Forward and Backward Chaining
Thoughts on the different cognitive styles readers bring to what they read
I've been reading Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction by Keith Oatley, which is a bit dense but absolutely relevant to my interests and to the topic of this newsletter. Oatley talks about fiction as a kind of dream, a kind of play, a way that we explore ideas by seeing how they might play out, maybe in a world that closely resembles this one or maybe in a world conspicuously different from ours, one that highlights the idea in question by abstracting it into fantastical forms. (Some scientific research into fiction is very anti-genre-fiction, often in knee-jerk, unconsidered ways, and while Oatley seems unimpressed with certain kinds of genre fiction, he also starts right out talking about fantasy classics like A Midsummer Night's Dream, and he approvingly discusses the way that the love potion in that play casts old questions about love into a new light by defamiliarizing them - so I would certainly say he is not anti-speculative-fiction across the board.)
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