Cognitive continental drift: how attitudes can change the overall pattern of cognitive distances
By the late Carboniferous period, the continents that today make up North America and Europe collided with the southern parts of Gondwana to form the western half of the last supercontinent Pangea. From this moment on, North America and Europe have steadily been drifting apart, as was initially described by Alfred Wegener in 1915. In this paper a cognitive counterpart of this continental drift is described—which progresses much faster than the phenomenon of plate tectonics. Distance estimations between cities of Europe and the USA were strongly modulated by an interactive effect of the social attitude towards the Iraq War in 2003 and towards US citizens in general, letting America and Europe drift apart hundreds of kilometers for those who disliked the war but were meanwhile sympathetic to US citizens. Possible implications for the relationship between Europe and the US are discussed and perspectives for a cognitive rapprochement of Europe and the USA are provided.
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