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Narrative and Coherence

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We outline a theory of one puzzling aspect of human cognition: a tendency to exaggerate the degree to which agency is manifested in the world. We call this over‐coherent thinking. We use Pylyshyn's idea of cognitive penetrability to help characterize this notion. We argue that this kind of thinking is essentially narrative in form rather than theoretical. We develop a theory of the relation between the degree of narrativity in a representation and its aptness to represent, and to express, mind. We review the prospects for several theories about how over‐coherent thinking gains a purchase on motivation. We argue that progress in this difficult area may require the abandonment of a categorical belief/imagination distinction in favour of vaguely specified clusterings in a many‐dimensional cognitive space. We conclude with the idea that an error‐prone system for the retention of ideas that are low in some of the characteristics generally thought desirable in belief might emerge as a result of an arms‐race between deceivers and deceiver‐detectors.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0268-1064.2004.00266.x

Affiliations: University of Nottingham, Flinders University and Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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