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To Seek Out New Forms of Knowledge: Viewing Star Trek as an Introduction to Cognitive Science and Ways of Thinking About Narrative, Theory of Mind, and Difference

  • Vivian Fumiko Chin
Chapter

Abstract

Introducing the combined perspectives of a cross-disciplinary approach can enhance the study of narrative in the college classroom. While cognitive psychologists have posited that theory of mind, or the functioning of a mirror mechanism to engage empathy, is more likely to occur through literary fiction than through popular fiction, the various iterations and episodes of Star Trek provide ways to experience empathy and respect for difference. To begin to explore the strange new worlds now available to us through the fMRI and the research of neuroscientists, and to apply these ways of knowing to an analysis of narrative can contribute to an enriched understanding of how texts work as cognitive functions worthy of study as such. Further, a consideration of metaphor as a method of bridging differences can occur through an examination of examples from Star Trek. With these interpretive tools, we can introduce new modes of thinking about narrative and difference.

Keywords

Cognitive science Empathy Narrative functions Popular culture Theory of mind Othering Difference 

Notes

Acknowledgments

An earlier version of this piece was shared with my students in Spring 2016, from the rough draft of the abstract that they helped me to revise, to providing feedback on a five-minute digital presentation and talk produced for an academic conference that celebrated Star Trek. In Fall 2016, as I endeavored to evolve this discussion, I shared the process of revising from an oral presentation to a written work with a number of classes, hoping to demonstrate how writing is a continual process that ideally results in a coherent and persuasive argument. This work remains ongoing. I plan to present and refine assignments from this work in the upcoming term. In these ways, I have engaged with Star Trek in academic settings. My son, who enjoyed watching TOS and TNG as a child, contributed suggestions with humor. My cat assisted by walking on the keyboard as I typed. I am most grateful to the editors for their attentive comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vivian Fumiko Chin
    • 1
  1. 1.San Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

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