Analysis versus global insight

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How and Why Do We Blend Cause and Effect?
Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner

Everyday conceptual life is based on integrating clashes and compressing vital relations. Life is various and diffuse, running over large expanses of time and space. To form a conceptual apparatus and use it requires constant compressions over vital relations. These compressions are so natural to us that art forms use them to compress large worlds of life into a few pages, and we hardly notice.

When we look at the Persian rug in the store and imagine how it would look in our house, we are compressing over two different physical spaces: the physical space with the rug and the physical space where we live. When we imagine how we would now answer a criticism directed at us several years ago, we are compressing over times. We compress over time when we tell someone our life story in three minutes. We compress over space when we draw the Empire State building on the back of an envelope. Conceptual blending is an unrivaled tool of compression.

¦ ¦ ¦
Blending Website:

à Conceptual blending is a general cognitive operation ( action, design, science and social science, sociocultural models). In linguistics: conceptual change, grammatical constructions, construal and rhetoric, metaphor, counterfactuals.
à Cb has multiple functions (compression of space, time, causality, change, and other vital relations; event integration, problem solving, novel action and design, scientific innovation, humor, literary and other artistic effects, transfer of emotions, conceptualization, rhetorical strategies, ... ).
à Cb is a powerful on-line meaning construction process. It also yields entrenched conventional blends and conventional integration networks. Entrenched integration networks can serve as templates for launching new integrations.
à Cb is NOT an exceptional, cognitively costly process, restricted to unusual, marginal, semantic constructions. Spectacular blends are not always typical blends.

Compression and Blending: Some examples

Trashcan basketball

Two college students in a dorm room, ripping up paper and balling it in frustration throw it into the trashcan. This evolves into a game of trashcan basketball, with its own emergent rules and events. This involves compression over space.

Complex numbers

The space of numbers is integrated with a space of a two-dimensional geometric plane to give, in the blend, complex numbers that are points in the plane. The cross-space mapping maps real numbers to one-dimensional space, maps 'imaginary' numbers to two-dimensional space (Wallis). In the Blend, numbers have number properties (addition, multiplication, square roots, etc.), vector properties (angle, magnitude), and point properties (coordinates). Angles come only from 'spatial' Input. Multiplication comes only from 'number' input. In the Blend, multiplication includes addition of angles. (emergent structure). This example involves compression of cause and effect in proofs like Wallis's that go step-by-step from the properties of numbers to the properties of the corresponding geometric constructions.

Computer mouse

One input is the viewing of pixels of light on a two-dimensional vertical screen, the other input is the experience of moving a three-dimensional object on a horizontal tabletop In the integrated blend one has the experience of directly moving 'objects' like the arrow or the icons. The complex cause-effect sequence of operations that relate moving the mouse to changes on the screen has been compressed into a single integrated action.

In general, blending is a superb tool for compression across vital relations: like space, time, cause-effect, change. Such compressions create "global" understandings and insights. Examples:
Space compression: Persian Rug, Trashcan Basketball, Debate With Kant.
Time compression: Esprit d'escalier, Buddhist Monk, Regatta, Bypass. "Before you know it." "Tomorrow" meaning "future."
Cause-Effect compression: Flashing Lights (two lights flash separated a little in space and time but what we see, incorrigibly, is a beam of light sweeping from one point to the other), Computer Mouse, Bypass, Ritual of the Stairs, Complex Numbers and in general any case where a mathematical series of steps in a proof (where the steps are causal for the last step, which is the conclusion) is integrated into a single global insight grasped as a whole. Jacques Hadamard, who was fascinated with the nature of mathematical understanding, wrote, "Any mathematical argument, however complicated, must appear to me as a unique thing. I do not feel that I have understood it as long as I do not succeed in grasping it in one global idea . . ."
Change compression. Persistent personal identity is a compression over changes in the individual. "[George] Eliot was born in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, where her father was a land agent." (Eliot was actually born Mary Ann Evans.) Other examples: Bypass.
Joey, Katie, and Todd Will Be Performing Your Bypass.

