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The more things change…: Metamorphoses and conceptual structure

Authors
Journal
Cognitive Science
0364-0213
Publisher
Wiley Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
Volume
9
Issue
4
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/s0364-0213(85)80019-7
Disciplines
  • Engineering

Abstract

Given that mythmakers must construct stories that are comprehensible to their audience, it is reasonable to expect stories to be conceptually natural even when their topics deal with the supernatural. Thus, as stories are adapted to human conceptual structure, they should reflect characteristics of that structure. An examination of the types of magical transformations in Ovid's Metamorphoses and Grimms' Fairy Tales suggests that this is the case. It was possible to predict the patterns of transformations on the basis of structural properties of ontological knowledge, which is knowledge of the basic categories of existence (e.g., conscious beings, animals, plants, events). Other characteristics of the transformations seem to reflect the conceptual distinction between animates and inanimates as well as the relative prototypicality of various taxonomic classes of animals. It appears that aspects of conceptual structure can constrain patterns of thinking even during “the willing suspension of disbelief.”

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