay responded to the questionnaire, the minimum rate for all students in the control group was 3%. This set the range of worldplay among a general population at 312%. By these measures, worldplay emerged as a palpable presence in the landscape of make-believe play, one that is potentially twice as common among recognizably creative individuals as it is among average university students. Second, the data validated the expectation that individuals inventing imaginary worlds in childhood participate as adults in a wide variety of disciplines. Among MacArthur Fellows the distribution of childhood worldplay ranged from 19% for sampled individuals in the public issues professions and in the sciences to 22% for sampled individuals in the arts, 33% in the humanities and 46% in the social sciences (Table 29.1). This disciplinary distribution of childhood worldplay among Fellows proved signicantly different from the same distribution in the control group. Students in the humanities (33%), public issues professions (16%) and arts (15%) were more likely than students in social sciences (8%) or sciences (6%) to have invented imaginary worlds, by a factor of two or more. A comparison of the two groups revealed that the higher incidence of childhood worldplay among Fellows in the arts, social sciences and sciences was statistically signicant (see Chart 29.1). Scientists and social scientists selected for their creativity were more likely to have childhood worldplay in their background than a general population of students planning to go into these elds. Third, over half of the studys select and general populations whether or not they had invented worlds in childhood believed they engaged in some aspect of worldplay in their adult vocations and avocations. In the context of the query, mature worldplay referred to participation in, or creation of, make-believe worlds in paintings, plays, lm and novels. It also referred to engagement in or invention of hypothetical models


M. Root-Bernstein Table 29.1 Breakdown of Assessed Worldplay Among MacArthur Fellows and MSU Students by Professional Field ARTS F S HUMANITIES F S PUB ISSUES F S SOCIAL SCI F S SCIENCES F S Undecided S TOTAL F S 262 105 32 73 12

Sample # 23 40 12 9 16 86 13 62 26 50 15 90 Positive self-reports 11 19 6 6 6 33 8 24 8 19 4 39 Assessed 5 6 4 3 3 14 6 5 5 3 1 23 worldplay + Assessed not 6 13 2 3 3 19 2 19 3 16 3 16 worldplay + % Worldplay by 22 15 33 33 19 16 46 8 19 6 7 26 professional eld NOTE: F = Fellows, S = Students. Includes those students intending careers in law, education and journalism. Includes those students intending careers in business. + Relaxed assortment. Ambiguous responses were distributed into assessed worldplay and not worldplay categories.

and constructs in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. When it came to adult worldplay at work, reports surfaced in every discipline (see Chart 29.2). Moreover, among those who did invent imaginary worlds as children, many Fellows (61%) and students (72%) saw connections between that childhood play and their adult vocational worldplay (see Table 29.2). MacArthur Fellow artists with worldplay in their backgrounds were most apt to see direct connections between that play and adult endeavor (100%), followed by their peers in the humanities (75%), the social sciences (67%) and the sciences (40%).

Students with worldplay in their backgrounds saw a connection to anticipated adult worldplay at work in the social sciences, arts, public issues professions and humanities from 60% to 100% of the time; none anticipated connection to projected work in the sciences. By and large, student perceptions suggested that ties between childhood worldplay and adult endeavor are readily recognized in the arts, where imaginary, ctional worlds are similarly created in literature, music, dance or the visual arts. However, there was less expectation possibly due to educational or professional

50 45

BLACK = Fellows GRAY = Students



* = p<.05 ** = p<.001 *** = p<.0001

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 ARTS HUM PUB SOC SCI TOT

** * **

Chart 29.1 Childhood Worldplay (Relaxed Assortment): MacArthur Fellows and MSU Students. For statistical values of

the data and the full discussion of results, see M. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (2006)


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness

11 30 31 27 21


Chart 29.2 Worldplay in Adult Work: MacArthur Fellows and MSU Students. For full discussion of the data and interpretation of results, see M. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (2006)

*** 58 ** 50


* = p<.01 ** = p<.001 *** = p<.0001

** 46 *** 38

10 0







bias in the humanities and social sciences that the reconstruction of bygone days or the projection of future scenarios, both of which must adhere to known facts, resemble imagined, possible worlds of childhood. Similarly, students did not expect theorizing in the sciences to resemble worldplay at all. Quite possibly, students reected expectations of conventional contribution held by the institutions and professional cohorts which trained them. Be that as it may, gifted adults were far more likely to nd the imaginative and creative qualities of childhood worldplay relevant to their mature disciplinary activity not just in the arts, but in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well. No matter the eld, for many MacArthur Fellows the drive for disciplinary verisimilitude required a blend of logic, experiment or testable hypothesis with the construction of a delimited, imagined world. For one Fellow in the sciences this involved a kind of make-believe usually identied as ction:
In a real sense to do theory is to explore imaginary worlds because all models are simplied versions of reality, the world. Part of the art of it all is what gets put in

and what gets left out. But its bounded imagination. . . Since lots gets left out of any model, part of the art has been described as the suspension of disbelief. . .I will, for a while, believe in this simple world, even though I know lots of ways it fails to capture nature (As cited in M. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2006).

