Imagination may be more important than knowledge: The eight types of imagination we use

Murray Hunter explores imagination as a multidimensional concept which encompasses a number of different modes that may overlap, work in tandem, be functional, or even dysfunctional.

Imagination is the ability to form mental images, phonological passages, analogies, or narratives of something that is not perceived through our senses. Imagination is a manifestation of our memory and enables us to scrutinize our past and construct hypothetical future scenarios that do not yet, but could exist. Imagination also gives us the ability to see things from other points of view and empathize with others.

Imagination extends our experience and thoughts, enabling a personal construction of a world view that lowers our sense of uncertainty[i]. In this way our imagination fills in the gaps within our knowledge enabling us to create mental maps that make meaning out of the ambiguities of situations we face where information is lacking[ii], which is an important function of our memory management. This partly explains why people react differently to what they see due to the unique interpretations they make based on different prior knowledge and experience. Imagination enables us to create new meanings from cognitive cues or stimuli within the environment, which on occasions can lead to new insights.

Our knowledge and personal goals are embedded within our imagination which is at the heart of our existence, a cognitive quality that we would not be human without[iii]. Imagination is the means novelists use to create their stories[iv]. The Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk imagined a world he retreated into as a child where he was someone else, somewhere else in creating the narrative and story of his novel “Istanbul”.

Imagination is needed in marketing to create new value sets to consumers that separate new products from others. This requires originality to create innovation[v]. Imagination is the essence of marketing opportunity [vi] that conjures up images and entices fantasy to consumers, allowing them to feel what it would be like to live at Sanctuary Cove in Northern Queensland, Australia, receiving a Citibank loan, driving a Mercedes 500 SLK around town, or holidaying in Bali. Imagination aids our practical reasoning [vii] and opens up new avenues of thinking, reflection, organizing the world, or doing things differently. Imagination decomposes what already is, replacing it with what could be, and is the source of hope fear, enlightenment, and aspirations.


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