Your Imagination: Where Gray Becomes Multicolored

Imagination is closely related to important mental processes such as creativity, language, and empathy.
Your Imagination: Where Gray Becomes Multicolored
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Imagination is a fantastic ability that transports you to other worlds and realities. Frequently associated with childhood or madness, this quality is one of the most valuable that we human beings have. Despite having been neglected for years, in recent times its undeniable role in important mental functions has been discovered.

Imagining elevates you, humanizes you, and makes you more complete. It helps you interpret the past and glimpse the future, find innovative solutions, and even communicate. Without imagination, your world would be narrow and limited, you’d only perceive the tangible, and your essence would disappear.

Children playing that they fly mounted on a toy plane thanks to their imagination

Intelligence and language

Imagination is closely related to intelligence. In fact, without it, thought wouldn’t even exist. That’s because each concept you deal with is a mental representation of an image, of a reality. To think is to transform, interpret, and shape what surrounds you, adding meaning to it. Without imagination, you’d be unable to conceptualize the world as you do.

Your thinking is based on language. When you think, you do so using words, phrases, and statements. However, language is another capacity that’s mediated by imagination. Thanks to it, you can associate sounds and symbols to their corresponding real representations. For instance, when reading, you evoke the content in your mind and give form and reality to something that isn’t really there.

When you communicate with someone, you mentally transform their words into meaningful images and ideas. It’s your imagination that allows you to understand what they tell you. It also allows you to verbally capture your own internal world.

The role of imagination in empathy

Imagination doesn’t only allow you to understand what someone else is saying to you, it also allows you to experience it. Empathy consists of putting yourself in the place of the other person, elucidating their emotions and motivations, and imagining what it feels like to be in their shoes.

To empathize, you have to escape your own personal conception and move to the emotional reality of another. Without imagination, you’d be constrained to your points of view and emotional connection wouldn’t be possible.

Little girl dressed as a superhero

Dreams and memories

One of the most interesting aspects of the human mind is that every time it remembers, it transforms. Your mind isn’t a tape recorder, your memories aren’t totally objective, they’re impregnated with emotions and interpretation. Remembering is evoking, imagining the past, and in doing so, you integrate the learning and emotions you possess at that moment.

On the other hand, dreams are one of the most extensive manifestations of the imagination. When you dream, you move to a world that only exists in your imagination, even though this isn’t a consciously directed process. Without imagination, the fanciful and spectacular symbolic world that you unfold in your dreams wouldn’t exist.

Creativity and innovation

The essential element of creativity is the ability to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist and bring it to life through ingenious combinations. Creativity allows you to innovate, dream beyond what exists, and bring it to reality. It’s imagination that makes societies advance and evolve. Indeed, as a society, without imagination, we’d remain stuck in the known because we’d be unable to visualize anything that was different and improved.

It’s true that some people are naturally more creative than others. However, everyone has an imagination. Nonetheless, it’s a practice that needs developing. Imagining and creating help you to make your attitudes more flexible and it also serves as a cathartic act. That’s why you should work on your most imaginative side.

boy playing with a truck

The relationship between imagination and perception

It may seem that perceiving and imagining are totally independent and even conflicting concepts. However, it’s been proven that, at a neurophysiological level, imagining an action is similar to carrying it out. For example, if you imagine that you’re lifting a weight, the same areas will be activated as if you were actually doing it. Therefore, imagining is another way of experimenting and experiencing.

Indeed, far from being a secondary and irrelevant quality, imagination is closely related to important mental processes. That’s why it’s important to conserve and enhance your imagination. In fact, it’s the quality capable of making you learn from the past, understand the present, and create the future.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Artola, T., Barraca, J., Mosteiro, P., Ancillo, I., Poveda, B., & Sánchez, N. (2012). Prueba de imaginación creativa para adultos. Madrid: TEA Ediciones.
  • Egan, K. (1999). Fantasía e imaginación, su poder en la enseñanza primaria: una alternativa a la enseñanza y el aprendizaje en la educación infantil y primaria (Vol. 30). Ediciones Morata.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.