Thinking with the body: embodied cognition

Since René Descartes “thinks, therefore I exist”, it has rained a lot, and yet his way of understanding human beings seems to have clung to the history of thought.

The approach cos – ment that Descartes helped to project into the era of reason created a very fertile dualistic tradition in which both psychology and neuroscience participated. Today, it is still common to distinguish between the brain and the body, at least when it comes to explaining cognition and the thinking character of the human being.

Embodied cognition or thinking with the body

For this reason, in some lines of research an attempt is made to search inside the skull for the main causes of human behavior by appealing to neural components smaller and smaller in an infinite progression which is usually called reductionism.

However, a concept of thought centered on the brain has emerged as a rival. The idea of embodied cognition, Which could be translated as “cognition in the body” or “thinking with the body”, emphasizes the coexistence between cognition and bodily functions, two elements which merge and the relation goes far beyond the simple container schema – the content.

break down barriers

While a dualist model would argue for the separation of functions between a central framework in charge of cognition and located in the brain, and the entry and exit routes for the data provided by the body, the hypotheses resulting from embodied cognition underline the dialectical and dynamic character which is established among many components of the body (including the brain here) when it comes to remembering, judging, making decisions, reasoning, etc. From this stream it is shown how impractical it is to distinguish between a body which sends and receives information to the brain and which is a passive agent while the brain processes data and a brain which is a passive agent while its controls extend through the brain. rest of the body and take control of the situation when this step has already been taken.

The stream of embodied cognition (thinking with the body) has experiences in its favor. In a study from Yale University, for example, it was shown to what extent the application of irrational criteria related to the most primary sensory perceptions can influence our more abstract categorizations. The experiment began by asking the experimental subjects to go to a laboratory on the fourth floor. In the elevator, a researcher asked each of the people in the study to hold a cup of coffee while they wrote down the names.

In some cases the coffee was hot; in others it contained ice. Once in the lab, each of the participants was asked to describe the character of an unknown person. The people holding the hot cup tended to speak of the stranger as a close, friendly, and more trustworthy person than the “cold coffee” group descriptions, the descriptions emphasizing the opposite characteristics.

There are other examples of how physical arrangements theoretically only affect the bodily receptors at the most primary levels affect the most abstract cognitive processes, Which according to the dualistic view are monopolized by agents located in the cerebral cortex. Mark Yachts studies how the simple act of moving the eyes creates response patterns in random generation of numbers: right eye movement is associated with imagining large numbers, and vice versa). Less recently, for example, we have research by Gordon H. Bower on the link between emotions and memory.

Beyond the scientific domain, we could talk about how popular knowledge links certain lifestyles and bodily dispositions to certain cognitive styles. We can also admit that the idea of ​​the formation of one or other of the abstract categories of thought from sensible impressions is quite reminiscent of David Hume.

nine matrioskas

The dualistic perspective is nice when it comes to thinking, as it distinguishes agents with very specific tasks that cooperate to achieve results. However, any demonstration that the variables for which the body should be a bumper not only affect cognition, but modulate it, is potentially heretical for this conception of man.

Not only because it shows how closely the two parts are related, but because in fact it forces us to rethink how right it is to continue to believe in the distinction between perceptual and rational units. Any explanation of human behavior that must appeal to a brain that gives orders unilaterally throws bullets at a fundamental problem: Who gives orders to the brain? Who watches over the vigilantes?

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