An advertisement shows children dressed as surgeons in an operating room, looking at "you." The ad reads, "Before you know it, these kids will be doctors, nurses and medical technicians, possibly yours. They'll need an excellent grasp of laser technology, advanced computing and molecular genetics. Unfortunately, very few American children are being prepared to master such sophisticated subjects. If we want children who can handle tomorrow's good jobs, more kids need to take more challenging academic courses." To find out how you can help the effort to raise standards in America's schools, please call 1-800-96-PROMISE. If we make changes now, we can prevent a lot of pain later on." This example involves compressions of space, time, cause-effect, change, and identity.

The Ritual of the Baby and the Stairs

Eve Sweetser describes an Eastern European ritual in which a newborn baby is carried up the stairs in a public social ceremony. The baby's ascent to the top of the stairs stands for his or her ascent in life. This example involves compressions of identity, space, time, change, and cause-effect.

Living in the Blend

Sensory projection is a universal feature of our perceptual life that also arises from integration. A sensation of pain in an ankle is constructed in our central nervous system, but we "feel" the pain, of course, as located exclusively in the ankle. We have conceptually integrated part of the cause with the mental effect, to create a "painful ankle," so that cause and effect are now mentally located together in our mental conception of the ankle. The neurobiological effects that constitute the "pain" are distributed throughout the central nervous system, but the integrated cause and effect have only the single, undistributed location of "the ankle." Obviously, we do cause-effect integration for sensation of pain because it is in some adaptive sense quite accurate: it really is the anatomical ankle that needs attention and care. As is well-known, phantom limb phenomena show the same kinds of integration, only now the ankle may be absent in reality. An amputee can feel not only pain in the missing ankle, but also that he has the ankle as a result. He may reach "absent-mindedly" down to rub the ankle that is not in fact there. What has happened is that neurons that used to connect to the ankle are still firing, causing the sensation of pain, and inducing the usual integration of cause and effect. The pressure for the brain to achieve integration of cause and effect is so great that it will use conceptual blending to give as emergent structure not only a localized pain but also a phantom body part for that pain to take place in and an external cause of the pain in that body part. The amputee has no control over this sensation even though it is outrageously opposed to everything he believes. Integration of sensory cause and effect, which is in almost all cases extremely useful to us, is in this case badly misleading, but the integrating brain charges ahead unimpeded.

The perception of a blue cup. The perception of a single entity, like a cup, is an imaginative neurobiological feat still very poorly understood by neurobiologists. That perception, which is available to consciousness, is the effect of complicated interaction between the brain and its environment. But we integrate that effect with its causes to create emergent meaning: the existence of a cause, namely, the cup, that directly presents its effect: its unity, its color, its shape, its weight, and so on. As a consequence, the effect is now in its cause: the color, the shape, and so on are now intrinsicly, primitively, and objectively in "the cup." In perception, at the level of consciousness, it is usually only the blend of cause and effect that we can apprehend. We cannot fail to perform this blend and we cannot in consciousness see beyond it. Consequently, this blend seems to us to be the most bedrock reality: "That which we cannot not know," said Henry James, "is real." Evidently, there are only a few ways to make the distinction between cause and effect minimally, and sometimes upsettingly, perceptible in consciousness. Brain damage, psychoactive drugs, and certain neurobiological syndromes can cause breakdown of these integrations and consequent bizarre perceptions. But for the most part, when we are functioning normally, consciousness cannot see the rest of the blending network. Accordingly, we are likely to think that the perception of a spot in the visual field is caused by the light coming to our eye from it, but that is false. The amount of light reflected to our eye from a black letter in a newspaper headline outside in the sun is about twice the amount of light coming from the white paper in a dimly lit office, but we still see the letter as black and the paper as white under both conditions. We are likely to think that we see the letter as black because it is invariantly "black," but that perception is simply an integration of cause and effect. A large spot of uniform illumination, such as a purple disk on a white wall, seems uniformly vivid, but ganglion cells are in fact reporting information from only its border, making the vividness of the interior, no matter how apparently real, a downstream cerebral computation. We think the purpleness of the center is directly causing our perception of it as purple, but our perception of it as purple is simply an integration of cause and effect. When two lights flash in succession, provided they are the right distance apart and the flashes are the right distance apart, we see and cannot help seeing no matter how we try a beam of light sweep from one to the other. If the first is one color and the second is another color, we see the beam switch colors at the midpoint, even though of course we don't perceive the second color until the second light flashes. Our perception of the beam, and our feeling that we are watching the beam in real-time, are both effects, and again we integrate effects and causes to create an objective sweeping beam of light. The effects seem to us to be in the cause. In this case, unusually, by covering up one light or the other, we can get evidence that our perception is an integration.
Kinds of compression: Syncopation is leaving an interval out. Scaling is shrinking (or magnifying) an interval.


