Seven Steps in the Evolution of the Human Imagination


in Imaginative Minds

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264195
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734540 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Seven Steps in the Evolution of the Human Imagination

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The modern human is a product of six million years of evolution wherein it is assumed that the ancestor of man resembles that of a chimpanzee. This assumption is based on the similarities of the ape-like brain size and post-cranial characteristics of the earliest hominid species to chimpanzees. Whilst it is unclear whether chimpanzees share the same foresight and contemplation of alternatives as with humans, it is nevertheless clear that chimpanzees lack creative imagination — an aspect of modern human imagination that sets humanity apart from its hominid ancestors. Creative imagination pertains to the ability to combine different forms of knowledge and ways of thinking to form creative and novel ideas. This chapter discusses seven critical steps in the evolution of the human imagination. These steps provide a clear picture of the gradual emergence of creative imagination in humans from their primitive origins as Homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago. This chronological evolution of the imaginative mind of humans involves both biological and cultural change that began soon after the divergence of the two lineages that led to modern humans and African apes.

Keywords: modern human; evolution; chimpanzee; creative imagination; hominid ancestors; creative ideas; novel ideas; human imagination

Chapter.  9324 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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