Cognition from the bottom up: on biological inspiration, body morphology, and soft materials

Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Aug;18(8):404-13. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2014.04.004. Epub 2014 May 16.


Traditionally, in cognitive science the emphasis is on studying cognition from a computational point of view. Studies in biologically inspired robotics and embodied intelligence, however, provide strong evidence that cognition cannot be analyzed and understood by looking at computational processes alone, but that physical system-environment interaction needs to be taken into account. In this opinion article, we review recent progress in cognitive developmental science and robotics, and expand the notion of embodiment to include soft materials and body morphology in the big picture. We argue that we need to build our understanding of cognition from the bottom up; that is, all the way from how our body is physically constructed.

Keywords: bio-inspired soft robotics; developmental sciences and robotics; embodied intelligence; morphological computation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mind-Body Relations, Metaphysical
  • Models, Biological*
  • Perception
  • Robotics
  • Software