A Survey of Blending Theory with Examples
1) Non-linguistic examples: trashcan basketball, computer desktop, number theory, ski
2) Linguistic examples:

—"Even if everyone agrees she [the comatose woman] was pro-life at 19, she is now 29 and has lived in PVS [persistent vegetative state] for 10 years. Do we ask: 'Was she pro-life?' Or do we ask more appropriately: 'Would she be pro-life as a rape victim in a persistent vegetative state at 29 years of life?' " (L.A. Times)

If Churchill had been prime minister in 1938 instead of Neville Chamberlain, Hitler would have been deposed and World War II averted.
If the Earth were as close to the sun as Venus, life as we know it never would have evolved on our planet.
"If cars were men, you'd want your daughter to marry this one." [Volvo ad]
Some might argue for a reversal of the directions of some of my arrows. Perhaps Bishop Berkeley would have preferred my second arrow to point from the mental world to the physical one . . . I am somewhat uncomfortable about directing the

third arrow in the seemingly "Kantian" orientation that is depicted in fig. 8.1. [Penrose - Shadows of the Mind]

Rhetorical debate with Kant
Metaphor He's driving his mother into her grave.

Elmer was so angry, the smoke was coming out of his ears. Dracula

Fictive motion The blackboard goes all the way to the wall.

Caused motion and causatives The audience laughed the poor guy off the stage.

Junior sped the car around the Xmas tree.

Sarge let the tank into the compound. Hunk choked the life out of him.

So far, the people of this small textile town in northwestern Carolina have been unable to pray Mrs. Smith's two little boys home again. [NY Times]

Marie fait envoyer le paquet ˆ Paul. Marie fait enrager Paul.
3) Types of networks
simplex network: One input has a frame and the other has values for its roles.
notion of organizing frame and levels of topology. boxing vs. competition. building, cooking vs. concocting/making. competition > race > boat race > regatta > catamaran regatta
mirror network: case where all spaces share an organizing frame

construal/emotion: boat race rhetoric: debate with Kant puzzle: the Buddhist monk
counterfactuals: Nixon in France, Dostoievsky as Emerson
- more specific structure is selectively projected

- emergent frame in Blend is consistent with organizing frame

single-scope network: Organizing frame of one Input is the organizing frame for the Blend. boxing businessmen, high-jumping economy, computer virus, ...
double-scope network: Organizing frame topology from both Inputs is projected to the Blend. complex numbers with emergent structure of angles and multiplication; desktop interface with clicking, selection, menus; surgeon who is a butcher; Menendez brothers virus; boxing pope.
double-scope with metonymy projection: Organizing frame in the Blend uses frames from both Inputs, but the central emergent frame contains elements that were not in the Cross-space mapping. Such elements are brought in via metonymy.printing press smashing car
partially unfilled generic topology: Buddhist monk. Digging your own grave
4) Gradients
Paul is the father of Sally. He is my genetic father but not my real father. Zeus is the father of Sarpedon. Zeus is the father of Athena. I am your father for today. George Washington is the father of our country. Newton is the father of modern physics. Fear, father of cruelty (Ezra Pound). The child is the father of the man. (Wordsworth).
5) Compositionality of XYZ integrations
He is the Immanuel Kant of modern philosophy. This is the Mount Everest of modern physics. Vanity is the quicksand of reason. The adjective is the banana peel of the parts of speech.
NP(x1) is the NP(y1) of [NP(y2) of NP(z2)](z1)
Elizabeth is the roommate of the daughter of Paul.

Prayer is the echo of the darkness of the soul.

6) Compounds land yacht, stone lion, fake gun, hot lid, safe {beach, shovel, child} { dolphin, shark, child} safe. caffeine headache, nicotine fit


Integration: The blend must constitute a tightly integrated scene that can be manipulated as a unit. More generally, every space in the blend structure should have integration.

Web: Manipulating the blend as a unit must maintain the web of appropriate connections to the input spaces easily and without additional surveillance or computation.