In addition to the world-building which pervades adult creative activity, Fellows were also apt to retain from childhood worldplay a general understanding of and familiarity with creative behavior. That behavior ranged from persistent absorption with what is imagined, to the discovery, synthesis and organization of knowledge, to the modeling of physical processes beyond our direct apprehension, that is to say, mind play that stays within the bounds of reality, but still asks about something that you have never seen or known to happen (as cited in M. Root-Bernstein & RootBernstein, 2006). Indeed, early immersion in worldplay may prepare for mature creativity in a number of ways: First, worldplay may exercise imaginative capacities including imaging, empathizing, and modeling explored elsewhere as tools for thinking

Table 29.2 Connections Between Childhood and Adult Worldplay: MacArthur Fellows and MSU Students ARTS F S HUMANITIES F S PUB ISSUES F S SOCIAL SCI F S SCIENCES F S Undecided S TOTAL F S 32 23 72

Assessed worldplay + 5 6 4 3 3 14 6 5 5 3 11 23 Perceived connection 5 4 3 3 0 12 4 3 2 0 1 14 child/adult worldplay % 100 67 75 100 0 86 67 60 40 0 9 61 NOTE: F = Fellows, S = Students. + Relaxed assortment. Ambiguous responses were distributed into assessed worldplay and not worldplay categories.


M. Root-Bernstein

(R. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 1999). Without these skills, creative thinking is compromised. Second, worldplay may exercise the capacity for continued imaginative play, especially in older children, well after the intense exploration of make-believe in early childhood typically fades. Play and the knack for remaining childlike are often linked to adult creativity. Third, worldplay may exercise the capacity for convergent problem solving within an imagined yet consistent system, whether that make-believe is realistic or fantastic. Fourth, because it does so by tying the exigencies of convergent problem solving to the divergent effervescence of play, worldplay may nurture both the ability and the audacity to imagine potentially new and effective solutions to perennial human challenges. The creative individual requires more than disciplinary expertise, he or she requires the vision to identify and dene problems not yet conceived and set them in appropriate context. In this venture, as Einstein famously put it, Imagination is more important than knowledge (as cited in Calaprice, 2000). And fth, worldplay may provide early training in the invention of culture by bridging the gap between a virtual imagination and a creative one. The virtual imagination is one in which the conceived idea remains personal, inarticulate and often ephemeral. The creative imagination instantiates the virtual, makes it communicable to local or global society in some durable, formal way through diverse mediums such as visual art, music, dance, story, experiment, hypothesis and technological invention. This re-evaluation of childhood worldplay in terms of adult creative endeavor sets aright certain misconceptions of worldplay in earlier research. Among adults recognized for creative giftedness, worldplay may, at a maximum, gure in childhood play in as many as one out of four. This is more than twice the maximal rate projected for the population at large. Moreover, childhood worldplay may be associated with adult creative achievement in a far wider arena than literary or artistic accomplishment alone. The enduring benet to adults of childhood worldplay does not lie necessarily or only in an early immersion in technical skills such as writing or drawing. It lies, as well, in the early immersion in self-prescribed learning laboratories, in self-taught creative behaviors and in self-nurtured attributes of creative personality.

Worldplay may thus serve as a general preparation for creative achievement in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences as well as in the arts. It may also serve, at times, as a specic apprenticeship in craft, especially for the arts. Psychologists have long sought in the backgrounds of creative individuals the factors that may have foreshadowed or shaped their mature contributions and prominence (e.g., Ellis, 1904; Cox, 1926/1953; Cobb, 1977; Goertzel & Goertzel, 1962; and others mentioned in Hollingworth, 1942, pp. 1518). Worldplay, as a highly recognizable instance of complex imaginative play, may be added to that list.

Worldplay as a Sign of Creative Giftedness in Childhood

To the extent that worldplay predicts mature creativity, it follows that it also indicates creative giftedness in childhood. No fewer than 1 in 30 children in the general population may devote time and energy to imaginary worlds of their own invention and may instantiate their complex imagination in the production of stories, histories, drawings, maps, games and other documents of play. As such, paracosm play may serve to supplement objective measures of intellectual giftedness (such as high IQ), as well as subjective measures of superior technical talent (such as math or musical prodigiousness) presently in use. Certainly the playful, imaginative and problem-solving aspects of worldplay in childhood, as well as its characteristic signs of imaginative absorption, free-choice learning and passionate persistence, argue strongly for a kind of creative giftedness in childhood that mirrors giftedness in adults. Taking note of self-initiated and self-sustained worldplay indeed draws our attention to children who early immerse themselves in imaginative problem generation and problem solving for the fun of it and thus aids in early recognition of true creative potential. Recognition of complex imaginative play in general and of worldplay in particular marks a return of a kind to the earliest research in the characteristics of gifted children. In the early 1920s, Lewis Terman made an attempt to characterize the play life of the 643 gifted children selected for superior all-round intelligence and superior special talent who made up his study group (Terman et al., 1925/1954, pp. 385439). Most


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness


concerned with physical versus intellectual and social versus solitary aspects of childhood play, interview experience led Terman to include two questions relating to the imaginative quality of play life. In a questionnaire completed by parents of his gifted subjects, Terman asked, rst, whether the child had imaginary playmates and, second, imaginary countries (p. 435). Out of 643 queries, he received 136 (21%) positive responses to play with imaginary friends and 48 (7%) positive responses to play with imaginary countries (pp. 436437). Because parents of control subjects were not asked to supply similar information, Terman had no comparative data for these forms of play in his general population. Nonetheless he concluded on a subjective basis that a good many gifted children have had imaginary playmates or imaginary countries (p. 439). In subsequent studies of very high IQ children one or two of whom came to researcher attention by means of Termans inaugural work Leta Hollingworth also appears to have made a point of soliciting information on spontaneous, self-initiated play with imaginary friends and imaginary countries. Of 12 cases presented in Children Above 180 IQ, Origin and Development (1942), 2 children had imaginary friends and 3 other children provided ample evidence of worldplay. (Notes in the dossiers of the remaining seven cases indicate that these children did not invent imaginary companions or countries.) At the age of 3 years, Child A invented Center Land, where children stayed up all night, played with re and used the elevator whenever they wished (p. 88). Child D played in Borningtown from the ages of 47 years and spent hours laying out roads, drawing maps of its terrain, composing and recording its language (Bornish), and writing its history and literature (p. 123). And Child E revealed around the age of 8 years the existence of a private country on the planet Venus inhabited by people and in possession of a navy. He revealed, too, his wish to have statistics of my imaginary country, but whether these ever materialized remained his secret (p. 147). The noticeable appearance of imaginary friends and imaginary countries or worlds among Hollingworths 12 subjects and Termans 643 accords well with current estimates for these play behaviors. Play with imaginary friends is currently estimated to occur among one- to two-thirds of young children (Taylor, 1999; also Singer, 1975, p. 135; Harris, 2000, p. 32; Singer & Singer, 1990, pp. 97100). In Termans time, this

kind of play carried the stigma of loneliness and isolation, nevertheless he was apprised of imaginary friends in roughly a fth of his subjects; in her much less representative sample, Hollingworth found one in six cases. Worldplay, as discussed above, is estimated to have occurred in the childhoods of 312% of college students and 526% of MacArthur Fellows. Hollingworths subjects, at one-quarter incidence, reproduced the high-end estimate; Termans subjects, at 7%, the low end of imaginary world invention. In both studies the incidence of worldplay in particular relates in interesting ways to subsequent assessments of the creative potential or success of test subjects. By labeling his study the genetic study of genius, Terman openly acknowledged his expectation that adult eminence, by which he meant the kind of world-renowned creative accomplishment achieved by 1 out of 4000 adults, might be attained by at least some of the children he studied (Burks, Jensen, & Terman, 1930, p. 4). On the whole, however, he cautiously conceded that to expect all or even a majority of [his] subjects to attain any considerable degree of eminence would be unwarranted optimism (Terman et al., 1925/1954, p. 640). Follow-up studies through the 1950s proved that caution reasonable. Terman had calculated in 1925 that somewhat less than 200 of his gifted children might nd their way into Whos Who, a compilation of contemporary biographies based on outstanding achievement of general interest. By 1959, only 31 men and 2 women from his gifted group appeared in that listing (Terman and Oden, 1959, pp. 145146, 150). While it was clear that many of his high IQ subjects were successful in the pursuit of intellectually demanding careers (Terman and Oden, 1959, pp. 43152), few had made notable contribution to their professions and none had achieved the eminence of acknowledged genius (Subotnik et al., 1993, p. 117). Termans study group, largely selected for intellectual giftedness with a smaller pool selected for special ability, was not in fact characterized by unusual creative capacity. Indeed, even before the start of his longitudinal studies, Terman was privy to evidence that creative qualities were probably distinct from the kinds of intelligence measured by IQ tests (Ochse, 1990, p. 204). Studies at the end of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century suggested that logical power and original imagination did not necessarily go hand in hand (Getzels & Jackson, 1962, p. 4). Many


