Nichols, Shaun and Stich, Stephen
A cognitive theory of pretense.
Cognition 74. 2 (Feb 2000): 115-147

The article begins by describing a number of real examples of pretense in children and adults. These examples bring out several features of pretense that any theory of pretense must accommodate. The authors' theory states that pretense representations are contained in a separate mental workspace, a Possible World Box (PWB) which is part of the basic architecture of the human mind. The representations in the PWB can have the same content as beliefs. The authors suggest that pretense representations are in the same representational "code" as beliefs and that the representations in the PWB are processed by the same inference and UpDating mechanisms that operate over real beliefs. This model also posits a Script Elaborator which is implicated in the embellishment that occurs in pretense. Finally, the authors claim that the behavior that is seen in pretend play is motivated not from a "pretend desire", but from a real desire to act in a way that fits the description being constructed in the Possible World Box. The authors maintain that this account can accommodate the central features of pretense exhibited in the examples of pretense, and argue that the alternative accounts either can't accommodate or fail to address entirely some of the central features of pretense.

Reviewed by Andrew Hon.


Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles