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Hardcover | $30.00 Short | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262012447 | 224 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 2 halftones, 8 line drawings, 1 table| February 2008

Essential Info

Scenario Visualization

An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving


In order to solve problems, humans are able to synthesize apparently unrelated concepts, take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, hypothesize, invent, and engage in other similarly abstract and creative activities, primarily through the use of their visual systems. In Scenario Visualization, Robert Arp offers an evolutionary account of the unique human ability to solve nonroutine vision-related problems. He argues that by the close of the Pleistocene epoch, humans evolved a conscious creative problem-solving capacity, which he terms scenario visualization, that enabled them to outlive other hominid species and populate the planet. Arp shows that the evidence for scenario visualization—by which images are selected, integrated, and then transformed and projected into visual scenarios—can be found in the kinds of complex tools our hominid ancestors invented in order to survive in the ever-changing environments of the Pleistocene world.

Arp also argues that this conscious capacity shares an analogous affinity with neurobiological processes of selectivity and integration in the visual system, and that similar processes can be found in the activities of organisms in general. The evolution of these processes, he writes, helps account for the modern-day conscious ability of humans to use visual information to solve nonroutine problems creatively in their environments.

Arp's account of scenario visualization and its emergence in evolutionary history suggests an answer to two basic questions asked by philosophers and biologists concerning human nature: why we are unique; and how we got that way.

About the Author

Robert Arp has authored numerous articles and book chapters in ontology (in the information science sense), philosophy of mind, philosophy of biology, modern philosophy, and popular culture. He is the author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving (MIT Press, 2008). He is also coauthor of Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology (MIT Press, in preparation) and Reasoning Well: An Introduction to Critical Thinking and is coeditor of Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy of Biology: An Anthology.


"Arp's book covers a very important topic in cognitive science—namely, theevolution of cognitive abilities. The writing is clear and accessible, whilethe many sources make this a great reference for those doing research on thetopic. Arp's theory is a welcome advance over other well-known ideas abouthow we rapidly utilize information as it issues from diverse cognitivemodules."
Jonathan A. Waskan, Department of Philosophy, University of Illinois, and author of Models and Cognition

"Robert Arp is a rising star in work at the intersection of biology,evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy. ScenarioVisualization is a challenging volume that will be appreciated by scholarsworking in each of these fields and at their intersection, and is writtenwith a clarity that will also please laypersons interested in learning aboutcutting-edge thinking on human cognitive evolution."
Todd K. Shackelford, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University

"Human creativity seems as much of a 'hard problem' as consciousness. ButRobert Arp's new book makes real progress in coming to grips with how ourminds solve the novel problems mother nature's arms race is always throwingat us. It combines the resources of the philosophy of psychology, cognitiveneuroscience, archeology, and most of all a nuanced Darwinism, to show ushow hominids must have used conscious processing of visual information tosolve the design problems they faced, and how their strategies recur in ourown acts of conscious puzzle solving."
Alex Rosenberg, R. Taylor Cole Professor of Philosophy, Duke University