Pretending and Imagination in Animals and Children

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This book provides an overview of recent research presenting conflicting interpretations of children's understanding of the psychology of pretense and describes sociocultural factors which influence children's pretenses. Studies of nonhuman primates provide examples of their pretenses and other simulative activities, explore their representational and imaginative capacities and compare their skills with children. Although the psychological requirements for pretending are controversial, evidence presented in this volume suggests that great apes and even monkeys may share capacities for imagination with children and that children's early pretenses may be less psychological than they appear.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Anthropologists and psychologists from Europe and North America share their findings from observing activities similar to pretense by children and other lesser primates. They consider such topics as developmental and comparative perspectives on pretending as representation, caregiver-child social pretend play, and play and simulation in the evolution of primate societies. Evidence from animals may eventually help establish a psychologically and evolutionarily plausible account of fictive acts of perceiving. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Written in a careful, thought-provoking manner, these papers are well worth the effort required to understand most of them." Choice

"This is a stimulating book." Ethology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521283328
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/16/2011
  • Pages: 390
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT W. MITCHELL is Professor of Psychology at the Eastern Kentucky University. He is currently interested in exploring the significance of kinesthetic-visual matching in human and animal behavior, experience and self-understanding, and is writing a history of scientific attitudes toward using anthropomorphism to understand animals. Professor Mitchell's previous books include Self-Awareness in Animals and Humans (1994, ISBN 0521441080), edited with S. T. Parker and M. L. Boccia, and The Mentalities of Gorillas and Orangutans (1999, ISBN  0521580277), edited with S. T. Parker and H. L. Miles.

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Table of Contents

List of contributors
Preface and acknowledgments
I Historical, developmental, and comparative overviews
1 Imaginative animals, pretending children 3
2 A history of pretense in animals and children 23
3 Pretending as representation: a developmental and comparative view 43
II Pretense and imagination in children
4 Language in pretense during the second year: what it can tell us about "pretending" in pretense and the "know-how" about the mind 59
5 A longitudinal and cross-sectional study of the emergence of the symbolic function in children between 15 and 19 months of age: pretend play, object permanence understanding, and self-recognition 73
6 Caregiver-child social pretend play: what transpires? 91
7 Just through the looking glass: children's understanding of pretense 102
8 Young children's understanding of pretense and other fictional mental states 115
9 Pretend play, metarepresentation and theory of mind 129
10 Replica toys, stories, and a functional theory of mind 142
11 Young children's animal-role pretend play 154
12 Imaginary companions and elaborate fantasy in childhood: discontinuity with nonhuman animals 167
III Pretense and imagination in primates
13 Pretending in monkeys 183
14 Pretending primates: play and simulation in the evolution of primate societies 196
15 Representational capacities for pretense with scale models and photographs in chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) 210
16 Pretending in free-ranging rehabilitant orangutans 229
17 Seeing with the mind's eye: eye-covering play in orangutans and Japanese macaques 241
18 Possible precursors of pretend play in nonpretend actions of captive gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) 255
19 Pretending culture: social and cognitive features of pretense in apes and humans 269
20 Empathy in a bonobo 280
21 Pretend play in a signing gorilla 285
IV Prospects
22 Exploring pretense in animals and children 307
References 317
Author Index 353
Subject Index 362
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