Zorana Ivcevic Pringle

Emotional Imagination

Imagination is at the heart of creativity – it both creates new ideas and powers the emotional process of taking ideas from our minds into the world.

Imagination plays with ideas, moves them around, connects what hasn’t been connected before, and builds structures in the mind. From such imagination come ideas that can lead to new insights, performances, or products that enrich our lives or change our culture (and the world!). Conjuring new realities is energizing, whether inspired by joyful exploration or necessities and frustrations in the world.

The journey of creativity starts in the realm of imagination. But imagining ideas is not enough to bring them to life in actions, performances, and products. As any worthy journey, creativity often is a long one. The path of imagination realized is full of challenges. Imagine the feelings along the way. Feelings at realizing false starts. Feelings when facing material constraints and limitations. Feelings in juggling competing goals. And, of course, feelings when experiencing creative blocks.

There is no creativity without overcoming these obstacles. Indeed, the most difficult part of creativity is not imagining original ideas, but dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions along the way. It takes imagination to make it through these ups and downs when we don’t even know what is around the corner. Developing imagined ideas takes emotional imagination. This imagination helps us envision a way forward when facing a wall. Emotional imagination helps us devise strategies to deal with frustrations and anxieties of not knowing whether an idea can be brought to life and how. Emotional imagination enables the courage to create and make what could be imagined, real.


Zorana Ivcevic Pringle is Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Creativity and Emotions lab at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Associate Editor of Psychology of Aesthetics and Creativity, whose research has been published in academic journals such as Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Personality, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Creativity Research Journal, and Journal of Creative Behavior, and who has received the Award for Excellence in Research from the Mensa Education and Research Foundation for her research on emotional intelligence and emotional creativity, as well as the Berlyne Award for Outstanding Early Career Achievement in psychology of aesthetics, creativity, and the arts.

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