University of Cambridge > > Zangwill Club > ‘Peter Pan and the Mind of J. M. Barrie. An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness.’

‘Peter Pan and the Mind of J. M. Barrie. An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness.’

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What is Peter Pan all about? I will explore the texts of ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’ (1906) and ‘Peter and Wendy’ (1911) in order to demonstrate the way Barrie’s insight into the limited mental abilities of infants and animals illuminates the mental achievement of human adult cognition. Barrie had a well-informed, post-Darwinian perspective on the biological origins of human behaviour even though the idea that human consciousness, cognition, culture and sense of moral responsibility could have origins in animal behaviour was deeply shocking to the nineteenth century intelligentsia. Barrie’s work contains many insights into what are now referred to as ‘mental representation’ and ‘theory of mind’, as well as other areas of cognitive psychology that have been examined by scientific investigation only in the last few decades. Barrie also reflects on the nature of consciousness in a way that parallels modern interests. I believe that Barrie’s work has not been looked at from this scientific perspective before.

Biography: Ros Ridley was a member of Experimental Psychology from 1994-2005 where she was the Head of the MRC Comparative Cognition Team. This team worked on primate models of amnesia and stroke as well as neurodegenerative diseases including prion disease. In retirement she has taken a broader interest in evolutionary psychology and is a watercolourist.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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