Conceptual integration—“blending”—is a general cognitive operation on a par with analogy, recursion, mental modeling, conceptual categorization, and framing. It serves a variety of cognitive purposes. It is dynamic, supple, and active in the moment of thinking. It yields products that frequently become entrenched in conceptual structure and grammar, and it often performs new work on its previously entrenched products as inputs. Blending is easy to detect in spectacular cases but it is for the most part a routine, workaday process that escapes detection except on technical analysis. It is not reserved for special purposes, and is not costly.
In blending, structure from input mental spaces is projected to a separate, “blended” mental space. The projection is selective. Through completion and elaboration, the blend develops structure not provided by the inputs. Inferences, arguments, and ideas developed in the blend can have effect in cognition, leading us to modify the initial inputs and to change our view of the corresponding situations.
Blending operates according to a set of uniform structural and dynamic principles. It additionally observes a set of optimality principles.