How do we conjure up novel and unfamiliar entities in our imagination? Thomas Ward and others have suggested that we do so by deriving such entities from ordinary familiar ones. Hybrids, however, pose a challenge to this view since they are not derived from any one single familiar entity. Nevertheless, we argue here that the construction of hybrid entities is indeed governed by principles forming part of our structured imagination. These principles refer to a set of five abstract schemas, defined in terms of properties such as parts, symmetry, and spatial orientation. These schemas, alongside the absence of a schema, together constitute a schematological hierarchy: humanoid (e.g., man) > canoid (e.g., dog) > carroid (e.g., car) > culteroid (e.g., knife) > arboid (e.g., tree) > other (e.g., sponge). When forming a hybrid out of two or more entities, or parents, the overall shape of the hybrid is selected in accordance with the following three principles: (1) coherence: presence of a schema is preferred to absence of a schema; (2) accessibility: a schema corresponding to that of one of the parents is preferred to some other schema; and (3) height: a schema higher on the schematological hierarchy is preferred to a schema lower on the schematological hierarchy. To test these principles empirically, we conducted a large-scale experiment, in which art and design students were given pairs of words denoting familiar objects and asked to draw images of hybrid entities formed from these word pairs. The resulting corpus of 356 hybrids was found to provide strong empirical support for the above three principles. In doing so, it showed how human creativity is not unbound, but rather subject to substantive cognitive constraints, constituting our structured imagination.

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