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The paradox of fiction revisited: a cognitive approach to understanding (cinematic) emotion

Barratt, Daniel Henry (2004) The paradox of fiction revisited: a cognitive approach to understanding (cinematic) emotion. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86340) (KAR id:86340)


The following project is intended as a contribution to the inter-disciplinary enterprise of cognitive film theory. Employing a cognitive approach, the project examines our capacity to respond emotionally to audiovisual fictions in general and cinematic fictions in particular. In order to structure and focus the investigation, the project centres on the paradox of fiction: namely, the question of why and how we respond emotionally to fictional characters and events, especially when we are consciously aware of their fictional - i.e., non-existent - status. (It also considers the related paradoxes of representation and empathy.) The main strategy for solving the paradox is to challenge the proposition that (cinematic) emotions require 'existence beliefs'; in tum, this strategy can be divided into 'direct' and 'indirect approaches', as exemplified by the 'seeing' and 'thought theories' respectively. An additional strategy is to revise the Cartesian framework which underlies the paradox as a whole. The first three main chapters explicitly address the direct approach. The process of direct engagement can be divided roughly into a 'seeing stage' and a 'reacting stage'. In light of this, Chapter 2 outlines a modular and computational view of the mind/brain, considering some of the ways in which we 'see' the world and the cinema. In a corresponding fashion, Chapter 3 outlines a multi-level model of the emotion system from a neurobiological perspective, considering some of the ways in which we 'react' to what we see. The function of Chapter 4 is to develop the multi-level model in question by adopting a connectionist and cognitive perspective, thereby tracing both an associative network and a cognitive appraisal route to (cinematic) emotion. The final main chapter - Chapter 5 - explicitly addresses the indirect approach. Given that appeals to 'thought' and 'imagination' are potentially problematic, it re-traces the simulative route to (cinematic) emotion, demonstrating how the multi-level model acts as both a constraint on, and an alternative to, emotional simulation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Smith, Murray
Thesis advisor: Thomas, Alan
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86340
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: N Visual Arts
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:52 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 15:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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