Professor Peter Stockwell

Professor Peter Stockwell

Professor Peter Stockwell is a researcher in cognition, linguistics and literature at the University of Nottingham.
Twitter: @PeterJStockwell

Location The University of Nottingham

Activity

  • Hello Linda. Do they go away when you close the book?

  • Hello Jarrod. The notion comes from Ray Gibbs' ideas about soft-assembled concepts. If you want the serious stuff, look up Larry Barsalou on the situatedness of concepts.

  • Hello Jean. You're right that thee is som subtlety in the notion (largely inserted because of criticism that it was too binary and inflexible). The basic assumption is still there, though - that personality is highly settled. I think this is wrong. If you're making a distinction between personality and behaviour then there is also an assumption that they are...

  • Just now on BBC radio4 news: 'The Metropolitan police has apologised in person'. Lovely example of the embodiment of a group mind!

  • Hello Theresa. Yes, I am in the middle of doing a new edition, but I'm also responsible here at Nottingham University for dealing with the fallout from the Brexit vote - so I've been a bit distracted lately! I'm hoping to rwap it up over the next few weeks, so it should be out in the new year.

  • Thanks Leslie. You can make a start on that reading list! Keen, Zunshine and Vermeule would be a good place to start!

  • Thank you everyone for all your comments at this point. I'm going to go back again and read them all through, and I'm sure the weight of observation and thinking will alter and refine my own ideas.

  • Hello all. It's interesting how many people here reacted contrary to the test that I did. That could mean that I was worng, or that there is something in the framing setup of this course Unit that messes up the results by priming you to read one and then the other with certain effects. The trickiness of reader experiments!

  • Hello Emma. Yes, that Heaney poem gets me too every time. Interesting that it doesn't lessen with re-reading. Also it's a useful example to show that immersion can be swift, and doesn't necessariyl depend on a long slow world-building process as is common in novels and stories.

  • Hello Michael and Rosalind. Your comments are interesting here. I don't think 'simulation' necessarily means it is conscious or wilful, though. I think simulation is an automatic, unconscious phenomenon - perhaps I should call it something else.

  • Hello Stephanie. This is cognitive psychology rather than social psych. The sorts of experiments that Gibbs and his co-workers have been doing suggest very strongly that conceptual metaphors do indeed help us to structure our thinking in ways that are in fact more embodied and more material than has ever been considered prevsiously. Crucially, in this work,...

  • Hello Althea. Every character certainly is you, at base. Your only available model for what a consciousness is like is your own sense of yourself - onto which you then build divergences from the creative text to model a fictional character. It seems to me that this identification at a basic level helps to explain how empathy etc can feel so intense (sometimes).

  • Hello Stephanie. I don't think this is what is meant here. The point here is that the basic sense (like a 'placeholder') of a character has to be based on the essential human condition that you are conscious of being yourself. This must be the case because you are your only point of reference for self-consciousness (self-evidently!). Any authorial brilliance...

  • Hello all. I just spent 2 hours reading all the discussions in this thread! Some brilliant thoughts here, links to other disciplines that make you re-imagine your own position, links to books and scientific papers that illuminate the discussion, and more. I realise my guess of 3 hours per week for this course can easily be blown apart.

  • Hello Donna. Yes, I saw this paper. It's very interesting, though I'm not entirely sure that it proves ape ToM conclusively.

  • Hello Louise. I like this 'silhouette' analogy. Of course, the thing that's missing when you start is still a person-shaped outline that is available to be filled in by the craft of the writing. I do think - like you - that readerly disposition is more important than textual researchers have assumed. And readerly disposition is not an easy phenomenon to...

  • Hello everyone. Welcome to Week 2, and already there is a fascinating discussion below about 'voices in your head' and whether poetry (or 'verse') should be read aloud or not. I'm always interested in the diversity of experience that people articulate, but what strikes me most is the definiteness of the experience. We have very stable senses of our own reading...

  • Hello all. We tried to include a range of material from the plain (most of the explanation in the course), and the simple (the blog account of ToM, rather than a psychology paper), right up through more complex scholarly stuff (like the Palmer article). This is because of the huge and diverse range of people on the course. I agree that deliberate obscurity...

  • Hello Jane W, Christine and Jane S. The schematic knowledge required by children when reading literature, compared with what they actually possess, is very interesting. Maria Nikolayeva at Cambridge U is doing some very good work on this at the moment - her 2014 book is called 'Reading for Learning: Cognitive Approaches to Children's Literature'.

  • Hello Karen and Guilherme. I think this is right. Most authors have not done a course in cognitive poetics! - but they are writing rich characters intuitively. It's my job to try to account for that intuitive creative process and understand it using our best current knowledge of language and mind.

  • Hello Linda. I agree with your irritation about Literature with the capital L. I've done stuff on Shakespeare and Milton and Shelley, et al, but also on SF, children's lit, and so-called 'trashy' literature. All of these are of interest in cognitive poetics!

  • Hello Jean. Only some of those are enactors of you. Crucially, each enactor is inaccessible to the others. So in a novel, if a character imagines what they would like to do, they have to imagine an alternative enactor of themself doing it in an imagined world. If there is a flashback, that earlier enactor does not know the same amount of stuff as the later...

