Cognitive Science, Photography, and Narrative: Introductory Thoughts on an Unexplored Nexus


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    Recent contributions by cognitive science to the humanities have illuminated the ways in which cultural products of many kinds simultaneously depend on, and assist, the mental frameworks we use to understand and engage with both the world around us, and representations of that world. While stories, films, books and paintings have all been the subjects of such work, photography is mostly left off the agenda. Given the continued growth in popularity of photography, and its central role in social media, this is surprising. This paper describes how aspects of cognitive science might inform photographic interpretation and, to a lesser extent, practice. Some basic tenets common to cognitive science and cognitive literary theory, such as Theory of Mind, and Scripts and Schemata, are invoked to shed light on meaning-making and interpretation in examples from "found" art photography, particularly the "critical moment" tradition, and in some professional photographic disciplines and genres. One major contribution of cognitive approaches to literary theory has been to deepen and expand our general understanding of narrative and narrativity, and the paper concludes with a brief look at how cognitive approaches to photography may also facilitate a supplementary approach to the marginal, but occasionally significant, possibilities for narrative in single photographs.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-53
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of the Image
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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