M. Root-Bernstein

psychologists drew the same conclusion in decades following. In compensation, researchers in 1960s and 1970s set about analyzing creative ability and producing tests specically developed to measure its different aspects (Ochse, 1990, pp. 202206, 211 212). Perhaps the best known of these are the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a battery of timed tasks based upon concepts of uency, exibility and originality in creative thinking (Ochse, 1990, p. 205) and used widely in educational and corporate settings today. But like the IQ tests that the TTCT and other batteries were meant to supplement, creativity tests have proved inadequate in identifying creative talent, potential or otherwise. Indeed, as many critics have pointed out, the tasks set in these structured tests resist truly creative solution and bear little or no relation to real-world creative accomplishment (Ochse, 1990, p. 45; Tannenbaum, 1992, p. 13). This being the case, some researchers have proposed that creative ability in children should not be identied by the articial means of timed tests, but by the natural means of prodigious behavior itself. Typically identied in math, music, chess or language, prodigies recognizably demonstrate near-adult levels of talent at an early age (Feldman, 1986, p. 16). For Tannenbaum, such precocious accomplishment is a particularly powerful indicator precisely because it is openly masterful now rather than a remote symptom of promise for the future (1992, p. 13). The prodigy, however, is not necessarily creative. As Feldman (1986) and others point out, unusual capacity for music or math performance is not the same as unusual capacity to produce new music or solve new problems that transform either eld (Feldman, pp. 13, 15; Sternberg and Lubart, 1992, p. 34). When it comes to productive creativity in math or music, the child is necessarily at a disadvantage in these adult elds of endeavor. It makes far more sense to identify creative potential in children by tracking self-initiated and self-sustained creative behaviors that are particular to childhood itself. In essence, Hollingworth did just that when she attempted to evaluate the creative capacities of her 12 high IQ subjects. Though many researchers considered juvenile activity in the conventional arts an adequate indication of creativeness, she felt it necessary to account for a much wider range of childhood originality, the signs of which were often missing in ordinary records and histories (Hollingworth, 1942,

p. 236). Accordingly, she looked for the invention of games and languages, for idiosyncratic classications of knowledge, for spontaneous collections, mechanical constructions and other forms of extracurricular activity many of which were the province of childhood. Not surprisingly, the invention of imaginary countries in childhood, related as it was in many cases to constructive originality i.e., the drawing of maps, writing of stories or the classications of invented language gured largely in her calculations of the creativeness of her subjects. Hollingworth subjectively rated a third of her high IQ cases as notably creative and one-third as moderately creative; the nal third demonstrated no marked creativity at all. Two of the four children in the notably creative group Child A and Child D had invented imaginary worlds when young. She assigned Child E, who also did so, to the moderately creative group (p. 240). The education of Child E, she opined, had been strictly directed down conventional academic channels, at the expense of originality. Given her conclusion that intellectual training might be at odds with childhood creativity (p. 241), and the modus operandi Hollingworth adopted for assessing that creative potential, it is tempting to indulge in a bit of counter-historical speculation. If Terman had paid as much attention to the unexpected appearance of play with imaginary companions and countries in his subjects background and if he had selected more of his special ability subjects on the basis of extraordinarily complex imaginative play that was also inventive he may well have increased the overall creative potential of his study group. This is not to argue that all children who invent imagined places will grow up to revolutionize elds of endeavor or carve out new disciplines. But then again, neither do most children with high IQs or remarkable talents. We should not expect any one measure, including the complex elaboration of an invented world in childhood, to translate consistently into extraordinary achievement in adulthood (Terman et al., 1925/1954, p. 640). For gifted children to develop into creative achievers, Ochse (1990) has observed, their gifts must become transformed into skills and drives that enable them to produce something of value to the culture at large (p. 31). The creative practice, the constructive skills, the knowledge base gained in worldplay any or all of these must also become harnessed to goal-directed work within adult disciplines.


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness Table 29.3 Age of Onset of Worldplay Among Sampled MacArthur Fellows Early childhood (36, 7 years) # Plays % 8 29 Middle childhood (6, 712, 13 years) 15 54 Late childhood (12, 13 years) 3 11 Unknown 2 7 Total 28 101


Table 29.4 Duration of Worldplay Among Sampled MacArthur Fellows Early childhood Middle childhood Late childhood Unknown Total 28 8 22 8 x/28 29% 79% 29% Onset (# plays) 8 15 3 2 Duration: Early (8) : Middle (7) (15) : Late (1) (4) (3) Note: Values in parenthesis refer to # of onset plays at head of column with specied duration.

The point remains, however, that in full-blown worldplay the potential for self-initiated productive creativity actualizes in childhood itself. And to the extent that productive creativity depends on learned rather than innate traits, its early appearance in the life of an individual augurs well for its mature continuance in one form or another. Creativity predicts creativity. The self-initiated and self-sustained invention of worlds may thus prove effective in identifying children who are signicantly more likely than those who do not exhibit inventive play to engage as adults in creative work within disciplines, at the forefront of disciplines or in the unknown territory that lies between.