  • Hello all. This is a fascinating thread. The crucial thing about enactors is that they are realisations if a character across worlds. So, for example, there are 2 'I' enactors in Keats' opening line 'When I have fears that I may cease to be...' The rest of the poem switches many times into further world levels, which as a reader you have to pursue. And the end...

  • Hello Estelle and Lindsay. The whole of cognitive poetics is trying to understand systematically what we do naturally when we read. Being able to differentiate enactors of the same character across text worlds seems to me the key to understanding how some texts are good at generating emotional intensity (or not). Also, realising that there are different states...

  • Hello Michael. I'd use a more literal and less postmodernist sense of text: the linguistic object. All those other activations of the text by an observing consciousness (i.e. reader) are discourses in the mind. In general, I'm not a fan of a lot of critical theory, as it's based on some very old-fashioned ideas about language (mostly in fact a misreading of...

  • Hello Daniela. Yes, the staged world has caused analytical problems in cognitive poetics. The actor is simultaneously an enactor of themself and also the character. And if an actor acts crying, those tears are both real and staged.

  • Hello Suzanne. Oh yes, that series is fantastic for an analysis of viewpoint and enactors! Have you read China Mieville's Embassytown? He imagines an alien mind that only regards pairs of human clones as actual people. It's also a great SF novel that uses linguistics as the source science.

  • Hello Paul. I think this is right - but the emotional mechanism must fundamentally be a single capacity, otherwise we'd have to theorise separate mental modules for the same emotional response to different forms. Tears during reading are still actual tears, not fictional or pretend tears. I do agree also that the process is active not passive as you say. It's...

  • Hello Paul. I don't think there's a contradiction here. The (crucial) awareness that lit characters are fictional not real obviously has an ethical function that cognitive poetics acknowledges (James Phelan has written a lot in this). The point here is that there is a continuity of emotional engagement between real and fictional people - otherwise it is...

  • It's very interesting how my notion of 'mind-modelling' - which I thought of as a readerly process - is being discussed by many of you as an authorial and productive process of creation.

  • Hello Stephanie. I like the sound of this - something else I have to read!

  • Hello Darrell. You're right - it's not completely discontinuous from that tradition. In critical theory terms, I think it's closest to phenomenology (Poulet, Iser, for example). The main difference between cognitive poetics and all those movements is that cogpo draws heavily from cognitive science, and is centrally informed by linguistics. This makes it better...

  • Hello Clare. Feel free to leap ahead, but you'll have to wait for the rest of us to catch up!

  • Hello Clare - Kim beat me to it! - Yes, fanfiction is a great measurement for portability.

  • Hello Leah. Not so much dehumanising (though of course maybe some bigots might mean that) - but the sense that a large number of people are rendered as a single group mind always, to a certain extent, denies the individuality of the single person. Say 'the Scots', or 'the French', or 'the medieval mind' and a certain image appears that is an aggregate and...

  • Hello Rossella. Yes. Each of those are different enactors in your mind at the moment. Crucially, you can't bring them all together instantly in the same world. One is a future speculation, the other is a memory.

  • Hello Ffion. Yep. Each of those versions of you are inaccessible to the others, because they exist in different worlds (imaginary future, and in your memory).

  • Hello Liz and Deborah. You're right - there's a ton of recent material in autism research and ToM. In an earlier version of this course, I included some papers here, but people generally thought them too technical, so I switched them for this more gentle intro. The work of Matthew Belmonte is interesting if you want to google up some of his more recent stuff....

  • Hello Anthony. Interesting comments here. Also, I am now determined to write a paper someday called 'Are crocodiles autistic?'

  • Hello Darrell. I'm being intrigued so far with what you writers are doing with these concepts. The key thing with enactors, though, is that each is an aspect of a character that occupies a different world - the two different 'I's in Keats' 'When I have fears that I may cease to be'. I'm not sure that's the same as 'story beats' - which I'm now going to go and...

  • Hello Diana. Exactly right.

  • Hello Maura. The pie-collector is the same enactor as the graveside-talker. The earlier version of you, going to the seaside with your friend in the past, is a different enactor. The later you, writing, is continuously the same enactor as the pie-collector. The key difference between enactors is that they are literally inaccessible to each other - they are in...

  • Hello Angela. It may be that your cat is a better example of a person, for you, than many people. But for cats, people, and anything else you interact with emotionally, you are running a ToM for them in your mind. Your cat cannot run a ToM - that's a unique ability of (some) primates.

  • Hello Michael. You might be right here. I've speculated that - in literary fiction - the simulation-theory and the theory-theory align with 1st and 3rd person narrative forms. Haven't fully thought this through yet, though, and it's not something that a psychologist would recognise perhaps.

  • Hello Isobel. Come to Nottingham! Or at least pick an English course that offers integrated Lang/lit study.

  • Hello Kathy. Wow - you're the perfect person for this course!

  • Hello Irene and Danny. Reading is basically my job (apart from a few meetings in suits) - I'm very lucky!

