Reflective Imagination via the Artistic Experience: Evolutionary Trajectory, Developmental Path, and Possible Functions

Alejandra Wah*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Elsewhere I have argued that particular degrees of imagination and consciousness, a cognitive process that I call reflective imagination, distinguish humans from other species and make possible, and underlie, the artistic experience. I take the artistic experience to be the universal and characteristically human capacity to experience oneself or others in a story by means of music, dance, song, pantomime, drawing, pretend play, or spoken or written language. In this paper I reconstruct the developmental path of the reflective imagination via the artistic experience in five stages: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and senescence, and its plausible evolutionary trajectory from Australopithecines to Homo sapiens. Drawing upon both evolutionary and developmental theory, I conclude that the reflective imagination via the artistic experience has fulfilled, and still fulfills, important functions by activating memory systems, regulating emotional expression, promoting mutuality, training attentional focus, developing motor control, enabling prediction, freeing from actuality, sourcing identity, complexifying consciousness, and affording behavioral adaptation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)53-72
    Number of pages20
    JournalEvolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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