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.
Robert Arp is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Center for Biomedical Ontology. His areas of specialization include philosophy of biology and philosophy of mind. He is the author of numerous articles and the forthcoming An Integrated Approach to the Philosophy of Mind.
About the Author
Robert Arp is a researcher and analyst for the U.S. Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who has worked on ontologies for the U.S. Air Force and the National Institutes of Health. He is the author of Scenario Visualization: An Evolutionary Account of Creative Problem Solving.
“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 onthe topic. Arp's theory is a welcome advance over other well-known ideasabout how we rapidly utilize information as it issues from diverse cognitivemodules.”
—Johnathan A. Waskan, Department of Philosophy, University of Illinois, and author of Models and Cognition
“Human creativity seems as much of a 'hard problem' as consciousness. But Robert Arp's new book makes real progress in coming to grips with how our minds solve the novel problems mother nature's arms race is always throwing at us. Arp's new book, Scenario Visualization, combines the resources of the philosophy of psychology, cognitive neuroscience, archeology, and most of all a nuanced Darwinism, to show us how hominids must have used conscious processing of visual information to solve the design problems they faced, and how their strategies recur in our own acts of conscious puzzle-solving.”
—Alex Rosenberg, Cole Professor of Philosophy, Duke University
“Robert Arp is a rising star in work at the intersection of biology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy. Scenario Visualization is a challenging volume that will be appreciated by scholars working in each of these fields and at their intersection, and is written with a clarity that will also please laypersons interested in learning about cutting-edge thinking on human cognitive evolution.”
—Todd K. Shackelford, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University