The question of
whether human imagination knows no boundaries or is, alternatively, constrained
by conscious or unconscious cognitive templates is a key issue in defining
human mind. We try here to address this extremely large question by focusing on
one particular element of imaginary creations, the specific case of
human-animal hybrids. Human-animal hybrids are common inhabitants of human
imaginary spaces, being regularly encountered across numerous mythologies, as
well as in modern popular culture. If human imagination was unconstrained, it
would be expected that such hybrid creatures would display roughly half human
and half animalistic features. Using several different popular science fiction
and fantasy settings, we conducted an analysis of the morphological traits of
human-animal hybrids, both anatomical and phenotypic. Surprisingly, we observed
extremely high conservation of human morphological traits in human-animal
hybrids, with a contrasting high use of phenotypic (“cosmetic”) alterations,
and with highly stereotyped patterns of morphological alterations. While these
alterations were independent of the setting considered, shape alterations were
setting-dependent and used as a way to increase internal coherence. Finally,
important gender differences were observed, as female human-animal hybrids
retained significantly more human traits than males did, suggesting that
conservation of female appearance may bear essential evolutionary importance.
Taken together, these results demonstrate the existence of strong cognitive
templates which frame and limit the expression of the capacity of human imagination,
and unveil some of the psychological mechanisms which constrain the emergence
of imaginary spaces.
Cite this paper
Guitton, M. (2013). Morphological Conservation in Human-Animal Hybrids in Science Fiction and Fantasy Settings: Is Our Imagination as Free as We Think It Is?. Advances in Anthropology, 3, 157-163. doi: 10.4236/aa.2013.33021 .
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