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The Assessment of Elaborated Role-play in Young Children: Invisible Friends, Personified Objects, and Pretend Identities


Correspondence should be addressed to Marjorie Taylor, Department of Psychology, 1227 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. Email:


Role-play (i.e., pretending in which children imagine and act out the part of another individual) was assessed with child interviews and parent questionnaires about invisible friends, personified objects, and pretend identities in a sample of 208 young children. Children who engaged in role-play did not differ from other children in age or vocabulary comprehension. However, they were better able to generate a pretend conversation than other children and were rated by their parents as less shy. The overall pattern of results suggests that the capacity to interact with imaginary others (in and out of the lab) is more closely associated with individual differences in personality than developmental level.