Recognizing and Nurturing Worldplay

Worldplay warrants notice in the selection processes of gifted programs. It also warrants encouragement in educational and familial settings, if only to bring to adult attention more children who delight and persist in creative play. A sense of when and where to nd worldplay should aid in that exercise. Ongoing research on the worldplay experiences of MacArthur Fellows conrms the developmental pattern discerned by Silvey, MacKeith and Cohen. Among sampled Fellows, nearly a third of imaginary worlds were invented in early childhood, over half were invented in middle childhood and a tenth were newly constructed in late

childhood (see Table 29.3). Because the greater part of early childhood worlds lasted into middle childhood, and some worlds invented in middle childhood lasted into late childhood, the duration of worldplay among sampled Fellows resembled a bell curve: nearly onethird of all invented worlds were played during early childhood, one-third again were played in late childhood, while over three-quarters were played in middle childhood (see Table 29.4). Worldplay peaks in middle childhood, yet certain other characteristics of that play tend to hide it from ready view. In the rst place, about two-thirds of imagined worlds invented by sampled Fellows were described as solitary play. No more than a quarter were described as shared with one or two intimates and only one invented world was described as a social or public game involving a larger and non-select group of peers (see Table 29.5). In the second place, worldplay is often experientially invisible as well as socially aloof, although in some cases the formation of imaginary place is tied in some way to physical place in the real world. Somewhat over one-third of imaginary worlds invented by sampled Fellows were partially instantiated in special places found in the house or out-of-doors, in habitable forts constructed from natural or man-made materials or in miniature places modeled with toys, blocks or other appropriated materials (see Table 29.6). Though found places, forts and models might draw the notice of others (e.g., Van Manen & Levering, 1996; Hart, 1979),

Table 29.5 Social Context of Worldplay Among Sampled MacArthur Fellows Solitary # Plays % 18 64 Shared 7 25 Social/public 1 4 Unknown 2 7 Total 28 100

612 Table 29.6 Place Formation in Worldplay Among Sampled MacArthur Fellows Found/constructed # Plays % 2 7 Modeled 8 29 Wholly imagined 13 46 Unknown 5 18

M. Root-Bernstein

Total 28 100

in worldplay these locales often serve as foundation for further elaboration of place in private imagination. Worldplay is even more invisible for those worlds not tied to physical place. Among sampled Fellows, nearly one-half of invented worlds appear to have been wholly conceived in the mind alone (Table 29.6). Whether partially or fully imagined, much of worldplay is internalized and unavailable to any but intimate others, if such exist, collaboratively engaged in shared play. As with other forms of complex imaginative play (Gross, 2004, p. 132), unengaged observers may be wholly unaware of its character or complexity. One nal characteristic adds psychological distance to social seclusion and experiential invisibility. In the majority of cases, worldplay tends to be kept secret from parents and other adults. One-fth of worlds invented by MacArthur Fellows were considered secret; an additional one-fth or so were considered semisecret, that is, the Fellow as a child knew or assumed that parents knew about the world, yet reference to the play was never overt (see Table 29.7). This suggests that solitary or shared play with imagined worlds was at least private over one-third of the time, that is, without adult guidance, interference or inuence. Van Manen & Levering (1996) argue that privacy gained from secrecy or near-secrecy not only characterizes a great deal of play in middle childhood but nurtures the growth of the self as an independent agent capable of autonomous thought and action (pp. 8, 74, 89 and passim). Even in cases where Fellows did not keep worldplay a secret from parents, and overt discussion took place, revelation was not meant to violate the ownership of private play. In one instance, a Fellow disclosed her imaginary world to her mother. She was very encouraging and liked that I imagined things. I didnt like it when she referred to it, though. . . When her mother tried to involve another sibling in the make-believe, the Fellow continued, I was completely enraged and

