Embodied Cognition in the Boston Globe

In case you haven't seen it already, there's an article on the embodied cognition "revolution" in the Boston Globe.

This, I think, is the best point to take away from it:

"I think these findings are really fantastic and it's clear that there's a lot of connection between mind and body," says Arthur Markman, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas. He remains skeptical, though, that the roots of higher cognition will be found in something as basic as the way we walk or move our eyes or arms.

"Any time there's a fad in science there's a tendency to say, 'It's all because of this,"' Markman says. "But the thing in psychology is that it's not all anything, otherwise we'd be done figuring it out already."

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ohhh. you're just biased ;)

By Steve Higgins (not verified) on 16 Jan 2008 #permalink

" . . . it's not all anything . . . "

yes yes yes

Here's where the ev psych tool kit analogy works. There are a lot of tools in the kit. The idea that any one of them is the royal road to explaining it all is folly.

By Bill Benzon (not verified) on 17 Jan 2008 #permalink

Steve, definitely. This is something that Markman and I have discussed at length over several years, though, and I think our opinions of embodied cognition have co-evolved over that time. As I've said on this blog before, I think it's very clear that embodiment is important, but so do most people, even those who are supposedly on the wrong side of the "revolution."

For the philosophically minded,
This embodied cognition "revolution" might have important implications for the age old mind/body problem. We should perhaps look at the problem like this now: How does the mind/brain/body interact as one? I like when science dissolves distinctions that were made a priori.

By Wes Anderson (not verified) on 17 Jan 2008 #permalink

you mean - "wrong side" ;)

By john dennis (not verified) on 17 Jan 2008 #permalink

"The linguist George Lakoff, of the University of California, Berkeley, along with Rafael Nunez, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, have for several years advanced the argument that much of mathematics, from set theory to trigonometry to the concept of infinity, derives not from immutable properties of the universe but from the evolutionary history of the human brain and body. Our number system, they argue, and our understanding of addition and subtraction emerge from the fact that we are bipedal animals that measure off distances in discrete steps.

"If we had wheels, or moved along the ground on our bellies like snakes," Lakoff argues, "math might be very different.""

Hmmm. Talk about untestable ideas! This kind of logic is not science. It's just conjecture.

Dr. Lakoff has strong feelings about his ideas. Some have acused him of other than bipedal locomotion. I wonder if that influenced his ideas?!

Our number system begins with our ten digits, it's true, and "reflection" began as physically looking back over one's shoulder (re = again, flectere = turn back), there is little doubt. Math and language are in fact deeply affected by our bodies and their relationship to the world around them. The questions is: "What is conceptually new here?"

But then my thoughts begin to meander. Wait a minute! I've just dicovered En-rivered Cognition!