Abstract

This review essay uses Lisa Zunshine's Strange Concepts and The Stories they Make Possible as the gravitational center for a larger discussion about scholarship that uses in cognitive approaches to study cultural phenomena. Moreover, the review essay considers whether the early cognitive development research of Paul Bloom and Susan A. Gelman offer an adequate platform for considering how authors, artists, and filmmakers confuse the mentally distinct and fixed categories of function and essence. The review essay proposes an alternative approach that uses the insights from Alison Gopnik and the early development of our causal, counterfactual, and probabilistic mechanisms that are grown to create and consume fiction—strange or otherwise. The review essay ends by asking if perhaps our interest in strange fictions and strange art is less the exercise of the (belief in) essence vs. function mechanisms (as per Bloom and Gelman) and more likely the playful engagement with our causal and counterfactual processes.

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