felt betrayed (as cited in M. Root-Bernstein & RootBernstein, 2006). The disclosure to parent had not been meant to alter access to or creative control of the imaginative play. By its very nature, then, worldplay may slip under the adult radar, to the benet of the child creator. In any enterprise to take more notice of the phenomenon, therefore, a general caveat is appropriate. Under no circumstances should parents or teachers interfere with this play at the expense of the childs privacy and control. What is needed is a hands-off, yet supportive, environment one that encourages imaginative play, makes time and requested materials available, and protects solitary or shared play from the blandishments of socially engaged peers and misguided adults. Indeed, worldplay ought to be tolerated as long as the child wishes to pursue it, which may mean in some cases resisting pressures to inhibit solitary or shared imaginative play in adolescent or teenage years in favor of social play of one kind or another. In addition to protecting spontaneous worldplay, parents and especially teachers may also wish to encourage or promote the invention of imaginary places and people. Various approaches to the group design of possible, impossible and utopian worlds have been used in elementary classrooms as a means of teaching the learnable processes of creative endeavor (e.g., Murphy, 1974; Shekerjian, 1990, p. 22; Sobel, 1993). Obviously, in a school setting where worldplay forms part of the curriculum its nurture may be somewhat different. Teachers must necessarily set the general task, provide materials, and promote collaboration and cooperation, all the while taking care to allow the individual imagination free range. This does not mean that anything goes in classroom worldplay. Analogue worlds depend upon an acquired knowledge of geographies, social customs, political systems, etc. They depend, too, on the production of artifacts that document that

Table 29.7 Secrecy of Worldplay Among Sampled MacArthur Fellows Secret # Plays % 6 21 Semi-secret 5 18 Not secret 7 25 Unknown 10 36 Total 28 100


Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness


analogue world: maps, stories, histories, crafts, models, etc. It is perfectly reasonable, indeed advisable, to set standards of excellence for the evaluation of these worldplay documents. It is even reasonable to assess or have students self-assess the internal consistency of the imagined world, as revealed by an array of documents. At the same time, it is unreasonable to evaluate or judge the imaginative leaps that tie consistency or verisimilitude to the impossible. Woe to the adult who tells a future Bront e that a Glass Town is nowhere to be found on the African continent. Finally, parents and teachers may undertake to encourage children to elaborate upon the imaginary worlds they encounter in books, movies, board games, video simulation games such as SimCityTM and even online virtual world games. While these pursuits in and of themselves stimulate imaginative participation in invented worlds, the childs part in that invention remains largely a passive or, at any rate, a reactive one. The child consumes a world imagined by others and does not construct or create her own. Unless she furthers the play experience in book or video game by adding to it some imaginative construction that is under her full creative control, she is not engaged in the creative behaviors and processes of imaginary world invention.

Worldplay is here characterized as a complex form of imaginative play, peaking in middle childhood, engaging the child in creative behaviors that anticipate adult creative processes and potentially preparing the child for mature creative achievement in a variety of disciplines. In the sciences, social sciences and arts, especially, worldplay in childhood may be signicantly associated with adult creative giftedness. It follows that worldplay may also be a sign of creative giftedness in childhood. Further research will be necessary, however, to determine whether worldplay, as an indicator of creative giftedness, is or is not independent from other indicators of giftedness, particularly the IQ measures of intellectual precocity. Despite the suppositions of Terman and Hollingworth, no systematic study has as yet linked worldplay or indeed any other form of highly

imaginative play to high, moderate or disparate levels of IQ. Further research may also compare the creative apprenticeship to be had in worldplay with disciplinary apprenticeships often experienced by highly precocious learners and prodigies. Though some prodigies may invent imaginary worlds, it is likely that creative giftedness in childhood, as measured by worldplay, is substantially different from intellectual giftedness in mathematics and languages or technical giftedness in music performance and chess. Indeed, the most important difference may be this: Prodigies are usually specialists in learning and talent (Feldman, 1986, pp. 911). Worldplayers are, by way of contrast, generalists, developing the multiple skills of the polymath (see R. Root-Bernstein, this volume). The inventor of imaginary worlds typically constructs a variety of narrative and systemic elaborations. He may write stories, compose music and draw maps or build models, design games and construct languages and thus engage in early introduction to expressive techniques and intellectual skills of several different kinds. Within this general panoply of productive endeavor, special attention may also focus on the development of one craft or another, as was certainly the case for the Bront e sisters in writing though it is worth noting that all three sisters, as children, drew as well as they wrote and Charlotte, along with her brother, actually harbored dreams of becoming an artist (Barker, 1997, p. 213). For other individuals, specialization within the general framework of worldplay may be found not in craft, per se, but in the compelling interests of that play, whether these are anthropological, linguistic, philosophical or scientic in nature. Hollingworths Child D focused for some time on what he called wordical work, which involved not only the invention and classication of his Bornish language but the exploration of concepts and [. . .] words to express them that are not to be found in dictionaries (1942, p. 126). In her investigations of early forms of clothing, shelter and cuisine, M. developed keen interest in the evolution of culture (personal communication). Phenomenological report suggests that this immersion in an array of intellectual interests and expressive crafts exercises creative behaviors that prepare the child for mature contribution in the sciences, social sciences and humanities as well as in the arts. This is as it should be for any indicator of general creative giftedness. Creative novelty, pro-


