Imagination, the conscious representation of what is not immediately present to the senses, is often thought of as a mystery – the ghost in the machine that is perceived to inhabit people of extraordinary intellectual or artistic prowess. Although the ability to imagine is shared by all human beings, only a few are able to excel at imagination, and to use this extraordinary capacity in order to bring about important changes in the world. Currently, there is little consensus on how to objectively measure imagination or how to distinguish people with high imaginative “IQ” from others.

This project will establish an “Imagination Institute” – a new public charity that would be dedicated to advancing research and understanding on imagination, and is a planning phase of a larger initiative that will lay the groundwork for cultivating an eminent research program on imagination. The Institute is proposed to be led by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, who would serve as the Director, and supported by the National Philanthropic Trust.

After its inception, the Institute will create a dedicated website, launch an initiative entitled “Advancing the Science of Imagination,” and advertise the Request for Proposals for an international grants competition for the development of measures of imagination and for the interventions based on those measures. It is expected that the Institute will draw significant attention from academia and the general public around the world. In the long-run, the Institute will contribute to creating a valid, quantitative scale for imagination/perspective. If successful, it will be possible to understand imaginative capacities as something that resides in every person (to varying degrees), and that has the potential to be cultivated and increased to the benefit of oneself and others.