Why do human beings show such a strong preference for thinking in narratives? From a computational perspective, this method of generating inferences appears to be exorbitantly wasteful. Using students' responses to the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, I argue that narrative comprehension requires the construction of idiosyncratic imagery, but that the cognitive yield is structural and shared. This peculiar method of information processing, I suggest, is the outcome of evolutionary path-dependence. The narrative mode of construal is an expert system taking its input from the display of conscious experience, but producing results that are largely unconscious. Drawing on examples from rhesus play, I argue that the core features of narrative thinking have biological roots in strategy formation. Finally, I return to the fairy tale to illustrate the operation of a series of peculiar design features characteristic of human narrative thinking.
Tooby, J. and Cosmides, L. (1992): The psychological foundations of culture. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides and J. Tooby (eds): The Adapted Mind, 19-136.
Spelke, E. S. and Hermer, L. (1996): Early cognitive development: Objects and space. In R. Gelman, T. Kit-Fong et al. (eds): Perceptual and Cognitive Development. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 71-114.
Perceptual and Cognitive Development., () 71-114.
Perceptual and Cognitive Development.71114)| false