Cognitive Science: An Introduction/Embodied cognition

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Embodied Cognition

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Embodied cognition is differentiated by the view that cognitive processes are largely dependent upon properties of the agent’s physical body.[1] That is, aspects outside the brain play a significant or constituent role in cognitive processing. This particular characteristic forms the basis of what is referred to as the Embodiment Thesis.[2] This trait differs from traditional perspectives that view cognition as bounded within the confines of the physical brain. At most, these traditional views see cognition as being heavily influenced by information communicated by areas of the nervous system external to the brain.[3]

Theories of embodied cognition involve various influences from areas of body morphology, emotions, and sensorimotor research. A common theme involves hypothesizes that the body, and its perception of the world, does much of the work required to attain an agent’s goals. [4] Embodied cognition is an approach to cognition that has its origins in motor behavior. Research into motor behavior was later used to argue for the major extent to which the body influences mental processing. [5]

A major viewpoint asserts that cognition did not evolve to act in isolation, but to act within a physical body. [6] In turn, the body then acts upon the environment in which the body is engaged. Hence, various aspects of cognition such as knowledge representations, reasoning, judgment, and the execution of cognitive tasks, result from the whole physical body. [7] [8]


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Memory studies on embodied cognition indicate that subjects recall more of a narrative when they act out the story physically.[9] While long term memory can be enhanced by pairing motor movement, working memory can significantly decrease due to increased cognitive load.[10]


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As in memory research, studies have evinced that learning in general can be enhanced when supplemented with bodily movement.[11][12] Embodied theories of learning debate the extent to which learning is embodied and where the line of demarcation stands between physical and conceptual learning.[13] Neurological evidence indicates that the cerebellum is deeply involved in the processing and storage of information[14]


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Some experiments have demonstrated that engaging sensorimotor areas of the brain can support analytical reasoning. Research subjects who were presented with mental rotation problems that involved motor engagement performed better than control groups.[15][16]


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Theories of embodied learning have been supported by some evolutionary psychologists who argue that human evolution has been pervaded by physically "learning through doing."[17][18] This view connects to theories of situated cognition of learning by being grounded ecologically, and teaching occurring directly by means of "cognitive apprenticeship."[19][20]


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  1. The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from
  2. Kirchhoff, M. (2018). The body in action: predictive processing and the embodiment thesis. In Oxford handbook of cognition: embodied, extended and enactive. Oxford University Press.
  3. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (2016). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. MIT press
  4. Foglia, L., & Wilson, R. A. (2013). Embodied cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4(3), 319-325
  5. Guell, X., Gabrieli, J. D., & Schmahmann, J. D. (2018). Embodied cognition and the cerebellum: Perspectives from the Dysmetria of Thought and the Universal Cerebellar Transform theories. Cortex, 100, 140-148.
  6. Garofoli, D. (2019). Embodied cognition and the archaeology of mind: A radical reassessment. In Handbook of evolutionary research in archaeology (pp. 379-405). Springer, Cham.
  7. Keijzer, F. A. (2017). Evolutionary convergence and biologically embodied cognition. Interface Focus, 7(3), 20160123
  8. Dove, G. (2016). Three symbol ungrounding problems: Abstract concepts and the future of embodied cognition. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 23(4), 1109-1121.
  9. Scott, Christina L.; Harris, Richard Jackson; Rothe, Alicia R. (2001). "Embodied Cognition Through Improvisation Improves Memory for a Dramatic Monologue". Discourse Processes. 31 (3): 293–305
  10. Diane Pecher; Rolf A. Zwaan (2005). Grounding Cognition: The Role of Perception and Action in Memory, Language, and Thinking. Cambridge University Press. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-139-44247-3
  11. Skulmowski, Alexander; Rey, Günter Daniel (2018). "Embodied learning: introducing a taxonomy based on bodily engagement and task integration". Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. 3 (1): 6
  12. Lindgren, Robb; Johnson-Glenberg, Mina (2013). "Emboldened by Embodiment". Educational Researcher. 42 (8): 445–452. doi:10.3102/0013189X13511661.
  13. Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 9(4), 625-636.
  14. Koziol, L. F., Budding, D. E., & Chidekel, D. (2012). From movement to thought: executive function, embodied cognition, and the cerebellum. The Cerebellum, 11(2), 505-525.
  15. Hyun, J. S.; Luck, S. J. (2007). "Visual working memory as the substrate for mental rotation". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 14 (1): 154–158. doi:10.3758/bf03194043. PMID 17546746.
  16. Moreau, D (2012). "The role of motor processes in three-dimensional mental rotation: Shaping cognitive processing via sensorimotor experience". Learning and Individual Differences. 22 (3): 354–359
  17. Keijzer, F. A. (2017). Evolutionary convergence and biologically embodied cognition. Interface Focus, 7(3), 20160123.
  18. Wilson, M. (2008). How did we get from there to here? An evolutionary perspective on embodied cognition. In Handbook of Cognitive Science (pp. 373-393). Elsevier.
  19. Collins, A. (1991). Cognitive apprenticeship and instructional technology. Educational values and cognitive instruction: Implications for reform, 1991, 121-138
  20. Sutton, J. (2013). Skill and collaboration in the evolution of human cognition. Biological Theory, 8(1), 28-36