All cultures are infused with make-believe and magic. Even infants learn quickly that they must learn how to pretend; and they shortly become experts in fantasy construction. Daily life is filled with the fictions of novels, television, theater, and religious myths. We all learn to dissimulate, put on facades and masks, and daydream. People are forever toying with the potential unreality and, not infrequently, the absurdity of what they are experiencing. The comedians and dramatists of the world are fond of reminding us that all is not what it appears to be.
What is the significance of our preoccupation with make-believe? Why do we flirt so often with images depicting radical new versions of the world? Why are we so fascinated with fiction and pretense?
The major goal of this book is to explore and integrate all that is scientifically known about the utility of magical plans and strategies for coping with life's inevitable absurdities. Obviously, make-believe has great adaptive value. We wish to probe in detail how it helps the average individual to function better in a world saturated with contradiction and paradox. We trace the origins of pretending (illusion construction) and the developmental phases of this skill. We analyze how parents depend on pretending to secure conformity and self-control from their children. We unravel the ways in which makebelieve is utilized to defend against death anxiety and feelings of fragility and insignificance. We examine the relationship between pretending and classical defense mechanisms. We test the protective powers of illusory constructs by investigating how well they have functioned in the context of religious myths. We also define the diverse contributions of make-believe to the con-