Embodied Cognition

Embodied Cognition

Prof Shaun Gallagher
University of Memphis


I outline 5 different approaches to embodied cognition.  (1) A weak or minimal form of embodiment defended by Goldman and others, where the body is equated to B-formatted representations in the brain.  (2) Biological embodiment that emphasizes the contribution of anatomy and movement to cognition.  (3) Semantic embodiment, which includes the work of Lakoff and Johnson on metaphor and higher-order cognition.  (4) Functionalist embodiment (the extended mind hypothesis). And (5) Enactive embodiment which emphasizes sensory-motor contingencies, but also affect and intersubjectivity, and rejects representationalism.  I then suggest answers to five different questions that each embodied cognition needs to answer. 

  • What does embodiment mean?

  • Which sectors of cognition or which cognitive tasks are embodied?

  • What is the empirical support for this view?

  • How does a particular view of embodied cognition differ from classical computationaism?

  • What role, if any, do mental representations play in cognition?

Louise Barrett, Andy Clark,  Dan Hutto, Richard Menary, Barbara Montero, Alva Noë and Michael Wheeler make cameo appearances to explain such things as action-oriented representations, the anti-representationalist view, the role of culture, and so forth.


Essential readings


Secondary readings

  • Barrett, L. (2011). Beyond the brain: How body and environment shape animal and human minds. Princeton University Press.

  • Cole, J. (2004). Still Lives: Narratives of Spinal Cord Injury. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Hutto, D. D., & Myin, E. (2013). Radicalizing enactivism: Basic minds without content. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Johnson, M. (2007). The Meaning of the Body. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Menary, R. (2007). Cognitive integration: Mind and cognition unbounded. Palgrave-Macmillan.

  • Menary, R. (ed.) (2010). The Extended Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Montero, G. (in press). Mind, Body, Movement: The Relevance of the Consciousness to Expert Performance. Oxford University Press (forthcoming) - See more here.

  • Wheeler, M. (2005). Reconstructing the Cognitive World. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Rowlands, M. (2006). Body Language: Representation in Action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Shapiro, L. (2004). The Mind Incarnate. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.