Narrative immersion as an attentional phenomenon

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Some stories generate in us a peculiar experience of intense narrative engagement. This common experience, which we call narrative immersion, has been the object of a vast literature in psychology and other disciplines. Philosophers, however, have only recently engaged with this topic and the tendency has been to explain it by postulating specific kinds of mental states. We propose a different approach, explaining narrative immersion by means of a particular distribution of attention over the content of ordinary mental states. First, we provide a characterization of narrative immersion based on studies by psychologists and other theorists. Then, we discuss alternative views and develop our own proposal. We articulate how attention works as we engage with the narrative, and how the adequate distribution of attention over the mental states involved in understanding the storyworld can offer the resources to explain the characteristic features of narrative immersion. Unlike alternative proposals, ours avoids the need to postulate controversial mental states.

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Author Profiles

Paloma Atencia
University College London
Miguel Angel Sebastian
National Autonomous University of Mexico

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