Unpacking: The blend alone must enable the understander to unpack the blend to reconstruct the inputs, the cross-space mapping, the generic space, and the network of connections between all these spaces

Topology: For any input space and any element in that space projected into the blend, it is optimal for the relations of the element in the blend to match the relations of its counterpart.

Good reason: All things being equal, if an element appears in the blend, there will be pressure to find significance for this element. Significance will include relevant links to other spaces and relevant functions in running the blend.

Metonymy projection constraint: When an element is projected from an input to the blend and a second element from that input is projected because of its metonymic link to the first, shorten the metonymic distance between them in the blend.
Some examples
The debate with Kant

I claim that reason is a self-developing capacity. Kant disagrees with me on this point. He says it's innate, but I answer that that's begging the question, to which he counters, in Critique of Pure Reason, that only innate ideas have power. But I say to that, what about neuronal group selection? And he gives no answer.

The Buddhist monk

Riddle of the Buddhist monk and the mountain: A Buddhist monk begins at dawn one day walking up a mountain, reaches the top at sunset, mediates at the top for several days until one dawn when he begins to walk back to the foot of the mountain, which he reaches at sunset. Making no assumptions about his starting or stopping or about his pace during the trips, prove that there is a place on the path which he occupies at the same hour of the day on the two separate journeys.

Action blends

I'm driving, and someone is sitting in the front passenger seat, talking to me, but I have trouble hearing what they say. I turn the volume knob on the car radio (which is off, of course). I've blended the frames for listening to the radio and for conversing with a passenger. I can't appeal to simple error: I am in no way under the misapprehension that the voice is coming from the radio, or that turning knobs will make people speak more loudly. What I have done, irrelevant, inefficient, and absurd as it may be, is EXTEND my category of controlled sound amplification within a blended space.


The substance here treated of does not possess any of the properties of ordinary fluids except that of freedom of motion. It is not even a hypothetical fluid which is introduced to explain actual phenomena. It is simply a collection of imaginary properties, which may be employed for establishing certain theorems in pure mathematics in a way more intelligible to ordinary minds than that in which algebraic symbols are used. The use of the word 'Fluid' will not lead us into error if we remember that it simply denotes an imaginary substance with the properties -[Maxwell 1855 - Electricity, Heat, Magnetism, Galvanism] (Lansing)

"... several scientists insisted that the term virus is more than a nice metaphor. ... Although computer viruses are not fully alive, they embody many of the characteristics of life, and it is not hard to imagine computer viruses of the future that will be just as alive as biological viruses." [N.Y. Times 2/25/90]
The boat race

As we went to press, Rich Wilson and Bill Biewenga were barely maintaining a 4.5 day lead over the ghost of the clipper Northern Light, whose record run from San Francisco to Boston they're trying to beat. In 1853, the clipper made the passage in 76 days, 8 hours. —"Great America II," Latitude 38, volume 190, April 1993, page 100.

At this point, Great America II is 4.5 days ahead of Northern Light.
Boxing business competitors: Rupert Murdoch knocked out Iacocca.

Printing press smashing a car with glee represents the same situation. (cartoon)

George Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

Dan Quayle was born on third base and thinks he kicked a field goal.

The stork dropped George Bush on third base with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Max is digging his own grave.

He's driving his mother into her grave. ( Lakoff )

The U.S. is in a position to exhume itself from the shallow grave that we've dug for ourselves. [ The UCSD Guardian ] (Coulson )

Elmer was so angry, the smoke was coming out of his ears.
Bertran de Born

[Context: In the Inferno (canto 28, lines 139-142), Dante presents Bertran de Born, who while living had instigated strife between the King of England and the king's son. In hell, Bertran carries his head in his hand, and says:]

Perch'io parti' cos“ giunte persone, Because I parted people so joined,

partito porto il meo cerebro, lasso! I carry my brain, alas, separated

dal suo principio ch' in questo troncone. from its root, which is in this trunk.

Cos“ s'osserva in me lo contrapasso. Thus is to be seen in me the retribution.

"So foul a sky clears not without a storm. / Pour down thy weather."

[Context: King John speaks to a troubled-looking (and perhaps tongue-tied) messenger who appears before him. Shakespeare, King John Act 4, scene 2, lines 108-109.]

