The human mind has the capacity to vault over the realm of current perception, motivation, emotion, and action, to leap—consciously and deliberately—to past or future, possible or impossible, abstract or concrete scenarios and situations. In this book, Radu Bogdan examines the roots of this uniquely human ability, which he terms "mindvaulting." He focuses particularly on the capacities of pretending and imagining, which he identifies as the first forms of mindvaulting to develop in childhood. Pretending and imagining, Bogdan argues, are crucial steps on the ontogenetic staircase to the intellect.
Bogdan finds that pretending and then imagining develop from a variety of sources for reasons that are specific and unique to human childhood. He argues that these capacities arise as responses to sociocultural and sociopolitical pressures that emerge at different stages of childhood. Bogdan argues that some of the properties of mindvaulting—including domain versatility and nonmodularity—resist standard evolutionary explanations. To resolve this puzzle, Bogdan reorients the evolutionary analysis toward human ontogeny, construed as a genuine space of evolution with specific pressures and adaptive responses. Bogdan finds that pretending is an ontogenetic response to sociocultural challenges in early childhood, a pre-adaptation for imagining; after age four, the adaptive response to cooperative and competitive sociopolitical pressures is a competence for mental strategizing that morphs into imagining.