M. Root-Bernstein Feldman, D. H. (1986). Natures gambit: Child prodigies and the development of human potential. New York: Basic Books, Inc. Forster-Nietzsche, E. (1912). The life of Nietzsche Vol. 1. (A. Ludovici, Trans.). New York: Sturgis and Walton Co. Getzels, J. W., & Jackson, P.W. (1962). Creativity and intelligence, explorations with gifted students. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Ghiselin, B. (1954). The creative process, a symposium. Berkeley: University of California Press. Goertzel, V., & Goertzel, M. G. (1962). Cradles of eminence. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. Gross, M. U. M. (2004). Exceptionally gifted children (2nd ed.). New York: RoutledgeFalmer. Harris, P. L. (2000). The work of the imagination. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Hart, R. (1979). Childrens experience of place. New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc. Hollingworth, L. S. (1942). Children above 180 IQ: Origin and development. Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY: World Book Company. Kearney, K. (2000). Frequently asked questions about extreme intelligence in very young children. What about play? Do highly and profoundly gifted preschoolers lay differently from other children? Paragraph 7. Retrieved August 22, 2006 from Davidson Institute for Talent Development: Klein, P. S. (1992). Mediating the cognitive, social and aesthetic development of precocious young children. In P. S. Klein & A. J. Tannenbaum (Eds.), To be young and gifted (pp. 245 277). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Lem, S. (1995). Highcastle, A Remembrance (M. Kandel, Trans.). New York: Harcourt Brace and Co. (Original work published 1975). Malkin, B. H. (1997). A fathers memoirs of his child. Washington, DC: Woodstock Books. (Original work published 1806). McCurdy, H. G., & Follett, H. (1966). Barbara, the unconscious autobiography of a child genius. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. McGreevy, A. L. (1995). The parsonage children: An analysis of the creative early years of the Bront es at Haworth. Gifted Child Quarterly, 19(3), 146153. Milgram, R. M. (1990). Creativity: An idea whose time has come and gone? In M. A. Runco & R. S. Alberts (Eds.), Theories of creativity (pp. 215233). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Morelock, M. (1997). Imagination, logic and the exceptionally gifted. Roeper Review, 19(3), pp. 14. Murphy, R. (1974). Imaginary worlds, notes on a new curriculum. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Inc. Ochse, R. (1990). Before the gates of excellence: The determinants of creative genius. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Plotz, J. (2001). Romanticism and the vocation of childhood. New York: Palgrave. Plucker, J. A. & Beghetto, R. A. (2004). Why creativity is domain general, why it looks domain specic and why the distinction does not matter. In R. Sternberg, E. Grigorenko, & J. Singer (Eds.), Creativity: From potential to realization (pp. 153168). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

duced in the combustive union of hitherto disparate elements, presupposes unusual breadth of experience, often across very different disciplines (M. RootBernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2003; Root-Bernstein, Bernstein, & Garnier, 1995; R. Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2004; Sternberg, 2003, pp. 114, 126). Effective novelty requires focus and persistence (Ghiselin, 1954, pp. 1520; Plucker & Beghetto, 2004, pp. 160161; Sternberg, 2005, p. 304). By channeling the individuals capacity for make-believe into the polymathic invention of an imaginary cosmos, involving the internally consistent particularization of its many aspects over a persistent period of time, worldplay may stimulate both the generalist and the specialist. In sum, by recognizing worldplay and perhaps, too, other complex imaginative play as a shooting star, an indicator of creative behavior, society can expand the nurture of creative giftedness in childhood to eventual, productive benet in a constellation of adult disciplines and endeavors.

