March 02, 2011

Embodied Cognition

I mentioned Embodied Cognition briefly in my talk at SILS yesterday so thought I would post a bit more about it here. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a nice definition, which begins: "Embodied Cognition is a growing research program in cognitive science that emphasizes the formative role the environment plays in the development of cognitive processes."

What sparked my interest was this article in the January/February issue of Scientific American Mind: Body of Thought by Siri Carpenter which includes these tantalizing tidbits: "...a rapidly growing body of research indicates that metaphors joining body and mind reflect a central fact about the way we think: the mind uses the body to make sense of abstract concepts." Carpenter cites some interesting examples, two of which stand out to me:
  • Just in the past few years studies have shown that holding a hot cup of coffee or being in a comfortably heated room warms a person's feelings toward strangers ...
  • [T]hat sitting on a hard chair turns mild-mannered undergraduates into hard-headed negotiators.
Fascinating stuff!

library note: this article is not freely available on the Internet, but it is available to UNC and other institutional subscribers to Scientific American.


moonflowerdragon said...

If only sitting at a table with a pen in my hand and paper in front could make my brain convert my abundant reading into an essay!

Jelle van Dijk said...

moonflowerdragon: it will. if only you would just start writing and stop *thinking*! (and this is not just being ironical... and you probably know it's true already...?)

Jelle van Dijk said...

Hi moonflowerdragon: But it will! If only you would start writing! (And stop *thinking* about it! That's the whole idea: in order to get something done (solve a problem) you need to start *doing* it, and the solution will emerge within the activity. And in anycase the theory states that it is not your brain doing the conversion, so that is not the point anyway: it is you, with our whole body, while doing the activity of the writing, that is creating the essay. Good luck with it!