Page 77 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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“The function of the story is to find an intentional state that mitigates or at least
makes comprehensible a deviation from a canonical cultural pattern.” (Bruner, 1990)
“Narrative, then, provides scaffolding for formulating reasons about why, in the face
of more or less entrenched expectations to the contrary, people engage in (or fail to
engage in) particular courses of action.” (Herman, 2013)
This kind of constructivism distinguishes the “cognizing” parts of the world from everything
else – and then grants significant agency to the cognizers. A system is cognitive to the extent
that:
1.
It can adapt its behavior to changing environments.
2.
It can process information from its environment.
3.
It can selectively and purposefully attend to its environment.
4.
It can create internal representations of its environment.
5.
It can modify its environment through the creation of artefacts.
6.
It can be aware of itself as cognitive agent (i.e., it is self-reflexive).
7.
It can have conscious experiences of itself and the world. (adapted from
Theiner & O’Connor, 2010; Kaidesoja, 2013)
“We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water …We are not stuff that
abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves: these patterns clearly exist, at any
given moment, in a form we recognize as body, but each individual is more like a
temporary eddy in that living, surging river.” (Wiener, 1950)
Bruner (1990) emphasized that “the central concept of a human psychology is meaning and
the processes and transactions involved in the construction of meanings.” Some animals can
be surprised, perhaps confused, but humans can actively manage their surprise or confusion
by seeking clarifying information, reasoning about the facts at hand, recalling similar pasts,
and simulating possible futures. This ability to detect gaps in one’s understanding and to
reinstate understanding by constructing explanations is obviously a powerful tool for
succeeding in novel environments and for manipulating environments in line with one’s own
purposes (Craik, 1943; Gopnik, 2000).
“People are, in essence, theory creators. These theories may not be very elaborate or
especially scientific. People create theories about how certain events will turn out, and
if they are wrong, they attempt to modify those theories by incorporating the new data
into the old theory. Of course, people are not all that logical, so they easily forget old
data, or conveniently rework the evidence to fit the theory. They are by no means
perfect theory-makers. ….Either a prediction explanation is needed, an intent
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