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Conceptual Blending (aka Conceptual Integration) is a general theory of cognition.[1] According to this theory, elements and vital relations from diverse scenarios are "blended" in a subconscious process known as Conceptual Blending, which is assumed to be ubiquitous to everyday thought and language. Insights obtained from these blends constitute the products of creative thinking, though conceptual blending theory is not itself a theory of creativity, inasmuch as it does not illuminate the issue of where the inputs to a blend actually come from. Blending theory does provide a rich terminology for describing the creative products of others, but has little to say on the inspiration that serves as the starting point for each blend.

The theory of Conceptual Blending was developed by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner. The development of this theory began in 1993 and a representative early formulation is found in their online article Conceptual Integration and Formal Expression. Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnier cite Arthur Koestler´s 1964 book The Act of Creation as an early forerunner of conceptual blending: Koestler had identified a common pattern in creative achievements in the arts, sciences and humor that he had termed "bisociation of matrices" - a notion he described with many striking examples, but did not formalize in algorithmic terms.[2]

A newer version of blending theory, with somewhat different terminology, was presented in their book The Way We Think (ISBN 0-465-08786-8). Their theory is partially based on basic ideas advanced by George Lakoff in his 1987 book Women, Fire and Dangerous Things and in Lakoff's coauthored 1980 book with Mark Johnson Metaphors We Live By.

Computational Models

Conceptual blending is closely related to frame-based theories, but goes beyond these primarily in that it is a theory of how to combine frames (or frame-like objects). An early computational model of a process called "View Application", which is closely related to conceptual blending, was implemented in the 1980s by J. Shrager at CMU and PARC, and applied in the domains of causal reasoning about complex devices,[3] and reasoning in physics.[4] More recent computational accounts of blending have been developed in areas such as mathematics.[5] Some of these later models are based upon Structure Mapping, which did not exist at the time of the earlier implementations.


  1. ^ No single cognitive theory has yet been able to cover any significant fraction of the phenomena of human cognition, but some claim that, as of late 2005, conceptual blending was rising in prominence among such theories.

See also


  1. No single cognitive theory has yet been able to cover any significant fraction of the phenomena of human cognition, but some claim [citation needed] that, as of late 2005, conceptual blending was rising in prominence among such theories. In his book "The Literary Mind" (Oxford University Press 1996), conceptual blending theorist Mark Turner states that "Conceptual blending is a fundamental instrument of the every day mind, used in our basic construal of all our realities, from the social to the scientific." (p. 93)
  2. Mark Turner, Gilles Fauconnier: The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books 2002, p. 37
  3. Shrager, J. Theory Change via View Application in Instructionless Learning.  In Proceedings of Machine Learning. 1987, 247-276.
  4. J Shrager (1990) Commonsense perception and the psychology of theory formation. In Shrager & Langley (Eds.) Computational models of scientific discovery and theory formation. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.
  5. Guhe, Markus, Alison Pease, Alan Smaill, Maricarmen Martinez, Martin Schmidtb, Helmar Gust, Kai-Uwe Kühnberger and Ulf Krumnack (2011). A computational account of conceptual blending in basic mathematics. Cognitive Systems Research Volume 12, Issues 3-4, September–December 2011, pp. 249--265 Special Issue on Complex Cognition

External links

  • The Center for the Cognitive Science of Metaphor Online is a collection of numerous formative articles in the fields of conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending (aka conceptual integration).
  • The differences between conceptual metaphor theory and conceptual blending are illustrated in this article on visual blends by Tim Rohrer

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