"I have a feeling that if you walked through Huffington's deepest thoughts, you wouldn't get your feet wet."
"Like we say in Texas, if goofy ideas ever go to $40 a barrel, I want the drilling rights to Dick Armey's head."
Analogical counterfactuals

In France, Watergate would not have harmed Nixon.

If Clinton were the Titanic, the iceberg would sink.

"Why punish me for the sins of my father?" ( Coulson )

"If I were his wife, I would have been his widow long ago." ( Mandelblit )

If Churchill had been prime minister in 1938, WW II would have been averted.

If I were you, I wouldn't get pregnant.
Multiple Blends

"What President Clinton did, bravely and brilliantly, I think, was to gamble that the repertory actors of the health care industry have frightened Americans so badly that we are willing to accept anything, including higher taxes, rather than to continue being extras in a medical melodrama that resembles nothing so much as an endless "Dracula" movie where the count always wins, right up to the last drop." [Written by Richard Reeves, in a Los Angeles Times article titled "Best Performance by a Politician." Example discovered by Bill Gleim]

"The Dracula crowd will scream 'socialized medicine' and moan that you won't be able to pick your own doctor." [Reeves.]
MENENDEZ BROTHERS VIRUS: Eliminates your files, takes the disk space they previously occupied, and then claims that it was a victim of physical and sexual abuse on the part of the files it erased. (Coulson)
Jay Leno on Sidney Biddle Barrows' new job as "expert" commentator for the Heidi Fleiss trial at one of the cable channels: "Instead of hiring a legal expert, they got a woman who made her name as a madam. They figured it's a few bucks cheaper, and she essentially does the same thing."
Why God won't get tenure
1. Only published one book. 9. When one experiment went awry, He tried to cover it up by drowning all the subjects.

2. It was in Hebrew. 10. When sample subjects do not behave as predicted, He deletes the whole sample.

3. It had no references. 11. He rarely comes to class-just tells His students to read the Book.

4. He did not publish it in referenced journals. 12. It is rumored that He sometimes lets His Son teach the class.

5. Some doubt He even wrote it Himself. 13. Although He only has 10 requirements, His students often fail His tests.

6. He is not known for His cooperative work. 14. He expelled His first two students for learning.

7. Sure, He created the world, but what has He done lately? 15. His office hours were infrequent and usually

8. He did not get permission from any review board to work held on a mountain top.

with human subjects.
Coulson, Seana. 1995. "Analogic and metaphoric mapping in blended spaces." Center for Research in Language Newsletter volume 9, number 1, pages 2-12.

Coulson, Seana. 1997. Semantic Leaps: Frame-Shifting and Conceptual Blending. UCSD Ph. D. dissertation.

Fauconnier, Gilles. 1997. Mappings in Thought and Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fauconnier, Gilles & Turner, Mark . "Conceptual Integration Networks." Cognitive Science. Volume 22, number 2 (April-June 1998), pages 133-187.

Fauconnier, Gilles & Turner, Mark. 1996. "Blending as a central process of grammar." In Conceptual Structure, Discourse, and Language, Ed. Adele Goldberg. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information. [Expanded web version on the blending website.]

Lakoff, George & Nu–ez, Ralph. (in press). Where Does Mathematics Come From? LEA.

Mandelblit, Nili (1995 ms). Formal and Conceptual Blending in the Hebrew Verbal System: a Cognitive Basis for Verbal-Pattern Alternations in Modern Hebrew. UCSD, Cognitive Science.

Oakley, Todd (1995). Presence: the conceptual basis of rhetorical effect. (U Maryland dissertation).

Robert, Adrian (1998). Blending and other conceptual operations in the interpretation of mathematical proofs. CSDLII.

Sweetser, Eve. 1999. "Compositionality and Blending: Working towards a fuller understanding of semantic composition in a cognitively realistic framework." In Gisela Redeker and Theo Janssen, editors. In press.

Turner, Mark. 1996. The Literary Mind. New York: Oxford University Press.

Turner, Mark & Fauconnier, Gilles. 1999. "A Mechanism of Creativity" Poetics Today.

Turner, Mark and Fauconnier, Gilles. 1995. "Conceptual Integration and Formal Expression." Journal of Metaphor and Symbolic Activity, 10:3, pages 183-204.

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