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615 Taylor, M. (1999). Imaginary companions and the children who create them. New York: Oxford University Press. Terman, L. M., assisted by B.T. Baldwin, E. Bronson, J.C. DeVoss, F. Fuller, F.L. Goodenough, T.L. Kelley, M. Lima, H. Marshall, A.H. Moore, A.S. Raubenhaimner, G.M. Ruch, R.L. Willoughby, J.B. Wyman, & D.H.Yates (1954). Mental and physical traits of a thousand gifted children. Vol. 1. Genetic studies of genius (2nd ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford U. Press. (Original work published 1925). Terman, L. M., & Oden, M. H. (1959). The gifted group at midlife. Vol. 5. Genetic studies of genius. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Ustinov, P. (1998). Dear me. London: Arrow Books. (Original work published 1976). Van Manen, M., & Levering, B. (1996). Childhoods secrets: Intimacy, privacy and the self reconsidered. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ratchford, F. E. (1949). The Bront es web of childhood. New York: Columbia University Press. Root-Bernstein, M., & Root-Bernstein, R. (2003). Martha Graham, dance and the polymathic imagination: A case for multiple intelligences or universal thinking tools? Journal of Dance Education, 3, 1627. Root-Bernstein, M., & Root-Bernstein, R. (2006). Imaginary worldplay in childhood and maturity and its impact on adult creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 18(4), 405425. Root-Bernstein, R., Bernstein, M., & Garnier, H. (1995). Correlations between avocations, scientic style, work habits and professional impact of scientists. Creativity Research Journal, 8(2), 115137. Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of genius: The thirteen thinking tools of the worlds most creative people. New York: Houghton Mifin. Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (2004). Artistic scientists and scientic artists: The link between polymathy and creativity. In R. Sternberg, E. Grigorenko, & J. Singer (Eds.). Creativity: From potential to realization (pp. 127 151). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Rose, B. (1970). Claes Oldenburg. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. Shekerjian, D. (1990). Uncommon genius: how great ideas are born. New York: VikingPenguin. Silvey, R. (1974). Whos listening? The story of BBC audience research. London: George Allen & Unwin. Silvey, R. (1977, May 13). But that was in another country. Times Educational Supplement, p. 18. Silvey, R., & MacKeith, S. (1988). The paracosm: A special form of fantasy. In D. C. Morrison (Ed.), Organizing early experience: Imagination and cognition in childhood (pp. 173197). Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Co. Singer, J. L. (1975). The inner world of daydreaming. New York: Harper & Row. Singer, D. G., & Singer, J. L. (1990). The house of make-believe, Play and the developing imagination. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Sobel, D. (1993). Childrens special places: Exploring the role of forts, dens, and bush houses in middle childhood. Tuscon, AZ: Zephyr Press. Sternberg, R. (2003). The development of creativity as a decision-making process. In R. K. Sawyer, V. John-Steiner, S. Moran, R. J. Sternberg, D. H. Feldman, J. Nakamura, & M. Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity and development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sternberg, R. (2005). The domain generality versus specicity debate: How should it be posed? In J. Kaufman & J. Baer (Eds.), Creativity across domains, Faces of the muse (pp. 299306). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Sternberg, R., & Lubart, T. (1992). Creative giftedness in children. In P. S. Klein & A. J. Tannenbaum, (Eds.), To be young and gifted (pp. 3351). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Subotnik, R., Kassan, L., Summers, E., & Wasser, A. (1993). Genius revisited: High IQ children grown up. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp. Tannenbaum, A. J. (1992). Early signs of giftedness: Research and commentary. In P. S. Klein & A. J. Tannenbaum, (Eds.), To be young and gifted (pp. 332). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.

Appendix: Translation of Inscription on the Cave Painting, by M. (personal papers)

On top: Once the ower is taken it is forever dead, and no ower lives in beauty but a hero died there. Goodbye Yeoceroee, farewell lad, you go down under the earth to Moi Covculs house of owers. We sing farewell. And your shine makes the clouds purple and red! You say, farewell, goodbye! Names of the gures above [from left to right]: Fiayiu, who loved her friend for his laughing spirit; Cering the mother; Yahbah the father; Sommaw the brother; Baypog the sister Inside: Old Isk comes for young Yeoceroee, says come, spirit, down to the earth from which you came, down to the house of darkness, for now you die. And the spirit of Yeoceroee follows old Isk the shepherd of the spirits down through many dark caves to the house of Moi Covcul which has written on the walls the stories of the lives of all creatures. It is


M. Root-Bernstein

Thea who writes on the walls of the house of truth, and Nok who keeps it. Yeoceroee comes to the cave of owers and greets Nok, says Brave Nok, I am Papushitohat, eet of foot, and far have I traveled through joy and sadness before I stopped here. And Nok gives him water to wash the hands of all desires. And to Thea he says, Sweet Thea, far have I traveled through snow and rain before I left behind the world. And she gives him to drink the water of forgetting. And Yeoceroee says to Moi Covcul, Hail, artisan, you are my grandmother and grandfather. Says Moi Covcul, you come well to my house, Papushitohat. Sleep you now here in the owers the soft and ending sleep of death, and awake new. Names of the gures below [from left to right]: Isk; Yeoceroee, son of Cering and Yahbah. The true name of his spirit is Papushitohat; Nok; Thea; Moi Covcul.

Brief Explanation of the Cave Painting This cave painting is a tribute to a young man, Yeoceroee, who died. The part of the inscription beginning Goodbye Yeoceroee. . . is an adaptation of a song to the sun at his setting on the holiday Bah Juebay. The red dress and shoes of Fiayiu are marriage clothes, indicating that she had hoped to marry Yeoceroee. Moi Covcul means Person Makes-All and is believed to have created the world. In the house of owers he is usually depicted as a dogwood tree and an eagle. Similarly, Isk, Nok and Thea are each considered to be one being with two shapes at once: human and bat, human and ocelot, human and fairy tern. There is a fourth keeper of the spirits named Giy [not pictured] who delivers inspiration and fertility, and she is associated with a cuttlesh.