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Fantasy–Reality Distinction

Although there is considerable cultural variation in what is considered real, people in all cultures distinguish between reality and nonreality. This distinction is one of the most basic tools people use to categorize events and entities in the world, and thus, it is critical to optimal cognitive functioning. Reality is often defined by its contrast—a forgery is not considered real if compared to the original painting, but it is a real physical entity, unlike an imagined or dreamed-of painting. Thus, nonreality encompasses a wide range of alternatives, including but not limited to fantasy, imagination, dreams, lies, the hypothetical, the possible, and the impossible. Even within the realm of fantasy, there are multiple nonrealities, including magic, fiction, superstition, and cultural myths. Individuals’ understanding of these nonrealities ...

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