  • Professor Peter Stockwell replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Haha! Yes, Ken - some people rattle through and others take hours and hours. I don't mind either way. You got here fast though - it's only 10:46 on Day 1 in my time zone!

  • Hello Alasdair, Stephanie, Steven. 'Enactor' is a mental category, so there can only be one enactor in the focus of attention at any one time. I can think of myself as the writer of this post, and then as the person sitting in this office with a cup of tea over there. The 'and then' is crucial - I can't pay attention to both equally at the same time. Notice...

  • Hello all. How deep is the rabbit hole? There seems to be some evidence that suggests we can reasonably do 3/4 switches (e.g. 'Dave thought that Scott's sense of the course that was not longer than 2 weeks and would have finished later but for the limits of FutureLearn was critical' - but that 7 switches is probably the maximum. Keats manages 5/6 in the first...

  • Perfect!

  • Hello Helen. That's FutureLearn, I think, not us! They're trying to nudge you to post more.

  • Hello Patricia. Yes, most people (i.e. neurotypically) can distinguish real and fictional. The point here is that this is an ethical distinction ('a threat') that is made at a higher conceptual level. Our basic engagement with fictional and actual minds as people is emotionally the same. The alt view - that we treat fictional and actual people differently in...

  • Hello Anne. 'Folk psychology' is how psychologists refer to the common understanding of psychology that ordinary people have - which tends to be a mix of Freud and 'common sense'. It's a bit condescending.

  • Hello Caspian. That's a good point. I'd still call this emotional or behavioural distance rather than physical distance - and pre-empt an objection that this is merely a metaphor by saying that the perception of physical distance is also a metaphor.

  • Hello Colleen. You're right: readers often generate an authorial mind as well (just for the record, I wrote the course fully clothed!).

  • Hello everyone. It has struck me with this run of 'How to read a mind' that there are a large numbers of creative writers amongst you. My own research is in textual effects on readers, and traditionally the field of literary linguistics has kept away from matters of authorial intention and creativity. So I'm very interested to learn how this sub-field of...

  • Good morning everyone! Welcome to the course. It's good to 'meet' you all. I'm intrigued by the diverse backgrounds and interests of everyone who has signed up. The next couple of weeks should be very interesting.

  • Good morning evereyone! Welcome to the course

  • Hello Charmaine. Best to email me - just google my name (I'm the one who isn't an admiral in the NZ navy!)

  • Hello all! Yes, the course is finished, but I like to keep dipping in. As Mark says right at the end here, there was a warning that the quiz was a piece of fun. That's why there were some questions with contradictory answers (actually, the only true answer had to be contradictory) or multiple possible answers (again, because there is no simple answer). I was...

  • Hello. Some smart readings here. I don't think it's just the ideology - though I think sometimes Pullman is a bit too ham-fisted with his 'message'. Actually. Pullman reminds me more of William Blake, with his sort of reversed take on the christian god and the church.

  • Of course, when I was a kid, I *was* Peter in the Lion et al - even though I thought he was a bit pompous. Readerly disposition in action!

    I'll look up that book.

  • Hello Lisa. That's a big question! I loved CS Lewis as a kid - and had a vague idea about its mysticism as an atmosphere but no idea until I was older that there were religious aspects. I still think he's a better writer than Philip Pullman, though (ducks head for cover at this point...)

  • Hello Charmaine. Thanks for your interesting thoughts. The course will stay up for a few months for those who have already registered and taken it (it will close to new participants this weekend). P

  • Hello Val, Sheila, Chris. Yes, I meant 'professional readers', meaning lit academics, I suppose. This is a stance to the text rather than a job title, I think. So even though I spend all my working life with literature, I still think I can 'switch off' and read as a 'natural' reader sometimes - without noticing explicit matters of linguistic structure. My...

  • Hello all! I know some of you have been finding Palmer's paper a bit of a shift in gear. I was trying to cover a full range from very accessible to scholarly - the diversity of people I'm trying to cover in this course is very daunting! However, I do think his argument is a smart one. If you find it too far away from your own usual reading, though, then just...

  • Hello Patricia and Susanne. This is quite a well-known effect. The classic paper is by Chance, Turner and Goldstein (1982) 'Development of differential recognition of own and other race faces' Journal of Psychology 112: 29-37. But if you google 'infant face recognition' you'll get many examples of more recent work. The argument is that the basis of this sort...

  • Hello everyone who has got to end of 'Week 1' by now (it's Wednesday here). Have you seen the 'Is your pet a person?' quiz that FutureLearn (not me!) have put up on their blogs page. It's good fun! See you next week.

  • Hello Carys. That's my office at work. Mostly linguistics. I keep all my novels, poetry, playtexts, art books and cookery books at home. Too many books!

  • Hello Susan. Well, there is an argument that says that the habitual practising of ToM in reading fiction makes you better at it. I think this is probably what I believe. So literature as vicarious experience is still a good form of experience.

  • Hello Tamer. It's hard to make a difference, because the capacity for acquiring knowledge is a natural, instinctive part of human development. Certainly the full development of ToM is a thing that happend in late childhood / adolescence, for the vast majority of people. So it seems that it is an innate capacity that is culturally activated.