The IF Project: The IF Project is serious research into a playful subject. Phase I involved interviewing nearly 40 children (ages 2-9) in the Louisville, Kentucky metro area who were identified by their parents as having imaginary or invisible friends. Interviews were supplemented with simple cognitive tests, theory of mind tasks, for those who know this field. See the following link for a great description of these kinds of tasks: Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind example: Watch the short clip below (used with parental permission) for an example of one of the tasks, a “surprise contents” test. Children (here, Quack Quack’s creator) were asked about the knowledge of four others: a good friend (whose name is edited out in the clip), the IF, a dog, and God.
Results: The answers of this young 4 yr old are common for his age. For analysis of our findings, go to the Research Results page.
The Team: The lead investigator has been J. Bradley Wigger, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Education at Louisville Seminary. The interview and research team includes: Ada Asenjo, Katrina Paxson, Lacey Ryan, Miles Schneider, Jannine Sayago-Gonzalez, and Cora Wigger.
Next Phase: The next step, Phase II, will involve interviewing children in other parts of the world in order to provide cross-cultural comparisons.
Funding: The research already completed (Phase I, formally called “Imaginary Companions, Theory of Mind, and God”) has been part of a larger Cognition, Religion and Theology Project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, at the University of Oxford. They would like you to know that the views and interpretations of the research are not necessarily those of the Project, the University, or the Foundation.
Ethics Statement: This project conforms to the ethical standards of research with human subjects as approved by the Institutional Review Board of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.