Rotating with rotated text: a natural behavior approach to investigating cognitive offloading

Cogn Sci. 2014 Apr;38(3):537-64. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12087. Epub 2013 Sep 24.


Determining how we use our body to support cognition represents an important part of understanding the embodied and embedded nature of cognition. In the present investigation, we pursue this question in the context of a common perceptual task. Specifically, we report a series of experiments investigating head tilt (i.e., external normalization) as a strategy in letter naming and reading stimuli that are upright or rotated. We demonstrate that the frequency of this natural behavior is modulated by the cost of stimulus rotation on performance. In addition, we demonstrate that external normalization can benefit performance. All of the results are consistent with the notion that external normalization represents a form of cognitive offloading and that effort is an important factor in the decision to adopt an internal or external strategy.

Keywords: Action; Cognitive offloading; Distributed cognition; Embodied cognition; Natural behavior; Perception; Rotation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Female
  • Head Movements*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading*
  • Rotation*