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Imaginative culture consists in shared and transmissible mental experiences that are aesthetically and emotionally modulated. Such experiences include religion, ideology, and the arts (verbal, visual, and auditory). Humans expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy occupied with imaginative culture,

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Imaginative culture consists in shared and transmissible mental experiences that are aesthetically and emotionally modulated. Such experiences include religion, ideology, and the arts (verbal, visual, and auditory). Humans expend extraordinary amounts of time and energy occupied with imaginative culture, and it has immense effects on human behavior—for example, in religious visions about the meaning and conduct of life, in ideological movements that shape international political organizations, in the tribal and national narratives that animate ideals of citizenship, in the way people imagine and manage their most intimate personal relationships, and in the self-images that direct the course of individual lives. Until the past few decades, imaginative culture was a subject of research accessible only through humanistic scholarship largely divorced from science. Now, though, imaginative culture is being probed and illuminated by scholars and scientists who assimilate the evolutionary human sciences, including evolutionary psychology and the cognitive and affective neurosciences.


This Research Topic aims to demonstrate that imaginative culture is an important functional part of evolved human behavior—diverse in its manifestations but unified by species-typical sets of biologically grounded motives, emotions, and cognitive dispositions. The topic encompasses four main areas of research in the evolutionary human sciences: (1) evolutionary psychology and anthropology, which have fashioned a robust model of evolved human motives organized systemically within the phases and relationships of human life history; (2) research on gene-culture coevolution, which has illuminated the mechanisms of social cognition and the transmission of cultural information; (3) the psychology of emotions and affective neuroscience, which have gained precise knowledge about the evolutionary basis and neurological character of the evolved emotions that give power to the arts, religion, and ideology; and (4) cognitive neuroscience, which has identified the Default Mode Network as the central neurological location of the human imagination. By integrating these four areas of research and by demonstrating their value in illuminating specific kinds of imaginative culture, this Research Topic aims at incorporating imaginative culture within an evolutionary conception of human nature. 


We welcome submission of manuscripts dealing with imagination and with religion, ideology, and the arts, including music, the verbal arts (poetry, narrative fictions, drama), the visual arts (painting, sculpture, architecture), dance, and combined media such as opera, film, video games, graphic novels, and cartoons. Under the rubric of religion, we are particularly interested in studies of religious narratives and imagery, or the use of the arts in religious rituals and ceremonies. Under the rubric of ideology, we are particularly interested in studies that focus on how political values and ideas are projected in mythic narratives, ceremonies, rituals, pageantry, music, and visual imagery.


We welcome proposals from researchers in the social sciences, the humanities, and the neurosciences.


We welcome articles classified as Original Research (empirical studies), Conceptual Analysis (“a novel argument, interpretation, model, or critique”), Reviews (“state of the art”), Mini Reviews, Curriculum, Instruction, and Pedagogy, as well as other article types supported by Frontiers.



Image from Hilma af Klint, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Keywords: imagination, evolution, human nature, culture, Default Mode Network, the arts, religion, ideology


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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