Paracosmic Immersion

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A paracosm is a term used to describe the phenomenon of an imaginary friend. More precisely, "A paracosm is a detailed imaginary world involving humans and/or animals, or perhaps even fantasy or alien creations. Often having its own geography, history, and language, it is an experience that is developed during childhood and continues over a long period of time: months or even years".[1]

The term "paracosm" was coined by Ben Vincent, a participant in Silvey's 1976 study and a self-professed paracosmist.[2][citation needed] The concept was first described by a researcher for the BBC, Robert Silvey, with later research by British psychiatrist Stephen A. MacKeith, and British psychologist David Cohen.[3]

Paracosms are also mentioned in articles about types of childhood creativity and problem-solving. Some scholars believe paracosm play indicates high intelligence. A Michigan State University study revealed that many MacArthur Fellows Program recipients had paracosms as children.[5] In an article in the International Handbook on Giftedness, Michelle Root-Bernstein writes about paracosm play as an indicator of high levels of intelligence and creativity, which may "supplement objective measures of intellectual giftedness ... as well as subjective measures of superior technical talent." [4] Marjorie Taylor is another child development psychologist who explores paracosms as part of a study on imaginary friends.[5]


A paracosm in the childhood development phase exists as a world outside of your that you can envision.[6], says open data advocate Max Ogden. The period between 9-10 yrs old where brain is in moment of time where kids have the most paracosmic activity. This period is incredibly important in a child's life. It is not possible for those parts of the brain to developer later in life.

During a paracosm one learns how to take a thought or idea and rotate it in order to think about it from the other side. This allows one to, later on in life, but themselves in another's shoes, or remove oneself from a singular embedded point of view to another. When you take take your point of view and another's point of view and find the delta's between them is when you can be the most innovative. Research has shown that the most creative kids, the kids who turn out to be artists or programmers and make up the creative class, have the most paracosmic activity.[7]

The moral of the story is this: if you have a 9-10 year old, make sure they have imaginary friends, or they will have boring desk jobs for the rest of their lives".[8]

To a UX Designer, adds Ogden, building wireframes is related to paracosmic immersion because to properly design an interface the designer must try on different personas, invent different types of users and see their their eyes. It uses critical thinking, analysis, imagination and creativity. Compressing multiple steps into smaller sets of steps, anticipating how a certain user or group of users might approach things, and synthesizing these variables together is a process helped by those who are good at imagining alternate realities. It is also a process that uses both the left and right sides of the brain.[9]


  1. Paracosm
  2. Citation needed
  3. David Cohen and Stephen MacKeith, The Development of Imagination: The Private Worlds of Childhood (Concepts in Developmental Psychology). Routledge, 1992.
  4. Root-Bernstein, Michelle, "Imaginary Worldplay as an Indicator of Creative Giftedness". In the International Handbook on Giftedness, ed. by Larissa Shavinina. Springer, 2009.
  5. Taylor, Marjorie, Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0195146298.
  6. Interview with Max Ogden. July 31, 2010.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.