Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Folk Studies


American culture tends to consider imaginary friends (or imaginal companions, as I refer to them) as a folk belief belonging in the realm of childhood. If an adult believes in imaginal companions, they are potentially subject to the social stigma of psychological labeling. The mass media reflects this perception of reality and influences social interactions regarding experiences and beliefs in imaginal companions. Fear of this social stigma limits folk group size, which potentially creates an issue with informant group size. I gathered my informants from a group of friends, whom I interviewed over a one-year period. Although there is a danger of overgeneralizing when dealing with a small informant group, I reached many useful conclusions pertaining to the belief in imaginal companions as a "hidden tradition" expressed through narratives in small groups. Social relationships clearly exist between imaginal companions and believers of imaginal companions. The formation of a dyadic folk group begins with the initial appearance of the imaginal companion and communication with the believer. The believer perceives their imaginal companion or companions by manipulating the influence of the culture and society around them. However, there are other folk groups to consider in relation to this phenomenon as well. Through storytelling in safe environments, folk groups of varying sizes emerge, ranging from other dyads to slightly larger groups. Although a believer may create these groups through cautious social interaction, they may also be born into a safe environment such as a family of believers. These groups tend to revolve around storytelling. Investigations of these social interactions, as expressed in narrative form, suggest American cultural influences on personal perceptions of reality.


Anthropology | Folklore

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