The Psychology of Adaptation to Absurdity: Tactics of Make-Believe

By Rhoda L. Fisher; Seymour Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
LEARNING HOW TO PRETEND AND MAKE THINGS UP

PRETENSE AND ILLUSION

Up to this point, we have taken it for granted that persons generally possess the capacity to deceive themselves, to slip into illusory modes. However, the ability to create a fictional scenario for oneself probably involves complex skills and maneuvers. How do people learn to pretend, to imaginatively fashion their own versions of what is happening? Our intent in this chapter is to sift through what is known about the development of make-believe skills.

A reservoir of information exists concerning children's use of pretense. Numerous observers have scanned children's repertoire of pretend behaviors (e.g., Pepler & Rubin, 1982; Singer, 1973; Smith & Franklin, 1979; Winner & Gardner, 1979). There are now investigations of such diverse topics as types of pretending; shifts in modes of pretending with age; individual, gender, and socioeconomic differences in pretend behavior; and influence of parents on children's pretending. It is remarkable how quickly children begin to learn to pretend. By the age of 12 months (perhaps earlier), they show signs of being involved in, and enjoying, make-believe ( Cole & LaVoie, 1985; Fein, 1975; Sherrod & Singer, 1979; Ungerer, Zelazo, Kearsley, & O'Leary, 1981). Piaget ( 1962) was struck with the early appearance and vigor of pretending in his own offspring.

We have been fascinated with the literature on children's pretend strategies because it is so pertinent to the issue of illusion. Children who are caught up in pretend play may be said to be engaged in a form of illusion construction. They conjure up make-believe scenes and invent imaginative circumstances. They are usually consciously aware that their pretending differs from

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