Embodied Cognition


Read here about embodied cognition, a discipline that roots cognition in body functions, that has relevance to matters of scale.

Overview


From Wikipedia:

Philosophers, cognitive scientists and artificial intelligence researchers who study embodied cognition and the embodied mind believe that the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. They argue that all aspects of cognition, such as ideas, thoughts, concepts and categories are shaped by aspects of the body. These aspects include the perceptual system, the intuitions that underlie the ability to move, activities and interactions with our environment and the native understanding of the world that is built into the body and the brain.
The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition such as cognitivism, computationalism and Cartesian dualism. The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.
George Lakoff (a cognitive scientist and linguist) and his collaborators (including Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, and Rafael E. Núñez) have written a series of books promoting and expanding the thesis based on discoveries in cognitive science, such as conceptual metaphor and image schema.
Robotics researchers such as Rodney Brooks, Hans Moravec and Rolf Pfeifer have argued that true artificial intelligence can only be achieved by machines that have sensory and motor skills and are connected to the world through a body. The insights of these robotics researchers have in turn inspired philosophers like Andy Clark and Horst Hendriks-Jansen. The motor theory of speech perception proposed by Alvin Liberman and colleagues at the Haskins Laboratories argues that the identification of words is embodied in perception of the bodily movements by which spoken words are made.
Neuroscientists Gerald Edelman, António Damásio and others have outlined the connection between the body, individual structures in the brain and aspects of the mind such as consciousness, emotion, self-awareness and will.
Biology has also inspired Gregory Bateson, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Eleanor Rosch and Evan Thompson to develop a closely related version of the idea, which they call enactivism, and more closely tied to Universal Darwinism are evolutionary epistemologists such as Karl Popper and Donald T. Campbell, while Patricia Carpenter is pursuing a biologically-grounded account of cognition called the "fractal catalytic model".

Six Views Of Embodied Cognition

The following “Six Views of Embodied Cognition” are due to Margaret Wilson:
1. Cognition is situated. Cognitive activity takes place in the context of a real-world environment, and inherently involves perception and action. One example of this is moving around a room while, at the same time, trying to decide where the furniture should go. Another example is day-dreaming. You are in a situation, but you’re not in the situation or 'present'. At the time you may be doing something, but your mind or your thoughts are in a much different place.
2. Cognition is time-pressured. Cognition must be understood in terms of how it functions under the pressure of real-time interaction with the environment. When you’re under pressure to make a decision, the choice that is made emerges from the confluence of pressures that you’re under and in their absence, a decision may be made completely different. Since there was pressure, the result was the decision you made.
3. We off-load cognitive work onto the environment. Because of limits on our information-processing abilities, we exploit the environment to reduce the cognitive workload. We make the environment hold or even manipulate information for us, and we harvest that information only on a need-to-know basis. This is seen when people have calendars, agendas, PDA’s, or anything to help them with everyday functions. We write things down so we can use it when we need it, instead of taking the time to memorize or encode it into our minds.
4. The environment is part of the cognitive system. The information flow between mind and world is so dense and continuous that, for scientists studying the nature of cognitive activity, the mind alone is not a meaningful unit of analysis. This statement means that the production of cognitive activity does not come from mind alone, but rather is a mixture of the mind and the environmental situation that we are in. These interactions become part of our cognitive systems. Our thinking, decision making, and future are all impacted by our environmental situations.
5. Cognition is for action. The function of the mind is to guide action and things such as perception and memory must be understood in terms of their contribution to situation-appropriate behavior. This claim has to do with the visual and memory perception that our minds have. Our vision is encoded into our minds as a “what” and “where” concept. Meaning the structure and placement of an object. This idea goes back to what we are used to and what we have been exposed to. Our perception of what we see comes from our experience and exposure of it. Memory in this case doesn’t necessarily mean memorizing something. Rather remembering in a relevant point of view instead of as it really is. We remember how relevant it is to us, and decide if it’s worth remembering.
6. Off-line cognition is body-based. Even when decoupled from the environment, the activity of the mind is grounded in mechanisms that evolved for interaction with the environment- that is, mechanisms of sensory processing and motor control. This is shown with infants or toddlers best. Children utilize skills and abilities they were born with, such as sucking, grasping, and listening, to learn more about the environment. The skills are broken down into five main categories that combine sensory with motor skills, sensorimotor functions. The five main skills are:
1. Mental Imagery- Is visualizing something based on your perception of it, when it is not there or is not present. An example of this would be having a race. You are all excited and full of adrenaline and you take a moment and you can actually see yourself winning the race.
2. Working Memory- Short term memory
3. Episodic Memory- Long term memory
4. Implicit Memory- means by which we learn certain skills until they become automatic for us. An example of this would be an adult brushing his/her teeth, or an expert race car driver putting the car in drive.
5. Reasoning and Problem-Solving- Having a mental model of something will increase problem-solving approaches.

Embodied arithmetic is a subset of embodied cognition; its leading researcher and proponent is Lakoff. See embodied arithmetic.