In this project, we will investigate the roles of moral judgment, creativity, and pretend play activities in middle childhood. In particular, this project focuses on the significance of “paracosms” – imaginary worlds invented by children and often elaborated with fictional governments, geographies, and religions. We will conduct three studies: (1) a case study to collect in-depth qualitative information with 8 children who have created an elaborate universe of coordinated paracosms, (2) a longitudinal study to investigate the development of creativity and pretend play during childhood with 75 children aged 8 to 11 years who participated in an earlier related study, and (3) a larger study with 150 children aged 8 to 12 years to identify the prevalence of paracosms during childhood and the relations between having a paracosm, creativity, and moral judgment. In Studies 2 and 3, the children and their parents will be interviewed about paracosms, imaginary companions, and other fiction-based activities. The children will also complete behavioral tasks assessing various aspects of creativity (verbal and visuospatial, interpersonal/social and nonsocial) and moral judgment. This project includes the development of new measures and ways of thinking about children’s moral judgment and creativity that we believe will be valuable contributions. In addition our data will allow the exploration of more specific questions (e.g., the extent that religious and legal systems invented for paracosms reflect children’s developing capacity for moral judgment). This project is the first large-scale investigation of paracosms based on interviews with children rather than retrospective reports with adults. We hope to discover how this sustained imaginative activity contributes to creativity and morality.
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