Temporally Asymmetric Constraints on Mental Simulation: Retrospection Is More Constrained Than Prospection

Authored by: Leaf Van Boven , Joanne Kane , A. Peter McGraw

Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781841698878
eBook ISBN: 9780203809846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678103


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“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …” So read the opening lines of each of the Star Wars films, which have captured the fascination of science fiction fans for more than 30 years. Among the many captivating features of Star Wars—the Jawas, Darth Vader, and the mysterious “force”—fans' fantasies were also engaged by the supposition that a futuristic society with space travel, intelligent androids, and multicultural alien life existed not in the future, as we might expect, but in the past. Technologically fantastic worlds are supposed to take place not in the past but in the future—like 1984 (published in 1949) or 2001: A Space Odyssey (released in 1968). Futuristic fantasies framed in the past tense are puzzling; they linger in the mind as we try to reconcile the notion of a fantastically “futuristic” past with the suspicion that our ancestors were inventing wheels and hunting woolly mammoths rather than flying X-wing spacecraft and battling with light sabers.

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