chapter  6
21 Pages

Measuring and assessing imagination

Much of our information about imagining comes from people's reports of their own experiences, though some of it llas come from studies of answers given to questions about behaviour. It would be extremely helpful if we had some accurate and reliable way of measuring and comparing imagination in different people-or even in the same person at different times, or after educational attempts to change imaginative ability; but there are two main difficulties; one is that 'imagining' is used to describe different kinds of behaviour, so that tests allegedly measuring imagination often measure what seem to be different things. The other difficulty is that some of the most interesting kinds of imagining do not have measurable effects; they do not lead to overt actions, observable behaviour; they do not affect the outside world. Hence the only way to find out about a great deal of imaginative activity is in fact to ask people about their experience; but-as we have pointed out earlier-people's accounts are not always reliable and they are not easy to compare. So a considerable variety of tests has been used in the last hundred years or so to try to give more objective indications of some kinds of imagining and to produce some comparable measurements. Considering these tests throws some light on what people mean by 'imagination' and on the kind of activities that have been described by this word.