Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 397–418 | Cite as

“Minding the Gap”: Imagination, Creativity and Human Cognition

  • Etienne PelapratEmail author
  • Michael Cole
Regular Article


Inquiry into the nature of mental images is a major topic in psychology where research is focused on the psychological faculties of imagination and creativity. In this paper, we draw on the work of L.S. Vygotsky to develop a cultural-historical approach to the study of imagination as central to human cognitive processes. We characterize imagination as a process of image making that resolves “gaps” arising from biological and cultural-historical constraints, and that enables ongoing time-space coordination necessary for thought and action. After presenting some basic theoretical considerations, we offer a series of examples to illustrate for the reader the diversity of processes of imagination as image making. Applying our arguments to contemporary digital media, we argue that a cultural-historical approach to image formation is important for understanding how imagination and creativity are distinct, yet inter-penetrating processes.


Image Imagination Creativity Vygotsky Cultural-historical theory 



Our thanks to the anonymous reviewers whose insightful remarks and comments greatly improved our arguments, and also to Sanford I. Berman whose financial support through the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego made this work possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, Department of CommunicationUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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